Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share

“There’s a joy in giving back if you have been blessed in terms of your own life,” says Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield and chair of the Priest Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Annual Catholic Appeal.

While parishioners in Ridgefield tend to be blessed financially, Msgr. Bronkiewicz, who was raised in Norwalk and served at parishes throughout the diocese, says that hearts filled with the joy of faith are always eager to share their gifts with others. In their generous response, richness of faith counts for more than financial wealth.

“‘Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share,’ the title of this year’s appeal, is how parishioners respond in love and thanksgiving for the blessings they have received from God and want to give to others,” notes Appeal Director Pam Rittman, echoing his observation.

“The Annual Catholic Appeal reaches people who need help in their life journey in so many different ways,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz says. The appeal helps to fund ministries and programs and activities throughout the diocese, many of them far beyond the ability of any single parish.

“The most appealing piece for our people is the assistance offered by Catholic Charities,” he says. “We neighbor on Danbury, and our parishioners are involved in helping at the Dorothy Day shelter and Morning Glory breakfast program. A number of them are involved in making the Midnight Run to New York City, bringing down food and clothing—that’s especially needed in the winter months.”

St. Mary’s has also benefitted from the assistance of a number of seminarians over the years, and enjoyed the presence of James Bates, who was ordained to the priesthood this month, during his service as a transitional deacon. “We will have another seminarian this summer, Anh Vu, who is originally from Vietnam,” adds Msgr. Bronkiewicz.

St. Mary’s partners with St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, and parishioners have shared projects together. Beyond that, St. Mary’s parishioners are aware of the wider world served by the diocese and areas of ministry that even their parish’s energetic outreach will never directly contact.

“When we talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal, we tell them ‘You’re touching lives you never meet, people you will never know and experiences you will never have.’ They respond to that,” says Msgr. Bronkiewicz.

“I’ve heard many reflections of the joy they experience knowing that they have had an impact. They realize that what they are giving is making a difference in someone’s life.”

In Ridgefield’s neighboring town to the south, Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton shows an equally generous response to the “Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share” Annual Catholic Appeal.

“Peoples’ generosity comes from the recognition that they’ve been blessed,” says their pastor, Father Reggie Norman. Vice chair of the Priests’ Advisory Committee, he had previously been pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport. Although that parish lies in an inner-city neighborhood, its parishioners, too, responded to the blessings they have received.

“People are spiritually wealthy when they realize that God is working with them,” Father Norman says. They share that joy in every way they can. “Time and talent are just as valuable as treasure,” he says, noting that parishioners in both his former and his present parish are generous in every way.

The Annual Catholic Appeal assists ministries and programs throughout the diocese. “Sometimes the parishioners don’t know all the needs, or exactly what the diocese does,” says Father Reggie. The programs assisted by the appeal are many and varied. Future priests discern their vocation through St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford and retired priests retain independent living at Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests Residence. Chaplains bring the love of Jesus to nursing homes and hospitals. The Leadership Institute enriches the faith formation of adults. Young couples are prepared for marriage through the pre-Cana program, youth can take part in the Catholic Service Corps and the C4Y chorus, directors of religious education and catechists receive support and training, and the most vulnerable unborn and elderly have a voice through the Respect Life Office.

“We’re the universal Church,” says Father Norman. “People are happy to do their part. Ours is a culture of giving. It resonates with them and expresses the joy of their faith. They trust that their support will go where it will be most useful.”

There are a number of ways to donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Pledge envelopes are available at every parish, and may be placed in the Sunday collection. The appeal also offers the opportunity to make gift and pledge payments online. Some companies have a Matching Gift Program, particularly to Catholic Charities or to education in Catholic schools, including St. Catherine Center for special needs. It is also possible to make a charitable gift from a traditional IRA without having to pay federal income taxes on the distributions.

“It’s easy to make a gift this way, but please contact your financial representative for more information,” says Rittman.

(For more information or for assistance on donation opportunities, call 203.416.1479 or email 2018ACA@diobpt.org.)

Construir una comunidad de amor

“De una u otra manera, la Campaña Anual Católica es de un gran impacto entre todos los miembros de la parroquia”, dice Joel Aquino, miembro de la parroquia de San Benito-Nuestra Señora de Montserrat en Stamford.

“Es como nosotros”, dice su esposa Alexandra. “Nuestros hijos han estado en escuelas católicas desde pre-K3 y nuestro grupo de jóvenes ayuda en la despensa de alimentos, que va a la gente en necesidad. Tenemos un nuevo sacerdote en la parr-oquia, el Padre Abelardo, sólo siete meses de ordenado. Hace mucho con los jóvenes e invita a los padres a unirse a él. Todos nos beneficiamos de eso”.

Joel y Alexandra se conocieron cuando ambos estaban en el grupo de jóvenes de Nuestra Señora de Montserrat. En su apoyo continuo a las actividades de la parroquia, están siguiendo el ejemplo establecido por sus padres. “Vinimos a este país desde Guatemala, un jueves”, dice Joel; “el domingo, la fami-lia estaba en la iglesia. Nunca hubo un descanso o vacilación. Cuando estaba en el grupo de jóvenes, mi padre y yo éramos lectores en la Misa”.

“La parroquia siempre ha sido nuestra segunda casa”, dice Alexandra. “De alguna manera u otra siempre hemos estado activos en la parroquia”. La pareja ha sido facilitadora en las sesiones de Pre-Cana, y Alexandra se encuentra actualmente en el Concejo Parroquial. Ella también es parte del V Encuentro de Pastoral Hispana, un fenomenal proceso de actividad pastoral que está involucrando a los católicos hispanos en Estados Unidos y, por su ejemplo, a toda la iglesia, para llegar a aquellos que, en palabras del Papa Francisco, están en la periferia. El propósito es el de llegar a ellos y hablarles del amor salvífico de Jesús.

Siguiendo el ejemplo de sus padres, están animando a sus hijos a continuar esa tradición. Sus dos hijas han sido servidoras del altar en la parroquia, y su hijo podrá ser el siguiente.

“Una parroquia es una fami-lia de familias”, dice el Padre Gustavo Falla, párroco de las parroquias de Santa María y San Benito-Nuestra Señora de Montserrat. De la misma manera, la diócesis es una familia de parroquias, trabajando unidas. “Cuando nos unimos en la Campaña Anual Católica, fortalecemos a la comunidad, ayudando a otros, alcanzando a los más necesitados, proporcionando lo necesario a los sacerdotes ancianos y formando seminaristas para que se conviertan en futuros sacerdotes”.

“La Campaña nos permite ayudar a un nivel más grande”, añade Joel. “Va a fortalecer nuestras escuelas y programas de educación religiosa y actividades juveniles. Llega a la gente en necesidad, para alimentar a los que tienen hambre”.

Debido a que comprenden el valor de una comunidad que trabaja unida, la pareja aceptó aparecer en el video de la Campaña Anual Católica, en español. “Somos muy tímidos, en realidad”, dice Joel. Pero se dieron cuenta de que demasiadas personas no sabían de las muchas maneras en que la Campaña les ayuda a ellos y a quienes los rodean. “Es nuestra responsabilidad hablar.”

“La gente escucha acerca de la Campaña pero no siempre sabe por qué se le pide apoyar económicamente”, dice Alexandra. Ella espera que, una vez que conozcan los programas que la Campaña apoya, todos querrán ayudar en más maneras aún.

“El comedor comunitario y la despensa de alimentos en el New Covenant Center en Stamford ayuda a las personas en necesidad”, dice. “Queremos animar a la gente no sólo para asegurarse de que haya comida, sino para estar allí para servir la comida, para ser parte de la manera en que ayudamos a nuestra comunidad”.

Lo más importante de todo, Joel y Alexandra están de acuerdo, es que la Campaña ayuda a formar nuevos sacerdotes para el futuro de la iglesia. “Hemos tenido párrocos maravillosos”, dice Joel. “La razón por la que esta parroquia ha crecido tanto es por ellos. Hemos tenido grandes y maravillosos sacerdotes. La ayuda financiera para los seminaristas traerá más sacerdotes. Son la clave del futuro.”

La Campaña asiste en la educación de los seminaristas que entran en el seminario de San Juan Fisher, en la formación continua de sacerdotes activos y en el cuidado de los sacerdotes jubilados que viven en la Residencia Reina del Clero, de- dicada a Catherine Dennis Keefe. “La iglesia es un comunidad de amor”, dice Alexandra; “estamos tratando de construir una mejor comunidad. Esta es la forma en que agradecemos a Dios por todo lo que tenemos.”

(Para donar a la Campaña Anual Católica, comuníquese con Pam Rittman: prittman@diobpt.org o 203.416.1470. Usted puede hacer su regalo en línea en: www.2018ACAbridgeport.com.)

Build a community of love

“In some way or another, the Annual Catholic Appeal has a big impact on all the members of the parish,” says Joel Aquino, a member of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat Parish in Stamford.

“It’s like us,” his wife Alexandra says in agreement. “Our kids have been in Catholic schools since pre-K3. Our youth group helps at the food pantry, which goes to people in need. Our parish has a new priest, Father Abelardo, only seven months ordained. He does a lot with the youth, and invites the parents to join him. We all benefit from that.”

Joel and Alexandra met when they were both in the youth group at Our Lady of Montserrat. In their continued support of parish activities they are following the example set by their parents. “We came to this country from Guatemala on a Thursday,” says Joel. “On Sunday, the family was in church. There was never a break or hesitation. When I was in youth group, my father and I were both lectors at Mass.”

“The parish has always been our second home,” says Alexandra. “In some way or another we’ve always been active in the parish.” The couple has been facilitators in pre-Cana sessions, and Alexandra is currently on the parish council. She is also part of the V Encuentro Nacional, engaging Hispanic Catholics, and by their example the whole Church, to reach out to those who have fallen away and tell them of the saving love of Jesus and the Catholic faith.

As they carry on the example of parish involvement set by their parents, they are encouraging their children to continue that tradition. Their two daughters have been altar servers at the parish, and their son may follow in his turn.

“A parish is a family of families,” says Father Gustavo Falla, pastor of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat and St. Mary parishes. In the same way, the diocese is a family of parishes, working together. “When we join together in the Annual Catholic Appeal, we strengthen the community, helping others, reaching out to the needy, providing for elderly priests and forming seminarians to become future priests.”

“The appeal lets us help on a larger level,” adds Joel. “It goes to strengthen our schools and religious education programs and youth activities. It goes out to people in need, to feed those who are hungry.”

Because they realize the importance of the community working together, the couple agreed to be featured on the Annual Catholic Appeal Spanish-language video. “We’re really shy, actually,” says Joel. But they realized that too many people did not know about the many ways the appeal helps them and those around them. “It’s our responsibility to speak out.”

“People hear about the appeal, but they don’t always know why they’re being asked to support it financially,” says Alexandra. She hopes that, once they know the programs the appeal supports, they will want to help in even more ways.

“The soup kitchen and food pantry at New Covenant Center in Stamford help people in need,” she says. “We want to encourage people not just to be sure there is food, but actually be there to serve the food—to become part of the way we help our community.”

Most important of all, Joel and Alexandra both agree, the appeal helps form new priests for the future of the Church. “We have had wonderful pastors,” says Joel. “The reason this parish has grown so much is because of them. We’ve had great, marvelous priests. Financial aid to seminarians will bring more priests. They are the key to the future.”

The appeal assists in the education of seminarians entering St. John Fisher Seminary, in the continuing formation of active priests and in care for retired priests at the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy retired priests’ residence.

“The Church is a community of love,” says Alexandra. “We are trying to build a better community. This is the way we thank God for everything we have.”

(To donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal, contact Pam Rittman: prittman@diobpt.org or 203.416.1470. You may make your gift online at: www.2018ACAbridgeport.com.)

(Para leer este artículo en español, vea la página 27.)

ACA supports programs of Catholic Charities

|   By Ellen McGinness
ACA News No Comments

Among the many programs and ministries it supports, the 2018 Annual Catholic Appeal, “Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share,” assists Catholic Charities, the largest non-government provider of social services in Fairfield County. Rooted in the Catholic philosophy of faith in action, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) has fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, strengthened families, and empowered the vulnerable by providing a broad spectrum of social services to the extended Fairfield County community.

Last year, CCFC served over 10,000 people throughout twenty-three towns in the county. That’s 10,000 people who may never have received the help they needed were it not for Catholic Charities.

As you most likely know, the government has been reducing funding for almost all nonprofits—Catholic Charities being no exception. When you give to the Annual Catholic Appeal, you are supporting all of Catholic Charities’ programs.

That means your donation is helping house the homeless, you are helping educate preschoolers from lower income families, you are helping immigrants find the way to documentation and you are helping feed the hungry.

For the hungry, CCFC’s food programs provide over 1.3 million meals annually through its soup kitchens, food pantries, Morning Glory breakfast program and Senior Nutrition Program. The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and New Covenant Center in Stamford provide not only meals but food pantries as well. Last year, these two pantries welcomed over 2,600 individuals to shop for nutritious groceries for their families.

These centers are not only about food. Thomas Merton Center (TMC) offers support groups to help individuals address issues like abusive relationships or addiction problems, which might be impeding their road to self-sufficiency. TMC also provides case management to assist guests with paying rent, budgeting their finances, and obtaining state and federal benefits. New Covenant Center offers a shower, a laundry room and barber services. NCC also collaborates with other local programs to train individuals in the skills needed to find better jobs and financial independence.

“We have many former and current clients who also volunteer here as their way of saying ‘thank you’ to New Covenant Center,” said John Gutman, the executive director. “One of those is Charo, who came to us from Ecuador many years ago to eat a daily meal. Once Charo learned to become a hair stylist, she returned to New Covenant Center—but not for food. She came back to offer free haircuts to our guests, which she does about 15 times a month.”

Catholic Charities’ Homeless Outreach Team is always on the move, leading Northern Fairfield County’s initiatives for those experiencing homelessness. It is the only program searching the woods, under bridges and in the community for the homeless in the greater Danbury area. The team links these individuals to mental health and substance abuse services, health care access and housing opportunities.

“When we are able to link someone to housing and watch them walk into their apartment for the first time, it is a very emotional experience because we know that we have assisted a person with obtaining stability and enabled him or her to launch into a new phase of their life,” said Regional Director Michele Conderino.

What if you came to this country with the hopes of making a better life for your family, but you did not know how to navigate our immigration system? Catholic Charities’ Immigration Services is a welcoming place to turn to for those in need of affordable counseling and legal assistance with issues involving family reunification, documentation, U.S Citizenship and protection of status.

“We help newcomers and the foreign-born population, regardless of race, religion, sex, creed or economic status,” explained Immigration Counselor Alex Arevalo. “Our mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency and human potential of these newcomers to our county.” Last year alone, CCFC’s Immigration Services conducted almost 400 consultations and assisted 22 individuals with obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Imagine if you were a parent who couldn’t afford the cost of a preschool education for your children, but wanted them to have a solid foundation before they entered kindergarten. What would you do?

You could turn to Catholic Charities’ Room to Grow Preschools (RTG) to meet your needs. Parents pay tuition on a rate based on their income. RTG is not only a preschool for children ages 3-5, but also a daycare for parents who work. Mothers can help support their families, confident that their children are in a nurturing environment.

“Supporting Catholic Charities through the Annual Catholic Appeal is crucial to providing services to those in need and for the most vulnerable,” said Bill McLean, chief development officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport. “In addition, many companies will match an appeal gift for Catholic Charities, so the impact can be doubled or tripled and more people can be helped.”

Catholic Charities puts faith into action. Supporting Catholic Charities through the Annual Catholic Appeal—what better way to put your own faith into action.

(To donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal, contact Pam Rittman: prittman@diobpt.org or 203.416.1470. You may make your gift online at: www.2018ACAbridgeport.com.)

Making a Charitable Gift through an IRA

BRIDGEPORT– Supporting the Diocese with a gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal or securing a legacy that lasts beyond your lifetime can be made through an IRA.said Pamela Rittman, Director of the Annual Catholic Appeal.

“This is creative way to make a gift to the Diocese of Bridgeport and support programs that reflect your values and beliefs, while meeting your personal goals and providing tax benefits,” said Rittman who also serves as Assistant Director of Development.
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ACA Knits Diocesan Family Together

DARIEN— Bishop Caggiano said the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) helps to make the diocese one large family by investing in people through education, charity and other ministries.

Speaking to almost 200 invited guests and volunteers at a reception held at Giovanni’s Water’s Edge, the bishop thanked them for their generosity and leadership of the 2018 Annual Catholic appeal.
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‘Luces se Encenderán por Todo el la Diócesis’

“La gente de fe siempre querrá ayudar a otros”, dice el Padre Gustavo Falla, párroco de Santa María y San Benedicto-Nuestra Señora de Montserrat en Stamford. “Cuando la fe entra en acción, las personas de fe ofrecen lo que tienen como testimonio personal. Es así como tocan corazones, como tocan vidas. La fe nos enseña que no estamos solos: todos estamos juntos. Dar no se limita a las cosas financieras, pero donde hay gente de fe, los fondos siempre están disponibles. La gente de fe siempre será generosa”.
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‘Lights Will go on All Over Fairfield County’

|   By Pat Hennessy
ACA News No Comments

“People of faith want to reach out to other people,” says Father Gustavo Falla, pastor of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat Parish in Stamford and nearby St. Mary Parish.

“I have seen faith in action, people whose personal testimony of faith is touching hearts, touching lives. Faith teaches us that we are not alone—we are all together. Giving is not limited to things financial, but where there are people of faith, funds will always be available. People of faith will always be generous.”
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‘Show Charity Through Action’

|   By Pat Hennessy
ACA News No Comments

“For me it was really the kids,” says Jessica Carroll, explaining why she and her husband Brian agreed to become lay chairs at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull for the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal. “They are at the age, nine and ten years old, where we can have substantive conversations about showing charity through action.”
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ACA Chair-Couples: ‘We Feel Blessed’

|   By Pat Hennessy
ACA News No Comments

“It was a calling,” say Elena and Steve Schlegel, who have accepted the invitation to be lay co-chairs of the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA). “When we were vice chairs this past year we learned about so many wonderful ministries supported by the appeal and met so many dedicated people. We feel that we’ve been blessed to be invited—how could we ever say no?”
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ACA Reaches Halfway Mark

The Annual Catholic Appeal has reached over 50% of goal with more than 12,000 donors participating in the campaign, which was launched in January. To date the campaign has raised over $6 million of the $11 million goal needed to fund the major ministries and programs of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The number of donors is up 3,000 from last year at this time. The theme of the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal, “Renewed in Faith, Hope and Charity,” is resonating with parishioners across the diocese.

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Faith Formation Develops Renewal Best Practices

ACA News No Comments

The 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) “Renewed in Faith, Hope and Charity,” assists in responding to the challenges of the Fourth Diocesan Synod. The synod listened to the voices of the faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, recognized the need to strengthen and support family life, to create energetic parish outreach to engage youth and to renew the ministry of faith formation throughout the diocese.

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