I would like to share a story about an unusual girl named Laura Bell. After graduation from college, she took a job as a sheepherder in Wyoming. Some of her friends thought she was crazy, but Laura wanted a challenge. Well, she got it.

For the next three years, Laura was on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, tending 2,000 sheep. Her day began at dawn and ended at sunset. All this time she was completely alone, except for her dog, her horse, and the 2,000 sheep.

Laura’s job consisted in keeping the sheep together, moving them about for food and water, and protecting them from wild animals.

Laura’s job taught her a lot about herself. The long hours alone gave her the time she needed to ponder her future, her doubts, and her dreams. But it did more than teach her about herself. It also taught her a lot about Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

The story of Laura Bell gives us an insight into just how hard the job of a modern sheepherder can be. Ancient shepherds had to work even harder. This was because they had no horse, no dog to help them with their job. All they had was themselves. This made their work exceedingly dangerous.

Laura experienced firsthand the qualities needed to be a shepherd and how these qualities can be seen in the life of Jesus, our Good Shepherd and Messiah. You may then ask, “What are they?”

FIRST OF ALL, A SHEPHERD IS A TOTALLY COMMITTED PERSON. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is saying that His relationship and dedication to you and me is as close as the shepherd’s to the sheep. Jesus assures us “I will be with you always, to the end of the Age.”

SECONDLY, A SHEPHERD IS ALSO A DEEPLY CARING PERSON. We read about Moses dropping everything and pursuing a lamb that darted off through the wilderness. His fear was that the lamb would be killed by a wild animal or possibly become lost.

Moses finally caught up with the lamb at a tiny stream of water, where it began to drink feverishly. Moses scooped the lamb up in his arms, saying, little one, I didn’t know you ran away because you were thirsty. He placed the lamb on his shoulders and carried it back to the flock.

When God saw how caring Moses was, he was delighted and exclaimed: “At last, I have found the special person I have been searching for. Moses was a caring shepherd like Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who sought out the lost sheep and when he found it placed it on His shoulders and returned it to the flock.

Like the Shepherd, Jesus knows you and me in a deeply personal way. He knows which of us has a weak faith, which of us is apt to become discouraged, and which of us is prone to stray from the flock.

Jesus will never desert us. He is always there to help us. And should we stray from the flock, Jesus will leave the other 99 sheep and go in search of us.

Finally, the shepherd is courageous. What God said to His chosen people through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus says to each of us personally today: DO NOT BE AFRAID…I have called you by name…You are precious to me….Have courage and remember that I am always with you!!!

Laura, our unusual college graduate, lived an experience that taught her about herself and about Jesus. It taught her why the Bible gave Jesus the title of Good Shepherd. It was because he had to a perfect degree the three qualities every shepherd had: COMMITMENT, CARING, AND COURAGE

You and I as Jesus’ disciples must imitate the Good Shepherd by living lives that show our Commitment to the Faith, our Caring for one another, and our Courage to combat the evils of our day by living prayerful and holy lives.

REFERENCE: The Catholic Study Bible (Second Edition). Oxford University Press, 2011. The Gospel of John 10:1-21. Reading Guide p. 420.

(Deacon Anthony P. Cassaneto, Ph.D., a noted writer and teacher, 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.)

Memorial Day first began as Decoration Day. The Grand Army of the Republic – the group of Union veterans that survived the American Civil War – first established the day in May 1868 to decorate the graves of war dead with flowers. The focus for that day, and the array of activities that had come to define it, expanded after World War I to include all service personnel from all wars who lost their lives in service to the United States.

The Catholic Church has its own version of Memorial Days that date back two millennia, to the days of the Roman martyrs. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the liturgical calendar contains days that celebrate saints, men and women “who lived for Christ, who suffered with him, and who live with him in glory” (242). This last week in May presents an opportunity to better understand these sacred memorials, how they both broaden and deepen our faith, and how they display Christianity awake in all places.

The Roman Rite distinguishes memorials from solemnities and feasts. It also defines two distinct types of memorials. Obligatory memorials celebrate a specific saint during daily Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours with particular prayers, readings and writings. Optional memorials, if chosen to be recognized, always draw from common weekday prayers and readings. Obligatory and optional memorials are never celebrated if they fall on a Sunday, solemnity, feast, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, or during the Octave of Easter (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 355, 357).

Perhaps confusing at first glance, another way to distinguish between obligatory and optional memorials is by the accomplishments of the respective saint. For example, this past month had an obligatory memorial for St. Athanasius (May 2), recognized as a Doctor of the Church for defending the faith against Arianism in the 4th century. He stands clearly apart in Church history from other saints with optional memorials: Isidore (May 15), John I (May 18), Bernardine of Siena (May 20), Venerable Bede (May 25), and Augustine of Canterbury (May 27).

Why do memorial days matter? The Catholic Church “proclaims the fullness and the totality of the faith” as well as “bears and administers the fullness of the means of salvation” (CCCC, 166). Within this context, memorials produce a patchwork that appeals to the world and its history. The lives of some saints have clear universal implications. Other saints may find a place only in the heart of certain localities, cultures, and nations. One saint may mean more to you than to another. The teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church understand, respect, and bear witness to these realities. Yet all the blessed in heaven are a part of the same Church we belong to: One, Holy, Catholic (Universal) and Apostolic. We profess a “communion of saints” of those decorated with grace for a life lived and died in service to Christ – a communion that reaches across national borders, ethnic backgrounds, age groups and political ties. All the saints are one in Christ.

As you enjoy a long weekend with family and friends to start summer, take the time to commemorate all the men and women who died in service. Place flags and flowers beside the graves of those who have fallen in military uniform. And in the Church’s memorial days to come, petition the saints who are raised high in heaven to intercede for us.

By Jason Godin @

A Reflection from Fr. Joseph Gill

Tomorrow, our diocese will celebrate an event of great joy – the ordination of six men to the priesthood in the Diocese of Bridgeport! We look forward with eager anticipation for the many years of ministry that Frs. Jim DiVasto, Ferry Galbert, Andrew LeFleur, Ricardo Comim, Matthew Loman, and Miguel Lenis. All of these men are deeply spiritual, pastoral, and will make excellent priests.

Tomorrow, our diocese will celebrate an event of great joy – the ordination of six men to the priesthood in the Diocese of Bridgeport! We look forward with eager anticipation for the many years of ministry that Frs. Jim DiVasto, Ferry Galbert, Andrew LeFleur, Ricardo Comim, Matthew Loman, and Miguel Lenis. All of these men are deeply spiritual, pastoral, and will make excellent priests.

On the whole, the number of priests in our diocese is much healthier than in many other dioceses. We have not had to endure the painful parish closings of surrounding dioceses. But there is still a need. For example, due to the lack of priests, starting this Fall all of our Catholic high schools will have part-time priest chaplains instead of full-time. Many parishes that used to have three priests are now down to two or only one. Many priests are older, and many other priests wear multiple hats in the diocese.

But even beyond the practical needs, there is a spiritual need for priests. The more holy priests there are, the more the message of the Gospel is preached. There is something powerful about a man giving up his life for the sake of Christ – it is a statement that Jesus Christ is real, and is worth sacrificing everything for. Plus, the best way for the people of God to grow in holiness is through the Sacraments, which are passed on through the hands of the priest.

It’s uncommon, though, for parents or other Catholics to encourage young men to enter seminary or to consider the priesthood. We all acknowledge the stain that the sexual abuse scandals has left upon the priesthood…many parents are concerned that their sons would be lonely or unfulfilled as priests…many parents, particularly if they have only one or two children, desire grandchildren and “passing on the family name”…and the priesthood is not held in high honor in society like it used to be.

Yet, it is still a tremendously joyful life! A recent survey found that 92% of priests are happy with their lives (in contrast, a recent survey found that only 74% of marriages report that they’re happy!). It is a calling that is meaningful – a priest is blessed to enter into the most sacred and important moments of peoples’ lives: celebrating the birth of a baby, rejoicing at a wedding, helping people grieve, walking with them through sickness, giving people the freedom from their sins and the joy of God’s mercy and love. Every vocation has its challenges, and the priesthood has plenty of them, but despite them all, it is a beautiful, joyful life.

So – parents, please encourage your sons (and grandsons) to consider the gift of the priesthood! Priests don’t grow on trees, they come from families – ordinary families, messy families, families who aren’t necessarily perfect but who live a life of faith, centered around the Eucharist. It is a great grace for parents to support their sons/grandsons to pursue God’s will, wherever it leads.

Vocations come when a young person is serious about discipleship. So it becomes necessary to help our young people develop a personal relationship with Christ, one that includes asking the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do with my life?” We can help that through good catechesis, and bringing our kids to youth groups and retreats, and witnessing to the power of Jesus Christ in our own life. When I first started as a high school chaplain, I would ask kids, “What do you want to do in the future?” (College, career, etc). But I realized that’s the wrong question – so I started asking, “What do you think God wants you to do?” Asking young people that question will help them realize that it is God Who directs our lives, not we ourselves.

Pray, too, for vocations. Our Lord said that “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” My home parish had not had a vocation to the priesthood in its 162-year history when it started Perpetual Adoration in 1998. Since then they have had somewhere around twelve vocations to the priesthood, religious life, and diaconate…all because of prayer!!

We’ve been blessed with several vocations from St. Jude’s in recent years (I think of Sr. Meghan Thibodeau SOLT and Fr. Krzysztof, both of whom are natives of the parish). As I get to know the parish families, I see many more young vocations to the priesthood and religious life. St. John Bosco, who worked with youth his entire life, said that one in ten children have a religious vocation. It is my hope that at the end of my tenure at St. Jude’s, we can count 5 or more young men or women who have heard God’s call to pursue Him alone in a religious vocation – and we can only do that through your encouragement and prayer!

By John J. Kennedy


Post-covid education results have not been good, according to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), showing declines in Reading and Math in public school fourth-eighth graders in nearly every state since 2019.

A bright spot in the NAEP report is Catholic schools in general, with higher scores than their public school cohort and the first enrollment increase (+4%) in two decades. Many had written-off Catholic schools. Yet these schools often do more with less, at fraction of what public school spends per pupil—with better student scores and outcomes and zero government financial support.

The piece highlights the growth at Catholic Academy of Bridgeport (CT), where enrollment increased +20% in two years. The piece shares 5 key learnings and innovations from our experience that can be helpful to other parochial schools seeking to grow and provide better educational choices for families.

Generally speaking, there is not a lot of good news in post-Covid education reports across the country. According to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), achievement in Reading and Math among public school fourth-eighth graders has dropped in nearly every state since 2019. The NAEP shares one bright spot in the U.S. educational landscape– the progress of Catholic schools in general. Our own school, the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, with over 900 Pre-K-8 students (40% non-Catholic) on four campuses in Bridgeport has flourished. What’s happening at this Academy could be a roadmap for other parochial schools as they seek to grow and provide even better educational choices for families.

Catholic schools on the rise

Catholic schools are having “a moment”. In fact, if all U.S. Catholic schools represented were its own state, their 1.6 million students would rank first in the nation across the NAEP Reading and Math tests among comparable fourth-eighth graders.1
Wait—Catholic schools? Aren’t we always reading about how they are closing left and right due to enrollment declines and can’t attract good teachers because of meager pay compared to public schools?

Catholic school enrollment grew during the pandemic. The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) reports that enrollment in U.S. Catholic schools increased by 62,000 students, about 4%, between the 2020-21 and 2021-22 academic years. This was the highest one year increase on record and the first increase in two decades.[2] Why? For one, Catholic schools remained open for business during the pandemic—over 92% of Catholic schools continued to teach in-person, compared to 43% of traditional public schools and 34% of charters.[3]

Doing more with less

These outcomes are particularly impressive given that most Catholic schools do a lot more with less. The average tuition for K-8 Catholic schools is $5,300 (with zero state/federal assistance), about one-third what state governments spend per student in public schools.
Enrollment at the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport has increased 20% since the 2020-21 academic year after several years of decline. Academic results and student outcomes remain superior compared with the public schools—in Math and English scores and with high school and college matriculation. All this within in a very challenging backdrop in Bridgeport, one of our nation’s poorest communities in otherwise a very wealthy state. Notably, 85% of our families cannot afford the annual tuition of $5,200 and qualify for need-based financial aid; 83% of students come from families living below the poverty level.

Key learnings from Catholic Academy of Bridgeport

So what can other parochial PreK-8 schools learn from Catholic Academy of Bridgeport? While school environments are different across the country and being careful to avoid a “Mission Accomplished” trap, here are 5 key insights we have found to be difference-makers:

  • Governance/leadership: Recruiting and retaining a strong Board is critical to gain outside perspectives and expertise in fund-raising, investments, marketing, educational collaboration, facilities and advocacy. Recruiting a strong Executive Director to lead the four campuses has been critical to allow the four Principals to focus more on their students’ educational formation and less on administrative matters.
  • Marketing narrative and Enrollment training: Conducting research and focus groups with parents and prospects was important to understand the emotional drivers for seeking a better education for their children vs. the local public school options. With this input, the Academy developed the marketing theme and tagline of “Something More”, which holds promises differently for each family—safety, caring, faith-based or academic rigor. From this, we developed digital marketing plans to tell our story to varying and specific audiences. We trained our administrative staffs on best admissions practices and enhanced our software to track our growing enrollment pipeline. We learned to build relationships with the broader community to help raise awareness of and consideration for our school.
  • Teacher compensation—Merit Pay: Catholic schools do not have to be the poor church mouse. Our Executive Director developed an innovative program which ties compensation to desired professional and student outcomes while improving teacher salaries, with accountability. Only a handful of schools in the country use such a model, incentivizing mission-driven results with competitive compensation.
  • Development/fund-raising: Catholic schools receive zero funding from the government. So, we must raise close to $3 million each year for financial aid. Bake sales will not do. Our Board has developed innovative and consistent fund-raising campaigns, attracting many generous individual donors and Foundations. We have developed programs for funding, such as “Rising Stars”, which allows donors to provide scholarship funding and follow the progress of an individual or group of students. With our generous, mission-based donors, we have also further grown our endowment as another, more permanent source of scholarship funding.
  • Advocacy/school choice: While school choice is not yet on the radar in Connecticut, the issue could be a great benefit to Catholic schools. The Wall Street Journal has reported extensively on the momentum of school choice in the U.S. Specifically, 31 states have enacted school choice policies, which empower parents to control how their child’s education is provided.[4] Rather than send their children to a monopoly (often underperforming) school, parents should have access to tools like vouchers and Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) to allow their children to be educated at the schools of their choice. State money set aside for education should follow the child, not the school system. Parents of parochial school students in more receptive states should advocate for more school choice for their tax dollars.

Midst the declines in education across the U.S. despite rising public expenditures, Catholic schools continue to do more with less, providing better student outcomes, particularly in our troubled inner-cities. The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport’s recent experiences provide learning and insight. There are many tools and techniques that parochial schools can deploy to become an even stronger and more viable education choice for those who value the “something more” they provide.

John J. Kennedy is on the Board of Catholic Academy of Bridgeport

1 “Amid the Pandemic, Progress in Catholic Schools”, Wall St. Journal, October 22, 2022
[2] “Catholic Schools’ Good Covid Year”, Wall St. Journal, February 18, 2022
[3] “Amid the Pandemic…”
[4] “School Choice is Sweeping the Nation from Florida to Utah”, Wall Street Journal, February 3, 2023

By Father Joseph Gill

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, godmothers, and all those women who show a mother’s love! I hope that your family does something special to honor you, expressing their gratitude for the multitude of sacrifices and the depths of love that you have shown to them.

On this Mother’s Day, it’s good to reflect upon our relationship with our parents. God has given us a commandment – honor your father and mother – as a guide. Notice that, unlike the other commandments, this one does not include a “Thou shall not…” – this is a very positive commandment, meant to foster love and mutual respect. Also notice that this is the only commandment with a promise – honor your father and mother, that you may have long life in the land that the Lord God is giving you.

It is so important because, in a sense, parents take the place of God for us! This is why, when we are under 18, honoring our parents means obedience and respect. Young people should obey their parents because they are entrusted with the task of forming their children to become good Catholics, good citizens, virtuous people and saints!

Even after we turn 18, we still must honor them. What does that mean, practically? First, it means to continue to treat them with respect. It means to not speak badly about them, or to argue with them unnecessarily. We ought to pray for our parents, and ask their advice and opinions. We should not abandon them in the trials of old age, and bring them comfort and help when they are weak or lonely. Remember their birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. Call them and visit them often. Honor means to take care of their physical needs, as well, whenever possible.

But I think there is another element of honor, which is not as well-known. To honor one’s parents means to live a life that makes them proud. Our parents should be proud to call us their son and daughter because we live a life of integrity, using our gifts and talents to succeed, and keeping our Catholic faith alive. How many parents have had their hearts broken because their sons/daughters have abandoned the Faith? How many parents have prayed and sighed when their children live lives of dissolution instead of virtue and integrity? To truly honor our parents is to bring them honor by the way we live our lives.

Of course, we ought to honor God first, before our parents. I know parents who have discouraged their kids from following the Lord, or been so worldly that they have pressured their kids to embrace material success instead of following God’s call for their life. In such a case, our first responsibility is to follow God’s plan for our life, even over our parents’ wishes.

With that said, sometimes we have challenging parents. Perhaps we don’t get along with them, or maybe they have hurt us deeply. If that is the case, we can always turn to our Heavenly Father to make up for any lacks in our earthly parents, and take Mary as our mother. No parents are perfect, and forgiving our parents is sometimes difficult – but a necessary part of our spiritual life.

Also, too, parents have responsibilities to their children as part of this Fourth Commandment. Parents owe their kids love, food and shelter, clothing, education, support, and ultimately they owe them the gift of passing on the Catholic faith to them. Children do not belong to their parents – parents are stewards of the children who ultimately belong to God. So we have a responsibility to God to love our children as God loves them, and form them to become like Christ!

On this Mother’s Day, we thank all of our parents who have done so much for us in truly showing us the love of God from the moment we were conceived. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

By Paul E. Tupper

I read an article in the newspaper the other day that postulated people are more successful in their careers if they’re asked to do less rather than more. Addition by subtraction. The author referenced a research study, which demonstrated that contrary to conventional wisdom, the most successful performers don’t have to continually take on more and more tasks to get ahead. Those who had less tasks to do were able to perform them better, and they also had more time to think strategically about what they were doing and, thus, often figure out a way to do it better. I have often used the phrase “less is more.” That was the premise of this article.

Boy, do I wish this research study existed 35 years ago when I was starting my career. It might have saved me a lot of stress and provided more hours to sleep! But, as I also mentioned, I use the phrase “less is more” frequently, and I tried to apply it as I matured in my career.

For example, in preparing a presentation for my client’s Board of Directors, I realized that one or two pages of key messages are usually much more effective than twenty pages filled with data. Similarly, when giving guidance to a co-worker, I came to realize that it’s often better to give overall conceptual advice rather than prescriptive details. The former allows and usually enables the individual to get to the right place on his/her own.

As those who know me will attest, I tend to overthink most aspects of my life, including my faith. In particular, as it relates to my spiritual life, I often think that I’m not doing enough. That very well may be true. It’s also true that I use this line of thinking to drive myself to work harder in just about everything I do. That’s probably not a bad thing. However, there might be a lesson for me from the research study.

Just like with one’s career, perhaps doing less may help me to get more accomplished. First, those tasks that I deem important are likely to be done better, as I will have more time to focus on them. Secondly, I will have more time to listen to God and to reflect – to think strategically about my faith and what God might be calling me to do.

There’s certainly precedent for this in the Gospels. Jesus most definitely had a critical mission to carry out. He had a limited amount of time on Earth in which to teach his disciples and start his church. Yet, there are numerous instances where he seeks downtime. The Gospel writers tell us of how Jesus goes off by himself to pray, usually before or after a big event occurs. We also read how Jesus instructs his disciples to take some time and rest after they had come back from their journeys, spreading his Word (Mk 6:31).

For Jesus, less was more. He periodically needed time to reassess, to think about how best to accomplish his mission. And, most importantly, he needed time alone with his Father, for guidance and for encouragement.

It can and should be the same for me and for all of us. Stopping to take time out of our busy day to be with God is not wasted time. On the contrary, it is valuable time, and it will provide multiple benefits. It will reaffirm that we’re carrying out the plan God has set forth for us. Or, if we’re not, it will help us to recalibrate. It also will help us to deepen our relationship with Jesus and therefore increase our faith. Just like any relationship, the more time we spend on it, the stronger it will become.

The research study concluded that when people are not overwhelmed with many tasks, they have time to think about the ones they are doing and perform better. When we regularly take time to slow down and spend quiet time with God, we have time to think about what’s important in our lives and what God wants us to do, and we will perform those tasks better also. Less is more.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Paul E. Tupper II, a native of Greenwich, graduated from St. Mary High School in Greenwich and spent his career in public accounting in New York. His father, the late Deacon Paul Tupper, was assigned to St. Clement Parish in Stamford and later St. Mary Parish in Greenwich.

By Father Matthew R. Mauriello

Many of us have heard about a pacemaker. It is a medical device implanted near one’s heart to regulate heartbeats. However, there is also a “place-maker.” And her name is Mary.

When Almighty God, our heavenly Father, according to his divine plan, decided to send his Son into the world, he needed a place for Jesus to arrive. That place was in the womb of Mary. At the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel brought to Mary the invitation of God, she responded that she was the handmaiden of the Lord and would cooperate with God’s plan. She made a place in her body and conceived the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, this brought upheaval in her life. St. Joseph wanted to quietly divorce her. Most likely, Mary thought that she would have the typical life of a Jewish woman of her day by being a support to her husband. She would go to the well to get the water, cook, clean and do the household chores. So Mary made a place in her life for Jesus, and she became his first and best follower, supporting her son throughout both his private and public life. Mary was there for Christ, along with St. Joseph, in the Holy Family of Nazareth: protecting, nurturing and teaching him.

Our Lady was instrumental in the first miracle of her son at the wedding of Cana. She accompanied him in Galilee and was there to support his ministry. Jesus elevated her to discipleship when he stated, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Lk: 8:21; Mt. 12:48-50).

Our Lady was there for her son, Jesus Christ and suffered with him on the Via Dolorosa and at Golgotha. There, the prophecy of Simeon at the Presentation in the Temple, “a sword will pierce your soul” (Lk. 2:35) would be fulfilled. After his triumph, she was there for the apostles and disciples in the Upper Room on Pentecost, becoming the Mother of the Church.

Mary also made a place in her heart for Christ. Twice in the second chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke, we hear that “Mary treasured these memories and remembered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:19; 2:51). In fact, according to the ancient tradition of the Church, it was Mary who recounted to St. Luke the early events in the life of her son from the Annunciation to the Visitation to the Nativity and Flight into Egypt and Finding in the Temple.

We are invited to follow the holy example of Mary. We have the privilege to receive Jesus in Holy Communion at Mass. Let us make a place in our body and soul to receive him worthily. May we prepare ourselves spiritually and arrive at Mass with happy anticipation to encounter the Lord. Like Mary, we also make a place in our lives for the Lord Jesus by making him our best friend and the center of our lives. St. Paul tells us, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

Following the example of Mary, we also make a place in our hearts for the Lord. Like her, we are invited to treasure in our hearts the memories of the Lord’s goodness and mercies upon us. Especially through the mysteries of the Holy Rosary, we have the opportunity to ponder the early events in the life of Christ, his ministry, suffering, death and triumph.

All of us are invited to be like Mary and have an important place in our bodies, lives and hearts for the Lord so that we can have abundant life in him. And after a fruitful life with Jesus and Mary as our models, and one day, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, may Christ prepare a place for each of us to join him forever in the kingdom of heaven.

Editor’s Note: Monday, April 24 was the 35th anniversary of the L’Ambiance Plaza building collapse, which took the lives of 28 construction workers in 1987,at the tower site across from the St. Augustine Cathedral campus in Bridgeport.

In a recent Mass honoring deceased priest and bishops of the diocese, Msgr. William Scheyd provided this recollection of the Most Rev. Walter W. Curtis, Second Bishop of Bridgeport, who lived immediately across the street from the disaster site. “Bishop Curtis was among the first to be on the scene of the disaster, and he immediately began ministering to workers and families. He also stood beside the family of the last victim at 1:30 a.m. when the body was recovered later in the week. Throughout the long search and rescue process he inspired many as he stood outside praying the rosary each night in the chilly sprint weather. He was a priest and a bishop of great kindness, goodness and compassion.”

BRIDGEPORT—It’s probably safe to say that if you were in or around Bridgeport on Thursday, April 23, 1987, at 1:36 pm, you remember where and when you were when you first heard of the L’Ambiance Plaza collapse, the worst construction accident in Connecticut’s history, instantly claiming the lives of 28 workers.

For thousands living, working and going to school within a half-mile radius of the lift-slab collapse, the news was announced by the shaking of ground followed by the rumble of huge prestressed concrete slabs pancaking on top of one another.

Then there was silence, a “deafening silence,” as recalled by the Rev. Michael A. Boccaccio who, in 1987, was assigned to St. Augustine’s Cathedral, which became a source of comfort to the scores of people left adrift by the loss. The cathedral, and its school, Kolbe Cathedral High, were less than 200 yards from the disaster and its acres of twisted beams and broken concrete.

It was in Kolbe’s gymnasium where scores of family members waited, hoping against hope in the days that followed that their husbands and fathers would somehow be found alive. They were being counseled by social workers and clergy of all faiths. But there was no good news to be had; all 28 had died within a second or two.

“When a deceased worker was found, the silence was tangible, deafening, and I dare say it was almost beautiful to see everyone coming together in that moment of sadness,” Boccaccio said. “We was so taken by this experience, my respect for civil servants was multiplied by one million.”

He was speaking at the 30th anniversary ceremony of the L’Ambiance collapse, the worst construction accident in Connecticut’s history. Speaker after speaker reminded the audience, gathered around the south steps of City Hall, that the cause of safety in the workplace is one that requires constant vigilance.

“We all know where we were on that day, and families had just celebrated Easter, a celebration of renewal, and when that building collapsed, their world collapsed as well,” said U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. “There are still workplaces just as dangerous. I’ll be going back to Washington today to consider a budget submitted by the president that would cut workplace safety enforcement by more than twenty percent.”

The senator read from a letter from a construction worker who was at the site on that fateful day. “He wrote: ‘I served in Korea. In combat you know that there’s a chance you might not go home. That shouldn’t happen when you go to work.’”

Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier agreed. “Every sixteen hours, a worker dies on the job,” she said.

It was easily the largest turnout that the annual remembrance has seen in years. Last year about 40 turned out for the 29th anniversary observance. Monday’s gathering saw about five times that number. The fickle weather of spring has sent many of these ceremonies inside City Council chambers, but Monday’s weather cooperated; it was seasonably cool without wind nor rain.

“The pain never quite goes away,” said Paula Gill, of Somers, who with a quivering voice spoke in honor of her father, Richard McGill, who died in the collapse. “It was a terrible day, but one thing my father taught us was to do what you love and I’m sure if he had to do it all over again, he would have done the same thing.”

Gill was accompanied at the lectern by her sister, Patty Charette, of Ellington; both were little girls when their father died.

Another child left fatherless in attendance Monday was Anna Maria Andarowski of Torrington who was 11 when her dad, Angelantonio Perugini, died. Now, one of her daughters is that age.

“There was the call—someone from the worksite called,” she said. “Then I heard my mom scream. My brother wasn’t there — I ran to the neighbors to get help.”

One of those credited by emcee Thomas A. Wilkinson, president of Local 371, Fairfield County Chapter of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, was Michael J. Daly, editorial page editor of the Connecticut Post. Daly received a plaque from the local for his many columns over the years that laid the blame on the disaster on corporate greed, as well as describing the outpouring humanity in the ensuing hours, days and weeks.

Mayor Joseph Ganim told the group thanked the building trade unions.

“We can never forget,” he said. “The world stopped that day — people put their lives back together bu the loss is still there.”

Former Mayor Tom Bucci, mayor at the time of the tragedy , also thanked the building trade unions for organizing the event as well as Frank Carroll, the retired international vice president with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, for his “tireless” help in the weeks that followed the collapse.

“People from every economic strata turned out to help,” Bucci said. “It was a tragic day, but out of that tragedy, it was the human spirit that triumphed.”

The following was written by Father Joseph Gill, pastor of St. Jude Parish in Monroe.

Helena Kowalska appeared at the door of the convent, with no possessions or money to her name, asking to be admitted. The nun in charge took one look at her shabby dress, and responded, “We don’t need any maids here.” And the door was closed in her face. Yet another rejection for a poor girl who wanted nothing more than to give her life to God.

Yet, undaunted, she tried yet another convent, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Warsaw, Poland. This time, the Mother Superior allowed her to enter, on the condition that she paid for her own habit (religious dress). She worked for months to save up enough money, and at long last, in 1926 she entered the convent, against the wishes of her parents and with no other “back-up plans.”

Her life in the convent was rather unremarkable. She took her first vows in 1928 and worked in the kitchen, cleaned the convent, worked in the garden, and spent long hours in prayer and sacrifice…until something amazing happened in 1931. She had just returned to her cell when she had a stunning vision of Jesus standing before her, rays of red and white emanating from his chest. He told her that he wanted a devotion of Divine Mercy to spread throughout the Church, for in this most warlike and sinful of centuries, mankind needed nothing less than the overwhelming mercy of God.

Sister Faustina, as she was known in the convent, told no one about the visions for two years. Finally, having transferred to another convent, she shared her secret visions with a priest, Father Sopocko. Initially, Father Sopocko was skeptical, and ordered her to be evaluated by psychiatrists. But when they gave her a clean bill of mental health, the priest became Sister Faustina’s biggest supporter. He arranged for an image of the Divine Mercy to be painted (which we can see displayed in St. Jude’s Church), preached about Divine Mercy, and spread devotion as far as he could.

The poor, simple Sister Faustina, for her part, compiled all of her visions and conversations with Jesus into a Diary (called Divine Mercy In My Soul), which has since become a Catholic classic and bestseller.

Sister Faustina lived only long enough to see the devotion begin to spread. After her holy death at the age of 33, the cause continued until the devotion to the Divine Mercy became church-wide. It was another Polish saint, Pope St. John Paul II, who officially made the second Sunday of Easter into Divine Mercy Sunday (he also canonized his fellow countrywoman, St. Faustina!).

In addition to the Image and the Diary, there is also the beautiful tradition of praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a set of prayers prayed on a Rosary. We will be praying/singing it together this Sunday at 3 pm, along with Adoration and Confessions for the great feast.

Jesus made amazing promises to St. Faustina for those who venerate the Image, celebrate the Feast, or pray the Chaplet – check out these beautiful promises here:

Join us this Sunday as we honor Jesus’ greatest post-Resurrection gift to us: his mercy!

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USSCB) website, “During Lent, we seek the Lord in prayer by reading Sacred Scripture; we serve by giving alms; and we practice self-control through fasting. We are called not only to abstain from luxuries during Lent, but to a true inner conversion of heart as we seek to follow Christ’s will more faithfully.” So just like many of us do every year, I thought I’d give up a few things and make a concerted effort to be more generous through food donations to local pantries. Shortly before Lent began, I experienced an epiphany. Why not try to get to daily Mass?

So, I went on the internet to search for parish Mass schedules hoping I could find times that would give me some flexibility around work. I never dreamed I would be able to choose among 82 parishes and St. Margaret’s Shrine. This gave me the opportunity to attend Mass at several parishes close to my office during the week and discover new parishes farther from my home and office on the weekend.

Fittingly, I started my Lenten devotion on Ash Wednesday at my first parish – St. Patrick of Bridgeport and went to Easter Mass at my current parish – St. Jude of Monroe. In between, I was able to attend Mass at 36 beautiful churches in 17 different towns and cities around our Diocese—and hear Mass in 4 different languages. I was able to experience both the ethnic influences that inspired the development of these parishes as well as those currently being served. During my travels, I took a trip back in time to hear Mass in Polish at St. Michael and in Spanish at St. Peter. I was also able to attend Mass in more “modern” church buildings like St Mary Marguerite, St. Mark and St. Edward the Confessor. All told, it was an enjoyable and enlightening way to try to “follow Christ’s will more faithfully.”

You don’t have to wait until next Lent to take in a Mass at another Church in our Diocese. Every now and then, go out on a limb and visit another parish. It’s a great way to refresh your faith. And, when the 2024 Lenten season rolls around, I’d give some serious consideration to becoming a daily communicant. It will change the perspective of your Lenten journey.

By Joseph Matthews

Editor’s Note: Joseph Matthews is a Monroe resident and member of St. Jude Parish.

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to reprint this reflection by Father Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, originally published in April 2022.

One of the cherished customs of Holy Week, which many people describe as one of the highlights of their entire year, is the practice of visiting Christ in the Blessed Sacrament at seven churches on the night of Holy Thursday. In recent years, many people have discovered or rediscovered this ancient and beautiful custom, one which speaks deeply to the heart on a most holy night which is filled with graces and blessings.

Every year on Holy Thursday, at the conclusion of the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Mass does not end as usual; instead, the celebrant, servers, and the assembled faithful process with the Blessed Sacrament from the altar to a beautifully decorated repository usually located outside the church’s sanctuary—either at a side shrine, in the lower church or elsewhere.

This movement from the altar to the repository is an entering into the moment at which Jesus and the Apostles left the Upper Room, crossed the Kidron Valley, and made their way into the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ underwent his agony of anguished prayer.

During his time in the Garden of Gethsemane, an additional suffering for Christ was that he found his disciples asleep during his hour of need. “He said to Peter, ‘So you could not keep watch with me for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Mt 26: 40-41).

Through the centuries, generations of Catholics, moved by this haunting and poignant question of Christ, have responded to him from their own time and place, accompanying him in his agony in the Garden by maintaining a vigil of prayer and presence with him at the repository, which represents the Garden of Gethsemane, on Holy Thursday night. There they are present before the same Christ, now in the Eucharist, who suffered in the Garden on Holy Thursday.

Some people prefer to remain in prayer at one repository, perhaps in the same church where they attended the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Others visit the Blessed Sacrament at and pray in seven churches. The practice of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday seems to trace its origins to St. Philip Neri (1515-1595) who, to foster the faith and devotion of the people of Rome, organized pilgrimages to visit Christ in the Eucharist in churches around the city on Holy Thursday.

As they walked from church to church, the group would sing and pray while fasting, uniting themselves with Christ in his agony. St. Philip Neri’s pilgrimage itinerary included the four major basilicas of Rome: St. Peter’s, St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls, as well as three of its minor basilicas: St. Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross in Jerusalem, and St. Sebastian Outside the Walls.

In St. Philip’s time, and until the Holy Week reforms of Pope Pius XII in 1955, the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the morning, so this pilgrimage extended through most of the day.

In our own time, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is fittingly celebrated in the evening, and adoration at the repositories is maintained for a prolonged period after Mass, with many parishes extending it until midnight.

College student Patrick Dineen describes his experience: “The tradition of visiting the seven churches has been powerful for me because it gears you to dive into the Triduum. Visiting Jesus in the different repositories with family and friends is a deeply moving experience which always results in great prayer time and a collection of self for what is really happening each Holy Week.”

Fellow college student Benjamin Van Tine concurs: “The peace of God is encountered in a unique way at the repository because one is surrounded by the beauty of nature, the silence of the night, and above all the physical presence of Christ. What a privilege it is to pray with Christ as he experiences something we all do as humans: pain and stress. At the repository, we encounter Christ’s humanity and divinity in a very physical, visual and intimate way that is not experienced in many other places.”

Parishioner Kelly Anne Murphy echoes this: “The Holy Thursday pilgrimage is a cherished tradition in our family. It is a self-directed journey suitable for all ages with time for questions and explanation all along the way. For the children, it is an exciting adventure under a full moon, visiting Jesus fully present in each church. We quietly marvel at the beautiful altars, say a prayer, and move at their pace to the next church—or home as time and attention allow. The children’s pace, always quicker than mine, reminds me that after his arrest, Jesus did not have the luxury of prayerful contemplation in one place either!”

By Carol Incarnacao-Schirm

Writing about myself does not come naturally to me—I don’t keep a diary and hardly ever journal. But I was asked to give a glimpse into the work of the foundation from my point of view, which inevitably means writing a first person account of sorts.

Yet, I’m grateful for the assignment from Foundations in Faith’s director Kelly Weldon because the work that is done by our small two-person team underlies a wide range of important pastoral care initiatives throughout our diocese. And writing about the importance of pastoral care I will certainly try.

I don’t think listing and describing the tasks I complete on any given day, or reporting on my various interactions with ministers of our faith would make for a very interesting read. I choose instead to make our foundation in faith the topic of this piece: the very reason that brought me to Foundations in Faith in the first place.

Our faith, in this Lenten season, asks us to pay special attention to almsgiving: to perform acts of charity, including the giving of money and goods to the poor and the needy. In pondering almsgiving, I find myself asking rhetorically, who indeed are the poor, the needy?

Of course, our society encompasses undeniable economic inequities that makes the poor in the financial sense among us easy to identify. But I’ve been thinking a lot about those among us who are poor in spirit. Spiritual poverty is also an opportunity for almsgiving.

Pope Benedict XVI once said “Almsgiving, according to the Gospel, is not mere philanthropy; rather it is a concrete expression of charity, a theological virtual that demands interior conversion to love of God and neighbor, in imitation of Jesus Christ, who, dying on the cross, gave his entire self for us.”

In terms of my work, I like to think that managing the grant process for the foundation is but a small aspect of what I do. What matters to me most is the intention I put into the emails, phone calls, meetings, and projects I execute. My intention is give over all the skills I’ve gathered in my previous professional roles to make pastoral care accessible to those who need it, to those who seek it, so that many more can know and love Jesus as I do.

During this season of Lent, those spiritually hungry among us have been occupying a special place in my heart and in my prayers. There is so much confusion these days about our God-given dignity, our inherent worth and, above of all, where it all comes from. In pondering what Pope Benedict said, I think also of what Jesus said on the cross: I thirst. His thirst wasn’t just physiological, it was an expression of his love for us—he thirsts for us.

Which is why I consider my role with Foundations in Faith important, because pastoral care is feeding those who hunger, those who thirst.

By Michael Patrick Feighan

“Just imported from Dublin in the Brig Darby, A Parcel of Irish Servants, both  men + women, to be sold cheap by Israel Boardman, at Stamford.”
Connecticut Gazette,  January 5, 1764

Few note that this was the lot of the Irish in the 18th century, that English Lords kidnapped Irishmen and sold  them into slavery in the colonies.

This anti-Irish sentiment was also anti-Catholic. In order to own property or  to have a vote in the Colony of Connecticut, one had to swear a public oath renouncing the Catholic Church and her tenets. The celebration of Mass was prohibited by law, as was the presence of priests. As the independence movement grew and the idea of men being created equal, endowed with inalienable  rightslife, liberty and the pursuit of happinesstook hold, this atmosphere began to wither.

Before 1840, the population of Stamford was less than 4,000. It was just a sleepy village, although it did have  a thriving economy: 21 general stores, 12 shoemaker shops, four carpenter shops and three iron-rolling mills. There  were copper and tinware factories; a gristmill, tannery, carriage maker, silversmith, millinery, a bakery, leather shop, three lumber yards and a coal yard.

The early Irish were the immigrant workers of the day and were the first immigrant group in Stamford. Many came to help build the canals and railroads of the country. The railroad industry brought its first train to stop in Stamford in 1848, and in 1849, Stamford became a stop on the railroad line between New York City and New Haven.

By 1850, Stamford’s population was 5,000, and a large part of that was Irish. With the Great Hunger in Ireland, a large number left looking for a better life. The railroad allowed them to come to Stamford from the ports of Boston and New York to work in the mills and factories.

By 1860 the population of Stamford was over 7,000 and the census reveals that by 1870, 28 percent of the adult males had been born in Ireland.

As the community blossomed, the Irish immigrants settled into tenements built along the rail lines. The first ethnic enclave “Dublin” was by the old railroad roundhouse just east of the canal. Just west of  the Mill River became another Irish enclave “Kerrytown,” so named because so many laborers were from  County Kerry in Ireland. In the Cove area, around the Stamford Manufacturing Company (also known as Cove  Mills), boarding houses were built and the need for more housing was apparent.

George Hoyt built blocks of apartments in “Hoytville”, the  Cottage-Pacific Street back area of Atlantic Square. The Irish were also employed at the Rippowam Iron Works,  the Stillwater & Roxbury Iron Mills, the Stamford Gas Light  Company and Hoyt, Getman & Judd.

Yale & Town Lock Manufacturing Company, built in 1869,  was to provide the primary place of employment for Stamford’s Irish, as well as later ethnic groups.

Central to the Irish was their Church. The first Mass celebrated in Stamford was in 1842, at the house of Patrick Drew for the three resident Catholic families.

As the congregation swelled to 200 in 1848, there was the need for a “real” church building. In 1870, monies were raised and the present Atlantic Street site was purchased for St. John’s Church. Work on the site began in 1871. Work on the basement was completed by 1875 and the first Mass was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day, 1875. Parishioners numbered around 300. The church was completed and dedicated on May 30, 1886.

Politics played a large role for Irish immigrants. This too, was a struggle for equality and representation. The Know-Nothing Party, formed in Connecticut in 1853, had as its goal the prevention of Irish American political participation and office holding.

The platform of the party standard-bearer, William T. Minor, Governor of Connecticut in 1855 and 1856 was:

1) To protect every American citizen in the legal and proper  exercise of all his civil and religious rights and privileges;

2) To resist the insidious policy of the Church of Rome, and all other foreign influences against our  republican institutions;

3) To place in all offices of honor, trust or profit…none but native-born Protestant citizens; and

4) To protect, preserve and uphold the union of these states and the Constitution of the same.

But the Irish were not to be deterred. Men with names like Duffy, Hanrahan, Rogers, Bolster, and Ennis managed to get elected to local and State offices. The election of attorney William Bohannan, of Dublin (the city, not the neighborhood), as mayor of Stamford in 1897 set the Irish Democratic team in motion. We have had a few Irish mayors since then; not to mention several Governors.

This brings us to the present.

Michael Patrick Feighan is President of the Irish-American Cultural Society of Stamford, a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians,  and a parishioner of St. Maurice Parish in Stamford.

Deacon Brian Kelly, Ph.D. of St. Luke Parish in Westport passed away on February 15 at the age of 82.  Many thanks to Fr. Kumar, St. Luke’s Parochial Administrator, for sharing Deacon Kelly’s final letter to parishioners:

Dear parishioners of St. Luke,

I want to thank you for being attentive to the things I’ve said in the pulpit and sometimes in
classes. I don’t know what the right way is, but I know we need to keep searching for the right way to live. So, I would encourage you to keep searching because there is no right one way.
I think it was during my most recent heart episode, I had a vision of a strange little man who asked me if I was happy and content and he disappeared laughing and said, “I am too because I also search for ways to serve Christ. That effort is all that is necessary.”
And I simply ask you to remember the deacon who came along and tried to show you ways to seek God in your lives.
God bless and thank you.
You encouraged me without knowing to keep searching and hopefully I encouraged you to serve God.

Deacon Brian Kelly

Deacon Brian will lie in repose at St. Luke Church, 49 N. Turkey Hill Rd. in Westport from 4 pm to 7 pm on Thursday, February 23, 2023. The Deacons of the Diocese of Bridgeport will gather to pray at 6:30 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Monsignor Robert Kinnally, Vicar General of the Diocese of Bridgeport, on Friday, February 24, 2023 at 11 am at the church, with a reception immediately following the Mass in the church’s community room. Interment with Military Honors will be held privately at St. Lawrence Cemetery in West Haven.

By Joe Pisani

Sometimes in these troubled times, you have to scratch the surface to see God at work because he’s not always extravagant about what he does. He doesn’t buy billboards. He doesn’t have press conferences. And he doesn’t go on talk shows. The media wouldn’t report it anyway.

However, if you look closely enough with the eyes of faith, you will see the Holy Spirit at work, and it will give you hope when there doesn’t seem to be much reason to have hope.

Now, I confess that I haven’t sat down to watch a Super Bowl in decades, probably going back to 1969 when Joe Namath, wearing his characteristic white shoes, took the underdog New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III by defeating the Baltimore Colts in was called “one of the greatest sports upsets of all time.” I should add that I was just a kid back then.

For me, this year was no exception, because I was already in dreamland when the Kansas City Chiefs took the field against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, I always make a habit of reading about it the next morning.

Most of you probably know more about the play-by-play than I do, but as the headlines proclaimed: “NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes leads Kansas City Chiefs to 38-35 win over Philadelphia Eagles in classic Super Bowl.”

This was the second Super Bowl victory for the Chiefs in four seasons, and credit goes to Mahomes, who injured his ankle for the second time. Despite the injury in the first half, the youngest quarterback to start three Super Bowls rallied the team when they were behind. He threw a touchdown pass that was later followed by a drive, where he rushed 26 yards to be in field-goal position with the score even at 35-35.

With only seconds left, the field goal that won the game for the Chiefs was kicked by Harrison Butker, 27, a Catholic who is outspoken about his faith, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Butker later gave credit for the victory to his teammates and “the glory to God.”

He was also wearing a brown scapular with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which could be seen around his neck.

But let’s scratch the surface a little more. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ biography on Wikipedia is thousands of words long, and after you read about his successes, his parents, his sports in high school and then in college and then in the NFL, season by season, you will come to this inconspicuous paragraph:

“Mahomes is a Christian. His mother said he found his faith when he was in middle school, where he was involved with a youth group at his church. Mahomes has said, ‘Faith is huge for me. … Before every game, I walk the field and I do a prayer at the goalpost. I just thank God for those opportunities and I thank God for letting me be on a stage where I can glorify him. The biggest thing that I pray for is that whatever happens, win or lose, success or failure, that I’m glorifying him.’”

Now I’m not suggesting that God wanted the Chiefs to win, and I certainly don’t want every Eagles fan from the East Coast to the West Coast thinking that. Although stranger things have happened. In this lifetime, we’ll never know why there are winners and losers, although I’m included to think that the greater lesson is in losing than in winning.

But think about this: If all of us had the faith of these two young men, this world would be an entirely different place. God would be receiving the glory he deserves.

I’m also suggesting this: God is always at work. If you’re an old person like me, there’s no greater joy — and hope for the future — than to see young people centered on God. I mean “centered,” as these two athletes are, and not just having God as an afterthought. We’ve seen countless headlines about the so-called “Nones,” who are young people who claim no affiliation to an organized religion. But that’s not the whole story. The Holy Spirit goes where he will and does what he has to do.

And every so often, just like that Super Bowl game, when you think all is lost, God takes the ball and makes an incredible 26-yard rush to give you hope … and you realize he gets all the glory and he deserves all our trust.