By Rose Brennan

For us Catholics, there are few symbols of the season more ever-present than the Advent wreath. In the darkest days of our calendar, there are four candles that remind us of the light soon to make its way into the world to dwell among us.

Toward the end of Advent, I find myself giggling when I look upon my Advent wreath. The fourth candle stands about as strong as the day it was first lit. Meanwhile, the first candle looks pretty rough, melted down and shriveled down to almost nothing.

To me, these two candles exemplify my state of mind during the Advent season. The Catholic part of me feels like the fourth candle: new liturgical year, new liturgical season, and overall emboldened and excited for the Christmas season. Meanwhile, the rest of me feels like the first candle: weary and tired, another calendar year that will soon draw to a close—and not a moment too soon, in my opinion.

I don’t find it at all controversial to say that sometimes it’s quite exhausting to exist sometimes—especially with the holiday season that closes out the year. There’s so much to do with so little time. And every so often, I’m forced to decide what’s truly essential and what will need to wait until next year.

By the time Christmas rolls around, I’m just so tired from the holiday season and from the year as a whole. And if you’ve read any of the headlines from the past month alone, it’s really no wonder I feel that way—and maybe you feel the same.

But often when I feel tired, I turn to music. I’m almost always playing music at my desk at work, and during the month of December, that means Christmas music. Sure, I listen to the contemporary stuff, and can’t help but get up and dance when “Santa Tell Me” by Ariana Grande plays. But I’m also drawn to traditional carols as well, and they endow a sense of peace in me.

My favorite carol, “O Holy Night,” has one particular lyric that essentially becomes my mantra during the Advent season: “The weary world rejoices.” Yes, I’m weary. You’re probably weary. Mary and Joseph were almost certainly weary after that trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We’re well within our rights to be weary after a long year.

We can be weary, but we can also rejoice, just as Joseph and Mary did that very first Christmas. For the Light of the World has come down from heaven to dwell among us—not as a king with glory and pomp and circumstance, but as an infant born in poverty in a barn. And along with the Holy Family, the weary world rejoices.

In the final days of this calendar year—and in the first days of this liturgical year—find time to rest in the presence of the Lord. What better way is there for a weary world to rejoice than to rest peacefully like Christ did after he was born? After all, there are few things infants do better than sleep!

May you and your loved ones have a Blessed Advent and a Merry Christmas.

As much as I wanted to curb my addiction, I couldn’t. After 40 years, the addiction to read the headlines was overpowering. That’s what a career in journalism does to you, so against my better judgement, I found myself watching the election results into the early hours of the morning.

Quite honestly, I’ve always hated politics because I believe it brings out the worst in people. To my thinking, politicians make a living by promising to solve the problems they created.

I got a few hours of sleep, and then I woke up and checked my email to see what I’d missed. The first thing I spotted was a story someone sent me, which said, “Election Results Are In: Christ Still On His Throne.”

It was from the Babylon Bee, a satirical, conservative Christian news website. The lead of their article said, “A number of news outlets, including CNN, Fox News, and NBC, are calling the current election in favor of Jesus Christ, who is still sovereignly reigning from His throne on high, sources confirmed late Tuesday.”

That’s great news for all of us, whether we’re Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians or anarchists.

Do you remember the line from the hymn that says, “To Jesus Christ, our Sov’reign King, who is the world’s salvation, all praise and homage do we bring, and thanks and adoration.”

It’s taken me too many years to learn not to place my faith in political leaders and that I should first and foremost place it in Christ the King. Jesus is still in charge, as he has always been, no matter which way the political winds blow.

Do you think this country is spiraling out of control? Do you see the anger and hatred and division? For Christians, the solution is prayer, not politics. Politics divides, prayer unites.

Pray for America every day because your prayers are a lasting force for good. All the great leaders in our country’s history realized that, from Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. They put God first in everything, and they weren’t motivated by blind ambition and the pursuit of power.

Today many Catholics place their political views before their faith, or they try to contort their faith so that it corresponds to their political views. A lot of our elected leaders are notorious for doing just that.

But even though the paths of politics and faith may follow the same route from time to time, they inevitably part. And that’s when you have to make an important decision in your life and avoid what they used to call “compartmentalizing.”

Always remember the story of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was canonized by Pope Francis in 2016. On a February night in 1928, the Mexican soldiers forced him to walk through town barefoot after they cut the soles of his feet with their machetes. They told the 14-year-old boy, “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King,’ we will spare your life.”

The choice was was simple — he could renounce his faith or be executed. The Marxist government wanted to destroy the Church and was persecuting priests and Catholics.

For the boy, there was only one choice. He prayed the rosary as he staggered toward a mass grave at the edge of town but refused to deny Christ. And his last words before the government soldiers shot him in the head were “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King!”

He suffered martyrdom rather than renounce Christ, the true King, at a time when political leaders were trying to stamp out the Catholic faith.

The Babylon Bee was right. Christ is the king, and to him we owe allegiance … and he’s still on his throne.

Coincidentally, on Election Day I happened to be praying a novena to Christ the King, which is celebrated on Sunday, November 20. The feast day was created by Pope Pius XI so we would remember that “allegiance to Christ is above any allegiance to the government of a nation.”

The novena said in part:

“Christ, our Savior and our King, renew in me allegiance to Your Kingship.

I pray for the grace to place You above the powers of this world in all things.

I pray for the grace to obey You before any civic authority.

O Prince of Peace, Christ the King, may Your reign be complete in my life and in the life of the world.”

By Joe Pisani

NORWALK—Throughout history, Catholics have sought the intercession of the Blessed Mother in every kind of situation: in times of happiness, joy and adversity. In fact, Pope Leo XIII said of her, “And since Mary’s greatest joy is to grant her help and assessment to those who call upon her, there is no reason to doubt not only that she wishes to answer the prayers of the universal church, but also that she is eager to do so.”

To commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, St. Mary Church in Norwalk held a special rosary recited in five languages: Latin, English, Spanish, Tamil and French, representing the communities in the parish.

Father Ringley, pastor of St. Mary’s, recited the First Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary in Latin, followed by Susan Goodman in English, Ana Deisi Osorio in Spanish, Clement Dawson in Tamil and Nadine Blanc in French. Jane Reichle, who led the rosary, read the reflections with such passion that many present felt they were following Jesus to Cavalry. October 7 also fell on a First Friday, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed until 8 pm in the parish, giving the attendees the opportunity to pray the rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, making the devotion even more meaningful and reverent.

Among the attendees was Carlos Mario Osorio, an usher who has been a member of the parish for more than 20 years. Osorio and his wife are very active in the parish and attend many of its events. He attends the Spanish Mass, but also shared other languages, especially Latin, bring him great peace.

Father Ringley stated St. Mary’s rosary devotion was started by Father Greg Markey, a previous pastor at St. Mary. Father Ringley also reminded the attendees that the devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted in the 16th century, when a Turkish force was poised to conquer the European continent. Catholics banded together, turned to Mary, invoked the rosary, and were saved at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571.

Pope Pius V issued a papal bull two years prior, which set the universal standard for praying the rosary. As the sea battle loomed, the Pope asked Christians throughout Europe to pray the rosary, seeking the intercession of the Blessed Mother and her Son for victory against the Turks. The night before the Battle of Lepanto, every soldier prayed the rosary and received the Eucharist before setting sail.

The October 7 Battle of Lepanto ultimately ended in victory for the Catholic army, with the Turks losing 20,000 men and 2,000 ships. Many attributed the Catholic victory to the intercession of Our Lady of the Rosary.

Father Ringley concluded by saying that praying in different languages is a way of connecting with people from different cultures and traditions. He said praying in Latin is not necessarily going back in time, but rather preserving the language in which the Church traditionally communicated with God. Father Ringley also observed at St. Mary’s the Latin mass is mainly attended by young people from different cultures that form the parish community.

Rosa Carolina Balderrama, a 21-year-old student at Boston University, was raised in Norwalk and received her sacraments at St. Mary. Whenever she comes home to visit, she attends the Latin Mass.

Balderrama said she doesn’t need to know the language, as she knows the ritual and feels the Latin Mass gives her a special connection with God. She loves Gregorian chant, and says if we are to talk about keeping our traditions, the most important one is to connect with God.

And Father Ringley said in these modern times, when tradition is facing opposition, traditional prayers and music—in Latin—are very much alive at St. Mary.

Devoción multilingüe: Santa María Reza el Rosario en Cinco Idiomas

NORWALK—A lo largo de la historia, los católicos han buscado la intercesión de la Santísima Virgen en todo tipo de situaciones: tanto en momentos de alegría como en la adversidad. De hecho, el Papa León XIII dijo de ella, “Y como el mayor gozo de María es dar su ayuda y consejo a los que la invocan, no hay razón para dudar no sólo de que ella desea responder a las oraciones de la Iglesia Universal sino que también que está ansiosa por hacerlo”.

Para conmemorar la Fiesta de Nuestra Señora del Rosario el 7 de octubre, la Iglesia de Santa María en Norwalk llevó a cabo un rosario especial recitado en cinco idiomas: latín, inglés, español, tamil y Francés, en representación de las comunidades de la parroquia.

El Padre Ringley, párroco de Santa María, recitó el Primer Misterio Doloroso del Rosario en latín, seguido por Susan Goodman en inglés, Ana Deisi Osorio en español, Clement Dawson en tamil y Nadine Blanc en francés.

Jane Reichle, que dirigía el rosario, leyó las reflexiones con tanto fervor, que muchos de los presentes sentimos que estábamos acompañando a Jesús camino al Calvario.

El 7 de octubre también fue Primer viernes, cuando se expone el Santísimo Sacramento hasta las 8 de la noche en nuestra parroquia, dando a los asistentes la oportunidad de rezar el rosario frente al Santísimo Sacramento, y haciendo de la devoción aún más significativa y reverente.

Entre los asistentes estaba Carlos Mario Osorio, Ministro de Bienvenida de la parroquia de la que ha sido miembro por más 20 años. Osorio y su esposa son muy activos en la parroquia y asisten a muchos de sus eventos. Asisten a la misa en español, pero también a la misa en latín. Carlos Mario afirmo que la misa en latín le trae mucha paz.

El padre Ringley apuntó que esta devoción en Santa María fue iniciativa del Padre Greg Markey, ex párroco de la parroquia. También recordó a los asistentes que la devoción a Nuestra Señora del Rosario fue instituida en el siglo XVI, cuando una fuerza turca estaba a punto de conquistar el continente europeo. Los católicos se unieron, se volvieron hacia María, invocaron el rosario y fueron salvado en la Batalla de Lepanto en 1571.

El Papa Pío V emitió una bula papal dos años antes, en la que se estableció el estándar universal para rezar el rosario. Mientras se avecinaba la batalla naval, el Papa pidió a los cristianos de toda Europa que rezaran el rosario, invocando la intercesión de la Santísima Madre y de su Hijo por la victoria contra los turcos. La noche anterior a la Batalla de Lepanto, todos los soldados rezaron el rosario y recibieron la Eucaristía antes de zarpar.

La batalla de Lepanto del 7 de octubre finalmente terminó con la victoria del ejército católico, en la que los turcos fueron vencidos perdiendo 20.000 hombres y 200 barcos. Muchos atribuyeron la victoria católica a la intercesión de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.

El Padre Ringley manifestó que orar en diferentes idiomas es una forma de conectar con personas de diferentes culturas y tradiciones. Además dijo que orar en latín no es estar necesariamente retrocediendo en el tiempo, sino preservando el lenguaje en el que tradicionalmente la Iglesia se ha comunicado con Dios. También hizo hacer notar que a la misa en latín asisten en su mayoría jóvenes de diferentes culturas que forman la comunidad parroquial.

Rosa Carolina Balderrama, una estudiante de 21 años de la Universidad de Boston, creció en Norwalk y recibió sus sacramentos en Santa María. Cada vez que viene a casa de visita, asiste a la Misa en latín. Balderrama hizo hacer notar que no necesita saber el idioma latín para entender la misa, ya que conoce el ritual y siente que asistir a esta misa la conecta con Dios de forma especial.

Para concluir, el padre Ringley dijo que en estos tiempos modernos, cuando la tradición enfrenta oposición, la tradición, las oraciones y la música en latín están muy vivas en nuestra parroquia.

By Erlinda Zelaya

As we approach Halloween, the ubiquitous symbol of this spooky time is ghosts. But are ghosts real? What do we as Catholics believe about ghosts and hauntings?

The Vatican’s top exorcist, the late Father Gabriel Amorth, who had done over 10,000 exorcisms in his lifetime, said that ghosts could be one of two things. First, they could be demons masquerading as a person. Or, they could be a soul in purgatory asking for prayers (only if God allows it). Ghosts are not souls who are “trapped” because of unfinished business. There are only three places one can go upon death (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory)—so if a soul does remain on earth, it is in Purgatory and God is allowing it to ask for prayers.

If a person experiences a ghost, there are a couple of things that could be done. A priest would be called to bless the location. If that does not work, saying Mass in the home would be the next step—this Mass would ask God to take that soul to Heaven (if it is a soul in purgatory) or to send the demon back to Hell (if it is a demon).

There is a very fascinating book by a mystic named Maria Simma called “Get Us Out Of Here!” which is her testimony about seeing the souls in Purgatory. She tells some amazing stories about her encounters with souls in Purgatory. For example, one day she awoke to find a strange man in her room. She immediately cried out for him to leave, but he kept pacing back and forth. Finally in fear, she threw something at the man…and it went right through him, and he disappeared. The next day she asked her parish priest what to do, and he recommended to ask the apparition what he needed. The following night, the man appeared in her room again. She asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man responded, “I need three Masses said for my soul, that I may be freed from Purgatory and enter Heaven.” Upon which he disappeared again. Maria arranged for the Masses to be said, and he never troubled her again. She had many such remarkable experiences of such ghostly visitors from Purgatory—I highly recommend the book!

There is even a museum dedicated to artifacts from the Souls in Purgatory. Located in a church in Rome, it purports to have a number of relics such as books and clothing that have been “scorched” by visitors from Purgatory (read more here: Whether or not it’s true, we definitely believe that Purgatory does exist, and that sometimes God allows souls to return to ask for prayers!

I know that Monroe is considered one of the most haunted towns in Connecticut, with Fairfield Hills and the Warren’s Paranormal Museum right nearby. Legends abound about the Lady in White, haunted graveyards, and all the like. But this is no reason to be afraid—we can never forget that souls in Purgatory—and even demons—only act because God permits them to do so, for our greater good. So one does not need to be struck with fear when encountering anything paranormal, knowing that God is in charge and that He is allowing it for His glory and for our holiness.

No need, then, to be scared of ghosts this Halloween!

I actually yelled out loud when I got a text yesterday. The receptionist at the cemetery where my parents are buried called to tell me the marker was in for my mom, who died in December. As I was looking at the picture, I received a text from my little brother announcing the news that Angela Lansbury had joined mom and dad. I called out, “No!!” And then started laughing as my coworkers came running, thinking something terrible had happened.

It had, but not in the way they expected. Let me explain.

I grew up in a family that loved movies. My parents were the first to get a Betamax and, though it was the size of a small car, the quality of the video tapes was great and we enjoyed watching movies together every Friday night and Sunday afternoon. When the local theater hosted Sunday showings of all of Alfred Hitchcock‘s movies for a semester, we were there. One of my mothers favorite movie stars was Angela Lansbury. She loved the music from Mame and would start playing – and singing – “We Need A Little Christmas” long before Thanksgiving. She could watch The Shell Seekers again and again.

I was 26 years old when I moved out of my parents’ house. I stayed an extra year or two because I could not rationalize paying rent for an apartment and I wanted to buy a house. Plus, my parents had requested that I stay while my brother was sick. I think we all knew how that story might end and I do not think my mother was ready for any more upheaval. So, a year and a half after my brother died, I bought a house and went out on my own. I made a deal with my parents that I would come back every Sunday night to watch Murder, She Wrote. It was a habit that had started several years earlier and, as busy as I was with work and ministry and graduate school, it was a promise I kept until the series ran its course.

My father would have to watch Murder, She Wrote in the other room. I think it’s actually how his den became his den. He would appear in the doorway within the first ten minutes of the show with a grin on his face like he had just eaten the last piece of pie. He had already solved the murder and wanted to announce the results of his brief investigation. My mother would, sometimes playfully sometimes forcefully, yell at him to get out and go back to his cave. He would chuckle to himself as he walked away, sometimes muttering, “I know who did it.“ He was almost always right.

If I could not make it home for a particular episode, mom would tape the show so we could watch it another time. Invariably, she would miss the ending or tape over something someone else wanted to see. In those days, if you missed a show, you missed a show. To this day, I do not know who killed one of the ladies at Loretta’s beauty parlor.

When my wife and I started dating, Maureen invited me to go to a special event at the Kennedy Center. The city of Atlanta was hosting a night with Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, as a means of enticing meeting planners to choose Atlanta for an event. Maureen was invited and it seemed like a great opportunity for a free date and time to spend together, so I drove from Delaware to Washington for the evening. (The thought of doing that now makes me want to take a nap.) It turned out the evening with Sarah Ferguson included a special guest. The special guest was Angela Lansbury.

The two formidable women sat on stage and talked about family and the struggle of living in the limelight, something about which both knew well. Angela Lansbury‘s husband, Peter Shaw, had recently died so that was a topic of discussion, moving the audience to tears. The great star of stage and screen told stories of finding work in Hollywood, being a woman in a man’s world, the stars with whom she had shared the stage, the influence of her own mother, and the decision to move her family to Ireland so that her two oldest children could get clean from their use of drugs. They moved to the town in Ireland that my great grandfather had left nearly a century before. Another connection.

At the end of the evening, we were invited to a VIP reception. Maureen and I walked in and sat down at a table for three in the corner, leaving one empty chair. We were not quite sure what to expect and the food had not yet been delivered to the reception, an ironic scene considering the attendees were all meeting planners. Shortly after we sat down, Angela Lansbury walked through the door. She was much taller than I thought she’d be. She was unaccompanied and, spotting us in the corner, and for reasons I will never understand, walked directly to the table and sat down with Maureen and me.

At first, there was silence. I remember Maureen and I looking at each other, wondering what to do. Then I decided to jump in. I took the chance to tell her what she meant to my mother and my family and me. We talked about my father having to watch Murder, She Wrote in the other room, to which she playfully replied, “Well, dear, we tried not to make it too difficult.”

We joked about why anyone would ever hang out with Jessica Fletcher because, as my dad always pointed out, “Everywhere she went, someone died” and she laughed when I questioned why the townsfolk never made her the sheriff.

We talked about my coming home after leaving to go out on my own. We talked about family. We talked about parents and I got to thank her for creating a connection between a mother and her son. It wasn’t a long conversation and just before one of the hosts came to whisk her away to sign autographs, she took my hand and thanked me for sharing the stories. She signed my program and off she went. It was not as much of a brush with fame as it was an encounter with an old friend. Though we had never met before that moment, she had been a part of my life for years.

Murder, She Wrote, that cute little television show is now available to stream and it seems so quaint given everything else that’s available online. Still, it will always remind me of a simpler time, the love of parents, the meaning of home, and a brief encounter with a great lady.

Rest in peace, Jessica Fletcher. Give my love to mom and dad.

Dr. Patrick Donovan is the executive director of the Institute for Catholic Formation.

As someone with a flower name, it’s probably no wonder that I’ve been drawn to the life and writings of the Little Flower of Jesus – St. Therese of Lisieux. And considering I’m the same age she was at the time of her death, I feel there is much I can learn from her short yet meaningful life.

I’ve been reading St. Therese’s autobiography, “The Story of a Soul,” on and off, but I find myself continually drawn to one passage in particular. And since it was on only the second page of my copy of the book, it drew me into her life and her story right away.

She writes: “I understand that every flower created by (God) is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enameled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, our Lord’s living garden.”

Again, I find myself drawn to the floral imagery, perhaps as a “Little Flower” myself. But more than that, I’m drawn to the simplicity of her writing, which reminds me that one does not need to do great and meaningful things to have a great and meaningful relationship with God and with one’s neighbors. Rather, it is not the scale or reach of the things we do that truly matter, but the depth of the love with which we do them.

Last week, while I was traveling, I chose to tune into a Mass celebrated by Fr. Mike Schmitz of Ascension Press and the Bible in a Year podcast fame. The Gospel reading, as well as his homily, focused on duty – something each of us must contend with.

We all have things we need to do, whether we actually desire to do them or not. We have to eat broccoli. We have to clean the bathtub. We have to call our parents every once in a while. And while we can’t necessarily choose not to do these things, we can absolutely choose how we want to do them.

Father Mike noted that simply “going through the motions” with our duties can often make us feel stuck – but it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way.

“We don’t have to stay stuck,” he said. The Gospel reading “implies that faith is alive, that faith is something we can actually grow, that if you feel stuck, you can actually do something about it – not only because we have God’s grace, but because you have agency.”

What we must do is reframe our thinking about our daily obligations. Think not of how much you dread changing your child’s diaper, but instead of how your child will feel when they are clean. Think not of how sick and tired you are of wearing a mask, but instead of how that small action can help protect the most vulnerable in your community.

The things we need to do may seem small or inconsequential to us, but they often mean so much more to those for whom we do them.

I’ll close as I opened: with a quote from St. Therese: “Miss no opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”

Perspective is powerful. Will yours be one of duty or one of love?

Rose Brennan has just joined the Diocese of Bridgeport Communications Team as a Communications Associate. She lives in Stratford and is a member of St. James Parish.

In 2018, I thought my life was almost perfect. I was doing well in my career, working in my fourth year as the lead partner on one of KPMG’s largest clients. My wife Jean and I had just celebrated our twenty-eighth wedding anniversary. We lived in our dream house with panoramic views of Long Island Sound. Our son Paul was having a successful start to his career in finance. We were all healthy and happy.

Then, in September, Jean was diagnosed with cancer, and my entire world was turned upside down. She had surgery almost immediately to remove the tumor and commenced chemotherapy. Jean and I prayed constantly that God would heal her. Early in 2019, the tests showed the cancer was gone. We were elated. But the feeling was short-lived. A routine ultra-sound in March showed that the cancer had returned with a vengeance.

We, particularly Jean, never lost faith. We continued our prayers, asking God to take away the cancer. Despite our prayers, it was not God’s will for Jean to be cured, and she passed away on August 31, 2019.

While I was praying to Jesus and Mary during those final months, I was convinced that Jean was going to be cured. I almost felt Jesus telling me not to worry, so I had complete confidence right to the end. What’s more, I have never in my life met a person with a stronger faith than Jean, and that faith was never more on display than in those final weeks. So why did God let her die?

Over the past few years, I’ve become certain that God had decided that, because of her faith, Jean was ready to move on to eternal life, and that she could accomplish more for him in heaven than she could on earth.

In the days after Jean’s death, I lived my life in a complete fog. I simply couldn’t process the fact that she was gone, and I would never be with her again during my time on earth. And, I could not suppress the memories of the moment she died – even though Jean passed very peacefully from this life to the next, the images haunted me.

Exactly one week after Jean passed, I returned home in the evening after being with my in-laws. It was the first time I was alone in the house. Jean passed at 10 p.m. at home, and as I got closer to 10 p.m. a week later, I became extremely apprehensive. I didn’t know how I was going to get through that hour.

The feeling continued to get stronger as the clock approached 10. I was extremely anxious. I didn’t want to be alone in the house, but I didn’t know where to go. Then, just a few minutes before the top of the hour, I felt the Blessed Mother say to me, “Why don’t you go outside on the deck and say a rosary?” Jean had a particular devotion to Mary, and we prayed to her often, including saying the rosary. We often said our prayers together on the deck; it was private and quiet, with a beautiful view of the Sound.

I went out to the deck and did just as Mary suggested. I got lost in my prayer, and when I was done, I realized it was almost 11, and that awful hour had passed. I felt at peace. This was the first indication that I was going to get through this – with God’s help. It was going to be tough and take a long time, but during the most difficult days, my thoughts often returned to that night, and I was always reassured.

In fact, it was really tough — especially during the first year. But just as Mary spoke to me on that Saturday night, God gently nudged me toward him as the months went by. Sometimes it was a passage in the Bible or a spiritual book that reminded me of his love for me.

Another time when I was feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t have Jean with me, God quietly told me, “Don’t worry. She’s with Me.” At other times, God would pull me closer to him during the Mass. Over time, his constant presence pulling me toward him got me through my grief.

While I still miss Jean, I am happy for her because I know she’s in heaven, and I also know that she’s constantly standing guard over our son and me. Moreover, because God reached out to me at the time of my greatest need, I am closer to him now. I still have a long way to go with my faith, but I know one thing for certain: God will never abandon us when we turn to him.

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 at KPMG LLP 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.

“We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”

For those who are uninitiated, this absolute gem of a line is delivered by Jedi Master Yoda to Luke Skywalker in arguably his darkest moment of the Star Wars series. After everything Luke worked for was destroyed by his nephew, he exiles himself, marinating in his failure, cutting himself off from the Force, and allowing himself to be consumed with bitterness and doubt. It is in that moment; Luke’s time of greatest need, Yoda returns (in ghost form) to remind him that failure is an essential part of life. “The greatest teacher, failure is!” Yoda admonishes, as he reminds Luke to “pass on what he has learned.”

This scene has always tugged on my heart strings (as someone who grew up on Star Wars, how could Luke and Yoda reuniting not make one emotional?) but has taken on a new resonance in the weeks and months after I found out I was going to be a father. “We are what they grow beyond” rings in my head like an alarm as I prepare for the arrival of my daughter in December. Will she pick up my bad habits? Will she hate the things that I like? Will I be able to “pass on” our Catholic faith? What does that even look like, in 2022?

Make no mistake, my wife and I are awaiting this moment in joy, but it is still hard to not be struck by the sheer awesomeness of the responsibility of fatherhood. Not the physical day to day responsibilities of sleep schedules, changing diapers, and all-nighters, but the spiritual, existential questions: what have I learned that I should “pass on” to her? Am I ready to see what she looks like when “she grows beyond” me, as Yoda says? What happens if I fail? For six months, my mind has been dominated by a maelstrom of thoughts, doubts, concerns, hopes, and dreams. Am I ready to be what my parents were/are to me: mentors, guides, careful stewards of my development and my heart?

Since I didn’t have the ghost of Jedi Master Yoda to walk me through all of this. I turned to great the mentors of my life, some of whom I have come to know and love because of my work at the Diocese of Bridgeport. As they walked with me through what life was going to look like after the baby was born, I was shocked when God began to place a particular feeling on my heart in relation to my job, which I have loved: “It is time to move on, you are needed elsewhere.”

I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that, after eight wonderful years here at the Diocese of Bridgeport, (and a lengthy discernment) I am moving on to another job.

When I was hired as “Social Media Leader” by Bishop Frank at the age of 22, my world looked very different. I was still living at my parent’s house in Stamford (I am a native son of the Diocese!), I was single, fresh out of college, with very little work experience. Bishop Frank was new to the Diocese, having just convened the Synod of 2014, and knew that to reach more of the faithful, the Diocese needed to modernize its communications. Confident though I was, I remember sharing with him my greatest fear: failure, and I will never forget what he said:

“Failure isn’t making a typo or posting the wrong size picture. Failure is not sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.”

I am so proud of what we have been able to accomplish together at the Diocese: from bringing 300 young adults to Poland in 2016 for World Youth Day, to using digital media as a means of communicating to the diocese in an open, accountable, and fully transparent way on issues of sexual abuse, to broadcasting Mass live from an empty Cathedral during Triduum 2020 to tens of thousands of people. None of it would be possible without the trust, guidance, and mentorship of Bishop Frank, Brian (my boss) and others throughout the Curia. Nor would it have been possible without you – the thousands of people every day that trusted me enough to share with you the good news of the Diocese. Thank you for your likes, comments, shares, (and criticisms) – I hope I served you well.

As I move on to a new challenge, I have spent time reflecting on the great mentors I have had throughout this journey. They have seen me graduate with my Masters, travel the world for the first time, meet my wife, buy a house, navigate a pandemic, and prepare for the birth of a child. And again, I return to the quote from Yoda: We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. And far be it from me to ever correct the Jedi Master himself, but I would offer a mentee’s response:

We are who you help us become. That is the joy of all students.

Thank you to all who, in these past eight years, helped me grow as a coworker, a man, a disciple, and as a witness to the Gospel. Thank you for giving me the space to fail and to learn. It has been the honor of a lifetime to work and to serve the Diocese that I grew up in, and the Diocese that I love.

John Grosso
Director of Digital Media

Editor’s Note: John will be taking a job at FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) as their Associate Director of Communications. Since the job is remote, he will remain in Milford with his wife and dog as they expect their first child, a daughter. 

By Joe Pisani

I asked my wife to take the rosary beads off her rear-view mirror after an article in The Atlantic said they’re a symbol of right-wing extremism (as opposed to left-wing extremism). Hey, I really don’t want our neighbors, or the FBI or the IRS for that matter, to put us on a surveillance list the way they did suspected Communists back in the 50s.

The piece in the Atlantic, originally titled, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” was accompanied by a graphic of bullet holes in the shape of the rosary. The article provoked responses throughout cyberspace and really took off when Fox News did a takeout on it, followed by the National Review and other conservative outlets. How did the rosary become so political so fast? Never deny the power of the press. Since the story appeared, online stores have said rosaries are flying off the shelves … and selling a lot faster than The Atlantic.

Why the stampede? Maybe in light of the article, people are afraid Congress may pass a bill for rosary control, so they want to buy them before they’re banned.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have a rosary made of hematite, otherwise known as gun metal, although I don’t consider it a lethal weapon. And in the interests of further full disclosure, I had a subscription to The Atlantic for decades during a period in my life when I wanted to be an intellectual. In high school, I would even carry it around to impress girls. It didn’t work so I went back to Mad Magazine.

Unlike my classmates who bought Playboy for the articles (and not the pictures), I bought The Atlantic for the pictures because the articles usually took a few days to read, and I could never remember what I read.

What troubles me about this brouhaha over what Woody Allen might characterize as a “pseudo-intellectual” piece of writing, is that it proves a terrifying hypothesis I have. Suddenly, everyone in America is suspect — parents who argue with school boards, people who have off-shore accounts in the Cayman Islands, people who wear masks, people who don’t wear masks, people who didn’t get their fifth booster, people who voted for Joe Biden, people who voted for Donald Trump … and now little old ladies who pray the rosary.

Every time I’m rushing out of church to get to Trader Joe’s before the morning mob, there’s always a group of women (and an occasional man) who stay behind to pray the rosary. Why? Because they believe prayer is more effective than politics when it comes to making the world a better place. Looking at them, it’s highly unlikely they’re the type of people who would brandish an assault rifle or any other weapon, except maybe a rolling pin.

And I think of my Italian grandmother who raised nine kids alone on the East Side of Bridgeport and sat in her rocking chair every day to pray the rosary that they wouldn’t get into trouble. Admittedly that prayer wasn’t always answered.

Truth be told, the no-nonsense Capuchin Padre Pio, who could get pretty grumpy at times, once said, the rosary is “the weapon” in spiritual warfare. For people who don’t understand the concept of spiritual warfare, I suppose it’s easy to assume people with rosary beads are part of some coterie planning an insurrection.

That having been said, it’s no secret that Joe Biden prays the rosary and is proud of it. He was pretty honest about that during his interview with fellow Catholic Stephen Colbert.

And an account in a recent issue of America Magazine: The Jesuit Review of Faith and Culture reported on the president’s trip to the Middle East and said: “He (Biden) took a rosary out of his pocket, saying, ‘I always pray with a rosary,’ and remembered his son Beau. ‘He cried. He was very emotional,’ Father Faltas said, about the moment in which Mr. Biden kneeled alone in a wooden pew, the rosary in his hands, and prayed.”

The president, accompanied only by a Secret Service agent “went on a personal pilgrimage to the Basilica of the Nativity and the Church of Saint Catherine to pray,” the magazine said. The occasion wasn’t reported by the mainstream media, and certainly not The Atlantic.

President Biden isn’t alone. Tough guy Mark Wahlberg openly prays the rosary as does Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Simone Biles, who keeps a rosary her mother gave her in her bag and prays before a competition.

And what about President Barack Obama, who was given a rosary by Pope Francis and said, “I so admire him, and it (the rosary) makes me think about peace and promoting understanding and ethical behavior.” It certainly didn’t inspire him to militarism, at least I hope it didn’t.

You see, people who pray the rosary are liberals, conservatives and everyone in between, who are looking for a better way.

It’s worth noting that in one of the most celebrated Marian apparitions, when the Blessed Mother reportedly appeared at Fatima in 1917 and described herself as the “Our Lady of the Rosary,” her message was a simple one — pray the rosary every day for peace. One thing we can all agree on is that America could sure use some peace.

“There is no coincidence in life.” Bishop Frank Caggiano made that observation a while back in his “Let Me Be Frank” Radio Veritas podcast with his guest, Deacon Greg Kandra, creator of the popular blog, The Deacon’s Bench.

The blogger was recalling a chance encounter he once had with a permanent deacon who worked for the BBC and how their conversation may have been the spark that helped influence his decision sometime later to pursue a vocation to the permanent diaconate.

It was no coincidence, the bishop said. It was part of God’s plan for Greg’s life. (If I refer to Greg familiarly, it’s because I’ve known him and have appreciated his talent since his days as a superb writer for CBS News, and then in his ministry as a deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn.)

Bishop Caggiano’s comment on coincidence caused me to think about an event many years ago involving a man with an impressive life story who had a life-threatening experience.

John Mannix was a lot of things: a family man who, with his wife Wardie, raised and educated eight kids; Jesuit educated, first at Brooklyn Prep, where he was an All Met halfback and a Penn Relays medalist, then at Holy Cross College; a successful businessman in the automobile industry; a public servant for two decades, initially as an elected Connecticut state representative, then as a Governor-appointed state board of education member who became its president, where he championed education for inner-city youth; a trustee of Our Lady of Fatima parish in Wilton; a responsible community leader; and a pilot, an experienced one.

On an August day in 1992, flying his twin-engine Beechcraft on a short flight from Nantucket to Hyannis on Cape Cod, he felt the left engine fail, and moments later, saw the right engine do the same. As he prepared to ditch the plane into Nantucket Sound, he remembered an emergency procedure:  he stuck a shoe in the door so he could swim out when he hit the water. Otherwise, the pressure would trap him in the cockpit.

When the Beechcraft met the Sound, it landed about a hundred yards from a lobster boat out of Martha’s Vineyard. The boat angled toward Mannix bobbing in the water, pulled up beside him and crew members yanked him out of the water. The plane sank in about 40 seconds.

Mannix survived, but not unscathed. He suffered broken vertebrae in his lower back. The incident was detailed in the Hartford Courant.

But another detail struck me when I read the whole story. The plane crashed on Aug. 13, two days before the solemn Marian Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lobster boat that rescued Mannix? It bore a prophetic name: Lady Marion.

Curious how a boat identified with a name derived from Mary suddenly appeared when needed on a day close to a commemoration of Our Blessed Lady? A coincidence? Maybe. A secular naysayer would see no connection. But I like to think that when Mannnix’s life was in peril, the Blessed Lady, knowing that he fingered the beads more than a few times in his lifetime, interceded with her Son on his behalf. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

A recent Catholic press column by papal biographer George Weigel about Pope John Paul II reasoned along a similar line. Here’s what he wrote:

“On May 13, 1982. Pope John Paul II flew to Portugal on a pilgrimage of thanksgiving for his life having been spared the year before. At the airport welcoming ceremony , the Pope, reflecting that he’d been shot on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, mused that ‘In the designs of Providence, there are no mere coincidences.’ What we think of as coincidence is rather a facet of the divine plan for our lives that we’ve not fit into the proper frame.”

A chance encounter,  a crash survival,  a defying of a would-be assassin’s bullet—any connection? Hard to think not. As Bishop Caggiano said: “There is no coincidence in life.”

(Frank DeRosa is a Wilton resident and member of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. He is the former the Associate Publisher of The Tablet and director of the Diocesan Public Information Office for the Diocese of Brooklyn. He retired in 2008).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Emily Clark | Collecting Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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