Articles By: Renee Stamatis

Rev. Joseph F. Palacino, 93

TRUMBULL—Reverend Joseph F. Palacino, age 93, of Trumbull passed away peacefully on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at Bridgeport Hospital.

Ordained at age 55, after serving his country as a veteran of two wars, working as a chemist and running owning his own market, Father Palacino is remembered for his kindness, compassion and willingness to accompany others on their journey of faith.

“Father Palacino had a long, remarkable and blessed life, and equally important he was a blessing to all those who knew him and were served by his gracious and loving ministry,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “We should all live so well, so long, so faithfully as Father Joe.”

Father Palacino is best remembered by many parishioners of St. Jerome Parish in Norwalk, where he served his final assignment. In a beautiful tribute to Father Paladino published in the December 26, 2020 parish bulletin, Father Dave Blanchfield, retired pastor of St. Jerome’s, fondly recalled Father Palacino’s courage, kindness and decency.

“Although when he came to us he was already 67, he stayed working as a full time priest for another 21 years. Our retirement age is 75, but Father Joe loved the people of St. Jerome so much that he stayed on until health issues at age 88 forced him to retire,” said Father David Blanchfield, who continues to live in residence at the parish.

“A turning point in his life was when he was drafted for the second of two wars. After already serving as a sailor during the last days of World War II, he was again drafted as a soldier in the Korean conflict. As part of God’s plan and because he was a practicing Catholic, he was assigned to guard the Catholic chaplain when he was giving what we then called ‘the last rites’ to soldiers on the battlefield. In those moments, he got to see both the power of the Sacraments as well as the difference a priest can make in people’s lives,” said Father Blanchfield.

Father Palacino was born in Bridgeport on June 14, 1927, a son of the late Luigi Palacino and Provvidenza (Allegra) Palacino. Father Palacino is survived by his loving sister, Mary Grace Corica, of Trumbull and a devoted brother, Frank Palacino and his wife Martha, of Ocala, Fla., as well as many loving nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews and great-great-nieces and nephews.

He was also predeceased by three brothers, Liborio, Salvatore and Angelo Palacino. Father Palacino was educated at Central High School in Bridgeport before serving honorably in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. He later graduated from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. and was proud to be a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus, Assembly 100 of Norwalk for many years.

Throughout his life, Father Palacino had many occupations, including owner of Palacino’s Market and he was a chemist for nearly 20 years before he embraced his calling as a priest.

Father Palacino studied Theology at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wis., before being ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis at St. Augustine Cathedral, Bridgeport on December 4, 1982.

After his ordination, Father Palacino first served as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Church in Shelton. In 1987, he was transferred to St. Augustine Cathedral Parish. In 1994, Father Palacino moved to his last assignment, St. Jerome in Norwalk, where he continued to serve even after his retirement.

Father Palacino’s body was received at St. Jerome Church to lie in repose. Parishioners and friends observed social distance guidelines and greeted the family. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday, December 7, by Bishop Caggiano. Interment with military honors followed in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Trumbull.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jerome Church or Father Joe Appalachian Project Scholarship c/o Notre Dame High School, 220 Jefferson St., Fairfield, CT 06825.

Editor’s Note: Fairfield County Catholic regrets the inadvertent omission of Father Palacino’s obituary in the January issue of the paper. We are proud to remember this remarkable priest servant who brought the healing of Christ to so many people in the diocese.

Immaculate Students Win Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

DANBURY—Six Immaculate High School students had their work recognized and awarded at the annual Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. Teens in grades 7-12 can apply in 28 categories of art and writing, and submissions are judged regionally and nationally by panels of creative industry experts.

Regional Art Awards were presented to Brooke Squitieri ‘21 who received an honorable mention in the drawing and illustration category for her piece “Discriminating Digits”; Anna Kopec ‘23 who received a Silver Key in the drawing and illustration category for her piece “Tiger King”; and Olivia Esposito ‘23 who received an Honorable Mention in the design category for her piece “Trivia Tile Game”. Student artwork is juried by professional artists and university art faculty and is selected on merit for inclusion in a state-wide art exhibition that is traditionally held at the Hartford Art School. Beyond the honor of being selected for this high quality exhibit, students may be awarded Gold or Silver keys and Honorable Mention Awards in each of 18 media categories. Students whose art pieces were recognized in the 2021 Regional Art Awards will be honored at a virtual celebration with winners from other schools on February 26. A virtual gallery of all the entries can be viewed here.

In the Regional Writing Awards, Spencer Squitieri ‘21 with his essay “Finding the Words for Why,” Zachary Meyerson ‘21 with his essay “More In Common” and Caitlin Doherty ‘21 with her essay “Unspoken” all received Silver Keys in the personal essay & memoir category. Annually, over 1,500 students from across Connecticut submit entries vividly demonstrating their passion for the craft of writing. From this large pool of poetry, essays, stories, and drama, submissions in Poetry and Prose are awarded to be published or honored at each grade level. Students who were awarded for their pieces will be celebrated at a virtual celebration on March 7. View the full list of award recipients.

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

Novena to St. Joseph set to help faithful prepare for consecration

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced a diocesan Novena to St. Joseph in preparation for the consecration of the Diocese of Bridgeport to St. Joseph on March 19.

“All are invited to participate in a special Novena to Saint Joseph that will seek his intercession upon our diocese during this celebratory year. I encourage all the faithful to participate in this diocesan-wide devotion to the Patron of the Universal Church during the Year to Saint Joseph,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The Novena will begin on Wednesday, March 10th and end on March 18th, and will take place at 7 pm every evening via Zoom and the Diocesan YouTube. People will be able to access the novena through the diocesan website and social media.

“I ask that all who are able join us in praying this Novena within the diocese as we ready ourselves to enter this period spiritual preparation to a much larger call to diocesan renewal,” the bishop said.

In order to help people to prepare for the consecration, the bishop said a special Novena to Saint Joseph has been crafted alongside that of the traditional Litany of Saint Joseph, which has been included among other prayers to St. Joseph enriched with a plenary indulgence.

The indulgence may be earned once a day subject to the usual conditions: sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and a total detachment to all sin, including venial sin.

“The Novena has been written to engage various intercessory levels of Saint Joseph’s patronage upon our diocese, as we answer a call to the renewal of Christian life and prepare for a great evangelical outreach that will begin this Fall,” the bishop said.

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

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

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

The Diocesan celebration of St. Joseph will launch a the call to renewal announced by Bishop Caggiano in February 17 his pastoral exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”

Grosso chosen to participate in Vatican Social Media project

BRIDGEPORT—John Grosso, Director of Digital Media of the Diocese of Bridgeport, has been chosen by the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications to be part of an international digital media program.

Grosso, a native of Stamford, was among sixteen individuals under age thirty-five from a dozen countries across the globe who were chosen to be part of the Vatican project. Since joining the diocese in 2015, he has innovated its social media program across multiple platforms and overseen the transition to live-streamed Masses and other digital initiatives during the pandemic crisis.

Recognizing the vital role of digital media, the dicastery announced “Faith Communication in the Digital World” and invited candidates to apply for the project with the opportunity to sharpen their digital media abilities and develop skills useful for work in Catholic organizations, institutions, congregations and in their local dioceses to better serve the mission of the Church.

“The diocese is very proud that John Grosso has earned this distinction and has been chosen to participate in the Vatican project,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “Through his efforts we have opened up new evangelization opportunities in the digital media, which will play an increasingly important role in the future of Church communications.”

Bishop Caggiano said that as the Catholic Church seeks to embrace new and effective ways of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media and mobile applications have been utilized as key tools in communicating the Gospel message, particularly to youth and young adults.

Grosso said he was humbled to be selected for the project, and he believes that although social media can be a hostile and difficult environment, it gives the Church the ability to accompany others where they are in their life journey.

“I love the Church. I feel at home in the Church. But my whole life, I’ve watched many of my friends leave it, and I’ve been powerless to stop it. Here in my part of the United States, there is a crisis of trust in the Church, a crisis of belief in the Eucharist, and a crisis of relevancy.

When I hear Pope Francis say ‘go to the margins,’ I think of digital media. Digital media is a way to reach rich and poor, connect young and old, and help orient them towards Jesus and His Church.”

Grosso will join other young professionals in weekly virtual meetings, which include lectures by internationally renowned experts and individual coaching on specific topics related to digital communication and social media. The group will engage in individual and group work assignments throughout the project.

The 12-month program, launched digitally this month, also includes two week-long trips to Rome where the group will gather in person.

Under Grosso’s leadership, the diocese has been the architect of diocesan social media strategy with steadily growing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Additionally, more than 50,000 people now receive the diocesan email newsletter, which includes videos from the Bishop and latest news updates. Grosso also created the “DOB Social” website to connect all parishes, schools and organizations to diocesan social media.

Based on his success in Bridgeport, he has been increasingly invited by dioceses across the United States via Zoom meetings and personal appearances to share his knowledge of social media and best practices.

Brief Bio: In addition to his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Boston College, John earned a Masters Degree in Corporate Communications and Public Relations at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. He graduated at the top of his class in August, 2017 with a 4.0 GPA.

Previously, he served as the diocesan coordinator for 2016 World Youth Day in which using social media he organized and formed a group of 240 people to Poland for ten days. John serves on the Advisory Board of two organizations close to his heart: the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University, and Sister to Sister: All Africa Conference.

John recently married Nicole Perone on April 27th, 2019, in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank Caggiano. They are members of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, where they were married.

Immaculate’s Brave Engineers Qualify for National/International Tournament

DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s Brave Engineers team participated in the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC), receiving second place in the State Finals. This incredible performance qualified the Brave Engineers for the RWDC National/International competition in April. The team will also have the opportunity to compete for merit awards at the National/International Competition.

The Brave Engineers, coached by Jeanine Antonios, includes members Mario Perez ‘22, Carolyn Jandura ‘22, Nikolas Badinelli ‘22, Meryl McKenna ‘21, Shaun McKenna ‘23 and Zifeng Zhan ’22.

The Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation’s leading industries. Students utilize professional engineering software to develop their solutions and also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace.

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

St. Mark Students Strive to be Models in Christ

STRATFORD—St. Mark School in Stratford is pleased to announce a new school-wide program that teaches students the value of moral character and that the positive impact of their actions do not go unnoticed.

The program, Models in Christ, recognizes students for demonstrating character traits based on the Catholic theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Teachers in kindergarten through grade 8 nominate students as Models in Christ based on how they exemplify the six pillars of character at St. Mark School: Respect, Kindness, Accountability, Citizenship, Perseverance and Trustworthiness.

Each month, two students per grade are chosen and presented with a commemorative gold cross pin.

The Models in Christ program was introduced to Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano at a recent school Mass ¬that he celebrated at St. Mark during Catholic Schools Week.

“What a tremendous program this is!” commented Bishop Frank. “Thank you students for your great example and your great conduct.”

School Counselor Jennifer Flynn created the program and believes its foundational skills embody the ideals of St. Mark School and instill a positive school climate and a culture of kindness.

Flynn shares, “Good character is not formed automatically; it is developed over time through a sustained process of teaching, example, learning and practice. With this program, students are intentionally taught good character traits to support their behaviors. As I tell my students, in a world where you can be anything, choose to be kind.”

School Principal Melissa Warner recognizes that while the primary responsibility for character development lies with parents and families, schools play an essential supportive role.

Warner adds, “As educators, we shape students’ ideas about what constitutes good behavior. We help them develop civic responsibility, healthy attitudes towards themselves and others, and a commitment to lifelong learning. We proactively instill in our students these important character traits that society values in its school graduates, community members and employees.”

According to Warner, the Models in Christ program is integrated into all elements of school life at St. Mark. Students discuss what each virtue looks like and how they can use that strength for the betterment of the school and the betterment of others. Morning prayer and school bulletin boards feature the virtue of the month and students are recognized when reflecting the virtue in their daily lives.

School Counselor Flynn praises the program for being a practical way for faculty and staff to model virtuous behavior and to help explicitly teach children to be the best versions of who they are.

St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school. St. Mark School opened its campus for in-person learning in September and continues to offer robust educational programs for students in Pre-K through Grade Eight, including those who choose to be enrolled in remote learning. For more information, visit or email

Nurses who care for the physical and spiritual

BRIDGEPORT—Nine years ago, Marilyn Faber joined her husband William on a trip to Swaziland and discovered a different perspective on healthcare. While she was there, she volunteered at the parish nurse program that had 50 retired nurses running clinics throughout the country.

She saw firsthand what can be done in communities that lack resources. The nurses would bring in doctors to do exams and equally important, they helped in the healing process by their simple presence, she said.
The experience proved inspirational for Faber, who is the Parish Nurse Coordinator at Hartford Healthcare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, which provides resources and assistance to 79 parishes and congregations throughout Fairfield County. The program has 225 participating nurses who are unpaid professionals, focused on what Faber calls, “the intentional care of the spirit.”

“I learned at lot in Swaziland,” she says. “I’m a holistic nurse and I learned what it means just to be you. As a nurse, you’re bringing yourself to the situation and a person who is ill. Making that connection, listening to their story and maybe using healing touch can be helpful to their healing process. And that is what the nurses did there. It taught me a lesson about the things they could do without money.”

Faith community nursing is a specialty within the American Nurses Association. There is a standard scope of practice that is followed by the unpaid professionals in the program, which exists at 42 parishes, including several in Stamford, St. Mark in Stratford, St. Aloysius in New Canaan, St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull and Holy Name of Jesus in Stratford, along with 37 Protestant churches. The program is ecumenical and available to all churches, congregations, mosques and synagogues in Fairfield County.

Bill Hoey, Vice President of Mission Integration at Hartford Healthcare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, said, “The Parish Nurse program is a crown jewel in our vast array of programs at St. Vincent’s. The program brings our faith-based services to the people most in need, it captures our mission, vision and values beautifully. For over 25 years, this program has educated, informed and encouraged people to be as healthy as possible. We are very proud of the fact that our programs are in congregations of many faith traditions and are provided at no cost to the church, synagogue, mosque or parish that hosts the program. I am blessed to work with colleagues like Marilyn who see their work as a vocation and strive on a daily basis to put faith into action.”

The role of the parish nurse is to offer guidance so people can navigate the healthcare process. They do educational programs, health screenings and referrals. St. Vincent’s helps the parishes start and maintain the program in their churches.

“When you are in your church and people know you are a nurse, they are often asking you questions,” Faber says. “People know the relationship the nurse may have with the pastor and you get to know them as a church person and then as a nurse, who can help you navigate a health situation. There is an intentional presence so that the nurse can attend to the whole person — body, mind and spirit — and have the opportunity to do that without time constraints of a hospital or clinical setting.”

The focus of the program is to maintain a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, Faber says.

“The parish nurse serves as health educator, counselor, referral source and health promoter for her congregation,” Faber says. “Through basic services such as monthly blood pressure screenings, the nurse can provide valuable instruction and assistance to the congregation.”

As a result of these screenings, for example, many parishioners who might not be aware of existing problems can be referred to their personal physicians before a serious problem develops. The nurses also sponsor health fairs in their churches with information and activities for different age groups.

They take what she called a “wholistic” approach, which means caring for the whole person, including the spirit. What does that mean?

“Much of the interviewing we do is finding out how someone’s prayer life is,” Faber says. “How do you feel in your spirit? If you feel that God has left you, that could be a big piece of what is happening in your life.”

For example, when a person is ill, he or she can succumb to the belief that God has abandoned them. They may be praying to be healed and nothing is happening. As a result, they become despondent because they assume God is not listening.

Faber said, “St. Vincent’s offers each parish or congregation enrolled in the program a start-up stipend for materials and supplies, and provides orientation and continuing education programs for the parish nurses. It also facilitates professional collaboration between the parishes and services offered at the Medical Center and in the greater Bridgeport community.”

In her role as Parish Nurse Coordinator, Faber supports the parish nurses by providing them with health tips for their bulletins, updated health information and education, and guidelines on important issues, such as the safest practices for reopening churches during COVID pandemic.

An important part of her job at St. Vincent’s is her involvement in the Community Health Improvement initiative in which she works with colleagues from Bridgeport Hospital along with the greater Bridgeport area health departments and and other organizations to determine how to improve the health outcomes of the community.

“I work on the ‘Know Your Numbers’ campaign, which utilizes Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University nursing students to offer health screenings in local food pantries,” she said. This team effort helps the people of Bridgeport work together to improve community health.

As one of three parish nurse coordinators in the state, Faber collaborates with the Connecticut Nurses’ Association to offer guidance for the more than 500 parish nurses in some 200 parishes and congregations.

Her role at St. Vincent’s is oriented to community health with special attention to the underserved in the area. Among her responsibilities is overseeing the monthly food distribution done on site at St. Vincent’s.

Faber is also the parish nurse contact at her own church, Nichols United Methodist in Trumbull. Over the past 20 years she has taught CPR classes and weight-management programs, provided flu shot clinics, health fairs and Red Cross blood drives along with facilitating support groups for those who are grieving or suffering from chronic illness. She been part of the parish nursing program since its inception in 1989, when she was parish nurse at Huntington Congregational Church.

For more information about becoming a parish nurse or how St. Vincent’s can help your parish develop a program, contact the Parish Nurse Office at 203.576.5558 or email the office coordinator at


For nurses, a tradition of service in parishes

The parish nurse program at St. Mark Church in Stratford is one of the oldest in the diocese, and in the vestibule of the church, there is a plaque honoring the nurses for their years of service. Led by Christine Pfeiffer, RNBS, the program has some 20 nurses and five volunteer recorders.

Explaining the different services the nurses offer, Pfeiffer said, “I have worked with our pastor, Father Birendra Soreng, during the return-to-church phase to explain the public health code and the Bishop’s directions. Our group also does blood pressures once a month in the church entrance. We staff all five Masses before and after services.”

On average, 60 parishioners have their blood pressure checked. Two nurses take the blood pressure and one volunteer, from the Ladies Guild or a student parishioner, records the medical information for the client.

“We also collect used medication every month and removed the labels and drop off the meds at the Stratford Police Station’s collection container,” she said. “We usually collect a good amount of used meds, which we feel is a contribution to the environment.”

In addition, the group has made presentations on nutrition and medications to the Ladies Guild and on use of wheelchairs and defibrillators to the Ushers Guild so they are prepared when EMTs arrive in an emergency situation.

Cheryl Basztura, RN has been a parish nurse at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull for 28 years. She and Judy Pyrch are co-coordinators of the program.

The first parish nurse, Mary Ellen Kovacs, is now director of pastor care and regularly visits hospitalized and home-bound parishioners.

“Over the years, we have held health fairs, flu shot clinics and information sessions for seniors, sometimes in conjunction with Nichols United Methodist Church,” Basztura said.

Blood pressure screenings were held every month before the COVID-19 restrictions were enacted. In addition, they make materials on wellness and disease prevention available to parishioners.

“I attend monthly parish nurse meetings at St. Vincent’s to keep abreast of current information on community agencies and other resources that parishioners can access,” she said. “And I enjoy spending one-on-one time with our clients.”

The regularly put notices in the church bulletin, and maintain a health-related bulletin board in the church hall, she said.

There are automated external defibrillators in the church and McClinch Center, and Basztura still recalls the Saturday afternoon when a parish nurse used one of them to save the life of a visitor.

Fifteen years ago Father Andrew Marcus of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Stratford asked Caren Silhavey, RN, BSN, MSN, CURNr, CNEr, to start a parish nurse program so she contacted Sister Mary Jean Tague, the first coodinator of the program at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Silhavey, who was co-coordinator with her cousin Marion Rader, RN, said, “We were fortunate that we started our program with six RNs, 2 LPNs and one EMT.”

They began having monthly blood pressure screenings before and after Mass. That practice continued until COVID-19 restrictions were begun earlier this year. However, during the pandemic, the nurses called parishioners with health issues to see how they were doing.

“Besides blood pressures, we often provided counseling on various health and family/social issues,” she said. “We participate in health fairs both at our church as well as other parishes. At special services, such as a healing Mass, the parish staff has asked us to be present. We participated in a blood pressure screening with student nurses at a food bank that was held at our church.”

Silhavey received a grant from the Michael Vincent Sage Dragonheart Foundation for an automated external defibrillator that is mounted in the church. Since training was cancelled because of the pandemic, she sent videos and instructions to the parish staff.

With the resumption of Mass at the church, Silhavey said, “I have attended Masses and monitored the correct technique for taking temperatures.”

Kimberly McNamara, RN began volunteering at the Parish Nurse Program at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan in 2007, assisting with the monthly blood pressure checks after Mass. She later took the training course with the encouragement of then pastor, Monsignor William Scheyd and Sr. Mary Jean Tague, St. Vincent’s first parish nurse coordinator.

Since that time, she has been involved with the St. Aloysius Parish Nurse Program, checking blood pressure and coordinating other parishioner/nurses who help with the ministry.

“The primary service this ministry offers at St. Aloysius is blood pressure checks and associated health counseling,” McNamara said. “Many people in the parish know their numbers and appreciate being able to have a nurse check their blood pressure on a regular basis. Hypertension is a risk factor that can be managed with proper medical care, medication compliance and lifestyle accommodations.”

What McNamara has enjoyed the most about her participation has been “the one-to-one interaction with fellow parishioners.”

“During these brief meetings, we have gotten to know one another and to share elements of our common faith,” she says. “I am honored to be a part of the Parish Nurse Ministry at St. A’s, and I am continually humbled by the faith, courage and wisdom I encounter in my fellow parishioners. The act of sitting down, and taking the time to have someone read you information about your own body is one that should not be minimized. It is a challenge for some people to stop their busy schedules to address blood pressure and other health indicators.”

She says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the Parish Nurse experience has been the rich faith in the community of nurses.

“Our monthly meetings are educational and social, thanks to Marilyn Faber’s dedication and leadership,” she said. “And I leave each meeting having heard a nugget of wisdom shared by a parish nurse colleague.”

Help Stop State Sponsored Suicide

HARTFORD—Politicians in Hartford are again considering assisted suicide legislation. The Public Health Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly is considering legalizing a form of suicide in our state commonly referred to as “aid-in-dying” or “physician-assisted suicide”. The Committee has raised House Bill 6425 “An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients”.

Modern hospice care and the proper use of pain medications render suicide unnecessary, and we need to be mindful of the threat that a suicide mentality poses to vulnerable people and to people with disabilities

Many people believe that a physician is deeply involved in this process. This not true. The physician orders the mixture of medications, the patient must then consume the deadly cocktail of drugs without assistance. Many times without even a physician or nurse present.

We should never allow legislators to establish suicide as a solution to medical issues. Don’t let the state persuade us that it’s dignified for an ill person to sign their own execution order. Don’t let the state create an environment where ill people will feel they have a “responsibility to die”.

Catholic teaching condemns physician-assisted suicide because it, like murder, involves taking an innocent human life:
Suicide is always as morally objectionable as murder. The Church’s tradition has always rejected it as a gravely evil choice: To concur with the intention of another person to commit suicide and to help in carrying it out through so-called “assisted suicide” means to cooperate in, and at times to be the actual perpetrator of, an injustice which can never be excused, even if it is requested. Saint Augustine writes that “it is never licit to kill another: even if he should wish it.” True “compassion” leads to sharing another’s pain; it does not kill the person whose suffering we cannot bear. (John Paul II, The Gospel of Life, no. 66).

Go to the website below, read more on the issue and then sign the petition to stop the legalization of assisted suicide in Connecticut:
Watch the video
Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference

‘Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord’

My dear friends in Christ, for the last year, we have faced an unprecedented time that has dramatically changed every aspect of life, in ways known and unknown. One can say that we have lived a time of spiritual twilight, when we experienced a growing sense of darkness, mixed with moments when the light of charity and kindness broke through to encourage us.

For who among us has not wrestled with fear and anxiety as we tried to deal with the uncertainties caused by a pandemic that upended our lives without warning? How many of our family members and friends suffered deeply because of the loss of a job, sudden illness, living in long periods of isolation or the fear of the unknown? Who has not been moved to tears when we looked at the sight of family members visiting relatives in hospitals, unable to be with them in their hour of sickness? How difficult it was to spend birthdays, anniversaries and holidays separated from parents and grandparents, unable to visit them so as to keep them safe! How many have endured the sadness and disappointment of making the hard decision to remain at home and not attend Sunday Mass, not simply to avoid risking their own health but to protect the well-being of their loved ones?

Yet, throughout these difficult days, we have also experienced moments of great joy and light. We have been moved by the sight of young children writing letters to seniors to quell the lonely days as the world entered quarantine. Neighbors have run errands and gone shopping for neighbors unable to leave their homes. Doctors and nurses and other frontline workers have sacrificed their own health and safety to care for those who have fallen ill, forgoing vacations and overtime pay to make sure those who are critically ill are not left alone. Families have gathered virtually, talking more during the pandemic than perhaps they would otherwise, simply to check in and check up on one another. Indeed, the virtual means of communications have brought so many closer together. Finally, how can we forget those faithful men and women, clergy and laity alike, who kept our churches clean when Masses resumed, who reimagined faith formation so that our young people could remain connected, who worked so tirelessly to keep our Catholic schools open? These moments of hope and light have reminded us that, even in the darkest times, we are a people of light.

For everyone who brought light in the midst of the darkness, I thank God each day for your witness and generosity.

Now as we begin to look to a time beyond the pandemic, many speak of a “new normal” that is a way of life that will be different because of what we have experienced together. If this is true, I ask you, should we not draw greater light out of this darkness by shaping the “new normal” so that our personal faith may be strengthened, the unity of our Church deepened and we are ready to go out in mission and witness to the Gospel in new and courageous ways? As Christians, we believe suffering and death leads to new life. Let us use the months ahead to work together to craft a future that will bring greater unity and renewal to ourselves, our families and our Church. As we anticipate the grip of the pandemic to slowly loosen in the coming months, let us now begin with a quiet period of personal and communal prayer, study and renewal. For having been strengthened in mind and spirit, we will be ready later this year to go out into the larger world and bear witness to Christ in new, bold and creative ways.

I come to you now, my dear friends, when many may be wondering about the future direction of our Church, to invite you to begin this spiritual journey with me, seeking the Lord’s grace to transform this time of suffering into a springtime of renewal for the life of the Church. It will be a journey that will move us beyond the fatigue that has settled in as weeks turned into months and as what we hoped would be temporary began to change the world around us. It will be a journey where we will rise out of the darkness with the Lord Jesus at our side, and in obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit bring new energy and commitment to the preaching of the Gospel, in word and witness. It is a journey that will last for a lifetime.

I. The Upper Room

“When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover Lamb, He (Jesus) sent out Peter and John, instructing them, ‘Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.’ They asked Him, ‘where do you want us to make the preparations?’ And He answered them, ‘When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him into the house that he enters and say to the master of the house, ‘The teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room that is furnished. Make the preparations there” (Lk. 22: 7-12).

Since every journey demands preparation, our journey of renewal will begin by accepting the Lord’s invitation to enter in the quiet of our hearts and rediscover His presence and power in our personal lives, our families and in our communities of faith. The image that comes to my mind is that of the Upper Room where the Lord often gathered with His apostles and disciples, in times of challenge or decision, to strengthen them for what lay ahead.

Recall that it was in the Upper Room that the Lord celebrated the Last Supper with His apostles, to feed them in anticipation of the sufferings that they would endure by proclaiming His Passion and Death. It was in the Upper Room where the apostles, having seen the Risen Lord, could not overcome their fear until the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Spirit gave them the courageous strength to become fearless missionaries in a harsh and cruel world. It was also in the Upper Room where the apostles learned to discern the Spirit’s plan for each of them and to go out in mission.

My friends, the Lord is inviting you and me into the Upper Room to receive the same gifts He gave to His apostles and disciples. In the months to come, in courageous and prayerful silence, the Lord will feed us, teach us and prepare us to go out in mission into our divided world to bring the light of Christ’s love to everyone we meet.

If we accept this invitation to spend time in the Upper Room with Him, He will offer us the same spiritual gifts already in our midst that will prepare us for the mission ahead. These are the same gifts that our recent Diocesan Synod highlighted, including the need for daily personal prayer, to seek forgiveness of our sins and to receive and adore the Eucharistic Lord. These gifts, which lie at the heart of our Catholic faith, are not new but will take on new power and purpose as together we celebrate their power to heal us, feed us and give us strength. This letter will explore how these gifts can bring us renewal and prepare us for the larger mission to come.

My friends, the Synod was guided by these words spoken by the Lord: “Remain in me as I remain in you” (Jn. 15:4). In this moment of preparation, may these words echo in our minds and hearts. For if we wish for true renewal and to be ready to go out into the larger world, nothing can be accomplished apart from the Lord and His grace.

II. Upper Room: A Place to be Fed

“Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn. 17:3).

In the Upper Room on the night before He died, the Lord fed His apostles both His Word and His Sacred Body and Blood. Recognizing that the Lord cannot force us to accept His gifts, these same gifts will feed you and me only if we are willing to receive them.

1. Personal Prayer

We can begin our preparations by making a conscious, daily decision to spend time in prayer with the Lord, with no short cuts and no excuses. We must not allow the fear of silence to dissuade us from prayer. Rather, if we have the courage to enter into the silence, the Lord will gently whisper the assurance of His love for us. He will speak to our hearts and remind us that He is always with us, in every moment of every day.

We can pray in any manner we wish, whether reciting the rosary, novena prayers, the Liturgy of the Hours or simply in unstructured conversation with the Lord. We can choose whatever time and place is most conducive to allow us to settle our minds and hearts to enter into the Lord’s presence. However, our commitment to pray—not as an addendum to a busy schedule but as a foundational part of our day—is crucial for the work that lies ahead of us. For if we wish to invite our children, grandchildren, neighbors and friends to share the joy of Catholic faith, how can we lead them to Christ if we do not spend time with the Lord each day deepening our own personal relationship with Him?

I ask that you consider including the Word of God in whatever prayer you choose. As we take our place at the Lord’s feet, as the apostles did in the Upper Room, we will be fed by listening to His Word. Unlike the apostles who had the privilege of hearing the Lord’s words with their own ears, you and I can hear the Lord’s words in and through the Sacred Scriptures. In our prayer and study, we can listen to the Lord’s teachings from His own lips, learn to follow in His footsteps and be inspired by the examples of the holy women and men of faith who followed Him.

Praying with the Scriptures can take many forms, including Lectio Divina, or engaging in Scripture sharing and study, whether online or in person. I call upon all pastoral and Diocesan leaders to make available whatever resources they can to unlock the beauty, meaning and power of the Word of God. For the admonition of Saint Jerome must never be forgotten: “Whoever does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ” (Prologue of the Commentary on Isaiah: 1, CCL 73, 1).

2. Reconciliation with Christ

In the quiet of the Upper Room, we will also find the strength to seek the Lord’s word of forgiveness from the sins that may haunt us, sometimes hidden deep within our heart.

For we live in a time when sin is equated with “committing a mistake,” “making a poor choice” or “attending to my private business.” Sin is denied because to admit it may “impose guilt” that is perceived to be harmful. If the human person is considered the standard of truth and morality, what place does sin have in such a life? Yet, in the quiet of the Upper Room, the foolishness of these presumptions will be laid bare. For it was in the Upper Room where the Lord cast aside His outer garment, tied a towel around His waist and proceeded to wash the feet of His apostles, in anticipation of the Last Supper to follow. By this task, usually reserved for slaves to perform, the Lord reminded His apostles of their need to be cleansed, in order to receive His sacred Body and Blood and to serve others worthily.

If we enter the quiet of His presence, the Lord will gently hold up a mirror into our souls so that we can gaze upon our sins without excuses or pretense. At those moments, we will encounter a Savior who does not seek to condemn us but to forgive. He will whisper the same words to us that He spoke to the woman caught in adultery: “Has no one condemned you?…. Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore” (Jn. 8:10-11). Our gentle and merciful Shepherd will offer to wash away our sins so that we can receive His Body and Blood with hearts and minds renewed.

Before we invite others to experience the liberating word of God’s forgiveness, should we not take this privileged time to relearn how to examine our conscience, admit our sinfulness and seek the forgiveness of our sins through the Sacrament of Penance?

I recognize that the pandemic has created obstacles for many who wish to approach the Sacrament of Penance. It is for this reason that I am asking that Centers of Mercy, once established in our Diocese during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy (2015), be re-established in every deanery. These Centers of Mercy will be parishes that will offer the Sacrament of Penance in the evenings, with the help of the priests of the area, so that no one need wait more than two days in order to receive this healing sacrament. These Centers, along with the parishes already offering the Sacrament of Penance throughout the Diocese, will observe every protocol needed to maintain the safety of penitent and priest alike. These new Centers of Mercy will begin their work no later than March 1st and a comprehensive list will be published in every media platform of the Diocese.

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?

3. The Holy Eucharist

Finally, and most importantly, it was in the Upper Room that at the Last Supper the Lord Jesus fed His apostles His Sacred Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. The Lord fed them His Body and Blood so that they could anticipate through grace the mystery of His Passion and Death, and to strengthen them for the sufferings that lay ahead.

My friends, each time we have come to Mass, we have taken a seat at the table in the Upper Room, like the apostles, to be fed the sacred Body and Blood of our Savior and Redeemer. Through grace, we participate in an unbloodied way in the one sacrifice of the Lord’s death on the Cross. At Mass, we enter in the mystery of our redemption and salvation in Christ. It is celestial food that gives us the strength to go into mission wherever that may lead us.

I recognize that among the many disruptions caused by the pandemic, none has created greater hardship, sadness and disappointment than the inability of many to come to Sunday Mass. It was with great sorrow that I suspended Sunday worship last year, to ensure that the lives of our people, especially the sick and elderly, were protected from an unknown and unseen menace. Ever since public worship has resumed, we have maintained our health protocols to allow those who are ready and able to attend Sunday Mass to come to church as safely as possible. I understand the burden that many may feel because of these measures and I deeply appreciate your cooperation. As I write this letter, more than 25,000 Catholics have returned to Sunday Mass, and we await the return of many more Catholics to Sunday Mass as conditions improve.

I also wish to thank those individuals who have remained connected to the celebration of the Mass by viewing it online due to their inability to return to church at the present time. Christian prudence demands that every person carefully examine the circumstances of their life and to make decisions that will keep them safe and protect the well-being of their loved ones. The Lord feeds you His grace through the Spiritual Communion you now receive, until the day comes when you can return to receive His sacred Body and Blood without fear. When that time comes, your parish community will welcome you home with open arms.

My friends, let us also use this quiet time of preparation to ask the Lord to reawaken in our hearts a passion, respect and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Our reverence is deepened as our understanding and appreciation of the “Mystery of Faith” that is the Eucharist grows. Sadly, many adult Catholics have not had the opportunity to explore the depth, breadth and richness of this central mystery of our faith. I call upon our clergy and pastoral leaders to offer sustained and comprehensive adult catechesis on the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the coming months so that our love and passion for the Eucharist can grow. Diocesan resources will also be published soon, including a detailed theological reflection on the mystery of the Eucharist, as fuel to awaken the fire of our Eucharistic faith. Let us use the months ahead to deepen our knowledge and appreciation of so great a divine gift.

We must also acknowledge the debilitating spiritual effects created by the celebration of Mass that lacks reverence or beauty. For it is the power of beauty that engages the heart, allowing the grace of the Eucharist to move its participants to remember that their destination is heaven and to embrace their mission to preach the Gospel in the world. A beautiful and reverent celebration of the Mass demands a proper disposition by the celebrant and lay faithful alike. We cannot allow the distractions of the world to draw our attention away from the mystery before us. Each of us must relearn the power of preparation before Mass, interior silence and thanksgiving at the conclusion of Mass so that the gift given can yield its proper fruit.

I have also asked that every deanery establish at least one Center of Adoration—a local parish that will offer Eucharistic Adoration throughout the day, so that everyone who wishes can be fed by the Eucharistic Lord in a personal and powerful way. These Centers will also afford those who remain uncomfortable with attending Mass on Sunday an opportunity to encounter the Eucharistic Lord in quiet throughout the day. It is my desire that every deanery will have at least one such Center of Adoration operating no later than the start of April.

III. Upper Room: A Place to Listen

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own but he will speak what he hears and will declare to you the thigs that are coming” (Jn. 16:12-13).

In addition to being fed, the Lord wishes for us to enter into the Upper Room with Him to relearn how to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, often spoken in and through the lives of the people around us. For we cannot be effective in mission unless we can address the concerns that believers and non-believers hold in their hearts.
Some believers continue to have questions of faith for which they have never received adequate answers. Others have wounds that burden them or hurts from past failures in the Church that tempt them to walk away in indifference. Each of us must ask the Lord to teach us how to listen to those concerns so that in our personal encounters with the people we meet, we can be effective in leading our brothers and sisters to find the answers that they seek in Jesus.

IV. Upper Room: A Place to Recommit to Mission

“When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2: 1-4).

Finally, like the apostles, we must be prepared to reenter the larger world as courageous missionaries of the Gospel.
In our Baptism and Confirmation, each of us was given the mission to be a disciple of Christ who can speak an effective word of salvation to whomever we meet, whether they be our family members, co-workers, friends or even strangers. This word of salvation that comes from Christ invites every human person to become “a new creation” in Him (2 Cor. 5:17).

To speak an effective word of salvation does not always require spoken words but can be powerfully conveyed by the example of a joyful, faithful life. It often does not require that we leave our homes or places of work to be missionaries. In fact, it is in these familiar places that our mission begins. This means that at every moment of every day we are called to be missionaries, even during these days of the pandemic. In fact, these past months have given us unique opportunities to offer help, consolation and care in the name of Jesus. In those occasions, we lived the vision attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila who taught her sisters:

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

Saint Paul describes this mission by using the word “ambassador.” He writes, “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us” (2 Cor. 5:20). Who are these ambassadors? Simply put, they are you, me and all who have encountered the person of Jesus Christ. Where are we to go? We serve as ambassadors of Christ in our homes, classrooms, workplaces, clubs, ball fields, and when we shop, travel, and spend time with friends. For the work of an ambassador is to build a living bridge to the people we meet, accompanying them in their struggles, answering their questions and allowing them to experience how much they are loved by Christ, through you and me. 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.

At times we have all failed to be true ambassadors of Christ. Such failure has a familiar look. As Saint Ignatius of Antioch describes it: “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips and the world in your hearts” (Letter to the Romans, Chpt. 4:7). We must resolve to learn from any past mistakes we have made and serve with new zeal in this work the Lord has given us.

Furthermore, the time is coming when we will be able to leave the safety of our homes and reenter a world forever changed by the pandemic—one that may not welcome the message we will bring. We must recognize that we live within a post-Christian world, in which many do not understand the Christian faith nor have had an encounter with the Lord and His mercy. It is a world where many may not readily welcome the Gospel or may even actively oppose it. It is a world that will nonetheless be surprised by the power of the Gospel and its ability to bring joy and hope where the world cannot give it.

Let us draw hope from our knowledge that the world did not welcome Jesus in whose name we were baptized. Indeed, we are in good company as we go out into the world.

As we begin preparations for a great evangelical outreach into the larger world that will begin in the fall of 2021, the pastors of our Diocese and 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. We will need people to echo the prophets and saints who have gone before us, willing to see light through the darkness and willing to say to the Lord, “Here I am. Send me” (Is. 6:8).

Such co-workers, drawn from the laity and clergy alike, must be willing to use the months ahead to undergo intensive personal and spiritual formation to prepare themselves to be missionary ambassadors of Christ. 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 good will and anyone searching for the real meaning of life. For such meaning is found only in the Lord Jesus.
Our pastors have been asked to discern who among their people they can recommend to enter this formational experience, which will be done both online and in person. 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.

If the challenge of serving as a missionary ambassador stirs your heart, I ask that you contact your local pastor and discuss this pastoral opportunity. Evenings of information will be held in the first week of March to provide prospective candidates further information. Furthermore, I call on everyone to pray for those who will respond to this important invitation.

Conclusion: Saint Joseph, “A Righteous Man” (Mt. 1:19)

As we reflect upon the challenges we face and the mission that lies ahead, we may be tempted to be discouraged. Join me to seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds, give joy to our hearts, strengthen our will and shake off all discouragement. Let us prepare ourselves to respond boldly and courageously to whatever awaits us. Let us enter into the Upper Room with Christ so that He can strengthen us for the task that lies ahead.
May these words attributed to Saint John Henry Newman stir our hearts, “Teach us, dear Lord, frequently and attentively to consider this truth: that if I gain the whole world and lose you, in the end I have lost everything; whereas if I lose the whole world and gain you, in the end I have lost nothing.” For if we place our hope in the Lord and not in the world, what do we have to fear?

As you know, Saint Joseph, the righteous one, is being honored this year throughout the Church. For he was a man well acquainted with unexpected change, having his life upended by visits from the Archangel Gabriel and flight into an unknown land. Yet, it was his courage, strength of faith and quiet perseverance that allowed him to overcome the challenges the Holy Family faced. He quietly and faithfully guided and protected the Lord Jesus and our Lady until his death.

On March 19th, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the Husband of Mary, I will consecrate the people of the Diocese to the protection and intercession of Saint Joseph during a solemn celebration of Mass at Saint Augustine Cathedral at 7 pm. This celebration will be livestreamed as well. I have also asked all the pastors of our Diocese to offer the same Mass and consecration in their local parishes, also at 7 pm. A plenary indulgence will be available for all those who participate in either the Diocesan or parish celebrations. The spiritual requirements needed to receive this extraordinary grace will be published shortly. As we begin this journey of renewal, I can think of no better guide and protector to whom we can entrust our journey than Saint Joseph. May he help us quietly and faithfully to fulfill the work that lies before us.

My friends, I offer you these reflections on the day when we accept ashes on our foreheads as a sign of our mortality and an invitation to conversion. It begins the holy season of Lent, during which we journey with Christ into the desert so that we can be purified and made ready to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord at Easter. It is a season, for many, reminiscent of the twilight we have been enduring for some time. Still, we are gifted with the knowledge that Good Friday is followed by Easter Sunday. We know that Easter joy follows the Lenten twilight.
May we bring the ashes we receive today into the Upper Room where we will discover that the Lord can bring light into darkness, lead twilight to dawn and raise ashes to new life.

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Ash Wednesday
February 17, 2021

Immaculate’s Mock Trial Team Has Strong Start

DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s Mock Trial Team had its first competition on Friday, January 29. The competition was hosted virtually but it was still a great opportunity for the students of Immaculate to face off against the students from other schools in the state. The Immaculate defense team competed in the morning and lost a very close round against the prosecution team from Fairfield Ludlowe, one of the top ranked teams in the state. In the afternoon, the Immaculate prosecution won their round against the defense team from Mercy, bringing Immaculate to 1-1 on the day.

Individual honors were presented to Grace Garvey ‘21, who was awarded second Best Attorney for the morning round; Allie Belone ‘22, who was awarded Best Attorney in the afternoon round; and Ernst Koch ‘22, who was awarded Best Witness in the afternoon round. The high scores in both competitions leave Immaculate in a very good position as they enter the next level of competition on February 26. This competition season may not be like other years, but the Immaculate Mock Trial Team has remained invested and has been working hard under the guidance of their Mock Trial coach Chris Houser as they prepare for the next level of competition.

Mock Trial is a program sponsored by Civics First. Civics First is a private, non-profit association that conducts and promotes law-related education programs in Connecticut’s public, private, and parochial schools. Students who participate in the program develop self-confidence, critical thinking, and public speaking skills while learning about the Constitution and the rule of law.

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

Catholic School Educators and Staff Recognized for Innovation and Leadership

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education, Inc (FIE) is pleased to announce the 2021 Innovation and Leadership Grants awards totaling nearly $140,000 to benefit Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

FIE awarded $56,683.56 to educators for their transformative grant projects. In light of the heroic innovative contributions of faculty and staff, FIE for the first time awarded $82,600 to all faculty and staff within Diocesan Catholic schools and the Office of the Superintendent. The Foundation’s Board took the extraordinary step of recognizing the frontline workers for their demonstration of innovation and leadership amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since its inception, Foundations in Education has awarded more than $500,000 in grant funding.

FIE’s Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine shared, “In addition to the annual grant program, this year our committee recognized in a special way the heroic innovation and leadership exhibited by all faculty, staff, and administrators of the Diocesan Catholic schools during this tumultuous year of the coronavirus. In appreciation for their personal sacrifices and perseverance in providing students the excellent education which they deserve, whether in person or virtually, we awarded an Amazon gift card to each permanent employee of our Diocesan Catholic schools.”

The annual competitive Innovative and Leadership grant cycle takes place from September 15-October 31.

Each year, a Grants committee of the Board of Trustees reviews and evaluates each grant proposal and submits recommendations to the FIE Board for approval. Projects must align with the Foundation’s mission to strengthen and transform Catholic education and include unique and innovative approaches to teaching that will maximize impact on student learning.

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Cheeseman, commented, “We are extremely grateful to Foundations in Education for continuing to make valuable investments in our schools, teachers and students. Across the diocese, educators are working hard to provide robust learning with limited resources. This latest round of grant funding will help support students with both online learning and in-person instruction.”

FIE’s Executive Director, Holly Doherty-Lemoine, remarked, “We are happy we can bring so many of these innovative projects to life and provide an initiative that gives teachers something to look forward to in the midst of all the uncertainty of COVID-19. This initiative is an opportunity for us to celebrate teachers, who are among the unsung heroes of this pandemic.”

This year the awards reception took place virtually. In addition to awardees and their principals, attendees included Most Revered Frank J. Caggiano, Foundations’ Board of Trustees, Grants Committee, and donors.

Each awardee had the opportunity to acknowledge their award and explain their project and vision.

After listening to each presentation, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano shared his reflections with awardees.

“The creativity is extraordinary! The fact that this is happening when we are constricted in so many other ways portrays heroic leadership. I am deeply impressed that these challenges have not prevented, but inspired such imagination and creative proposals. This is Catholic education as it has always been imagined!”

For more information or to learn how you can donate to support innovation and leadership in the Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools, please visit


  • St. Catherine Academy for Special Needs, Fairfield: Classroom Robot for Students with Autism by Helen Burland $4,550
  • Kolbe Cathedral High School, Bridgeport: Kolbe Urban Vegetable Garden by Andrew DeCoster $4,000
  • Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, Shelton: Distance Learning – Owl Labs by Kristina DeSimone $11,000; and World Language Lab by Lisa Lanni $9,765
  • St. Gregory the Great School, Danbury: Together at the Heart: Creating Art Six Feet Apart by Jennifer Sullivan $3,500
  • St. Mark School, Stratford: Document Cameras to Reach, Teach and Engage Students by Amanda Di Costanzo and Stacey Zenowich $1,278.56 • Catholic Academy of Bridgeport-St. Ann Academy: Lights, Camera, Action! by Kathy McNeiece $3,500
  • Notre Dame High School, Fairfield: Social and Emotional Learning at Notre Dame High School by Chris Cipriano $12,090; Virtual Dance in the Community by Kristen McAfee $6,000; and Real Estate 101 Enrichment Course by Joshua St. Onge $1,000
  • All Diocesan and Diocesan-Sponsored Catholic Schools in Fairfield County: Demonstration of Innovation and Leadership Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic by all faculty and staff (full-time and part-time) and the Office of the Superintendent $82,600

Click here to view the event recording


‘We’ll make this school full again’

DANBURY—In September, St. Joseph School was inundated with parents who wanted to enroll their children—so many that the Catholic school had to add classes.

Unlike Danbury Public Schools, St. Joseph’s was open in-person, a major draw for families, who did not want their children on distance learning.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook for those young ones,” said Louis Howe, principal at St. Joseph’s, a K-8 school that has had about 30 new students join since September. “Those young ones need to be in school. It’s tough for them to be on a computer.”

Interest has heightened locally and nationally in Catholic schools, which in recent years have struggled and even combined or closed due to enrollment declines and budgetary challenges.

“Our hope is that as families have experienced Catholic school education that they will see the value of it and that they will continue to send their students,” said Steven Cheeseman, superintendent of schools in the Dioceses of Bridgeport.

Their small size has allowed most Catholic schools in Fairfield County to do what many public schools have not during the coronavirus pandemic—open five days a week for all students who want to be there.

Many public schools have been on the hybrid model for at least part of the academic year and have had to temporarily close due to staff shortages or COVID cases. Danbury was on full distance learning until mid-January.

Only two Catholic high schools in the Bridgeport dioceses are on a hybrid model, while all other schools are open fully in-person, Cheeseman said.

Preschool decline

Similarly, public schools faced a drop in kindergarten enrollment, although Cheeseman said Catholic schools have seen a rise in kindergartners.

Catholic schools have historically seen pre-kindergarten as their “bread and butter,” Howe said.

“We saw the reverse,” he said. “Our K-8 is carrying our pre-K.”

St. Joseph’s is down about 20 pre-kindergartners from 45 students last school year.

Parents with young children have been concerned that preschoolers wouldn’t be good at wearing masks and did not want to worry about remote learning if necessary, Howe said.

“Some of these parents perhaps didn’t realize we’d be going this long without having to shut the school down,” he said.

He expects more pre-kindergartners could enroll. Already, one preschooler is supposed to start next week, he said.

“Parents are starting to realize we’ve got protocols in place,” Howe said. “We’re staying open and our preschool is up and running.”

Cheeseman said he has seen the same across the dioceses.

Filling the building

Without the preschool decline, Howe expects St. Joseph’s would have more students than last academic year, when 221were enrolled.

St. Joseph’s had 187 students enrolled before Labor Day, but reached more than 200 students by the end of the first week of school, Howe said. As of February, there are 215 students. There is a waitlist for this year and next year.

The school added another kindergarten and second grade class. This is the first time in a while that the school has had two classes for one grade, he said.

“It’s been a blessing,” Howe said.

“These families are seeing there is a difference of remote learning and in-school learning,” Howe said.

Over 20 families, largely in K-8, are on the waitlist for next year. Class sizes are 20 to 21 students on average, but cannot be increased at the moment due to social distancing guidelines, Howe said.

“I’m not willing to crunch desks together just to get more [students] in,” he said. “I’m not going to sacrifice safety for money.”

But he hopes restrictions could be eased next year, allowing more students to enroll. The building could hold between 400 to 600 students, he said.

“We’ll make this school full again,” Howe said. “That’s my mission, and I think we’re well on the way to achieving that.”

But the pandemic did hurt schools like St. Joseph Catholic Academy in Brookfield. After years of enrollment decline and financial challenges, that school closed permanently
at the end of last academic year.

The pandemic hurt schools’ ability to raise money, which was a contributing factor in closing the academy, Cheeseman said.

The National Catholic Education Association estimates COVID played a factor in closing 107 Catholic schools across the country, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Staying open

Catholic schools have a big advantage—their small size.

There are more than 7,000 students spread out between the Bridgeport diocese’s 25 elementary and high schools.Comparatively, Bridgeport has about 20,000 students, Danbury has around 12,000, Norwalk has about 11,500, Stamford has around 16,000 and Greenwich has roughly 9,000.

“We’re much smaller and more nimble,” Cheeseman said.

Schools range in size, with about 150 students at the smallest elementary school and around 375 elementary children at the largest, he said. The high schools range from 400 to 800 students.

“It’s easier to isolate the students in the classroom and limit movement and easier to social distance because we have a smaller school, unlike our public school friends that have thousands of students to deal with,” Howe said.

All but about eight St. Joseph’s students opted to be in-person, he said.

Parent Megan Cerullo said her children were “elated” to return to St. Joseph’s.

Students mainly stay in the classroom, where they eat lunch, and are not permitted to leave their hallways, Howe said. Each hallway has its own bathroom and teachers’ lounge.

“Everything is pretty much contained in the classroom,” Howe said.

This means quarantines are generally limited to one class, but even those have been rare, he said. Before Christmas, St. Joseph’s only quarantined one class. There have been a few COVID cases since then, he said.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Howe said.

The average distance between desks is just over five feet at St. Josephs, Howe said. Across the diocese, desks are between four and a half to six feet apart, Cheeseman said.

Just like the public schools, it has been rare for the virus to spread within the Catholic school buildings. The schools have found only one possible instance, Cheeseman said.

Howe said families have been helping in following precautions, including students wearing their masks like it’s “second nature.”

“I believe really wholeheartedly that the reason we’re still open is: not only do we have a solid plan, but we also have the cooperation of our community,” Howe said.

For parents that do not want to send their children to school, the dioceses has created an online academy.

‘High hopes’ for future

“We’re seeing an increased enrollment for a reason,” she said. “I do believe a faith-based education is something that parents want for their children.”

She expects this will be a boost for Catholic schools beyond the pandemic.

“The challenge is getting them [families] in the doors,” Cerullo said. “Once they’re in the doors, we can show them everything we have to offer and how we stand apart from other schools.”

Ensuring the families feel like part of the community will be key to getting them to stay, Howe said.

“Once that happens, they’re not going to want to leave,” he said.

Cheeseman said he held a Zoom call with 22 families who moved this year from the public to Catholic school.

“Every one of them said, ‘I wish we would have done this sooner,’” Cheeseman said. “If that’s an indication, then I have high hopes for what the future can bring.”

By Julia Perkins   I   Danbury News Times

Former editor pens a great ‘Escape’

BRIDGEPORT—“Indiana Jones with a pen” is how Joseph McAleer describes the subject of his entertaining new book, a biography of a British adventurer at the turn of the twentieth century.

“Harry Perry Robinson was a journalist who found himself in history’s shadow, taking part in major events but never getting the recognition he deserved,” McAleer says. “Until now.”

Escape Artist: The Nine Lives of Harry Perry Robinson was published last fall by Oxford University Press. It’s McAleer’s fourth book, and reviews have been glowing.

“They don’t make lives like this anymore,” praised the London Times. “Joseph McAleer has performed a valuable service in bringing [Robinson’s] fine work to the fore,” said The Spectator. The Wall Street Journal noted the book is “well researched” with “many virtues.”

Many will recall McAleer as the former Director of Communications for the Diocese of Bridgeport and editor of Fairfield County Catholic. Hired by then-Bishop Edward Egan in 1998 as the first layperson to hold the office, McAleer was at the front lines during the clergy abuse scandal which exploded in 2001.

“Those were dark days,” he recalled. “We lost ten percent of our priests, and trust in the Church was eroded. It was a necessary purging and vital recognition of victims. In many respects we’re still coming to terms with this tragedy.”

During McAleer’s 12-year tenure, which saw Bishop Egan promoted to the Archdiocese of New York and the arrival of Bishop William Lori, the diocese launched its website, produced a short-lived radio show (“Sundays with the Bishop”), and engaged a not-always-friendly press corps.

“My mantra from those days sounds corny but it works: ‘Always tell the truth and you’ll never have to remember what you said,’” McAleer notes.

Since leaving the diocese, McAleer joined his brothers in the family business, a global ship brokerage firm, while remaining active in his parish, the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford. But he also stayed true to his real passion as an historian. In fact, his third book, Call of the Atlantic (2016), dealing with the American author Jack London, led to the current project.

“Jack London’s first overseas publisher was a small firm run by Harry Perry Robinson in 1902,” McAleer explains. “In Robinson’s letters he mentioned adventures he had had in America. I was intrigued and followed the trail.”

And what a trail it was, as described with gusto in Escape Artist. Robinson came to America in 1883, age 24, eager to make his name and fortune. He started out as a journalist, covering gold rushes out West, before settling down in Minnesota. Marriage to the daughter of a wealthy tycoon set him up in Chicago, where he became a national voice for the railroad industry. Robinson befriended William McKinley, aiding his presidential victory in 1896.

Life took a dramatic turn, and Robinson returned to England and journalism. He was the oldest correspondent at the Western Front in World War I and was knighted for his efforts. “Sir Harry” capped his career by covering the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1923, then the “scoop” of the century.

In his “spare” time, Robinson wrote books of his own, best-selling novels and collections of short stories. His non-fiction work promoted the “Special Relationship” between the United States and the United Kingdom, with Robinson convinced that global peace depended upon the two countries working together.

“Robinson had a fascinating but exhausting life,” McAleer says with understatement. “He worked non-stop until a month before his death in 1930.”

What’s next for McAleer? He’s hopeful that Escape Artist will be dramatized by a streaming service like Netflix. In the meantime, he’s embarked on his next book, another biography, but is mum about the details.

“A woman this time, and another grand adventure,” he teases, offering three tantalizing clues: espionage, Hollywood, and condiments.

Escape Artist: The Nine Lives of Harry Perry Robinson is available on in hardback and Kindle editions as well as an audiobook.

Iraq trip, Catholic journalism, church in U.S.

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis said that unless there is a serious new wave of COVID-19 infections in Iraq, he has every intention of visiting the country in early March.

Even if social distancing requirements mean most Iraqis will see the papal events only on television, he said, “they will see that the pope is there in their country.”

“I am the pastor of people who are suffering,” Pope Francis told Catholic News Service February 1. He also said that if he had to, he would consider taking a regular commercial flight to get there.

The pope is scheduled to travel to Iraq March 5-8. St. John Paul II had hoped and planned to go to Iraq in 2000, particularly to visit the city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham, recognized as the patriarch of faith in one God by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Tensions in the region made the trip impossible, and St. John Paul “wept” that he could not go, Pope Francis said, adding that he does not want to disappoint the people a second time.

The meeting with Catholic News Service marked the 100th anniversary of the news agency of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

Asked about the role of U.S. Catholic journalists today, Pope Francis said, it is to promote unity and to “try to get people to talk to each other, reason together and seek the path of fraternity.”

“A divided church is not the church,” he said.

“The church in the United States is a church that has been courageous—the history it has and the saints—and has done so much,” the pope said. “But if the communications media throw gas on the fire on one side or another, it doesn’t help.”

“The path of division leads nowhere,” he said. “Remember the prayer of Jesus, ‘That they may all be one’—unity that is not uniformity, no. Unity with differences, but one heart. ‘I think this way, you think that. We can discuss it,’ but with the same heart.”

“There are perhaps traditionalist groups in the United States, but there are here in the Vatican, too,” he said.

Pope Francis said that when he met with a newspaper association in Buenos Aires, Argentina, years ago, he told them to beware of four sins and that those sins are still a threat to news media today: “disinformation” or giving only part of the story, because the nuances of the whole story are essential for discovering truth; “calumny, which is a grave sin, ruining the reputation of another” with a lie; “defamation,” which is similar, but often involves publishing something from someone’s past, “even though changed their lives”; and “coprophilia,” which he described as “a love of dirt,” because “scandal sells.”

“Don’t fall into these sins,” he said.

After missing several big liturgies and appointments over the new year and again in late January because of a flare-up of sciatica, a painful nerve condition, Pope Francis said he can tell when an attack is coming on, and he tells his doctor. The physician’s advice, he said, is to cancel or postpone events where he would be standing for long periods, because the pressure would make the condition much worse the next day.

But, he said, the doctor told him, “But do the Angelus or people will say you are dead.”

Asked his opinion of the church in the United States, Pope Francis said it is “a church that is alive, vivacious.” He pointed in particular to the vast network of Catholic schools and to the church’s efforts to assist and help integrate immigrants; he specifically mentioned the leadership of Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Bishop Mark J. Seitz of El Paso, Texas.

“It is a church that is ‘catholic’ in the sense of universal because of immigration. What the church has done for immigrants is great. And, also, it is very generous in helping others and it is humble because of how much it suffered from the crisis of sexual abuse,” he said. “And it’s a church that prays.”

“You know its defects better than I do,” he said, but “I look at the U.S. church with hope.”

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service


World must realize common humanity or fall apart

VATICAN CITY—The world must begin to realize its shared humanity in order to live peacefully, otherwise it risks falling apart in endless conflicts, Pope Francis said.

“Today, there is no time for indifference,” the pope said February 4 at a virtual event commemorating the first International Day of Human Fraternity.

“We cannot wash our hands of it, with distance, with disregard, with contempt. Either we are brothers and sisters or everything falls apart. It is the frontier, the frontier on which we have to build; it is the challenge of our century, it is the challenge of our time,” he said.

The pope was among several world and religious leaders who took part in the February 4 virtual event, which was hosted in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince.

Among those taking part in the online global meeting were Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, and António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations.

The date chosen for the event marks the day in 2019 that Pope Francis and Sheikh el-Tayeb signed a document on promoting dialogue and “human fraternity” during his apostolic visit to the United Arab Emirates.

The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity was established after the pope’s visit to implement concrete proposals toward fraternity, solidarity and mutual understanding proposed in the document.

The event also included a presentation of the committee’s Zayed Award for Human Fraternity to Guterres and to Moroccan-born Latifa Ibn Ziaten.

Accepting the award, Guterres thanked Sheikh el-Tayeb and Pope Francis for “pushing humankind to come together in unity, in dialogue to promote peace, to promote fraternity, to promote the unity that is necessary to address all the challenges to defeat hate and to make sure that human solidarity wins the battles we are facing.”

Ziaten was honored for her work in France in promoting peace and dialogue to young people who often fall prey to extremist ideology. Ziaten established the Imad Association for Youth and Peace, which she founded after her son, a French soldier, was murdered in 2012 by a Muslim extremist in Toulouse.

Congratulating her for the award, the pope said that despite the pain of losing a child, Ziaten risked her life to “dare to say, ‘We are brothers and sisters’ and to sow words of love.”

“Thank you being the mother of your son, of so many boys and girls; for being a mother of this humanity that is listening to you, learning from you the path of fraternity,” he said.

Thanking the pope and Sheikh el-Tayeb for the award, Ziaten said the recognition “will really help me in my fight, my work today.

“I lost a son, but today I reach out to many children. Today I’m a second mother to many children I saved in detention centers, in homes, in schools so they don’t fall into hatred,” she said.

In his address, the pope began by greeting participants as “sisters and brothers” and affectionately greeted Sheikh el-Tayeb as “my brother, my friend, my companion in challenges and risks in the struggle for fraternity.”

The pope thanked the grand imam “for his company on the path of reflection and the drafting” of the document on human fraternity.

“Your testimony helped me a lot because it was a courageous testimony. I know it was not an easy task. But with you we could do it together and help each other. The most beautiful thing of all is that first desire of fraternity turned into true fraternity. Thank you, brother; thank you,” he said.

The pope also thanked Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, secretary-general of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, calling him “l’enfant terrible” of the project, a French expression meaning a successful person who uses unorthodox or innovative methods to achieve their goals.

The pope thanked Salam for his efforts and lauded him as “hard-working, full of ideas” and one “who helped us to move forward.”

Fraternity, he continued, not only means respecting and listening to others “with an open heart,” it also means remaining firm in one’s own convictions; otherwise “there is no true fraternity if one’s own convictions are negotiated.”

“We are brothers and sisters, born of the same father; with different cultures and traditions, but all brothers and sisters. And while respecting our different cultures and traditions, our different citizenships, we must build this fraternity, not negotiate it,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said the International Day of Human Fraternity was a moment of listening, of sincere acceptance and “of certainty that a world without brothers and sisters is a world of enemies.”

“It not only takes a war to make enemies,” the pope said. “It is enough with that technique—it has become a technique—that attitude of looking the other way, of getting rid of the other as if he or she didn’t exist.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves   I   Catholic News Service