Articles By: Renee Stamatis

God calls us to conversion at every stage of life

ROME—In his catechesis ahead of the Angelus prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis took his cue from the day’s Gospel (Mk 1:14-20), in which Jesus begins his public ministry after the arrest of John the Baptist.

Jesus’ preaching, said the Pope, can be summed up in these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

He said two key themes emerge from this message: “time and conversion”.

Time of salvation

Pope Francis noted that Mark’s Gospel refers to time as “the duration of the history of salvation worked by God.”

“The time ‘fulfilled’ is that in which this salvific action reaches its pinnacle, its full realization,” he said. “It is the historical moment in which God sent His Son into the world and His Kingdom is rendered more ‘close’ than ever.”

Salvation and conversion

Yet, he added, salvation is not an automatic process. “Salvation is a gift of love,” he said. “And as such is freely given and calls for a freely given response: it calls for conversion.”

The Pope said conversion implies a change of mentality, in which we refuse to follow the way of the world.

“Sin brought into the world a mentality that tends toward the affirmation of oneself against others and against God,” he said, “and for this purpose it does not hesitate to use deceit and violence.”

The time is now

On the other hand, Jesus’ message of conversion invites us to recognize our dependence on God and His grace. It also involves cultivating a balanced attitude toward material goods, becoming welcoming and humble in our relationships, and finding fullness in serving others.

Pope Francis warned that the time we have to welcome our salvation is limited to the duration of our earthly lives, which is brief indeed.

“It is a gift of God’s infinite love, but is also the time to prove our love for Him,” said the Pope. “For this reason every moment, every instant of our existence is precious time to love God and neighbor, and thereby enter into eternal life.”

Times and seasons of life

The Pope also noted that our lives follow two rhythms: “one, measurable, made of hours, days, years; the other, composed of the seasons of our development: birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, death.”

Faith, said Pope Francis, helps us to discover the true spiritual meaning of each of these moments of life.

He added that God reaches out to us with a specific call at each phase of our life, to which we are free to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

And the Pope urged everyone to pay attention so that we do not let Jesus pass by without responding to His call.

God’s constant call

In conclusion, Pope Francis invited us to allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us recognize God’s call in every season of life.

“And may she help us to convert to from the mentality of the world,” he prayed, “to that of love and service.”

By Devin Watkins    I    Vatican News

Verify before sharing ‘news,’ pope says

VATICAN CITY—In the age of instant communications and fake news, journalists—like everyone else—need to recover the practice of going out and verifying information before they share it, Pope Francis said.

“‘Come and see’ is the simplest method to get to know a situation. It is the most honest test of every message, because, in order to know, we need to encounter, to let the person in front of me speak, to let his or her testimony reach me,” the pope wrote in his message for the Catholic Church’s celebration of World Communications Day.

The message was released January 23, the eve of the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. At the Vatican and in most countries, World Communications Day will be celebrated May 16.

Pope Francis chose “‘Come and See’—Communicating by Encountering People as They Are” as the theme for the 2021 celebration, explaining that “Come and see” is the invitation Jesus gave to his first disciples and the invitation they gave to others as faith in Jesus spread.

The pope paid homage to journalists who have risked their lives going into the field to cover, verify and share stories the world needed to know, especially “about the hardships endured by persecuted minorities in various parts of the world, numerous cases of oppression and injustice inflicted on the poor and on the environment, and many wars that otherwise would be overlooked.”

“It would be a loss not only for news reporting, but for society and for democracy as a whole, were those voices to fade away,” he said. “Our entire human family would be impoverished.”

But he also railed against those who report or share information that has not been verified and that has no basis in fact.

“We have known for some time that news and even images can be easily manipulated for any number of reasons, at times simply for sheer narcissism,” he said.

“All of us are responsible for the communications we make, for the information we share, for the control that we can exert over fake news by exposing it,” the pope wrote. “All of us are to be witnesses of the truth: to go, to see and to share.”

Recognizing the limits many media outlets face because of budget constraints and the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the pope nevertheless pleaded for a return to real investigative and on-the-spot reporting and serious efforts to get away from simply repeating an outlet’s “standard, often tendentious narrative.”

Without real, honest reporting, he said, media cannot help people understand the truth of what is happening in the world and in the lives of other people.

Television, newspapers, radio, the internet and social media can make people feel connected, he said, but “we remain mere spectators” if they don’t also allow people to encounter others and hear their stories.

“In communications, nothing can ever completely replace seeing things in person,” he said. “We do not communicate merely with words, but with our eyes, the tone of our voice and our gestures.”

Interaction and dialogue are essential to real communication, Pope Francis said. He quoted William Shakespeare, who described someone who “speaks an infinite deal of nothing.”

“We think of how much empty rhetoric abounds, even in our time, in all areas of public life, in business as well as politics,” the pope said. Unfortunately, the same thing happens “to us as Christian communicators.”

“The Good News of the Gospel spread throughout the world as a result of person-to-person, heart-to-heart encounters with men and women who accepted the invitation to ‘come and see,’ and were struck by the surplus of humanity that shone through the gaze, the speech and the gestures of those who bore witness to Jesus Christ,” the pope said.

Catholics using the media, professionally or personally, must do so in a way that spreads faith in a loving God and attracts people to Christ, he said, adding that he was convinced St. Paul, “that great communicator,” would “certainly have made use of email and social messaging” to share the Gospel.

But St. Paul’s communication skills were not the key to his success, the pope said; “it was his faith, hope and charity.”

The pope ended his message with a prayer for communicators, asking God to help them go out in the search of truth, to listen and to shun prejudice and “hasty conclusions.”

“Grant us the grace to recognize your dwelling places in our world and the honesty needed to tell others what we have seen,” the prayer said.

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service

Regina Pacis Academy begins Catholic Schools Week with Celebration of Patronal Feast Day

NORWALK—Regina Pacis Academy will be celebrating our inaugural Regina Pacis Day, our Patronal feast day, on the first day of Catholic Schools Week, Monday, January 25.

Students will participate in Marian-related arts and crafts and assist with the baby items collection for Birthright. All activities will be led by our Grade 7/8 students. The day will conclude with the praying of the Most Holy Rosary in St. Mary’s Church, followed by an outdoor procession in the school parking lot, to which parents and siblings are most warmly invited. This day will be an opportunity for community building, prayer, and, God willing, one that our students remember fondly.

This feast day originated because “the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament were early missionaries to Hawaii. There, they established the first Catholic church on the island chain and dedicated that church to Our Lady of Peace. When on January 25, 1941, the Diocese of Honolulu was erected by Pope Pius XII, the Cathedral was dedicated to Our Lady of Peace—Malia o ka Malu Hale Pule Nui. It is due to this date that Our Lady of Peace is celebrated on January 24 in the United States.” (quoted from Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Branchville, NJ)

Kimberly Quatela, Principal of Regina Pacis Academy, remarked, “It is a great blessing to begin Catholic Schools Week with a special day of service, prayer, and community-building with our students. Providing our middle school students with the opportunity to organize and lead all the activities allows them to lead and form the younger students. Ending our day together in prayer to Our Lady will be a beautiful moment of grace in the lives of our faculty, staff, students, and families—a beacon of hope in a world that is often so focused on darkness.”

Regina Pacis Academy is an independent, Catholic classical school located in Norwalk, Connecticut, serving students in grades K-8, offering an academically rigorous curriculum from the classical tradition for all who desire to attend. Families hail from towns across Fairfield County and surrounding areas. The mission of Regina Pacis Academy is to achieve academic excellence and to nurture an intimate relationship with Christ as modeled by the Apostles, by providing a Roman Catholic classical education taught by teachers loyal to the Magisterium.

More information on Regina Pacis Academy is available at

Pope to Biden: foster peace and reconciliation

Pope Francis opened his message to U.S. President Joe Biden saying, “On the occasion of your inauguration as the fourty-sixth President of the United States of America, I extend cordial good wishes and the assurance of my prayers that Almighty God will grant you wisdom and strength in the exercise of your high office.”

On Wednesday, at around noon Eastern time, Democrats Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris took their oaths and were sworn in as 46th president and vice-president respectively. Biden’s inauguration comes at a time of intense division in the country. Just two weeks ago, on January 6, as Congress was certifying the results of the presidential election, supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., occupying the building for several hours. Pope Francis denounced this violent act during his Sunday Angelus on January 10.

In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, which led to five deaths, the House of Representatives impeached Donald Trump on a charge of ‘incitement of insurrection.’ Although no longer president, the possibility of a Senate trial on the charge could yet take place, despite the fact that Trump is no longer president.

In his message to President Biden on Wednesday, Pope Francis expresses his hope that “under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding.” The United States celebrates 244 years of democracy since its founding in 1776.

President Joe Biden has taken office as the country continues to battle one of the biggest coronavirus crises worldwide. Encouraging Americans to follow online, the 59th inauguration programme includes a memorial for those who have died during this pandemic—and recognition will be shown to those who have shown love and resilience towards those in need.

So far, 402 thousand people have died from COVID-19 in the United States—where over 24 million confirmed cases have been reported.

“At a time when the grave crises facing our human family call for farsighted and united responses,” Pope Francis writes in his message, “I pray that your decisions will be guided by a concern for building a society marked by authentic justice and freedom, together with unfailing respect for the rights and dignity of every person, especially the poor, the vulnerable and those who have no voice.”

Concluding his message, Pope Francis writes, “I likewise ask God, the source of all wisdom and truth, to guide your efforts to foster understanding, reconciliation and peace within the United States and among the nations of the world in order to advance the universal common good. With these sentiments, I willingly invoke upon you and your family and the beloved American people an abundance of blessings.”

By Vatican News staff writer

St. Mark School Increases Focus on Student Well-Being Amid COVID-19

STRATFORD—St. Mark School in Stratford is pleased to announce that amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has increased its emphasis on student well-being. This year, the school initiated a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Program into the Preschool – Grade 8 curriculum and hired a part-time School Counselor.

“Recognizing the new challenges that the pandemic has brought, educators must be proactive in our response to our students’ emotional and mental health needs,” shares St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner.

According to the National Education Association, SEL should be priority during the COVID-19 crisis and is key to successful student performance, especially in preschool and elementary school.

This year St. Mark School implemented Second Step, an evidence-based, interactive SEL curriculum, supported by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), through which students learn and practice vital social skills, such as cooperation, problem-solving, empathy, emotion management, and impulse control.

St. Mark School Counselor Jennifer Flynn adds, “I am proud to work at a school that understands and promotes social emotional learning and fosters a community built on compassion and kindness to all. I feel Second Step is an important program as it is developing student’s socio-emotional skills and increasing social competences.”

Preschool Director Julie Larracuente remarks, “I think the program is a great addition to our Little Lions classroom. The preschool students get so excited when our SEL puppets, Jerome and Maria, come to visit us. The puppets talk about their emotions and show us different ways to express our feelings to others. Our sessions always end with a fun, active game that requires the children to listen to and follow directions.”

During a recent lesson on Emotion Management, second grade students learned that when they have strong feelings, it is hard to think clearly. However, if they focus their attention to clues which their body gives them about how they are feeling, they can help their brain get back in control. Students enjoy their “turn and talk” discussions with classmates in which they share how lessons can apply to their situation and life experiences.

“SEL gives students the tools to excel in and out of the classroom,” shares Second Grade Teacher Stacey Zenowich. “The program’s age-appropriate games, activities, and media engage students and set children on a path to lifelong success.”

Fifth Grade Teacher Alyssa DiMaio reports, “My students always look forward to Second Step lessons in the classroom. By learning about important topics such as empathy and respect, our classroom culture has greatly improved.”

St. Mark School is a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school and a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence. St. Mark School opened its campus for full-time, 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, call 203.375.4291, email or visit

A scientist whose faith sustains her and inspires others

BROOKFIELD—As her 80th birthday approaches, Dr. Barbara Ina Anderson, a research scientist and longtime parishioner of St. Joseph Church in Brookfield, looks back on her life and says it was governed by a simple spiritual principle that will work for everyone.

“My faith journey has basically been to say, ‘Thy will be done.’ With so many good situations in my life, I have to believe that God was always there and knows more than I do about what I should be doing.”

That approach has served her well and led to a strong commitment to her family, her parish, the diocese, her professional work and the needy. Dr. Anderson, who was last year’s recipient of the St. Augustine Medal, was honored by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in recognition of her willingness to share her time, talent and treasure for the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury, St. Joseph Catholic Academy and several parish ministries.

With her brother Hal and sister Faith, who are now deceased, she was the inspiration behind the parish’s “Helping Another Live” project, which was named in honor of Hal and was distinguished by the yellow tote bags used to collect food for the Brookfield Food Pantry.

“Barbara is a blessing to our parish as someone we can count on when we need assistance to further many of our ministries. She is a woman of great faith whose life epitomizes Christian discipleship,” said Father George F. O’Neill, pastor. “Her selfless offering of her time, talent and treasure is what makes St. Joseph Church such a welcoming and caring community. We are a better parish for her presence with us.”

Joseph Gallagher, chief development officer for the diocese who has worked with her on various projects, says, “Barbara exemplifies what it means to be an active Catholic of faith. Her devotion to her family, to St. Joseph’s, to the Diocese of Bridgeport and to the Dorothy Day Hospitality House illustrates her love and service to God.”

Dr. Anderson, who had four cousins who were priests, says her Catholic faith has always been a central to her life: “My parish is like a big family to me, and I appreciate it now because I can give more time to it.”

God has been always been there for her in the good times and in the bad, she says. But life can be messy, and that’s when she applies a lesson she learned from her hobby of weaving, which inspired her devotion to Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Popularized by Pope Francis, the devotion is based on a painting of Mary untying the knots that represent the problems in our lives.

While caring for her sister Faith, who suffered from a debilitating case of Lyme disease, she took up weaving at the Brookfield Craft Center and eventually bought her own loom.

“From weaving I learned that by gently fingering the knots, they all drop out, but if you pull on them, they only get tighter,” she says. “So instead of saying, ‘my way, my way,’ I turn it over to God. It’s pride that makes us say, ‘I am right and my way is the best way.’”

While she was weaving, she had a spiritual inspiration that serves as her motto: “If you proceed at a slow speed, you will receive all that you need.”

“In our lives, if we pull on the knots, it makes the situation more difficult, but if you just drop the knot, it becomes untangled and you’re on God’s time,” she says.

For more than 40 years, Dr. Anderson was a scientist at the Schulumberger-Doll Research Center in Ridgefield, which provided research for the world’s leading supplier of technology and information solutions to companies in the oil and gas industry.

As a woman, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a pioneer in the oil service business and gained recognition for more than 70 technical papers she authored and co-authored.

In 1997, she enrolled in the PhD program at Delft University in the Netherlands and received her degree in 2001. Her thesis work involved the complex topic of “inversion of triaxial induction data to determine resistivity anisotropy.”

She and her two younger siblings grew up on the family farm in Newtown surrounded by relatives. They drank milk from the cows and ate fresh eggs. At the time, her father was a selectman in Brookfield and later ventured into real estate, while her mother commuted by train from Danbury to New York City for her job as bookkeeper.

Dr. Anderson graduated from Newtown High School and went to Western Connecticut State University and graduated first in her class in 1963.

“I was one of those geeky kids,” she recalled. “Math and science were my favorite subjects because there was no argument with the teacher about what was the right answer.”

Her sister Faith was a member of the first graduating class at St. Rose School, where her mother Barbara taught CCD. Dr. Anderson did some substitute teaching at St. Rose and took courses in computer programming and numerical analysis for her master’s degree at Fairfield University.

The computer programs she wrote helped her get a job at Schulumberger-Doll Research, and for most of her career, she worked in electromagnetic department, which provided drilling measurements for oil companies.

After her father died, she and her siblings built a house in Brookfield and moved there with their mother in 1968. At the time, Faith was in high school and Hal was in the army, so Dr. Anderson became the breadwinner for the family.

Faith, who later taught elementary school, contracted Lyme disease. After a round of antibiotics, the doctors thought she had been cured, but the disease led to cardiac problems and affected her neurologically, causing her to limp.

“Over the course of five years, she began to decline,” Dr. Anderson said. “I was there all the time with her. She lost weight and was down to 80 pounds. Eventually, she was admitted to a nursing home. The last week of her life, they put a cot for me in her room, and I was there when she died.”

With Faith’s passing in 2017, Dr. Anderson started looking for other things to do. “St. Joseph School had opened, and I made contributions for science and field trips because of my love of science,” she said.

She often accompanied students on their excursions and was involved with them in different projects about weather, raising trout, technology and water quality.
“We also went on the bus to Shepaug Dam to watch bald eagles,” she said. “Even though I didn’t have kids, I could go places with the students, and they let me be involved. I guess I’m still a kid.”

In recent years, she has discovered other opportunities. She volunteered at Dorothy Day Hospitality House and served meals through Catholic Charities. During the coronavirus pandemic, she made sandwiches at home and dropped them off at the church. She also has assisted the Morning Glory program in Danbury and helped served breakfast. At St. Joseph’s, she is active in the Respect for Life Ministry.

“Now that I’m at the older end of life, I see the importance of right to life for the unborn and the elderly,” she says. “When I visited my sister at the nursing home, I saw how unconnected older people can feel.”

Looking back on her 80 years and the work she has done, Dr. Anderson says, “I’ve had a good life. I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy my work. I enjoy my hobbies. I even enjoy my retirement. I keep active in my parish, and I keep in touch with the people I worked with, and we write technical papers together. I’ve had a good, long life. I will be turning 80, and the 80 years have been pretty good. I don’t think of myself as old because there are so many things I can do.”

What’s her secret? “Thy will be done,” she says. It works every time.

By Joe Pisani

Immaculate High School Welcomes Prospective Students

DANBURY—Immaculate High School invited 115 students from the early decision applicant pool to join the Class of 2025 and hosted virtual accepted student and parent sessions this weekend. Additional sessions are offered in the weeks ahead for incoming families to explore the many opportunities students will have to excel in academics, athletics and the arts.

Sunday’s annual Accepted Student Day pivoted to a virtual event which included fun games and giveaways, polling to learn more about the Class of 2025, a panel of student ambassadors to answer questions and share their experiences, smaller breakout rooms with fun games led by current students and a special appearance by alumna Megan Mitchell ‘10, news anchor and reporter for WLTW in Cincinnati who emceed a fun virtual scavenger hunt.

Administrators and parents welcomed prospective families and shared how Immaculate has been able to meet their educational goals for students amid the pandemic by offering a hybrid classroom experience. Student cohorts are assigned days to report to the building and days to attend class synchronously using the Microsoft Teams platform.

Principal Wendy Neil shared how the mission of the school is to provide a personalized college preparatory journey. “We meet with recent graduates as well as with college admissions officers to design our programs.” Parent Heidi Flaherty attested to the counseling department’s ability to individualize their response to the needs of their students and shared how Immaculate has been able to provide a positive and challenging experience for students. ​“I asked my daughter, a freshman at The University of Connecticut, if she thought Immaculate High School prepared her well for the transition to college. She told me that she found Immaculate High School’s college preparation program very helpful. Applying to colleges went smoothly and it reduced a lot of stress associated with the college search process. She also mentioned that Immaculate’s remote learning during the spring 2020 semester along with the rigor of her AP courses prepared her well for her online college courses.”

The accepted Class of 2025 hail from 27 local Connecticut and New York towns. Approximately 44 percent of the applicants currently attend public or private schools, while 56 percent attend Catholic schools. Immaculate welcomes students from all faith backgrounds.

Immaculate is dedicated to making our integral, quality education an option for committed families and students. Named scholarships and financial tuition assistance were awarded to 80% of the accepted student families. Also awarded, was $286,000 in four-year merit based academic scholarships to 15% of the students interested in attending Immaculate.

The school has hosted prospective Class of 2025 and transfer student families for in-person, off-hour tours as well as virtual events including a 360-degree tour and an on-demand open house which can be viewed on their website. Admissions Director, Denise Suarez shares, “​We were very impressed by the talents of this year’s applicants. Most importantly, through their applications and meetings with the admissions office, they showed a real desire to serve others in the community which is one of the hallmarks of an Immaculate education.”

The school offers rolling admissions for families, as well as in-person tours. To learn more about the application process, including to register for the virtual HSPT exam required for all freshman applicants being held on Wednesday, January 27 at 8 am, please visit​. Contact Denise Suarez, Director of Admissions at 203.744.1510 x148 to schedule a tour or for questions about the admissions process.

St. Joseph H.S. to host an NCAA signing/Commitment Day

TRUMBULL—St. Joseph High School, southern Connecticut’s premier college preparatory school, announced today the names of thirteen senior student-athletes who will sign National Letters of Intent (NLI) or Celebratory Letters in four different sports.

Student-athletes, alongside their parents, will celebrate their achievements at a signing/commitment event in St. Joseph High School’s newly renovated gymnasium on Thursday, January 21 at 9 am. The event will be socially distant and all will be required to wear masks.

The NLI is a document used to indicate a student’s commitment to participating in National Collegiate Athletic Association colleges and universities in the United States. The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and a member institution. The Celebratory Letter (for Division III athletes) indicates that a student has been accepted to and plans to attend an institution. The following St Joes Seniors will participate:

Jack Fearnley – Lacrosse – Binghamton University – Division I
Madison Fitzgerald – Softball – Bryant University – Division I
Madeline Fried – Soccer – Villanova University – Division I
Andriana Cabral – Soccer – American University – Division I
Preston Kral – Lacrosse – Stonybrook University – Division I
Mia Alicea – Softball – American International College – Division II
Eric Burbank – Lacrosse – York College – Division III
Hailey Cocca – Soccer – Eastern CT State University – Division III
Andrew Eisenman – Lacrosse – Lake Forest College – Division III
Grace Hickey – Soccer – Ithaca College – Division III
Justin Keeler – Baseball – Brandeis University – Division III
Max Kimmel – Lacrosse – Roger Williams University – Division III
Samantha Miller – Lacrosse – Hartwick College – Division III

“We are so proud of the academic and athletic accomplishments of all our student-athletes,” remarked Kevin Butler, Assistant Principal for Athletics. “Their dedication, hard work and commitment both in the classroom and on the athletic fields is a huge achievement. We wish them all the best next year in college and beyond.”

As part of their NLI, prospective student-athletes agree to attend the institution full-time for one academic year and the institution agrees to provide athletes financial aid for one academic year.

Foundations in Education Gala Scheduled for May 6

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education’s gala returns to Woodway Country Club in Darien, on May 6, 2021 with honorees Lynn and Francis X. Mara of the New York Football Giants, Inc. and Dr. Julia M. McNamara, President Emerita, Albertus Magnus College.

Gala Co-chairs Barbara Ripp and Xandy Duffy met with Foundations in Education staff to begin planning this year’s unique event. The full gala committee will meet virtually later this month. Celebrity auctioneer Pat Tully will provide an entertaining evening of humor and high energy as guests bid on exclusive packages, including a priceless experience with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. The evening will include cocktails and dinner at Woodway Country Club, with a virtual option for the formal program.

Foundations in Education supports the mission of Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport. The annual gala brings together business, political and charitable leaders throughout Fairfield County.

Proceeds from the gala benefit Foundations in Education, including the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and Innovation and Leadership Grant Program. This year Foundations awarded 1,271 children $2,700,000 in tuition assistance to attend Catholic schools throughout the Bridgeport Diocese. The Foundation also makes grants to teachers for innovative and leadership initiatives in our Catholic schools. This year the Foundation recognized all teachers and staff with an Amazon gift card for their Innovation and Leadership for their heroic efforts in teaching throughout the pandemic.

If you wish to volunteer, sponsor, contribute or learn more about Foundations in Education or the Gala, please visit or contact Megan Quinn at 203.416.1671 or

World Sick Day, pope calls for health care for all

VATICAN CITY—Praising those who help the sick and praying for those who are sick, Pope Francis called on Christians to practice what they preach, including by guaranteeing equal access to health care for all people.

“The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our health care systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick,” the pope wrote in his message for the 2021 World Day of the Sick, which the Catholic Church marks February 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it obvious to everyone that “elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care,” at least not in an equitable way, he said. “This is the result of political decisions, resource management and a greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility.”

“Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good,” Pope Francis wrote in his message, which was released by the Vatican January 12.

The papal message, using Jesus’ denunciation of hypocrisy in Matthew 23:1-12, insisted that real faith leads to real care for all who suffer from illness, poverty or injustice.

“When our faith is reduced to empty words, unconcerned with the lives and needs of others, the creed we profess proves inconsistent with the life we lead,” the pope wrote. “The danger is real.”

When another person is suffering, he said, Jesus “asks us to stop and listen, to establish a direct and personal relationship with others, to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them.”

Being sick makes one realize his or her “own vulnerability and innate need of others,” the pope said. “It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God.”

“When we are ill,” he continued, “fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities.”

For many people, the pope said, “sickness raises the question of life’s meaning,” something Christians must “bring before God in faith. In seeking a new and deeper direction in our lives, we may not find an immediate answer. Nor are our relatives and friends always able to help us in this demanding quest.”

Like Job in the Bible, people must stick with their prayers, crying out to God for help, he said.

In the end, God “confirms that Job’s suffering is not a punishment or a state of separation from God, much less as sign of God’s indifference,” he said. Job, “wounded and healed,” confesses his faith in the Lord.

Pope Francis praised the “silent multitude of men and women,” who, as the pandemic continues, do not look away, but help their patients or their neighbors.

“Such closeness is a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering,” he said. “As Christians, we experience that closeness as a sign of the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, who draws near with compassion to every man and woman wounded by sin.”

Jesus’ commandment to love one another also applies to a Christian’s relationship with a person who is sick, the pope said. “A society is all the more human to the degree that it cares effectively for its most frail and suffering members, in a spirit of fraternal love.”

“Let us strive to achieve this goal, so that no one will feel alone, excluded or abandoned,” he said, praying that “Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Infirm,” would watch over the sick, health care workers and all those who help others.

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service


Vatican asks priests to ‘sprinkle’ ashes on heads

VATICAN CITY—The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments asked priests to take special anti-COVID-19 precautions this year when distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, February 17, including sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads.

The congregation’s note on the “distribution of ashes in time of pandemic” was published on the congregation’s website January 12 and directs priests to say “the prayer for blessing the ashes” and then sprinkle “the ashes with holy water, without saying anything.”

“Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’”

“The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places,” it said. “The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”

The usual practice would be to repeat the formula—“Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return”—to each person as the ashes are sprinkled on the top of their head or rubbed onto their forehead.

Sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads, rather than marking foreheads with ashes, is the customary practice at the Vatican and in Italy. Given the spread of the coronavirus, the practice has the advantage of not requiring the priest to touch multiple people.

The Latin, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese versions of the note also specify that the mask should cover the priests’ “nose and mouth.”

By Catholic News Service


Pope says he was ‘astonished’ by violence at Capitol

VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis offered prayers for the people of the United States “shaken by the recent siege on Congress” and prayed for the five people who lost their lives “in those dramatic moments” when protesters stormed the Capitol January 6.

Remarking on the events after reciting the Angelus prayer January 10, the pope insisted that “violence is always self-destructive. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”

The pope urged government leaders “and the entire population to maintain a high sense of responsibility in order to soothe tempers, promote national reconciliation and protect the democratic values rooted in American society.”

And he prayed that “Mary Immaculate, patroness of the United States of America,” would “help keep alive the culture of encounter, the culture of caring, as the way to build together the common good; and may she do so with all who live in that land.”

Pope Francis’ remarks came one day after the release of clips of an interview in which he said he was “astonished” by the violent breach of the U.S. Capitol, especially because the people of the United States are “so disciplined in democracy.”

The interview with Italy’s Canale 5 was scheduled for broadcast January 10, but some clips were aired January 9.

Violence, he told the interviewer, must always be condemned, but it also is true that in even the most “mature” societies, there are violent minorities, “people taking a path against the community, against democracy, against the common good.”

“But thank God this erupted and people could see it well. That way it can be remedied,” he said.

“No nation can brag about never having a case of violence—it happens,” he said. “We must understand it, so it is not repeated—learn from history, right?”

In the interview, Pope Francis also spoke about the COVID-19 vaccine.

From an ethical point of view, he said, “I think everyone must take the vaccine; it’s the ethical option because you are playing with your health, life, but you also are playing with the lives of others.”

Sometime in the week beginning January 11 the Vatican expects to begin vaccinating residents and employees who have asked to be vaccinated, “and I signed up; it must be done.”

Pope Francis recalled that when he was a child, polio was a real threat, “and many children were left paralyzed and people were desperate for a vaccine. When the vaccine came out, they gave it to you with a bit of sugar.”

“I don’t know why some people say, ‘No, the vaccine is dangerous,’ but if physicians present it to you as something that will do good, that doesn’t carry particular dangers, why not take it?” he said.

Pope Francis said he could not explain “suicidal denialism,” but “people must take the vaccine.”

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service

Immaculate High School Inducts New Members to National Honor Society

DANBURY—Immaculate High School recently inducted 57 students into the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapter of the National Honor Society, an affiliated chartered chapter of the National Honor Society. ​Students who are inducted into the National Society are required to have a minimum 3.5 GPA. They must also have a leadership role in either the school or community, inspire positive behavior in others, have served at least 75 hours (juniors) or 100 hours (seniors) of community service and consistently demonstrate respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and good citizenship. ​Membership is offered to juniors and seniors who meet the criteria established by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and character. Once accepted, they are expected to uphold the criteria​ of excellence in all four areas.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t celebrate as we usually do, but these students should be proud to be members. It’s more than just academics: these students provide many hours of service to the community and are leaders among their peers,” says Dana Pickney, advisor of the National Honor Society.

The following students were inducted into the National Honor Society during a virtual ceremony that can be viewed here.

Danbury Students:​ Stephanie Antonios ‘22, Nikolas Badinelli ‘22, Caitlin Doherty ‘22, William Doran ‘22, Eduardo Dos Santos ‘21, Danielle Garcia ‘22, Alexys Garden ‘21, Julia Goodwin ‘21, Wyatt Jarboe ‘22, Ernst Koch ’22, Sara MacKinnon ‘22, Kiera McCoy ‘22, Caroline Merritt ‘22, Anish Nanda ‘22, Quy Ngoc Huynh “Victoria” Nguyen ‘21, Conor O’Keefe ‘22, Gabriela Ortiz ‘22, Mario Perez ‘22, Matthew Riggs ‘21, Lynn Sanchez ‘22, Magdalena Swierczek ‘22, Caroline Tucker ‘22, Amanda Tureaud ‘22, Joseph Williams ‘22, Jake Windas ‘22

Bethel Students: ​Chloe Gleissner ‘22, Richard Lawlor ‘22, Audrey Quish ‘22, Christopher Suarez ‘22, Oona Tuccinardi ‘22

Brookfield Students: ​Arianna Petta ‘22, Nathanial Varda ‘22, Alexis Walsh ‘22

Ridgefield Students:​ Patrik Backus ‘22, John Christopher Karle ‘22, Kennedi Muller ‘22

Redding Students:​ Allie Bellone ‘22, Chloe Bellone ‘22, Calista Dudas ‘22, Carolyn Jandura ‘22, Julong Williams ‘22

Newtown Students: ​Katerina Crowe ‘22, Grace McLoughlin ‘22, Sophia Pertoso ‘22, Steven Reese ‘22, Thai Sapenter ‘22

Sandy Hook Students: ​Logan McAloon ‘21, Walker Prevedi ‘22

New Fairfield Students: ​Sarra Darby ‘22, Anna Flaherty ‘22, Susan Radliff ‘22, Lilly Zuccala ‘22

New Milford Students: ​Matthew Reeves ‘22

Bridgewater Students: ​Lauren Manning ‘22

North Salem, NY Students:​ Diana DiVestea ‘22

South Salem, NY Students: ​Ryan Tappan ‘22

Wingdale, NY Students: ​Harrison Palmer ‘21

St. Mark School Earns an A+ from Niche

STRATFORD—St. Mark School, Stratford’s Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, recently received an overall A+ rating by Niche for Academics, Teachers and Diversity.

Niche is the leader in K-12 and college school search with the most comprehensive data on U.S. schools and neighborhoods. Its mission is to make researching and enrolling in schools easy, transparent, and free.

“As principal of St. Mark School, I know St. Mark School provides an exceptional learning environment and a warm, inclusive community that promotes positive character and growth,” said Melissa Warner. “That continues to be true during the pandemic. Our teachers and students have risen to new heights and are doing superb work with in-person instruction. To be recognized for our strengths by Niche with the top ranking is gratifying for all of us who work hard to challenge and support our students’ growth and achievements every day.”

The newly released Niche grades are calculated using the most up-to-date data available from dozens of public sources along with millions of reviews from students, and parents.

“A high ranking indicates that the school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students who rate their experience very highly,” according to Niche, which was founded in 2002 by Carnegie Mellon University students as an education research/review service.

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. This year alone, St. Mark School welcomed 56 new students and continues to attract families looking for an exceptional in-person education.

The Biggs Family, who recently transferred their 4th and 6th grade children to St. Mark School from public school, reported, “We are so very happy to be at St. Mark School. My husband loves the homework and is thrilled that our children are being pushed more than they were before. I am so thankful for all the support and offer of help and guidance we have received thus far.”

To kick off Catholic Schools Week, St. Mark School will offer School Tours for prospective families on Sunday, January 31, 2021 from 10 am – 12 noon. For more information, visit the school’s website at To take a virtual tour click here.