Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Articles By: Renee Stamatis

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).

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

‘Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord’

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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 immaculatehs.org/admissions.

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 www.foundationsineducation.org.

2021 INNOVATION AND LEADERSHIP GRANT AWARDS

  • 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 Amazon.com 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

 

Young adults become disciples of Christ at ‘the Crossroads’

BRIDGEPORT—When Alex Soucy and his friend Travis Moran got on the bus for Philadelphia to attend Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in 2015, they never realized it would be the start of a journey that would lead to the creation of an apostolate for young Catholics … at a time when they were leaving the Church.

“We had an unforgettable experience of encountering Christ in one another through our Holy Father’s message and through the grace of that pilgrimage,” Soucy says. “Each of us felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to respond to Pope Francis’ encouragement to be the missionary disciples that all Christians are called to be.”

Soucy is executive director of the Connecticut-based Crossroads 4 Christ, which focuses on developing communities of young adult disciples through weekly meetings that offer fellowship, faith formation, prayer and Eucharistic adoration.

Today, there are chapters around the state, including two in the Diocese of Bridgeport, at St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield and Church of the Holy Spirit in Stamford.

“I’m really happy to have Crossroads for Christ in the area because there is a definite need for young adults to come together, form community, and know they are not alone in their desire to live out the Catholic faith,” said Father Sam Kachuba, pastor of St. Pius X. “We’re fortunate at St. Pius to have space to offer, so C4C can have a home in the Fairfield area. We’re also benefitting because each gathering ends with a holy hour in Eucharistic adoration, and after the first few weeks, the group asked if they could invite the parish to join them. So now we have members of the parish coming for adoration on Tuesday evenings at 8 pm.”

Paola Pena, director of Student Ministries of St. Pius X, said starting a chapter of Crossroads in October was “a response to God’s call to create community out of a personal ache I had for a Christ-centered community.”

“Made painfully aware of this ache during quarantine, I finally responded to the call of the Lord to start a Crossroads chapter after three years of saying no,” she said. “The Lord will always have his way, and he has shown me his plan to give me life through this ministry and not leave me more exhausted. Those who have been attending also carry that ache within, and we’re watching how God is satisfying that ache by bringing us together in fellowship and adoration.”

The chapter recently completed two four-part series on the Eucharist and on prayer and will begin exploring Christ-centered friendship.

“Young adults just want the truth of Jesus Christ,” Paola said. “They don’t want the watered-down version of the faith. Crossroads helps us to learn how to live our lives with Jesus.”

C4C Fairfield meets at St. Pius X on Tuesday at the Faith Center Community Room with fellowship from 7 to 8 pm and with adoration in church sanctuary from 8 to 9 pm. For more information, contact ppena@st-pius.org.

The Church of the Holy Spirit chapter in Stamford meets Wednesdays with fellowship from 7:30 to 8:30 pm followed by adoration from 8:30 to 9:30 pm. For more information, contact c4cstamford@gmail.com.

The chapter was begun three years about by co-leaders Maria and John Midy.

“C4C has enriched our faith in many beautiful ways and has helped to define our vocation to love and to discern our mission as a young married couple,” Maria said. “We live in a busy city with young professionals and career opportunities, but no Catholic young adult groups that meet regularly….We have built a great community of Christ-centered friendships who share struggles and success in life in a hostile environment.”

She said their Crossroads friendships are a gift from God and are especially important when families are far away or not supportive of faith.

“Our model is rooted in Christ’s example of discipleship, so besides our weekly meetings for fellowship, adoration and prayer, we encourage collaboration with other groups or activities that will expand our horizons,” John said. “The Holy Spirit continues to spread the fire of the Gospel through our testimony of life. We trust that God has chosen us to be an instrument of his love for many who don’t know him yet or many who are lonely and have forgotten how great is our Lord.”

Soucy, who has been spreading the C4C message to parishes, left his job as manager of the state director’s office of the Nature Conservancy to work full-time with Crossroads. He attended Corpus Christi elementary and middle school in Wethersfield and then East Catholic High School in Manchester before entering Quinnipiac University, where he studied economics and finance and got a graduate degree in business administration. He is currently enrolled at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, pursuing a master’s in pastoral studies with a concentration in youth and young adult ministry.

“I was fortunate to have a Catholic education, and looking back I see that so many seeds were planted during those years,” he says.

In high school he recalls having a profound encounter with Jesus while on retreat, where he was forced to ask himself the question: “If Jesus is really God, what does that mean for my life?”

He and Travis were friends since high school and were involved in Catholic ministry in college. They went to Mass and adoration and had evening prayer with their faith community on campus and looked for similar opportunities after graduation.

“In Philadelphia, we were inspired by a group from Boston and being with a million other pilgrims,” he recalls. “The experience led us to recognize the true missionary aspect in daily life and the realization that we are being sent out to evangelize and spread the Good News and live lives of sacrificial love in the midst of our families and friends and day-to-day life.”

Travis along with Alex’s wife Jessica and other members came up with the name Crossroads 4 Christ while on a bus ride to the March for Life in January 2016.

“All of us at every moment in our lives are at a crossroads, whether to choose Christ or follow the ways of the world,” he said. “Young adults find themselves at a crossroads in their 20s and 30s, discerning their vocations when they find themselves living on their own for the first time, trying to build friendships and asking the big questions about faith and God and Jesus. So many young people have this hunger in their hearts that there is more and they are just waiting—they’re at the crossroads.”

The “4” represents the four pillars of formation, which are based on Scripture—intellectual, spiritual, relational and human. Each week, chapters explore a different pillar.

In the spring of 2019, several members, including Alex, felt called to leave their jobs and spread the mission. Last May, they held a week-long virtual conference and had 1100 attendees from 46 states and 28 countries. Father Joseph Gill of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist and Father Sam Kachuba were among the presenters.

“Our mission is to develop communities of young adult missionary disciples,” he said. “Our goal is to lead people to Christ in his Church and to friendship with other faithful Catholics and to help them go out into the world to spread the Good News…There are many things that we hope to achieve, including culture change, an increase in friendship and an increase in formation, but the first thing, and the most important thing, is leading young people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the pinnacle of that relationship is found in the most holy Eucharist.”

Given the influence of an aggressively secular culture in America, it is more important than ever to give young adults an opportunity to encounter Christ, he says.

“If we could do just one thing in our ministry, it would be to lead young adults to the most Blessed Sacrament.”

Parishes that have C4C chapters can enjoy an additional hour of Eucharistic adoration each week because the group’s holy hour is open to all parishioners.

Alex says his faith was strengthened by his family, which revealed God’s love to him in a very real way.

“When I was growing up, faith was just one of many things,” he recalls. “I was active in sports, played baseball through college and played alto sax in high school. Going to church on Sunday was one of the many things I did, but there were many people who led me to the faith and their witness influenced me.”

Many members of his family had an impact on him, most notably his parents and grandparents, including his “meme,” a French Canadian woman who had been in the convent and later married and had 11 children, three with special needs.

“I saw her throughout her life, caring for 11 children, and into her 80s until she died, she still cared for those with special needs,” he said. “She was living a life of radical love. When I went to Mass with her on Sunday, I could tell that was the highlight of her week. That was the source of the way she lived her life, and it influenced me.”

(Parishes interested in forming a Crossroads 4 Christ chapter can reach out to Soucy at info@crossroadsforchrist.org.)

Applications for FIF youth grants are live

BRIDGEPORT—As St. John Paul II said of young people, “The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society.”

How then will your Parish re-engage our children and teens in programs this fall? Imagine the possibilities of an Autumn 2021 after the vaccine. Finally, a return to some semblance of normalcy; a ‘new norm’ that we, especially our youth desperately seek and need.

Foundations in Faith recognizes that Parishes in the Diocese are currently poised to begin making plans now for Fall Religious Education and Youth Ministry programs.

Faith Formation teams are invited to imagine what the youth programs will look like post pandemic. It will be exciting to see how Parish teams leverage the new technologies that they used during the pandemic and enhance those tools with in-person community fellowship to draw the youth back in.

According to Kelly Weldon, Director of Foundations in Faith, “We have an historical and unique opportunity as we re-emerge and hit the reset button on how we approach our youth. How do we best empower them in their life long journey of encountering Jesus? It is imperative that we take time to ask the youth what they need and how they envision programs that will help them heal as they re-enter into community and actively participate in our Catholic Faith. As St. John Paul II taught us “The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals”.

Foundations in Faith through the St. John Paul II Fund has funding available for Parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport for Fall Religious Education, Youth Ministry and Faith Formation programs. Applications go LIVE on February 10 and are due April 2. Creativity, youth engagement in planning and innovation are encouraged.

Sign up to receive grant announcements and updates by visiting www.foundationsinfaith.org—Follow us on Instagram—foundationsinfaithbpt. Contact Kelly Weldon at kelly.weldon@foundationsinfaith.org with questions or interest in supporting or volunteering.

Sacred Scripture needs to be respected and valued

VATICAN CITY—In preparation for the Sunday of the Word of God January 24, the Vatican issued recommendations for the day as well as reminders on respecting the sacred Scriptures.

For example, liturgical books should be high-quality texts and not photocopies, and the ambo is reserved for specific moments in the liturgy and prayer, and should not be used for making commentaries or announcements, said a note from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The note, released December 19, was signed by Cardinal Robert Sarah, congregation prefect, and Archbishop Arthur Roche, secretary.

The note was a reminder that the Sunday of the Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis in 2019, is meant to reawaken in the clergy and the faithful “the importance and value of sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy,” it said.

Though it is to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time, which for 2021 is January 24, “a day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord,” it said.

God continues to speak his word “and to break bread in the community of believers,” which is why Catholics need to “develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.”

The note offered a few recommendations for the day, such as having the entrance procession with the Book of the Gospels, placing the Book of the Gospels on the altar and promoting the community celebration of Lauds and Vespers.

Much of the note, however, emphasized the importance of rereading and respecting the theological, ritual and pastoral principles surrounding the word of God proclaimed at Mass and other liturgical celebrations.

One should understand that “the books containing the readings from sacred Scripture stir up in those who hear a veneration for the mystery of God speaking to his people. For this reason, we ask that care be taken to ensure that these books are of a high quality and used properly.”

As such, “It is never appropriate to resort to leaflets, photocopies and other pastoral aids as a substitute for liturgical books.”

Because of the importance of the word of God, “the church invites us to pay special attention to the ambo from which it is proclaimed,” the note said.

The ambo is not “a functional piece of furniture, but a place that is in keeping with the dignity of the word of God, in correspondence with the altar,” which is why the ambo is reserved for the readings, the singing of the Responsorial Psalm and the Easter Proclamation.

“The homily and the intentions of the universal prayer can be delivered from it, while it is less appropriate to use it for commentaries, announcements or for directing singing,” it said.

The note also underlined the need to respect the arrangement of the biblical readings indicated in the Lectionary, “without replacing or removing them, and using only versions of the Bible approved for liturgical use.”

The homily should be used to help explain sacred Scripture and particular importance should be given to a period of silence for appropriately meditating on the word, it added.

Those who proclaim the word of God in the assembly, such as priests, deacons and readers, must be sufficiently prepared and familiar with the text to be proclaimed clearly and must avoid “all improvisation. It is possible to preface the readings with appropriate and short introductions,” however.

By Carol Glatz   I   Catholic News Service