Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Sitting around the table for a recent Father’s Day meal, my family started discussing people we knew who were going away on extravagant summer vacations. I’ll admit, most of us began to express our jealousy and desire to hop on a plane to an exciting destination. It was then that my mom piped in. She reminded us that we were all out for a meal together as a family, which was more than enough to be grateful for.

As we enter the summer months, our social media feeds will likely be full of pictures of people enjoying themselves on vacation. It will be hard not to fall into the trap of envy and jealousy, letting it consume us as we scroll.

But in doing this, we would be missing out on all the small moments that create our beautiful, extraordinary, messy lives. Moments of inspiration and creativity, laughter, joy, nostalgia, and everything in between.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” That statement is increasingly true in a world where we can share our good fortune at a moment’s notice. But it is important to remember that we only see each other’s good moments—curated, filtered and vetted before posting.

Life is a kaleidoscope of moments, each accompanied by a unique set of emotions. Our human connection allows us to be with each other in moments of joy, as well as moments of struggle—and this is where a hidden beauty lies.

Can we learn to embrace all of these moments? Both the joyful and the difficult. It may seem like others have it better, but we all have ups and downs. Our humanity makes that something we can always be sure of.

In the same way, can we learn to find genuine joy in others’ good fortune even in the face of our own hardships?

We mustn’t judge others or begrudge them their happiness. James 4:11 says, “Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

It is easy to judge others by what we see online. We feel a separation from them on the other side of a screen. But we never know what someone is like until we talk to them face-to-face. We could all use a little more love, understanding and acceptance in our lives.

In our humanity, we often fall victim to the judgment of others. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye’” (Matthew 7:4-5).

If we look around at what we have and find the joy and wonder there, we won’t have any room left for judgment or comparison of others, for our hearts will be full.

On June 23rd, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, called from birth by the Lord to herald the advent of the Messiah’. John baptized with water…but he tells us, “one mightier than I will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16).

With John the Baptist, the time of promise comes to an end; with the baptism of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit upon Him the time of fulfillment, the period of Jesus, begins”(Luke 3:19-20). Jesus urged John to baptism Him….even though He was sinless. Jesus sets the example for all of us who are seeking salvation.  In baptism we are called to mirror and image the mercy and forgiveness the Lord has won for us (1 Cor 15:45-49).

Today, we are the beneficiaries of God’s graces through the sacraments of the Church.  When you and I received the Sacrament of Baptism, the first of three sacraments of initiation, our hearts were opened and the Spirit of the Lord was working through us so as to allow the sacrament to become an operative power within us.

Hahnenberg (2003) observed, “If before Vatican II, church teaching and theologians tended to restrict the effects of baptism to the forgiveness of original sin and the infusion of grace in an individual soul, then Catholic thought since the Council has focused renewed attention on baptism as incorporation into the Body of Christ and as a source for active life in this Body, a source for ministry (pp.161-162).

By virtue of the Sacrament of Baptism, we become the Lord’s servants who willingly assume the responsibility to participate vitally and meaningfully in the life of the Church.  Moreover, through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus gives us His own Body and Blood as spiritual nourishment to keep the flame of sanctifying grace burning brightly within us and to unite us more fully to Himself and to his Body, which is the Church.

All are called by their baptism to serve in the one mission of Jesus.  In our Diocese, for example, we have ambassadors who actively “go out into their communities to invite people to encounter the Lord and His mercy.” These ambassadors of Christ seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.[1]  It is the role of the laity “to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.

The transformation of our society begins in the home (the domestic church).  Parents give witness to their faith by what they say and do each and every day.  In the Order of Baptism of Children, the celebrant (bishop, priest, or deacon) addresses the parents in these words: “In asking for Baptism for your child, you are undertaking the responsibility of raising your child in the faith, so that, keeping God’s commandments your child may love the Lord and their neighbor as Christ has taught us.”  Do you understand what you are undertaking? Today, more so than ever before, parents need to place their faith in a loving God, to teach their children how to make good decisions, and to give witness to Christian values.

In these very unsettled days of our country’s history, we need to let go of the anxieties and fears that can ravage us.  Let us open our hearts to receive the love of God.  On June 24th, we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Our diocese consecrated itself  to the Sacred Heart of Jesus some time ago when we prayed:  “Lord Jesus, to Your Most Sacred Heart I consecrate my entire life, actions, trials, joys and sufferings, only so that I may love, honor and glorify You in all I do.  Help me to make You the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my weakness and the secure refuge at the hour of my death.” Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.  Amen.

Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D. St. Lawrence Parish, Shelton, CT

The People of God will soon celebrate the Ordination of candidates to the Sacred Order of Deacon (both transitional and permanent in rank). How blessed is the Church to have these men respond so generously to the Lord’s call to serve the faithful in their ministries of word, altar and charity.

Pope St. John Paul II especially noted the varied diaconal ministries in his speech to the deacons of the United States on September 19, 1987 in Detroit, Michigan. He said: “With the whole Church, I give thanks to God for the call you have received and for your generous response…. In the midst of the human condition it is a great source of satisfaction to learn that so many permanent deacons in the United States are involved in direct service to the needy: to the ill, the abused and battered, the young and old, the dying and bereaved, the deaf, blind and disabled…and many others.

Some years later, Walter Cardinal Kasper (2003) articulated major diaconal concerns in his book, “Leadership in the Church: How Traditional roles can serve the Christian Community Today.” His Eminence stated, “Even the simple observation that the diaconate is a fundamental and essential ministry in our church today is enough to provoke heated emotional debates.”

Today, some two decades later, we do have a better understanding of the person “deacon,” but there remains a need to clarify the theological understanding of the deacon and his ministerial role in the modern Church.

Being a deacon for the past 36 years, I have a great love for this ministry and have a great desire to help others understand the deacon’s identity and ministerial role in the church today.

To shed light on the role and ministry of the deacon, I refer to an article written by His Excellency Bishop Howard Hubbard, entitled The Vision of a Ministering Church in which His Excellency shared a few personal observations and reflections on the nature of the diaconate and its ministry in the church today.

In this article, Bishop Hubbard points out that there are three major principles that underlie the ministry and identity of the deacon (transitional or permanent). They are: (1) The deacon’s mission is intimately rooted in the mission of Jesus by his proclamation of the Good News of God’s saving love for humanity;  (2) The deacon’s vocation is an authentic ministry of service, wherein deacons are called in a public fashion to apply their unique gifts and talents to the struggle for peace, justice, freedom, human rights, and human dignity both within and outside of the Church.; (3) The focal point of the deacons’ mission and ministry is the human person who has been created by God with a dignity that is unique, sacred and inviolable.

The Church recently acknowledged the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the diaconate since the Second Vatican Council. CARA (The Center for Applied Research) reported that there are 36,000 deacons worldwide and approximately 19,000 deacons serving almost every (Arch)dioceses in our country. The diaconal ministry is alive and well, even though the number of men responding to the call of the Lord has dwindled.

Unfortunately, today’s culture promotes rationalism and atheism in a very violent and turbulent world,  The deacon, however, stands in the midst of this chaos as a dedicated, religious-minded cleric to give witness to the gospel values and to evangelize those who are seeking the Lord in their lives.

May the saintly deacons of our church: St. Stephen, St. Philip, St. Vincent, St. Francis, St. Ephraim, St. Lawrence become role models of service, selfless love, and evangelization to our newly ordained deacons as they go about their ministry to the widow, orphans and all those in need of Christ’s love and mercy.

(Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D., is currently serving as a deacon at St. Lawrence Parish in Shelton and is former director of the diaconate office of the Diocese of Bridgeport.)

The stars and stripes were just where I’d left them, flat and undisturbed since Veterans Day of last year. Delicate at 80 years old and only displayed on the most patriotic days, this flag is not one to hang outside the front door but instead on a gold chain around my neck. Before any picnics, parades, or concerts began this Memorial Day, I fastened it securely, this heirloom from my grandmother.

A first-generation American, she was a woman of great faith and staunch patriotism. As a child, I remember going to church with her and my grandfather, squeezed between them in the pew with my brothers. Though she’d be the first to admit she could not carry a tune, that did not stop her from singing the hymns, and she did so the loudest whenever a patriotic song ended Mass. I asked her once why the choir chose “America the Beautiful,” not thinking, ten years old, that it was a “church” song. “Listen to the words,” my grandmother said, reminding me that we always needed God to shed His grace on thee. How true that is – then and now.

When my grandfather left home to serve during World War II, he gave her the necklace that I now wear. She often joked later in life that it might only have 48 stars, though they are too small to count and I admired it too much to care. She fastened it securely each Memorial Day and July 4th, and likely many other days for which I was never aware. As time went on, I came to understand why she wore it – the proud wife and mother of veterans. And I also came to understand the reasons for singing “America the Beautiful” as a “church” song and the reasons why she teared up at its words – whether at Mass, a baseball game, or a summer concert. Through song, we were praying for God’s grace which we all needed, wherever we were.

Even as she aged and for as long as she could, my grandmother stood each time a patriotic song was played. And after she died 16 years ago, I asked my dad for her flag necklace. It had already been set aside for me, he said. Though I’ll remember her for so many reasons, faith and patriotism are what best define her, the finest attributes reflected in this tiny flag, this inheritance that I can only hope to wear as proudly as she did.

We sat outside at a concert on the green this weekend, enjoying the music before the parade began. The musicians had to cut a few songs, but the conductor said, “There’s time for just one more. Please stand for ‘America the Beautiful’.” Like my grandmother, I cannot carry a tune, but like my grandmother, I sang anyway, praying through song for God to “shed His grace” on us all.

By Emily Clark | Collecting Moments

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

Most of us here in this church are familiar with St. Teresa of Calcutta, who was one of the saintliest women in modern times. In establishing the Missionaries of Charity, she attended to the poorest of the poor, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the disabled, and visited those in prison. However, the Church in the recent past has discovered that Mother Teresa experienced intense sufferings through the dark night of the soul. Despite all her exemplary works and her heroically fulfilling the two great of the commandments: love of God and love neighbor, she was apparently deprived of all consolations from God, for over 50 years. Now, although her mystical experience is something rare and reserved for a select few, we can imitate her trust in God, and that God remains faithful to his promises

“My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

You and I can imagine that these words did not fall easily on Mother Teresa’s ears as she persevered through her sufferings because of the spiritual challenges she had. Mother Teresa’s heart and life reveal the proper way to embrace today’s Gospel. God’s word is clear, and He is calling us to enter in a deep intimacy with Him by living out the commandments and turning away from sin. To love Christ means to keep the commandments. Mother Teresa’s example shows us true and authentic love is not a feeling but that it is self-sacrificial in nature. No greater love has any man, Jesus said, than to lay down his life for his friends. My dear friends in Christ, let us recall that God first loved us and gave His only Son Jesus Christ who offered His life on the cross for us, while were still sinners. This is His sheer gift to us, and we are called to respond in gratitude to Him by obeying His commandments.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”

The Lord raises an implicit question to you and me today: What price are we willing to pay in order to live out the Gospel, what price are we willing to pay to enter into that intimacy and union between Christ and the Father? Mother Teresa embraced love of God and neighbor, but she also embraced self-denial; she remained a humble instrument in the hands of God and remained faithful to the commandments, even when she did not feel God’s presence. As Saint Paul would say: “the Love of Christ compels us.” In other words, although the Church urges to receive God’s love, she begins with the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, who seeks to transform us and work through our weakness. The supernatural life first comes from the Spirit and not from human effort, although we have our role to play in the love story. Finally, we must allow the Holy Spirit, the comforter, to imbue His love in our hearts, enabling us to cry out “Abba, Father,” as beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Our love for Jesus Christ must be stronger than our love for all worldly goods or any attachment to sin, because these things can distract us from our final end, our eternal dwelling with the Father.

As we approach the altar to receive Our Lord today in the Eucharist, let us ask Him to purify our hearts of all disordered affections so that we may not find the commandments burdensome. Rather, in being captured by His love, we may come to realize that living out the commandments begins with a relationship with the person, Jesus Christ, true God and true man, and who hung upon a cross for us, and now… calls us to union with him and to imitate him, as we lay down our lives for one another. So… what is it that Mother Teresa teaches us? She shows us that despite all of her spiritual challenges, God remained faithful to His promises as she remained faithful in her love for God and trust in Him. For her, “obeying the commandments” came from a place of deep love for Christ. She loved God and neighbor, and nothing distracted her from that, and that is why she is such a WONDERFUL example for us. God bless you.

Deacon Férry Galbert was one of six seminarians ordained to the transitional diaconate on Saturday by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. It is the last step before being ordained to the priesthood next year. Deacon Galbert delivered his first homily on Sunday at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford. The bishop has assigned him to serve at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Nichols in preparation for his ordination next Spring. Deacon Galbert was born in Haiti and moved to the United States as a child. He grew up in Stamford and has been a parishioner at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, where he also served as an MC, for many years. A Registered Nurse, Deacon Galbert worked for some years at Stamford Hospital before entering seminary. He studied at the St. John Fisher Seminary Residence, and more recently at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., where Deacon Colin Lomnitzer also studies.

(This is the first homily delivered by newly ordained Deacon Férry Galbert at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford on Sunday.)

DANBURY – Blessings were bestowed on Easter food baskets at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church honoring an age-old Easter tradition.

“The annual Blessing of the Food is a Polish custom,” said Pastor Fr. Norm Guilbert, to more than two dozen families participating in the noon-time service. “It’s a simple tradition that is very special that gathers people together,” he said.

As families entered the little church on the hill, they placed Easter baskets decorated with embroidered linens, lace and ribbons and filled with food including eggs, butter, bread and Kielbasa, at the foot of the altar.

“These meals will be going on to your Easter table, so we should share in the blessing,” he said, likening it to a communal meal and encouraging the congregation to reflect on the meaning of community during their Easter feast.

The Slavic tradition, where baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday, is very important to many people in this parish, which was established as a church for the Polish community in 1925.

Cynthia Rozanski, who used to attend the service with her parents before their death more than three years ago, continues to make the 40-minute drive from Stamford to her parents’ home parish for the Blessing of the Food, in honor of them.

Parishioner Anthony Scalzo greeted the families as they entered the church.

“The blessing of the food means a lot because it’s something that has been done for years,” said Scalzo, who has been a member of the parish for more than four decades.

Scalzo recalled that in the early years of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, priests would go to the houses of parishioners to bless the food.

Fellow parishioner, 92-year-old Loretta Kunicki, who was baptized at the church, said she remembers priests visiting her childhood home to bless the food at Easter. On this day, she brought a basket of eggs to be blessed. She said Kielbasa is her favorite and she was looking forward to sharing the Easter meal with her family in New Fairfield.

“It means the beginning of life, that’s why we have our food blessed,” she said.

The Easter Bread symbolizes Christ the Living Bread to feed us on our journey through life, the Easter Ham, Kielbasa and meats are a symbol of sacrificial animals of the Old Testament and Easter Eggs are a symbol of new life, abundance, and prosperity. All food that is blessed must be consumed and not thrown away.

At the conclusion of the service, Fr. Guilbert was gifted a spectacularly decorated egg and a chocolate bunny. He told those gathered, “I wish you all a very, very happy Easter and a delicious meal to go along with it.”

Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.
 
The Parable of the Two Sons (aka “The Prodigal Son”) offers one of the most poignant stories about the mercy of God. Taking his inheritance early from his generous father, the young man leaves home, squanders his treasure, and compromises his virtue. Having run out of resources and fully shamefaced, he heads back home. What he experiences next is nothing short of surprising. Instead of criticizing his wayward boy, the father – who, despite his age and status — runs to meet his son, embraces him, and throws him a grand party. And speaking of parties, this story is a true celebration of God’s desire to save us – especially from ourselves. It is a story of pure love that is unfettered by conditions, grudges, and ego.
 
In the background is the “good” son who complains that the high-end party thrown for his black -sheep brother flies in the face of justice and the seemingly just deserts (and desserts also!) that he (the “good” son) should enjoy. But the father reminds his stay-at-home boy that his brother “was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” More than just a line in “Amazing Grace,” this statement about coming to life because someone had mercy on a struggling soul has everything to do with our life in Christ. Saint Paul says it well in this Sunday’s second reading:
 
Brothers and sisters: Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
 

In the remaining weeks of Lent, let’s brush up on our mercy skills and extend that gift freely to someone who needs it. Let’s reconcile – with God and with one another. Let’s free ourselves of the “old things” and become the “new creation” that God has marvelously designed.

By Fr. Rob Kinnally 

This reflection originally appeared as the “Pastor’s Column” in the bulletin of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, Connecticut.

BRIDGEPORT — More and more Catholics are beginning to stand against abortion as the Supreme Court considers a ruling that could weaken or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which since 1973 has led to 63.5 million abortions in America, according to Maureen Ciardiello, Coordinator of Respect Life & Project Rachel for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“The diocese is coming together with the ‘respect life’ people, especially in cities like Stamford, Danbury and Bridgeport,” she said, where they have stood in peaceful and prayerful witness outside abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood facilities.

Following the success of the 49th annual national March for Life on January 21, which brought tens of thousands of people to Washington DC, there will be the First Connecticut March for Life on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 at the State Capitol in Hartford.

“There is a strong hope that the court will either overturn Roe or send the issue back to the states, which is a good thing because many states are already passing pro-life laws to protect the unborn,” said Ciardiello.

She cited a recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll that showed 71 percent of Americans support legal limits on abortion and a majority of Americans — 54% — oppose taxpayer funding of abortion. The poll also found that 81 percent of Americans believe laws can protect both the mother and her unborn child.

Among the sponsors of the Connecticut March for Life are the Connecticut Catholic Conference, March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the Family Institute of Connecticut, and the Connecticut Pregnancy Care Coalition. For more information, go to www.CTMarchforLife.org.

The itinerary is as follows:

9:30 a.m. — The doors open for a pre-march program, tentatively at Bushnell Theater at 166 Capitol Avenue in Hartford.

10 a.m.—A short pre-march program begins at the Bushnell until 11 a.m.
11:15 a.m.—The Connecticut March for Life begins at the Bushnell.

Noon—The rally begins at the State Capitol.

Ciardiello said it is important for Catholics to pray and make their voices heard because later this year the Supreme Court will announce its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal by Mississippi to remove a lower court’s injunction on a law that bans most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

She praised the efforts of a pro-life group in Danbury. The contingent of 55 people came from area parishes, including St. Edward the Confessor and St. Joseph, to take part in the Pro-Life Rosary Rally in front of Planned Parenthood in Danbury on January 22, the 49th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. The rally was organized by Eric Huff and Don Mallozzi of the Respect Life Ministry of St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield.

“It has taken quite a few years for people to get out and pray,” she said. “Now they have some really phenomenal people there, and a lot of positive things are happening. They are being peaceful and trying to help women and assist them with their needs.“

“The Sidewalk Advocates for Life are doing training,” Ciardiello added. “One or two counselors try to engage with the women and determine what they can do to help them so they will reconsider the decision to have an abortion.”

She praised the faithful who conduct vigils at the abortion clinics in Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury. There are chapters of Sidewalk Advocates for Life in Stamford and Danbury, and she urged people to get involved in their counseling ministry, whose goal is to provide “a peaceful, prayerful, loving and law-abiding sidewalk outreach” to women and staff outside abortion facilities so they can pursue “life-affirming alternatives.”

Anyone interested in training (virtually or otherwise), with or without joining the Danbury chapter, or in the work of the group should contact Tom at tai32@gmail.com and visit the Sidewalk Advocates for Life website for further information.

Even though they could not attend the Washington march, Catholics throughout the diocese attended prayer services on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Ciardiello said.

Parishioners from St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull had Mass and Eucharistic adoration, and people prayed in front of Planned Parenthood on Main Street, Bridgeport. They were joined by Fr. Elio Sosa, pastor of St. Ann Church in Bridgeport.

The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull held its annual Holy Hour for Life. During Eucharistic Adoration, they prayed a Pro-Life Scriptural Rosary, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

In Stamford, at St. Bridget of Ireland Church, a large group, which included young adults and youth, did a rosary procession to Planned Parenthood and then returned to the parish, she said.

“People are getting out there peacefully and prayerfully,” Ciardiello said. “More and more people are recognizing the importance of speaking up in a prayerful response. It is important legislatively to express our opinions, but we must also have a prayerful response to what is going on and to continue to encourage people. Some are very intimidated, and we want to encourage them to reach out to local groups. They can also reach out to me.”

She praised the pro-life efforts at St. Theresa in Trumbull, St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, St. Aloysius in New Canaan, St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, and St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield.

“It is so important that we persevere in prayer and make our voices heard in opposition to abortion to protect the lives of babies and to help mothers who are faced with the decision,” said Ciardiello. “Prayer goes a long way, and I hope more parishes start to do Holy Hours for Life. People should continue praying for an end to abortion even if they can’t get to a Holy Hour. Pray a rosary, fast, do some penance or offer up good works.”

Ciardiello also coordinates Project Rachel, a ministry of the Catholic Church that offers a program to help post-abortive women in the healing process. For more information, contact Ciardiello by phone at (203) 416-1445 or email at mciardiello@diobpt.org

Early in the month of February, Bishop Caggiano wrote a post on Facebook reflecting on a talk he had given at a high school where a teacher respectfully challenged His Excellency on his word choice around racial justice. Bishop Caggiano concluded this post by saying that there is much he has to learn on the best ways to celebrate our unity as Catholics while still acknowledging our differences in a respectful and meaningful manner.

I applaud His Excellency for his vulnerability and humility in this post. It was not long ago that Catholics were discriminated against in this nation, yet there are many among us who still face discrimination and oppression due to their race and ethnic heritage. We have a duty as Catholics to stand for social justice, for it is through loving one another that we can do our part to end the cowardice of racism, which is all too prevalent in our nation today.

It is one thing to say we as Catholics stand against racism, and quite another to actually do so.

As Bishop Caggiano demonstrated in his post, it takes courage and vulnerability to admit when we may have said or done something that hurt someone else. But without courage and vulnerability we won’t make real change.

In a January Facebook post, His Excellency spoke of a conversation he had with a Black woman in our diocese whose family was denied membership in one of our parishes due to their race. Such a violent and sinful act on the part of this parish challenges us, as Catholics in good faith, to loudly and justly condemn such hatred. It is not always easy to be the first one to do so, but it is our obligation as followers of Jesus Christ to face these challenges with grace, love, and a sense of justice. When we find the courage to be the first one to stand up against racism, we will find others willing to take the stand with us.

Our challenge this Lent is to become a church that makes it clear that racism does not have a home here. Not only should we atone for instances of racism in our own pasts, both as individuals and as a church, we should also be proactive in educating ourselves so that we do not make these same choices again. Therefore, I have created a list of ways we can educate ourselves on racism through a Catholic lens. All materials listed here are created by and for Catholics. I hope that you may find it useful this Lenten season.

Emily Ciancimino is a parishioner of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull as well as a student in the Master of Social Work program at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. In one of her courses she was challenged to reach out to my community in some way to talk about racism.  She was inspired by recent Facebook posts of Bishop Caggiano, addressing racism through a Catholic lens.

5 Films to Watch

  1. Heart Challenges Hate: Let’s Talk about Race, a panel available on Sacred Heart University’s YouTube channel
  2. Enduring Faith: The Story of Native American Catholics, a documentary available on The Knights of Columbus’ website (as well as the newspaper Indian Country Today’s criticism of the documentary, available on their website)
  3. Anti-Racism, the Catholic Church, and the Sin of White Supremacy, a discussion available on Dominican University’s website
  4. The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song, a 4-part documentary available on PBS’ website
  5. Teach in Tuesday: American Indian Boarding Schools, the Catholic Church, and St. Thomas, a lecture available on the University of St Thomas Minnesota’s YouTube channel

5 Texts to Read

  1. Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle by Shannen Dee Williams
  2. 16 Black Saints & Advocates for Racial Justice edited by Mary Lenora Wilson, FSP
  3. Brown Church: Five Centuries of Latina/o Social Justice, Theology, and Identity by Robert Chao Romero
  4. The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditations with Ignatius of Loyola by Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J.
  5. A White Catholic’s Guide to Racism and Privilege by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

5 Prayers to Pray

  1. Novena for National Unity and an End to Racism, available on The Knights of Columbus’ website
  2. Prayer for Racial Healing, available on Catholic Charities USA’s website
  3. Prayer to Address the Sin of Racism, Prayers of the Faithful against Racism, and Prayer to Overcome Racism, available on USCCB’s website
  4. Prayer to Saint Martin de Porres, the patron saint of racial harmony
  5. Prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking

5 Places to Check Out on Social Media

  1. The hashtag #BlackHistoryisCatholicHistory on Twitter
  2. Bishop Caggiano’s episode Race and the Church on his podcast Let me be Frank
  3. Black Catholic Messenger, created by Black Catholic laypeople and religious, an online publication available via their website, Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify, covering modern day issues through a Black Catholic perspective
  4. Follow Sister Norma Seni Pimentel, MJ, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, on Twitter and Instagram, where she serves migrants on the U.S./Mexico border
  5. Follow Catholics United for Black Lives on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

An elderly parishioner eloquently read Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (long version) this past Sunday with clarity and an authentic sense of understanding. The message was crystal clear: God has created each of us as integral members of the Body of Christ, his church.

A thought crossed my mind, “Do I really know the other members of Christ’s Mystical Body?” I had seen this lector before but didn’t even know his name nor have any understanding of his life, background or spiritual life. After Mass, I thanked him for his beautiful reading.

Later, that Sunday while “listening” to a Synod on Synodality virtual session, this gentleman expressed that he felt the sharing of personal faith experiences would allow the Holy Spirit to accomplish conversion in others. He, then, shared how after losing his mother at the age of nine, he developed a serious stuttering problem. Recounting the challenge, he told of a professor at Fordham who was teaching a class on public speaking. The professor invited him to take the class and young student told him that he had a speech impediment. The instructor persuaded him to enroll. At the first class, the teacher explained to the class that they would need to be patient with this student, as he had a speech impediment.

Now, years later, this former stutterer, now a seasoned adult, was speaking from his heart to thirteen people at our Synod “listening session” about how he surmounting his stuttering challenge. He attributed the transformation to God, who works through everyone – each member of the Body of Christ. The man called this transformation, a miracle.

This Synod on Synodality, our collective journey of faith is comprised of all of the individual members working as integral parts of this Body of Christ. I have been asked if the information from this Synod will make a difference and actually reach the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and be an instrument of change.  I can assure them that by the ever-present grace of God, inspired change and new life in our church will occur. The eternal Father, creator of all things, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will unite the church from the bottom up, just as God did through the first Apostles.

We are the church, the beloved bride of Christ. With 1.3 billion Catholics and nearly 8 billion people on this earth, we have the opportunity to share what God has done for each of us. Imagine if each person had one new conversation with another, where our input was nothing more than listening to their story with our heart – the heart that God gave us in His image. We could be united by the One who came to make us whole.

My heart, mind, soul and strength were set aflame by listening to a virtual stranger, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Through listening and learning I am now in greater communion with another member of the Body of Christ and motivated to share this communion.

A kind and gentle listener will empower a courageous speaker. And the Holy Spirit will bestow the gifts and fruits that bind them together and draw others to the simple flame that spreads like an ocean of fire.

Deacon Stephen Hodson is Diocesan Delegate to the global Synod on Synodality office and also a member of the pastoral ministry team of St. Luke Parish in Westport. He is leading the listening process in the Diocese in response to the call of Pope Francis to “journey together” to unify the Church as the Body of Christ.

Though usually healthy and active, I recently found myself in the hospital with an unexplained medical condition that threw my whole life into disarray. As doctors drew blood, ordered MRIs, and arranged for tests, I lay in bed, bewildered by what was happening but comforted by the expertise of these professionals and the many prayers surrounding me. On my second day in the hospital, I received an extra dose of comfort in a very unlikely form – a roommate who seemed Heaven-sent.

Along with the late-night temperature checks and painful needle pricks, among other hospital absolutes, you never know who your roommate may be. Rarely does a relationship form. Marion, however, was just what I needed. From the start, we bonded over clunky IV machines and tangled wires. We watched the news together in the morning over Raisin Bran and scrambled eggs. We played “Family Feud” right along with the contestants in the evening, laughing at our answers as well as theirs. We shared stories of our families, our illnesses, our desires to return to the lives we loved. We prayed for each other and for those who prayed for us. We became fast friends in the most unusual way – without ever seeing each other. Marion was always behind that privacy curtain and so was I. Ever present but unseen.

During my hospital stay, I deeply missed my family and friends, my students and colleagues, and all those whose regular contact was absent, however temporarily. Marion filled a little bit of that for me with her soothing voice and calm demeanor. After learning she was Catholic, we shared the feeling of emptiness at not attending Sunday Mass for several weeks. But again, it was sight unseen. “Stay strong, Miss Emily,” she would say at my low points. “God will take care of you.”

Yes, of course, I agreed, knowing that God was there, caring for me, for Marion, for the doctors who cared for us. Even though I couldn’t see Him, God was there, not unlike that voice of comfort on the other side of the curtain.

Marion was discharged several days before I was, just as I received my diagnosis and began to get stronger. I happened to be talking to a nurse when the attendant wheeled her out. “Goodbye, my friend!” she called, leaving me with just a quick smile and a brief glimpse of this very special woman. Her stories, her kindness, her laugh, her compassion – these I will remember. Unlike the doctors, nurses, and therapists who worked so hard to help me, Marion played no part in my physical healing, but her comfort and friendship were necessary too, coming to me simply as a voice, an unconditional support system that sustained me as well.

By Emily Clark

Msgr. Thomas Powers, Vicar General of the Diocese of Bridgeport, and pastor of St. John Parish, Darien, delivered this beautiful reflection on today’s gospel this morning at the general staff meeting for Catholic Center employees.  “This season is an invitation for us allow the mystery of Christ to penetrate more deeply into our hearts and recognize that much of our faith is lived out in the “ordinary,” even mundane activities of life,” Msgr. Powers writes. His thoughts are an invitation into deeper holiness and gratitude for the ordinary:

The Christmas season is over and all the decorations are down. Easter is still three months away. Since last Monday, we now find ourselves in what is called “Ordinary Time” in the Church’s liturgical calendar. “Ordinary Time” is a period when we ponder deeply the earthly life and ministry of Christ. It is during this liturgical season that we hear the Gospel stories that we have come to know and love, including the miracles, the parables, the Sermon on the Mount and the Bread of Life Discourse.

We should not confuse the word “Ordinary” in this context, however, to mean plain, unimpressive or unexciting. (In fact, the root word “ordinal” suggests that this season is “ordered” according to the life of Jesus and also refers to the ongoing and rhythmical nature of everyday life.) And really, since the moment of the Incarnation, everything is “extraordinary!”

This season is an invitation for us allow the mystery of Christ to penetrate more deeply into our hearts and recognize that much of our faith is lived out in the “ordinary,” even mundane activities of life. The green vestments that are worn signify growth and maturation, which, as in both the natural and spiritual life, are often unseen but are occurring nonetheless. The green is also a sign of hope. Just as green plants grow in unseen ways, the green during this time reminds us that we can be growing in holiness every day.

If we are waiting for martyrdom to publicly demonstrate our faith, we may be waiting a long time; if we are focusing on converting the entire world, we may miss the people right in front of us; if we think that an act of faith should be a big and significant moment, we may inadvertently ignore the small opportunities to grow in holiness that present themselves to us every day.

I invite each one of us to make a concerted effort as we begin this liturgical period to find Jesus in the daily occurrences of life and to seek Him and His holy will in the midst of them. Along with finding the Lord in our worship at Mass and in our prayer, may we also find Him by simply fulfilling our duties at home, work or school, by practicing virtue when no one is watching, by offering any suffering or inconvenience for the intention of others, or maybe just by smiling charitably to the stranger on the street. Very ordinary situations, yes, but when approached with the mind, heart and will of Christ, we can expect extraordinary things.

Everyone has their favorite Christmas decoration—from the heirloom ornament to the old-fashioned Santa to the treasured Nativity scene. For my daughter, it’s a 12-inch St. Nicholas figure she received when she was seven months old, not from her grandparents, godmother, or favorite uncle but from someone she never knew. Our beloved priest.

Like many new parents, we spent more than a few Sunday Masses in the vestibule of the church when the girls were babies. On one particularly difficult morning, my husband took Abigail, just a few months old, to the back and started up a conversation with a newly-arrived priest who we had not met. He didn’t mind Abigail’s crying at all, even telling Patrick that he’d rather have parents bring fussy babies to church than not bring them at all. Over the next few months, we came to know him well, and he always enjoyed seeing Abigail, especially when those cries became smiles. His name was Msgr. Peter Dora.

Early that December, when I stopped into the rectory one day, Msgr. Dora said he had something for Abigail and emerged with a long white box. Inside was the St. Nicholas figure, complete with his staff, red robe, and long white beard. It was exquisite, and I was in awe, not just because of the gift itself, but as to why he would give it to her. He explained that over the years he had collected many likenesses of St. Nicholas and had recently decided to start giving some away to one child each Christmas. This year, he said, he chose Abigail.

Msgr. Dora only remained at our church for several years, so Abigail has no memory of him. Nevertheless, now at 17, she still treasures this piece like no other, always placing it on its own shelf in the living room, adjusting the robe just so, and making sure the staff is straight. As the story goes, the fourth-century St. Nicholas was known for his benevolence, helping others, and giving gifts, often in secret. Abigail’s St. Nicholas though came as a gift itself, from one who wanted only to share something special with a child.

For so many years, Msgr. Dora’s figure has sat on our shelf, a symbol of every gift given with love. Abigail informed us, though, that this might be its last. She’s already making plans to bring it to college with her next year and place it in her dorm room before Christmas. I’ll miss its presence, but it will go where Msgr. Dora intended it to: with her, that gift of St. Nicholas which has always meant so much more than just a figure on a shelf.

By Emily Clark

After the morning rosary, my first thoughts were fixed on 9/11/01, twenty years ago to the day. I prayed to Jesus and Mary for the souls who perished, the families and loved ones who continue to grieve, and for the cessation of the kind of evil that caused 911 and evil that continues to cause similar events to this day.

I woke up that beautiful sunny September morning twenty years ago today and took an early train from Bernardsville, NJ to Penn Station and crossed the street to 5 Penn Plaza for another workday at my job as a producer at CNN. I was just about the first at one the office at 7:30 am and I focused on the guests and stories that would be presented on-air for the day. As I started my research and assembled the material, one of my colleagues loudly exclaimed, “come to the window and look downtown! It looks like a little plane went into a building!”

Those of us in the newsroom gathered at the large window on the south side of our office on the 20th floor where Lou Dobbs and his assistant had their desks. What I saw was a stream of smoke wafting from one of the Trade Towers as it looked as if the plane hit from the north side, our vantage point. At this time, we had no idea the size of the plane, the scope of the damage, or the magnitude of what was to come next. We all stood there motionless, speechless, holding our collective gaze at the scene a few dozen blocks south of us. Then, we soon learned the horrifying truth as another commercial airliner jet approached from the north, low and slow, and slammed into the other tower, right before our eyes! We were under attack! The managing editor started shouting, but we didn’t really know what to do or who to call so we all just lingered at the window… stunned and fixated on this tragic scene.

Then, we witnessed live – the first tower crumbling like a sandcastle right in front of us and my first thoughts were: “The humanity! Lives lost at this very second!” But why wasn’t I more outraged and sobbing at the course of events unfolding right before my eyes? Because it was surreal. It just didn’t seem real, this couldn’t be happening! I was shocked, and that fact alone of being in shock prevented me from feeling the appropriate emotions that channeled in slowly over the next minutes and hours as what really happened sunk in. The violent images we see on TV, movies, and the internet have programmed us not to feel effect because, “it’s just only a movie.” BUT THIS WAS REAL! Everyone at the window was still silent, except for one lone voice that merely dropped one word: the F-bomb. We then witnessed the second tower collapse.

At this point, I called all my family members…My husband doing business in Charleston SC…My Mother in Manhasset…My four daughters, three at college, the oldest at work. I was able to tell them to turn on the TV and that I was OK in Manhattan. Then, the phone lines went down, there was nothing we could do. I always have to do something to help in a case like this. I proceeded to walk 22 blocks to St Vincent’s Hospital on W12th St in the West Village where I was born 46 years earlier and requested that they accept my blood donation, as I have rare negative A type~~~~The sad part is the hospital was already with the gurneys, on the street even, but nobody came…victims either walked away or died.

Our country, our world, all of us, had reached the point of no return. The world changed permanently that fateful day. Many of our freedoms were lost, the world became more skeptical, guarded, and cynical because we had to protect ourselves. That single event ushered in the era of security checks and scanning machines in airports, everywhere.

Now we have covid. We got vaccinated and hoped it was over. Now the evil thing just keeps mutating, and more freedoms are lost. We can no longer travel as freely as we once did because again, we have to protect ourselves.

As we keep our loved ones close, and do the best we can, we are grimly aware that this life holds no guarantees. All we can do is consciously live WWJD lives…and pray, as prayer is our best weapon…and His Faithful will be with Him in Paradise, our next life.

-Paula Flaherty, St. Mary Parishioner

Editor’s Note: On Friday, August 27, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano hosted a reception at his Trumbull residence honoring Al and Gina Barber and Denis and Britta Nayden for their contributions to the diocesan charitable mission. We are pleased to share the following remarks from Mike Donoghue, executive director of Catholic Charities, who offered praise during the evening to both couples who have done so much to serve others in our diocese.

It’s an honor and privilege to be here to recognize the Barbers and the Naydens.

Let me start with Gina because I know that any success Al has had would not have happened without Gina by his side. Al and I share one very important thing in common—we both married way overheads and are blessed with spouses who live and breathe the mission and work of Catholic Charities. Gina—you are an incredible partner who has supported Al every step of the way. I know this will be addressed later but in addition to her support for CCFC I have seen Gina’s work at St. Catherine’s and through her creativity, energy, and unique style she has been able to reach so many individuals with special needs and to improve so many lives!

Al—I am blessed to have become friends with Al many years ago through The Order of Malta. He quickly became a role model for me with his very interesting career path. We know that Al had a very successful business career at GE but he chose to embark on a second career to give back to his community. Al could have retired to do some part-time consulting and spend time with his grandkids but instead, he chose to dig in to lead and manage one of if not the largest social service organization in Fairfield County. Tonight, it’s important for us to celebrate the impact Catholic Charities has made on our community under Al’s leadership. I’m a bit of a numbers guy and these are rough estimates but…. Over the past 16 years under Al’s Leadership, CCFC has provided critical services to well over 150,000 individuals in need, served more than 15 million meals to alleviate hunger and food insecurity, provided emergency relief services to thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy, and the list goes on and on. What a legacy and what an impact! The hard part for me is that I literally and figuratively have extremely large shoes to fill…and Al handed me the reins right before a global pandemic.

Denis and Britta—So Al provided his time and leadership but the aforementioned impact would not have been possible without the enormous generosity, advice and guidance of you and many others here today. CCFC doesn’t exist without the time talent and treasure of so many of you here today. Denis, I wish you and Britta could see the faces and the gratitude of all the people you have assisted. I know this tent certainly wouldn’t be large enough. Others will talk more about you later but please know that We are enormously grateful for all your help and support over the years.

The next thing I’m going to say should make you all happy! Tonight is not a fundraiser but it’s a celebration of an outstanding legacy we want and need to continue. Today we are launching the Catholic Charities Fund within Foundations in Charity to help us continue the legacy Barbers and the Naydens have built.

I am going to spend a very short time speaking about the future of CCFC. We have two main goals:

  1. We provide critical basic services to fill in gaps in the safety net. Services such as our feeding programs, behavioral health counseling, affordable pre-school education for hard-working low-income families, housing assistance, financial education and low-interest loans for working families, affordable legal services to help immigrants get green cards. I’m proud of the fact that every one of our programs stayed open during the pandemic and in most cases, we saw a doubling or tripling in demand especially in the area of food where we are a county-wide leader. We serve anyone in need regardless or race religion or ability to pay.
  2. Our focus over the next several years will be to bring all these resources together with some partner agencies to help our clients move from crisis or poverty towards a life of self-sufficiency. We will work one client at a time to help our clients build a better life. I have been able to see firsthand how most government handouts don’t work. We will be the agency of “hand-ups” not hand-outs. We have several new programs focused on self-sufficiency which I would be happy to discuss at a later date.

To that end, we expect over the next 1-3 years to provide our services through Catholic Charities Family Centers in all four major urban areas of the county: Bridgeport, Danbury, Norwalk and Stamford. These Catholic Charities Family Centers will provide intensive case management to provide a host of services to help our clients attain self-sufficiency. We intend to provide services such as food, behavioral health counseling, medical assistance (with a partner), ESL, housing assistance, job training, etc. We have plans to move into a new facility for the Thomas Merton Center hopefully by year-end which will bring all of our Bridgeport-based services together in one location focused on moving our clients to a more stable, self-sufficient life. We are very excited about the prospects for this new Thomas Merton Family Center and others around the county.

So, my time is up but I will leave you with this. Fairfield County is #1 in the US in income inequality and the COVID -19 pandemic has widened that gap as so many service workers lost their jobs. The massive increase in housing costs has only made things worse. Imagine trying to make ends meet for your family if you earn minimum wage in this county. I am happy to talk with any of you in more detail about the work YOU are doing through your tax-deductible investment in Catholic Charities. To honor the outstanding legacy of the Barbers and the Naydens, they have asked that you please consider a gift to the Catholic Charities of Fairfield Fund. Thank You!