BRIDGEPORT– Writer and author of hymn texts, Anna Bendiksen of Fairfield, has released a hymn , “Blessed Mary Ever Virgin.”

She says the hymn works for many of Our Lady’s feast days, including the upcoming solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on Friday, December 8. The hymn begins with the words, “Blessed Mary ever Virgin, Rose of Israel in full bloom; Mother to a world of sinners, Theotokos in Thy womb.”

“I wrote the text several years ago. The tune is familiar to Catholic congregations: it is ST. THOMAS (written by the 18th-century composer J.F, Wade) to which the lyrics “Tantum ergo” are usually sung. The text was inspired by an RCIA video about Mary, including the four Marian dogmas, shown to us by Deacon Toole as part of the RCIA program,” she said

Her work has been sung around the country. The Blessed Mary Ever Virgin” hymn was sung at a Catholic church in Virginia and will be sung this Friday at another Catholic church in Indiana.

In November, 2022, Bendiksen published “O Mary by Thy Fiat,” after reflecting on “how badly we need Our Lady” in a world “that is cold and spurns Thy son, our King.” The text is set to the 19th-century tune “Unde et Memores” by William H. Monk (1823-1889), an English church musician who was influenced by the Oxford Movement, in which St. John Henry Newman played a leading role. Please click here for the full piece of music.

A native of Detroit, Anna Bendiksen spent her childhood in the Midwest, learning piano, viola, and voice as a schoolgirl in Brookings, South Dakota. Having moved to Rochester, New York, she studied voice in the Preparatory Division of the Eastman School of Music and began taking Russian at Brighton High, the public high school from which she was graduated. It was at Brighton High that several great teachers inspired me to take poetry seriously both as a reader and as a writer.

She earned degrees from Bryn Mawr College (A.B. in Russian summa cum laude), where she served as director of the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Russian Choir, and Yale University (M.A., M. Phil. in Slavic Languages and Literatures). She is also trained in teaching English to speakers of other languages (certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University). A convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, she is a Fairfield resident along with her husband and son, and member of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull.

For more information about Anna Bendiksen’s sacred music compositions, visit:

Reflection from Fr. Joseph

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving next week, it’s a good time to look back at the founding of our country and the essential role that Catholicism had in our nation’s early years.

The first Catholic Mass in America was held in the Spanish Mission of Florida in 1526. Since the Spaniards and French were significantly more Catholic than the British, the territories they colonized brought our Catholic Faith well before the Thirteen Colonies. Already there were Franciscan missions in California by the 1760s, while Catholicism came into French Canada in the late 1600s (which included parts of modern-day America such as Michigan and New Orleans).

Among the Thirteen Colonies, Catholicism was centered in Maryland. The first Mass in the colonies was celebrated by Fr. Andrew White in 1634. Shortly thereafter, the Jesuits set up missions in southern Maryland along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River, christening St. Mary’s City as the capital of the new Catholic colony. Ostensibly, Maryland was named after the British Queen Henrietta Maria – but that was the “official story” told to placate the Protestant king of England who granted the land charter. In fact, Maryland was actually named after Our Lady: Mary’s Land.

Maryland was the only Catholic colony – there were penal laws throughout much of the rest of the 13, which prevented Catholics from owning property, voting, or building churches or schools (although Pennsylvania was also pretty lenient toward Catholics). But Maryland was the primary place for Catholics to settle – founded by Catholics who were exiled from Great Britain (including the family of John Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence). Maryland was also the only colony to pass a law officially tolerating every faith – from which our Declaration would take its “freedom of worship” inspiration.

Meanwhile, back in New England, the settlers were preparing to share a feast of Thanksgiving with their Native American neighbors, through the help of a man who was probably himself a Catholic – Squanto, the Patuxet man who served as an intermediary between the Pilgrims and the Natives. Squanto had been sadly captured by the British on an earlier expedition and brought to Spain to be sold into slavery, but was rescued by Franciscan monks in Spain, who freed him and gave him an education in the Catholic Faith. It is said that he believed and brought his faith back with him to the New World. On his deathbed, Squanto asked “the Governor to pray for him, that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in Heaven” (as recorded by Governor Bradford, who became close friends with Squanto).

From the very beginning of our nation, Catholicism has graced our land with its rich blessings and traditions. Since the word “Eucharist” means “Thanksgiving”, then truly every Mass is a celebration of one of our most treasured holidays!

FAIRFIELD — When Amy Uelmen was 16, helping underserved families in the Watts section of Los Angeles, she had an experience that changed her life and helped define her career in law.

“As I was pulling out of the trunk some bags of clothes to share,” she recalled, “I felt the voice of God very strongly from within: ‘I don’t need your stuff. I need your heart.’”

And she has spent her life, focusing on the intersection between faith and her law career, trying to discern the presence of Christ in day-to-day activities and encounters.

“What has it meant for me to keep my heart in, and connected to, my work as a lawyer?” she asks. “How has this awareness of the presence of Christ in each neighbor permeated my professional life?

Today, Dr. Amy Uelmen is the Director for Mission & Ministry at Georgetown Law School. She recently shared her vision with her colleagues in the legal profession, following the annual Red Mass of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

She credits the Focolare movement, which she was introduced to at 8 years old, with her spiritual growth and the search for God’s presence in the commonplace. The worldwide community is a “Gospel-based ecclesial movement for spiritual and social renewal.”

“My Catholic formation was enriched by a strong sense of community with kids my age and by an abiding presence of adult mentors, who modeled how Gospel-based values could transform ordinary tasks, relationships and decisions,” she said.

Dr. Uelmen stressed the importance of the “transformative power of Scripture” to help stay focused on Christ’s presence in our routines and encounters.

“I realized early on that this can go a very, very long way in shoring up my heart from letting work, or the chase after success, or simply wanting to be liked by others, sneak into my heart as an idol,” she said.

In this process of discernment, she often relies on passages such as, “Your Word, O Lord, is a light for my path,” “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy,” “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Some of that “fear” pertained to meeting deadlines or expectations and what others might think. After her fear began to dissipate, she said, “I was also able to maintain with calm — even in the midst of a busy litigation schedule — a long-held practice of attending daily Mass, so that all of these commitments could be sustained and nourished by the living presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.”

In 2001, she began working in legal education at Fordham Law School and later went to Georgetown Law School, where she is currently Director of Mission & Ministry, which gives her an opportunity to witness “the joys, hopes, questions and anxieties of young adults.”

What she has observed is that “some of them are reluctant to even listen to others with whom they strongly disagree because they are fearful this stance will be perceived by their colleagues as a validation of the other’s perspective.”

These insecurities, when confronting a difference of opinion, are manifested in a variety of ways, including a difficulty in communicating, which she attributes to social media and the need to be “liked.” Social media, she said, can also be a troublesome distraction that inhibits making contact with one’s “interior voice.”

“All of these tendencies stand as serious obstacles on the path to becoming a mature legal professional, who is able to serve our community in any role or capacity,” she said. “They also stand as obstacles to a capacity to witness to the dignity of each person as made in the image of God, and to welcome the presence of Christ, even in those with whom we disagree — even in those who may have done something terribly wrong.”

Dr. Uelmen encouraged her colleagues to honor the presence of Christ in each person and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In addition, she said young adults, in particular, can benefit from the practice of “pairing,” which provides an opportunity to have conversations with someone whose convictions are different from your own. This can lead to less defensiveness and the ability to recognize that the other person is similarly made in the image of God, regardless of what they believe.

She said: “Cultivating a kind of ‘buddy system’ relationship with someone who holds a deeply different perspective — making time to be with this person for meals, outings, going to the theater or other cultural events — can create a setting where we can practice communication across these differences…”

Dr. Uelmen ended her presentation with a prayer to the Holy Spirit, who she said is the source of truth and understanding: “Come, Holy Spirit, infuse our work in the legal profession with your light and healing balm. Generate us as a people of hope, strengthen our capacity to see how the Lord of History is at work, a protagonist in all of our work for reconciliation, healing and accompanying our young people, even in the most difficult times.”

By Father Michael Clark

This time of year all things seem to go orange don’t they? We suddenly become very interested in pumpkins and front yards are decorated with grotesques. It’s all a bit of fun isn’t it? Well yes, – and no.

First thing to make clear is: we are allowed to have fun. We are also allowed to play make-believe and tell stories. We’re even allowed to scare ourselves and play practical jokes. There is a line between innocent fun and superstition – and it is generally for parents, not priests, to discern where that is.

In fact, I find something hopeful in the attention the secular world gives to Hallowe’en, because it proves that deep down there is a longing for answers to the deeper questions of life, a sense of dissatisfaction in the finality of death, and an inbuilt desire to rage against, even to mock it.

The problem is we Catholics are not very good at picking up the baton and running with it. We have all these people celebrating a ‘feast’ whose very name is Catholic (Hallowe’en is the old English name for the Vigil of All Saints – October 31 is the day before All Saints, also known as All Hallows in older times. Hallowe’en is just a contraction of All Hallows’ Even) yet we do nothing to bring them further and deeper.

Even the carved pumpkins are originally Catholic! They come from the tradition in England and Ireland of placing lanterns made out of turnips on the graves of loved ones. Over time these lanterns were elaborately carved, even with faces, because they represented a soul. Similarly the tradition of ‘trick or treat’ has its origins in the handing out of soul cakes – candy – in return for a promise to pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

This year, our ‘soul lights’ will return at Sacred Heart once again. Why not dedicate a candle or two this year in memory of your loved ones? It is a beautiful tradition that demonstrates our prayer and attention for our deceased relatives and friends. Each light around the church represents a person – and when you drive past and see them at night, you will see them as members of the Church – not forgotten, but loved and prayed for. Perhaps others who see them will be moved to pray too – and thus our private memorial becomes a public witness of faith in Christ.

Why not come out on November 2 and see the lights and hear the Bede Roll (the roll call of names) – you can even partake in a ‘soul cake’ too, but remember to pray for a soul if you do!

God bless you all.

Father Michael Clark is the rector of the Guild of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Georgetown Oratory.

Editor’s Note: The following article was first published in 2003 as part of the  “One Family in Faith” celebration of  the 50th Anniversary of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Sources for the story include the excellent “The Catholic Church in Fairfield County, 1666-1961,” the landmark work of writer and historian Msgr. Stephen M. DiGiovanni.

By Beth Longware Duff

The history of St. Augustine Cathedral dates back to the mid-1800s, predating the Diocese of Hartford by four months and the Diocese of Bridgeport by 110 years.

During the period stretching from 1830 to 1920, the Church in Fairfield County began laying down roots in earnest. Rapid growth due to immigration benefited the Church, which accounted for more immigrant members than any other denomination in the state.

It is clear from historical records that Catholics endures what today would be considered almost insurmountable obstacles to be able to worship. Catholics in Bethel traveled over 20 miles to Stamford to attend Mass, while their brethren in Norwalk would travel over 14 miles to Bridgeport and back again to do the same, prior to construction of local churches.

During the period stretching from 1830 to 1920, the Church in Fairfield County began laying down roots in earnest. Rapid growth due to immigration benefited the Church, which accounted for more immigrant members than any other denomination in the state.

Prior to the restrictive immigration laws of the 20th century, the U.S. took more than 20 million immigrants, of which more than nine million professed to be Catholic.

Combined with an influx during the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-52, this growth boosted the county’s population by 10,000 persons. More than half that number were foreign born. The majority of them were Irish with smaller number of Germans and French Canadians.

Not surprisingly , most of the priests were also Irish, many recruited directly from the seminaries in Ireland. Of the 52 priest working in the diocese in 1860, only five were American-born.

By the mid 1800s the face of Connecticut was definitely changing and most of the ever increasing wave of immigrant settled in cities where the jobs were. In 1843 with the number of Catholic within the state growing steadily, Bishop Fenwick’s petition to create a second diocese within New England was approved by Rome, and the Diocese of Hartford was established in November of that year. It ministered to Catholic living in Connecticut and Rhode Island under the guidance of Bishop William Tyler.

The decade 1850 to 1860 was an extremely important one for Connecticut, both socially and economically; socially because the once homogeneous Yankee society ceased to exist as a result of immigration; economically because of the displacement by industry of agriculture as the basis sofa the state’ economy.

In 1850, the Diocese of Hartford comprised 30,000 souls in Connecticut and Rhode Island. By 1870, that number had risen to 200,000. During the same period, Catholics in Fairfield county increased in number from 1,100 to 15,000.

The majority of Catholics were immigrants, poor educated an impoverished. Unable to contribute financially, the immigrants donated their labor to build churches and schools.

Most of the priest were Irish and recruited directly from seminaries in Ireland.

                                     First Catholic Church in Fairfield County

By virtue of its larger Catholic population Bridgeport was selected as the site of the first church in Fairfield County.  In 1830, 17 Catholics gathered on Milne Street to worship in. the private home of James McCullough Six year later the group purchased a plot of land for the sum of $525 on which it planned to construct Bridgeport first Catholic Church. But that site was rejected.

Bishop Fenwick during an 1837 visit chose a replacement lot on the corner of Washington Avenue and Arch Street. St. James the Apostle Church was erected there and dedicated in 1842.

The first rector of St. James Church, Father Michael Lynch was responsible for the spiritual needs of the Catholic communities and was assisted by Jesuit priests from Fordham College.

The parish was established in 1842, originally named St. James Parish. As the first Catholic church in Fairfield County, it predated the establishment of the diocese of Hartford by four months.

Bishop Benedict Fenwick of Boston dedicated the first Roman Catholic Church in Fairfield County under the patronage of St. James the Apostle on Arch Street in Bridgeport on July 24, 1843. The “snug, handsome brick building,” as it was described by a local newspaper, measured a modest 40 by 60 feet, and congregants traveled from as far away as Norwalk to worship. The first rector of St. James Church, Father Michael Lynch was responsible for the spiritual needs of the Catholic communities and was assisted by Jesuit priests from Fordham College.

As the Catholic population in lower Fairfield County grew over the next 20 years, fueled largely by a wave of Irish immigrants, a larger spiritual home was needed. The second pastor of St. James, Father Thomas Synnott, purchased an abandoned quarry in the city from which parishioners dragged stone blocks to build their new church on Washington Street.

The cornerstone was blessed in August 1864, on the Feast Day of St. Augustine of Hippo. It was opened and dedicated, and the dedication (and name change) took place on St. Patrick’s Day 1868. The church was praised for its graceful stone arches and plaster decorations, its carved white marble altars and railings – all of which bore decorative shamrocks, St. Patrick’s symbol of the Holy Trinity and the devout Irish immigrants’ sign of their Catholic faith.

Hailed by The Bridgeport Standard as “the largest church edifice in the state,” it was built of stone from the abandoned Pequonnock quarry in Black Rock that had been purchased for the parish by its pastor.

Huge stones were dragged to the site by parishioners, Irish immigrants known as much for their ability to do backbreaking manual labor as for their deep dedication to the Catholic faith. The cathedral was opened for public worship on St Patrick’s Day, 1868, and rededicated to Saint Augustine. The transformation from St. James to St. Augustine was complete. A tower housing a 4,000 pound bell was completed in 1894.

When the diocese was founded in 1953, St. Augustine was chosen as it spiritual center. Rooted firmly in the history of Fairfield County, the cathedral’s story closely parallel that of Catholicism in the region.

St. Augustine remained the principal parish in Bridgeport until the mid 1950s, becoming the mother church from which all other parishes and Catholic institutions in the county began. With the establishment of the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1953, St. Augustine became the Cathedral for the first Bishop of Bridgeport, His Eminence Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, and the spiritual center of the diocese.

Despite this elevation to greatness, St. Augustine continues to serve a parish community of families. Its membership comprises descendants of the original Irish immigrant families and American-born Catholics who built it, as well as a new multi-faceted immigrant community drawn from the Caribbean, Central and South America, Southeast Asia and Europe. Its block-long campus is also home of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, St. Augustine campus, and Kolbe Cathedral High School.

STRATFORD- This is a story about how a man’s tragic and heartbreaking loss, led him on a path to the priesthood.

Father Peter Adamski was a top-level executive working with the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and was married to his college sweetheart Kathy. Together they had a son called John and life was going great. But it was after Kathy was diagnosed with cancer and early on-set Alzheimer’s disease, that their life changed forever.

Here is Father Peter’s inspiring story of giving up all his wealth and riches, to join the priesthood at age 66.

Reported by Colm Flynn, EWTN


By Paul E. Tupper

Recently, I purchased one of those electric cars. It’s kind of a novelty in that it doesn’t make any noise, and the ride is very smooth. I really love that I don’t have to pay for gas anymore! I plug the car into an outlet in my garage at night, and it’s ready to go in the morning. All I’m paying for is the cost of electricity. On occasion, if it needs a quick boost, I’ll take the car to a super-charging station and, amazingly, it’s fully charged in 30 minutes.

While I was at Mass today, I realized that we have something very similar for our spiritual lives. Our charger is the Holy Spirit. The key difference from my car charger is that the gift of the Holy Spirit is available to us anytime, anywhere, in whatever quantity we need, and it’s free – every time.

Every one of us needs recharging in our spiritual lives. We can’t do it all on our own. The Apostles needed to draw strength from the Holy Spirit before they commenced their ministry to form the early Church. I’m quite certain that every one of the saints needed help. Even Jesus needed to draw strength from his Father to fulfill his plan. Before or after every significant event, the Gospels tell us that Jesus withdrew alone to pray. That was never more evident and more important than in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his passion. He needed strength from his Father to endure his suffering and death.

Jesus knew he needed to turn to his Father, and he did. Often. I’m confident the saints did also. I’m also thinking that those I look up to in my local community – my pastor, the deacons in my church and other religious leaders – understand that as well and turn to the Holy Spirit frequently.

My problem is sometimes I don’t realize I need to recharge spiritually. Sometimes I get so busy, so caught up in the craziness of the day that I forget to turn to Jesus. Other times, I think I can handle things on my own. I convince myself that I don’t need the help. The outcome in those cases is seldom good. Finally, there are times when I’m upset and wallow in my sadness instead of turning to the Holy Spirit for strength. The outcome then is generally not good either. Just as I can’t drive my car if the battery is dead, I also can’t expect to effectively function as a good person if my spiritual battery is drained.

My car doesn’t charge itself. I have to make the conscious decision to plug it in. Similarly, with our spiritual lives, we must make the conscious decision to take time to recharge with Jesus.

Fortunately for us, there are several simple options to recharge our spiritual lives. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes of quiet time alone with Jesus. Alternatively, we can read Scripture or say a few prayers. We can kneel before the Blessed Sacrament. And, any time we’re in need of a super-charge, all we have to do is attend Mass and receive the Holy Eucharist. There’s no better way to recharge our spiritual lives than to receive Christ into our bodies through the Eucharist.

With my shiny new car, I’ve gotten into the habit of plugging in the charger every time I pull into my garage. In that way, it’s always ready to go. What if we did the same thing with our spiritual lives? We can carve out some time each day, perhaps at the beginning and the end of the day, to be with Jesus and ask him to give us the gift of his Holy Spirit. If we do this, we’ll always be charged up and ready for whatever God may ask of us. It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything — just a few minutes of our time.

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 Church in Stamford and later St. Mary Church in Greenwich.

By Emily Clark

“Did you know that in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted for 12 hours?” asked Nathan, tugging at my sleeve.

“That’s so interesting,” I replied, guiding him toward his seat. “Let’s sit down now.”

“But I still have to tell you about the alien movie I watched last night!” He clearly did not want to sit.

“Maybe later on when class ends,” I said, hoping that would settle him. It did – for a moment.

“Why can’t I sit over there?” he continued. “It’s too cold near the window . . .”

This was the scene that often played out before religious ed class began eight years ago, when Nathan was in fourth grade and I had volunteered to teach nine-year-olds about the Old Testament and the parables—not ancient Europe, and certainly not aliens.

The students, including sandy-haired Nathan, were really a special group: inquisitive and kind, but this young boy’s autism made it difficult for him to remain seated and attentive. It was not unusual for him to ask random questions, wander the room during prayer, and tell me that Adoration was boring one week, then kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and tell me that he had just met God the next. Class was sometimes a challenge, but even when his attention was brief, I knew his faith was strong. In time, I prayed that it would flourish.

Those students and I bonded that year, so we chose to remain together in my Wednesday evening class as they moved into middle school and Confirmation prep. Soon, I watched as they all, including Nathan, were sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Some I continued to see at Mass, the grocery store, or a high school event, but not Nathan. Until one Sunday in late summer.

During the sign of peace, I glanced toward another section of the church, and there, next to his mother, stood Nathan, with that same sandy hair, but seemingly twice as tall as I remembered. After Mass, I walked toward them, hoping to say hello, and found him not in the pew but kneeling at Mary’s altar, head bowed. The boy who had trouble sitting through 10 minutes of Adoration now continued to pray long after Mass ended. When he rose and blessed himself, a smile spread across his face, and he opened his arms to me. Still full of questions, Nathan asked this time about my family and our summer travels, then shared his plans for senior year and a new part-time job.

Though I saw glimpses of that nine-year-old wandering through the classroom, this was now a young man I hardly recognized. It’s not that he just grew up. The faith he held as a child, though somewhat concealed by distractions and frustrations, flourished with an understanding of God’s love I rarely witnessed in others his age. I saw it in his eyes, in the way he spoke, in his gestures toward the altar and the reverence he displayed.

“I’ve changed a lot,” Nathan said, though that’s never what I had wanted.

“Not too much, I hope.”

“Don’t worry,” he replied with a half-smile. “I still like aliens.”

On the 22nd anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Cardinal Timothy J. Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York offered this brief reflection on his first 9/11 in New York:

9/11 (is) a special day for America. A special day, as you might imagine, for us here in New York

I’ve told you this before, and I don’t know if you remember it, when I first got here over 15 years ago on my first 9/11 here, I was invited to St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which is a block or two from Ground Zero. That church had been damaged, and that church had ended up being a morgue and the first aid station for victims of 9/11.

And I spoke to the pastor. I said, “This is my first 9/11,” and I said, “I’m very moved by this.”

And he said, “We New Yorkers have learned that 9/12 — September 12 — is as important as 9/11. Because that’s the day this city took a deep breath and, assisted by citizens throughout the world and in our beloved country, we said, ‘We can’t lose hope; we’ve gotta keep at it. We gotta get together and clean up and console and come together and make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen again.’”

I thought that was extraordinarily powerful, didn’t you? So, keep the observation of 9/11, but don’t forget 9/12. 

To watch Cardinal Dolan’s video reflection, visit

WASHINGTON – In preparing for the observation of Labor Day in the United States on September 4,  Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukranian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, issued a statement calling for radical solidarity with working families.

The statement calls attention to the need for policy solutions that enable families to thrive, the power of community organizing to create positive change in the lives of families, and the role unions can and often do play to support healthy, thriving families. Archbishop Gudziak calls us all to action, writing that “[e]ach of us is called to follow the Lord and bring glad tidings to the poor. There is still urgent work needed to exercise radical solidarity with mothers, children, and families. Let us pray and act towards this end, always listening to the Lord who fulfills glad tidings in our hearing his word each day.”

Archbishop Gudziak’s full statement can be read below:

Radical Solidarity with Working Families

On this Labor Day, we hear a passage from the Gospel of Luke: Jesus reading Isaiah in the synagogue.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…”

This is how Jesus chooses to announce himself as he embarks on his public ministry. Bringing glad tidings to the poor is a distinguishing mark that the good news is truly good. Jesus concludes, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” What do we hear about bringing glad tidings to the poor today?

There are signs of improvement and concern regarding the economy. Inflation is slowing as price increases return to near-normal levels.1 For several months, workers’ wages have risen faster than inflation,which will ease some of the burden of enduring high prices. The labor market remains strong with unemployment low and new jobs being added.3

However, despite some of these indications, a report from the Federal Reserve on economic well-being found that more families feel like they are worse off today than the year before.4 Inflation has forced families to spend more and save less.5 The percentage of Americans who cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense has increased to 37%.6 While price increases are not as steep as they once were, grocery prices have still risen nearly 5% over the last year.7 Three out of ten mothers report that there have been times in the past year when they could not buy food.8 Millions have been priced out of homeownership while rental housing becomes even less affordable.9 Healthcare is yet another expense that is becoming out of reach for too many. Roughly one out of two adults have difficulty affording medical care, causing many to delay or forgo care.10

We are called to join Jesus in his ministry to bring glad tidings to the poor. We must do more to support families. It has been almost one year since my predecessor and fellow bishop chairmen wrote to Congress in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, calling for radical solidarity with mothers, children, and families, sharing the bishops’ vision for an authentically life-affirming society that truly prioritizes the well-being of families and generously welcomes new life. They highlighted the USCCB’s long history of support for nutrition programs, affordable housing, access to healthcare, safety net programs, and justice for workers – including things like just wages, support for organized labor, and safe working conditions regardless of immigration status – and called for policy solutions to support all children and families.

The purpose of the economy is to enable families to thrive. This notion is deeply rooted in Catholic social teaching. The Church teaches that “it is necessary that businesses, professional organizations, labor unions and the State promote policies that, from an employment point of view, do not penalize but rather support the family nucleus.”11 Similarly, the Second Vatican Council concluded that “[t]he entire process of productive work… must be adapted to the needs of the person and to his way of life, above all to his domestic life, especially in respect to mothers of families….”12 Are we meeting these standards?  There is much more we can do.

Congress enacted important laws at the end of last year that the U.S. bishops had supported including the PUMP Act and a permanent option for states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for one year after birth. While these are promising steps, there remains much to be done to advance policies that help women, families, and children.  The USCCB continues to urge bipartisan solutions on these issues.

  • Congress should strengthen the Child Tax Credit. The credit is a powerful pro-family and anti-poverty program, yet it currently excludes too many children in need. Congress can better support families by structuring the credit so that it is fully refundable in order to have the biggest impact on the lowest-income families. It is also vital that the credit continue to serve all families with U.S. citizen children regardless of their parents’ immigration status, be made available for the year before birth, not undermine the building of families, and not be paid for by cutting programs that serve those most in need.
  • There should be national support for paid family leave. The policy should be crafted in a way that does not unduly burden lower-income organizations or individuals, does not penalize larger families, and will not destabilize existing social service programs. The United States is one of only a handful of countries that does not guarantee paid family leave.13 It is pro-life to support families as they welcome new life and care for loved ones.
  • There needs to be better access to affordable, quality child care and pre-kindergarten, which also ensures just wages for child care workers and teachers. In addition, families that choose to care for children at home should be supported. Faith-based child care and early education programs have served families for decades and should be included as part of the solution, in a manner consistent with their freedom to retain their religious character. Child care is one of the biggest expenses in many families’ budgets,14 and it is causing many families to have fewer children than they would like.15 At the same time, the child care sector itself is plagued with low wages for workers, making it difficult for them to meet the needs of their own families.16 Working families need a solution to this child care crisis.

It is good that bipartisan discussions are happening right now around all of these issues. Congress should take prompt action in all of these areas to protect the well-being of mothers, children, and their families.

Public policy changes are not the only way we can help families thrive. Communities can organize to call attention to the problems facing families and to bring about solutions. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) supports this work and is a great help to families that are struggling.  Recently celebrating its 50th Anniversary, the CCHD was established by the bishops to empower people experiencing poverty to take action to help themselves. For example, with the support of CCHD, Washington Home Care Cooperatives in western Washington state provides good-paying jobs through worker-owned businesses to those who deliver in-home care to elders and people with disabilities. The Mountain Voices Project IAF in Colorado has helped secure child care for low-income families who commute many miles to work in expensive resort towns. Powerful Moms Who Care, made up of low-income women living in Salt Lake City, are working with their community and local government to secure more affordable housing for families and are exploring ways to address their child care needs. These examples of local communities organizing to create positive change in the lives of families remind us of the power we have when we come together to address the challenges that prevent families from flourishing.

Finally, the essential role labor unions can and often do play in society must be acknowledged and affirmed. As Pope Francis stated when meeting delegates from Italian trade unions,  “… one of the tasks of the trade union is to educate in the meaning of labor, promoting fraternity between workers… Trade unions… are required to be a voice for the voiceless. You must make a noise to give voice to the voiceless”17 Unions should continue to be supported in their work that supports healthy, thriving families, especially those who are most in need, and encouraged in maintaining and increasing their focus on performing that critical role. Indeed, as Pope Francis has suggested, “there are no free workers without trade unions.”18

Each of us is called to follow the Lord and bring glad tidings to the poor.  There is still urgent work needed to exercise radical solidarity with mothers, children, and families.  Let us pray and act towards this end, always listening to the Lord who fulfills glad tidings in our hearing his word each day.

By Deacon Anthony Cassaneto

The encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” celebrates its 55 anniversary this year. On july 25, 1968, Pope St. Paul VI signed the encyclical, affirming traditional church moral teachings on the sanctity of life and the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal relations. Instead of being received with open arms, there was dissension within the church and among the laity regarding the message of life.

The 1960s were the most tumultuous and divisive decade in world history. The era was marked by the civil rights movement, the vietnam war and antiwar protests, and countercultural movements.

Moreover, freedom and change dominated the mind-set of society. Families, for example, became less structured, family ties loosened, parents became more permissive, and young people rejected many of the social, economic, and political values of their parents’ generation, and advocated changes in sexual norms.

“Humanae Vitae” was the first encyclical that the laity publicly voiced its dissension regarding the church’s teaching on artifical contraception. Development organizations and others claimed that the teaching limits the methods available to fight worldwide population growth and the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The messenger was courageous, the message timely, but the fatherly outreach to young families fell on deaf ears and hardened hearts. It was reported that many self-identified catholics used artificial means of contraception, whereas very few families used natural family planning methods.

Fertility awareness since the 1960s have given rise to natural family planning organizations such as the billings ovulation method, couple to couple league and the creighton model fertility care system which actively provide formal instruction on the use and reliability of natural methods of birth control. Unfortunately, many young couples were skeptical that they would prevent a pregnancy and disregarded this alternative.

The journalist John L. Allen, Jr wrote in 2008 “Three Decades of Bishops” appointments by Pope St. John Paul II and the late Benedict XVI, unambiguously were committed to Humanae Vitae’s message on the precious gift of life.

Pope St. John Paul II, for example, published a number of documents supporting Humanae Vitae. In 1978 a series of lectures entitled theology of the body highlighting such topics as, “an original unity between man and woman,” “purity of heart,” “marriage,” and “celibacy.” His holiness likewise had reflections on Humanae Vitae, focusing largely on reponsible parenthood and marital chastity.

In 1981 his apostolic exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, restated the church’s opposition to artificial birth control.

Some thirteen years later, his holiness readdressed the same issues in Humanae Vitae in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. Specifically, his holiness condemned the practice of artificial contraception as an act not permitted by Catholic teaching in any circumstances.

His holiness quoted Humanae Vitae as a Compassionate Encyclical. He stated, “Christ has come not to judge the world but to save it, and while He was uncompromisingly stern towards sin, He was patient and rich in mercy towards sinners.”

The late Pope Benedict XVI was another advocate and supporter of “Humanae Vitae.” His holiness stated that the church continues to reflect “in an ever new and deeper way on the fundamental principles that concern marriage and procreation. The key message of Humanae Vitae is love. His holiness stated that the fullness of a person is achieved by a unity of soul and body, but neither spirit nor body alone can love, only the two together. If this unity is broken, then only the body is satisfied, love becomes a commodity.”

The late Benedict XVI remarked that Pope St. Paul VI was a good pastor who warned his flock of the wolves who were coming.”

Today, like the 1960s, if we view the church and its teachings as rigid and unreasonable because it places laws above human circumstances, then we fail to see the church, the body of christ, as a sacred place of refuge for those struggling to walk the path to holiness of life. If we could set aside the worldly values for a moment, and come to know the church as a community of faithful disciples on journey together with the lord god. He loves each one of us and wants us to be happy. Happiness comes with being at peace with our god and with each other.

Hopefully, this short presentation on the encyclical “Humanae Vitae” shows the Chuch’s compassion and mercy. For all who are called by God to live a married life, the Lord is journeying with you throughout life. He sanctions the union of man and woman and desires that they love each other and enjoy the fruits of their love—their children.

In the chaotic world of power, prestige, and in a society that at times seems godless, let’s be the Face of Christ for each other—the Christ who listens to us, the Christ who grieves with us, and the Christ who heals us with His compassion and mercy.

By Deacon Anthony Cassaneto

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37)

Today, Christians are faced with so many challenges: religious, educational, economic, and social. Religiously, for example, our present society is non-receptive to the Gospel’s message and, in fact, has become antagonistic to the values that Christians hold sacred: the value of life, religious expression, and the importance of family life.

Cardinal Timothy J. Dolan recently expressed his concern in a podcast released by the Wall Street Journal regarding “the rise of anti-Catholic sentiment and the decline in recognizing the value of traditional faith and values in American society” (The Good Newsroom, 7/12/2023).

If we allow any of the aforementioned challenges to overcome our peace of mind, we can easily loose our way as followers of Christ. Instead of becoming grounded in the faith that sustains us, we become distracted by our worldly concerns.

One of the most critical challenges that our Church faces is the decline in the number of priests in active ministry. This challenge has resulted in the number of parish closings or mergers. It was reported that in one (arch)diocese over one-third of the parishes have closed or merged due to the shortage of priests.

All the baptized are encouraged to pray for priestly vocations and to support those who are being called to serve as a priest or a religious. The Church, indeed, is in need of holy priests to be like “the Good Shepherd and prince of shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep” (Lumen Gentium, §5). Without our priests, there is no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, there is no sacrament of unity to call us together as a community of faith.

Companions on the journey with the priests and religious are the People of God. The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, Chapter II) reminds us “For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn….not from the flesh, but from water and the Holy Spirit… have established themselves as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, who in times past were not a people, but now are the People of God”(Lumen Gentium § 9). They are to be true witnesses of Christ, spreading the faith by word and deed” (Lumen Gentium, §11).

Who are the the People of God? They are all the faithful [clergy, religious, and the laity] who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ, and in their own way share the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ and to the best of their ability carry on the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (Lumen Gentium Chapter IV §31). They transform the world by what they say and the good example they give to all they meet on their journey to the Kingdom.

Specifically, “the laity are given this special vocation: to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through the laity that the Church can become the salt of the earth” (Lumen Gentium, §33).

More importantly, ‘the laity are a Spirit-filled People of God who feed on the Eucharist in faith as a sign of their total dependence on the Lord as the ultimate source of life. They are a People who share its bread with others – bread for the hungry by helping the poor; bread for the oppressed by fighting for justice; bread for the lonely by offering friendship; bread for the despairing by giving encouragement (Lumen Gentium Chapter II, §11). “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, [our ability to reach out to help others] which tends to be weakened in daily life…,” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1394).

We are often reminded that “charity (love) begins at home.” It is within the home, the domestic church, that Christian values and morals are taught and experienced by a child(ren) through parental guidance. In an Open Letter to Catholic Parents, the writer states: “As children are growing toward maturity, the family home is the most important and formative culture.”

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded the faithful: “Christian married couples and parents…should support one another in grace all through life with faithful love and should train their children (lovingly received from God) in Christian doctrine and evangelical virtues” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium, §41). The parents (godparents) are primarily responsible to help children understand that their God loves them and wants them to be happy. Among the principal Christian values passed onto children are: forgiving, loving and praying for our enemies. Welcoming and serving the marginalized, the “least” among us, is being Christ-like . In general, the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy, most especially, Caring needy, the widowed and orphan, praying for the physically and emotionally abused, and the elderly who have no one to visit them, bring them the bread of life (the Eucharist) or console them when they are lonely. These are the values that characterize a Christian and will contribute to the transformation of society.

In Christ and in the Church there is no inequality arising from race or nationality, social condition or sex, for there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave or freeman; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Chapter IV §32).

The world that you and I grew up in is not the world our children know today. It is a self-centered world in which money, power and prestige are the keys to success. St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians states: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, put on compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience” (Col. 3:12). These attributes are all counter-cultural and are rejected by all those who were not gifted with faith.

In the interim, let us turn to the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven. She is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected in the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day the Lord shall come, as a sign of sure hope and solace to the People of God during its sojourn on earth. (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, §68).

By Paul E. Tupper

When I was a kid, one of my favorite television shows was the “Six Million Dollar Man.” It was a show about a man who could perform super-human feats. He could run faster than a car. He could lift incredibly heavy things. He was far stronger than any other person. Yet, he didn’t look particularly fast or strong. In fact, he looked like any other person. However, he had a secret weapon. He had bionic arms and legs, and they enabled him to do things that no other human being could do.

I think we can view the Holy Spirit as a secret weapon for the Apostles. They had spent three years with Jesus, but they didn’t fully comprehend who he was. Even after Jesus died, rose from the dead and appeared to the Apostles, they still didn’t fully grasp what had happened. What’s more, they lacked the courage to speak about it. Instead, they hid in the upper room.

That is, until they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That changed everything.

The Holy Spirit filled them with the wisdom to finally understand the enormity of who Jesus was and what he had done. And, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, they became fearless. They boldly proclaimed what they had been witnesses to and preached a message of repentance. Their courage got the Church off the ground. They did things they previously couldn’t do. They performed miracles. They became leaders of the Church. They were given strong powers – a secret weapon. That secret weapon was the Holy Spirit.

We, too, possess that same secret weapon. The Holy Spirit dwells within each of us and can enable us to do extraordinary things. Maybe we’re not going to perform physical miracles, but we can draw strength from him to perform acts that we otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t be able to do.

For example, we might take some time out of our day to call a family member who we know is down in the dumps. It may not seem like much to us, but that call just might turn that person’s day around. We can make a difference if we let the Holy Spirit inspire us, and we act on it. Or, perhaps we know of an elderly neighbor who would love to attend Mass but cannot because they no longer drive. We could offer to give that neighbor a ride. That’s the Holy Spirit at work within us.

We can look to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to guide our thoughts and help us to act as God would want us to. When we do so, in our own way, we’re acting like the Apostles. We can make a difference in the lives of others, not only by what we do for them, but also by the example we set. We can accomplish feats that we otherwise couldn’t. In our own way, we can become leaders for our Church. It may sound far-fetched, but that’s what the Apostles did.

Often, I’m easily underwhelmed by my sense of what I might be able to do. In other words, I wonder how whatever little thing I might do will have an impact in the grander scheme of things. What difference can I really make? When I think this way, I often end up doing nothing. I get trapped in this loop all the time.

When we read about the Apostles and the early church in the Acts of the Apostles, they were preaching to large crowds, healing people and standing up to the Pharisees. We look at

them as larger-than-life figures. And, they were. But, very probably, the reality was that they started small. When they first left the upper room, they may have encountered a few people as they were walking and perhaps started to talk to them about Jesus. Maybe those few folks brought them to their homes for dinner, and they spoke to a few more people. The point is that, even though they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, it probably took a little time for them to become the early leaders of the Church. But, God had a plan for them, and they carried it out according to his will.

God has a plan for us too. And, like the Apostles, we are inspired by the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to change the world overnight. We merely need to trust God and do our best to carry out his plan. Recently, I heard someone say no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. That’s true – even more so when we use our secret weapon.

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.

The following reflection from Fr. Joseph Gill appears in this week’s newsletter for St. Jude. Click here to read the newsletter in its entirety.

Thanks be to God! We have just wrapped up another wonderful week of Camp Adore, our summer camp for kids. It was a blast – and so many kids drew closer to Christ! Over 70 kids came together every day for fun, food, games, songs, Mass, talks, and Adoration. It was heartwarming to see these children singing their hearts out to the Lord, worshipping Him in Adoration, and learning how to love His Sacred Heart.

Camp Adore is the brainchild of Heather Kid, a friend of mine from Long Island. She was telling me one summer about the camp she runs at her parish – which sounded quite different from a usual Vacation Bible Camp. I expressed an interest in it, and she was kind enough, not just to give us her materials and guide us, but even to travel to Monroe these past two summers to help run the camp! She deserves a true award – or maybe a canonization! – for such heroic efforts!

We certainly owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jessica Iannotta who organized and led the awesome week! She also had a huge team of adults and teens alike who took care of every aspect so that things ran tremendously smoothly!

What makes Camp Adore different than other Vacation Bible School weeks? A couple things. First, it has a uniquely Catholic twist – our focus this year is “Summer with the Sacred Heart”! Second, it is a chance for kids to have a real, living encounter with Jesus Christ. No one is too young to begin a personal friendship with Jesus! And the best way to do that is through the Eucharist – Mass and Adoration – where Christ is sacramentally present. It brings tears of joy to our eyes to see kids as young as five and six keeling before our Eucharistic Lord, singing praise songs to Him and offering their lives in love to Him!

“Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). As Aristotle said, “Give me a child until he is seven years old, and I will give you the man.” Or, as Frederick Douglas put it, “It’s easier to form a strong child than to fix a broken man.” Jesus Himself encouraged “the little children to come” to Him. We pray that this past week brought so much joy to the heart of Jesus!

Are you, perhaps, called to work with young people here at St. Jude’s? We are always looking for people of all ages – teens, young adults, parents, retirees – who have a heart for youth and would like to help form the next generation of Catholics. We have three avenues to do so:

First, Kids’ Club, which meets every first Sunday of the month in the afternoon. It’s a fun, laid-back mini-Camp-Adore. Contact Jessica Iannotta for more information.

Second, consider teaching Religious Education. This year classes will take place on Sunday mornings and Wednesday afternoon/evening. We have 450+ kids in our program, and we’re excited to help them learn more about the Lord Jesus and what He has done for us, and how to love Him in return. Contact our Director of Religious Education, Alice Teixeira, for more information.

Third, we also need help with our Youth Encounters. These gatherings on Friday nights for youth in grades 6-12 are a lot of fun where kids can encounter Jesus in Adoration, through friendship, and through a laid-back conversation about our authentic Catholic Faith. Contact Fr. Joseph if you’d like to volunteer.

We are so grateful for all of the ways our young people can learn to love Jesus here at St. Jude’s – consider getting involved, giving back, and making an impact on the next generation of Catholics!

In this testimonial, I would like to share with you, my brothers and sisters, my thoughts and reflections about our Blessed Lady as Mary, Our Mother.

Recall the scene in John’s Gospel 19:23-27 when John is at the foot of the cross and Jesus speaks to his beloved disciple and his own Mother. It is the most moving scene when Jesus entrusted the beloved disciple and His mother to each other. Jesus says to John, “Behold your Mother”. It is at this time that Mary becomes our mother as well.


When we reflect on this special privileged state of life, do we not primarily focus on our mothers? They are or were always ready to receive us when we went to them for protection, for advice, for sympathy when hurt or injured. They are or were for us special people because they embodied love, compassion, forgiveness and strength. They are or were self-sacrificing, caring, only looking out for our good or others, but not their own. These attributes I want you to remember because these are the attributes of our heavenly Mother as well when she speaks to her children in her messages given at Fatima, Lourdes, and Medjugorie.

To understand the importance and significance of Motherhood, look at a child who wants its mother. It will continue sobbing until she returns. Even if you were to give it a sweet or a present of some kind, it would probably throw it discard it – nothing will satisfy the child except the comforting presence of its mother. And so I remind you that we must become like a child if you and I are truly to come to know and to love our Mother Mary. Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan leaves us with this thought: “For the love of Mary is like a cool breeze or a drop of morning dew. It brings refreshment and strength to the restless soul yearning for peace.”

As I prepared for this presentation, I thought it would be helpful if I shared with you my own personal journey of faith in Mary our Mother. I have divided this presentation in 3 phases. In this first phase I will share my early years (pre-teen) when my devotion to Mary developed. In subsequent presentations I will reflect on Mary as advocate and as mother who will intercede for us “at the hour of death.”


As a child I grew up in East Harlem, New York City. “The centerpiece of the history of East Harlem was the sanctuary that housed the statue of Our Lady adorned with jewels and precious stones with the child Jesus in her arm. It is better known as the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Italian immigrants explicitly identified this sacred place as La Casa Della Nostra Mama (“The house of Our Mother”) and La Madonna was called by the familiar and childlike phrase “Nostra Mama.”

In his book, “The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem 1880-1950, Robert Orsi provided this insight:


Our Lady of Mount Carmel was my home parish. As an altar server I knelt before the beautiful image of La Madonna each morning before school and confidently brought my needs and concerns to her.

Attached to the church was Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School where I learned English, History, Geography, Civics, Math and Science. More importantly I learned how to pray, how to give selflessly and howto love the Lord who gave us all good things. My devotion of our Lady as Queen of Peace became more intense.

My faith and devotion to our Lady grew stronger through the witness given to me by my parents and by those who faithfully journeyed to the sanctuary in bare feet and on their knees. They came begging Our Lady to intercede to her Son for them. They were for me an example of faith and trust in the Lord.

I encourage all those who may not have visited this beautiful shrine/church dedicated to La Madonna on 115th Street to go on pilgrimage for Sunday Mass. As you enter the sanctuary look up and notice La Madonna in her throne above the main altar and above her head the beautiful mural of Christ the King. Settle in a pew and peacefully focus your mind and heart on the Lord and His Mother. Prayerfully with confidence of a child, bring your cares and concerns to your Mother Mary. Believe whole-heartedly that she will provide the graces needed to help cope with your life’s situation, be it health, unemployment, family tension or an unhappy relationship.

There were many fond memories that enriched my spiritual and prayer life as a pre-teen. They will never be forgotten for they are engraved on my heart.

How has your culture, the religious milieu that you grew up in, contributed to your early religious development? Was your religious development and love of God and Mary due to your parents, or affiliations with the parish priest or religious? Be in contact with this period of your life because it has served as a foundation for your religious growth and development.

(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.)