Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

#ScriptureSunday: “Lord, it is good for us to be here”

God’s love is abundant.

 

Something tells me this isn’t news to anyone, because we hear tales of God’s love constantly in our pews and in our lives. But do we actually believe this? Do we actually, in the depths of our hearts, believe God the Father’s words in today’s Gospel? Do we actually believe that we are His beloved sons and daughters, “with whom [He] is well pleased?”

 

As God the Father said to Jesus thousands of years ago, He says to us today and every day of our lives. You, reading this reflection at this very moment, are His beloved son or daughter, with whom He is well pleased.

 

As God the Father was present throughout the life of Jesus, shown clearly in today’s Gospel when He reveals His presence by speaking audibly to all those gathered on Mount Tabor, He is present in your life and mine. Even in the midst of suffering, pain, and struggle, God is there with us, helping us to bear the burden.

 

God’s love for us is abundant. He wants nothing more than for us to remain in that love and “listen to Him,” to His promptings in our daily lives. So let us remain there, in the warmth of His loving embrace, so that we can say with St. Peter: “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

It’s Never Too Late

I was raised Southern Baptist, with my paternal grandfather, 4 uncles and 7 cousins all being Southern Baptist ministers. So I grew up with all the typical rumors and fears of the Catholic Church.

But, in college, I had a roommate who was very Catholic and attended Mass weekly. Our campus had a late Mass (10 PM) and he begged me to go with him to Mass so that we could go straight to the local bar after to meet our friends. I hesitantly went and my life was changed. I quickly discovered that all of the rumors were wrong. A well delivered homily from a Jesuit priest one Sunday sparked a seed that had been planted in my heart long ago.

Returning home to Stratford for the break, I was left with many questions and a new curiosity. A fellow EMS volunteer was my go-to Catholic friend and answered all my questions. One day, he invited me to attend Mass. The shock on my face was evident when my EMS buddy, Fr. Dan, walked out to celebrate the Mass!

Years later, in 1990, I entered RCIA at St. James with my mother and was confirmed.  I loved my new faith and was active in the Church. I felt a strong calling to do something more, as I had been involved in so many ways. Fr. Tom encouraged me to enter the priesthood, but I loved my career and was not ready to answer God’s call.  He was calling me and I thought I would play “Let’s Make a Deal,” so I entered the Permanent Diaconate program.  It seemed like a good compromise, as I was going to serve God and maintain my career. So I was ordained a Permanent Deacon in 2006.

But plans change and Bishop Lori lured me from my business career to become the Administrator of Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport. Upon arrival, the challenges were great but something clicked for me, as I finally knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: serve God. In 2007, I entered Holy Apostles Seminary in Hartford, where a special curriculum was set up for me.  In my second year, I was allowed to do field service as Administrator of Blessed Sacrament.

I was ordained a priest on May 16, 2009, and I am still happier than I have ever been.  God was calling all along, but I wasn’t ready. During the time it took for me to decide that I was ready, God introduced me to skills, people and habits that I eventually would use to serve His people.  My priesthood is a blessing and I am so glad that I listened to God. It is never too late to serve him.

By: Fr. Reggie Norman

Searching for Something Deeper

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Steubenville NYC, a conference for teens hosted by the Franciscan University of Steubenville and Life Teen. Every year, they host over twenty “Steubie Conferences” all over the country that are centered around living out the faith as a high schooler.

From my experience, I observed a lot of teens who are at a time in their lives where they’re desperate to fit in and to know who they are. Living out their faith is hard to do when there is a fear of being judged for their faith in their schools, workplaces, or families. But at Steubie NYC, I witnessed thousands of teens diving into their faith and becoming vulnerable in small groups, prayer, and praising our Lord; and it was truly beautiful.

The teen participants got to hear talks about things that are relevant in their lives, such as friendship drama, dating, and preparing for college. They were able to talk about their relationships with God in a setting where they knew that their peers are on the same page. Because they were surrounded by hundreds of other students their age who are serious about the faith, they got the affirmation that they are not the only teenagers out there looking for something deeper. These are things that we often take for granted. I’ve seen that, for many high schoolers, the desire to “fit in” is eminent, but as Catholics, we know that having God at the center is necessary.

Clear Distinctions

Following the Convocation of Catholic Leaders I began thinking that I should excuse myself from any church leadership role because the emphasis was on revitalizing the church through its members emerging into adulthood. And I am nearly three quarters of a century old.

Although I have the energy for the work I might be called to I didn’t sense the welcome tone necessary to collaborate successfully with a more youthful team. I wanted to explore ways to blend the wisdom of the elders of the church with its youthful members. But my sense of distance grew when one in my working group mentioned that the elderly do not like to be referred to as such.

I agreed but during the conversation I had always referred to my peers as “the elders of the church” not the “elderly” of the church. There is a clear distinction, not subtle, between the terms. Elderly often conjures up pejorative comments; the elders is a term that invokes respect.

As an elder, formed and rooted in my faith (but always game for radical change) I yearn to work with young people. They bring me closer to Jesus because they allow me to see the humanity of Jesus during those years that the gospels are silent about His life – the so called hidden years of Jesus.

During our own youthful years we had many moral dilemmas to face. How we resolved those dilemmas offers paths for today’s young adults that should be shared. Our faith was challenged and survived by fighting in wars or protesting against them. We fought the attraction of the free love atmosphere of Woodstock and the lure of psychedelic drugs; the revolution of Vatican II which shook the rituals we depended on; American political division leading to the assassination of one president and the resignation of another.

The elders of the church have lived with Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. We have seen the church change, renewed, disgraced, and made new again. How we, the elders of the church, processed all that, kept our morals intact and remained faithful Catholics can guide our youthful members in the unique way that they, today, face life’s challenges much in parallel to ours. Why would we not want to tap into that rich experience and share it as we minister to our youth and young adults?

There is a clear distinction to being an elder of the church and being called elderly.

By: Nicholas Troilo

Convocation of Catholic Leaders Delegate

Lessons Learned from Service

This past May, I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia with Catholic Relief Services, as part of a group of youth ministry leaders to experience the work they are doing. CRS serves the poorest of the poor in over 100 countries and part of my job is now to be an advocate for their work throughout the world.

While in Ethiopia, I was particularly struck by two characteristics of the Ethiopian people: their joy and their hospitality. We went into the countryside and were welcomed into some of the poorest villages in the country. Villages that have no electricity, no running water; they barely live off the land. Yet, these people were not sad or destitute. These people were joyful; even though they didn’t have much, they were grateful for what they had.

The Ethiopian people were also hospitable beyond belief. Everywhere we went and visited, the people went above and beyond to make us feel welcome. We didn’t speak the same language; we were from very different worlds and many times had very different beliefs, but to them that didn’t matter. They felt honored by the presence of someone from outside their village and they welcomed us with coffee, food, song and dance.

The experience was life changing in so many ways, but most importantly, it has reminded be to be grateful for what I have and to be welcoming and hospitable to all those whom I encounter, no matter how different we may be, because they themselves are another Christ.

(For more information you can visit www.crs.org).

 

By: Evan Psencik

Coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Faith Formation

Diocese of Bridgeport

FOCUS on the Lord: A Missionary’s Tale

This past year, I have had the incredible opportunity to serve with FOCUS, the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. FOCUS exists as a response to Pope St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization, a call to reach out to those who have fallen away from the faith. We send out teams of missionaries onto over 130 college campuses with the mission of leading college students to an encounter with Christ and walking with them in their journey of discipleship with Him and His Church. I have just finished my first year of serving with FOCUS at Florida Atlantic University and am beyond excited to return there.

Serving as a missionary with FOCUS means that we serve on the front lines. A vast majority of those who leave the Church do so by their early 20s, and only a small percentage of my generation regularly attends Mass.  FOCUS’ mission – and ours here at FAU – is to change these statistics by strengthening the faith on college campuses. To put it very simply, what we as missionaries seek to do is: win the hearts of college students by helping lead them to an encounter with Christ, build them in the faith that He Himself taught, and send them to the world to begin their own work of evangelization.

I myself am a missionary today because a FOCUS missionary on my college campus reached out to me and invited me to an encounter with Jesus Christ. She reached out to me when I was most in need of the love and mercy of the Lord and she helped me to realize how beautiful a relationship with Christ could be. After having that experience myself, I felt called to share it with others, to help them experience the love of Christ themselves. Pope Francis once said: “if we received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”

While serving as a FOCUS missionary is far from easy, it is a blessing to be called to this specific work in the new evangelization. It is an essential mission and I am looking forward to seeing how the Lord will use me to lead others to Him over the next few years!

By: Sarah Freddino

FOCUS Missionary at Florida Atlantic University

Our Lady of Peace Parish, Stratford
For more information about Sarah’s work with FOCUS and how you can support this mission, please visit: focus.org/missionaries/sarah-freddino

Peter and Paul: THAT is the plan

The story goes that when Jesus arrived in Heaven after the Resurrection, the angels welcomed Him with great song and praise, congratulating Him on completing His mission. One angel asked, “Lord, now that you have given salvation to the world and formed your church, what happens now? Who will be in charge and continue your work?” Jesus explained that the Apostles would and Peter would be their leader. Upon hearing this, St. Michael the Archangel, who had just come in from a battle with evil, said, “Lord, aren’t these the same people who ran from the cross in fear, the one who denied you three times? You trust them to keep things going? Please tell me there is another plan … seems risky.” Jesus answered “THAT IS THE PLAN”

 

Peter and Paul each came to the Lord in his own way. There are many paths to the Lord. Jesus leads us and trusts us to get on our path and stay on the path. He walks before us and gives us what we need in every moment. And if we are not sure of ourselves or of the Lord and His plan for us, we look to our great Saints Peter and Paul, an unlikely combination from unlikely backgrounds, who are both filled with the hope and love of the Lord. Trust – THAT IS THE PLAN.

 

By: Marie Vandall

Director of Religious Education

St. Aloysius Parish, New Canaan

For the Service of God’s People

It is a sobering realization to recognize that I stand on the verge of ordination to the priesthood, a moment for which I had so often hoped and for which I can never hope to be worthy. I can only say what an honor and privilege it has been to have shared this journey with so many individuals, and to have received such support from so many in the Diocese of Bridgeport, clergy and laity alike.

I heard it said once that one should not become a priest if one does not love people. Indeed, it is my love for God’s people that has brought me here. Why do I want to become a priest?  Not for myself, but for the service of God’s Church and His people. I pray that every soul I encounter through the nourishment of the sacraments will be taught and guided for the sanctity and building up of The Body of Christ.

As Ordination approaches, I am reminded of Jean Jacques Olier, P.S.S., whose words have guided me throughout the years: “The bishop admonishes priests at their ordination to imitate what they have in their hands, Imitamini quod tractais (Latin for: imitate what you celebrate); it is an order to place before their eyes the principal model they should manifest in the obligation they have to imitate Jesus Christ in the state in which he shows himself to them in the most Holy Eucharist.”

By: Deacon Tim Iannacone (Soon to be Fr. Tim Iannacone!)

God writes straight with crooked lines

There is a centuries-old aphorism, sometimes attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, that states, “God writes straight with crooked lines.”  The great movements in our lives very rarely follow a straight course.   When I reflect upon the journey that has led me to Holy Orders it is in looking back that I can see, amidst all the twists and turns, all the detours and diversions, the hand of God at work.  Ten years ago, I could not have foreseen the path this journey would take: a journey that began with a search for Truth and to recapture a lost faith; a journey that would lead to the joy of conversion, a growing desire to serve, and to a vocation.  As I reflect on it now, on the cusp of ordination to the Transitional Diaconate, it is with a sense of awe and humility that I recognize the working of Divine Providence that has led me here.

When I entered the seminary, I was encouraged to develop the virtue of docility: the disposition to be taught and guided.  It remains a challenge for me. Docility is not submissive or passive, it is the setting aside of doubt, fear, and self-will in order to let the Holy Spirit move in and through us that God may work His will for us in our lives.  I pray for the virtue of docility daily that I may respond to God’s call as Mary did: “Let it be with me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)

By: James Bates

Seminarian, Diocese of Bridgeport

Graduation: “This is Good. God is Good.”

As my classmates and I processed into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on graduation day, I couldn’t help but think back to the Class of 2017’s Convocation ceremony where we were welcomed into the community that would become our home away from home. As I reminisce on my four years at the Catholic University of America, I can honestly say they were the best, toughest, and most fruitful years of my life. College can be a difficult place to hold onto your faith and even your true self, especially when surrounded by the wrong crowd. Fortunately, God blessed me with amazing friends who not only embraced the idea of authentic friendships (thank you, Fraternas), but also challenged me every day to grow closer to Christ and live my life according to His will.

But even with these amazing friends by my side, there were times when I would fall, only to find myself desperate to be back in a good place. Once upon a mental breakdown and a much-needed heart-to-heart, my roommate said to me, “Repeat after me: this is good, God is good.” It became our motto, our mantra. It was this mantra that I repeated countless times through the trials (which were by no means in short supply) and joys of time at CUA. College was definitely a rollercoaster sprinkled with lots of ups and downs; but with the love and support from my family and friends and my faith in God’s will, I survived! And I am ready and excited to take on my career in nursing and all that life has to offer.

This is good, God is good.

By: Xiomara Galeano

United in the Spirit

The progression of readings on Pentecost is quite beautiful for a modern-day listener. We live in a world that expresses and promotes individuality – what a beautiful thing! The recognition of one’s unique, irreplaceable role in history, one’s dignity, is pivotal; this comes from his or her very creation by an intelligent God of love. Yet, must we express individuality at the expense of relationship?

In the book of Acts, we see the Apostles gathered together in one place. A fisherman, a tax collector, a man of noble birth. Today we might see a janitor, an accountant, the grandson of a celebrity. They were gathered together, waiting for the one they had come to believe in to follow through, to send his Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes upon them, and suddenly, they are able to communicate with many from different regions, in languages they previously could not understand. This vision of unity is one filled with diversity – diversity in walks of life, diversity in culture. Yet, they are united by the promised Spirit. Trusting and abiding in Christ, they are moved into profoundly new relationships with others, yet becoming the one Body of Christ, the Church.

Paul echoes this sentiment in 1 Corinthians: Christ is one, and because we belong to his body, all of our quirks, colors, talents, and treasures are drawn into one remarkable whole. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4-5). In my classroom, where conversations come alive, my students may or may not have parents; they may be wealthy; and some may not have eaten breakfast. Some are outspoken, some silent, and some star on the sports team. Yet, when we achieve anything, it is precisely the interaction of these voices, these personalities, to which we owe our classroom successes.

Pentecost reminds us that our gloriously unique abilities and personalities are raised to new heights as part of a whole. The Spirit of the living God unites us to achieve all that is good with our individual cooperation and does not compromise our identity, but rather elevates it. The fisherman and the tax collector, all on fire with the Holy Spirit, baptized many nations. What more, then, can we do?

 

By: Jessica Mazal

Teacher at Notre Dame Fairfield

Why the Ascension?

Christ gathered his disciples around him, and after Christ blessed them, he ascended into heaven. Imagine what this might have been like for the disciples. They had recently witnessed His glorious resurrection after His brutal death. Now, Christ is leaving them. Why? I’m not sure any of the disciples could’ve answered this question. They must have been scared and confused. I would’ve been heartbroken if the risen Christ had left my side. Despite this lack of understanding, we learn that the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” How did the disciples find joy in this situation?

Though the disciples didn’t understand, they still trusted God. Little did they know that Christ was returning to His rightful kingdom to be the joy of all the saints and that he was preparing a place for all of us. He also would be sending the Holy Spirit ten days later to fulfill the promise He made to His disciples while on Earth. Just as God was faithful to His disciples, He will be faithful to you!

Sometimes, God’s will might seem senseless and frustrating. However, in these moments, we are called to lean a little less on our own understanding and more on God’s wisdom. God knows what is best for each of His children, and we can find the joy and peace that the disciples experienced if we trust in His holy will. Next time something unfortunate or challenging occurs in your life, pray from the heart this simple prayer: “Jesus, I trust in you.”

By: Chris Huben

Take it to Our Lady

My father was the one who introduced me to Mary. Every day on the way to school, we would pray the Rosary. It is a tradition I came to cherish and have sought to maintain as a parent. Even though the children now take a bus to school, the daily prayers are a practice I try to maintain – in part as a nod to my father and in part because of the power prayer has to focus me on the things that matter most.

But praying can be a challenge. It can be hard to hear above the din. The drive to the office is only a few minutes and I get busy at home or work. The noise around me – or in my own head – distract.

A few years ago, after Maureen was diagnosed with Colon Cancer, we were at a meeting for diocesan leaders that was taking place as part of the National Catholic Youth Conference, which Maureen organizes. In a moment of unscripted sharing, she told those in attendance about her diagnosis and impending surgery.

All of the sudden a women in the middle of the room interrupted her. “Take it to Our Lady,” she called out, and immediately invited all of us to pray the Hail Mary together for Maureen – and each other.

It was a powerful moment. It was a powerful experience. Even today, though the cancer is gone and Maureen’s at full power, it gives me chills. I can still hear that clarion call, “Take it to Our Lady” echoing as though they are instructions for the rest of my life.

For Mother’s Day, the children gave Maureen a statue of Our Lady for the garden in the back. Our friend, Fr. Joe, will bless it in a few weeks and Katie, who makes her First Communion next Sunday and missed the May Crowning as school, will fashion together some flowers and crown Mary – a small nod to another grandparent lost.

This week, I will focus more on prayer. I will go back to the ritual my father taught me and try to stand still before moving forward.

This week, I will take it all – the pain, the ignorance, the cynicism, the joy, the work, the play, the family, the driving, the shopping, and the conversations – all of it – to Our Lady.

And, like my father, I know I will find peace.

By Patrick Donovan

Originally appeared in http://fiveminutesonmonday.com/take-it-to-our-lady/

There is no other answer but Jesus Himself

C.S. Lewis, reflecting on his own prayer, once said, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

“I know, now, Lord.” Lewis refers to “now” because he, like most of us, spends so much time in the past without an answer to our prayers. Even this great Christian author suffered in his prayer life, thinking his prayers were left unanswered.

But, he continues, “You are yourself the answer.” Here, Lewis is stating that there is no other answer but Jesus himself. Sometimes it’s “Go to Jesus,” or “Ask Jesus,” or “Thank Jesus,” but in even simpler terms, it’s just Jesus who is the answer in the same way He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

When faced with the person of Jesus himself, who is the answer to everything, all our questions fade away. Or, in the words of Lewis, “Before your face, questions die away.” This is why we strive to know him and to be like him in our life and prayers.  We strive to come close to him to get a glimpse of him who is the “way, the truth, and the life.”

Seeing him who is the truth, “What other answer would suffice?” Echoing the words of St. Peter, where else can we go, since Jesus has the words of everlasting life (Jn 6:68)? As we live our daily lives, with their ups and downs, their joyful moments and their disappointments, let us instill in our hearts and minds the simple fact that nothing of this world can answer the questions or prayers for which we seek answers. Let us look to find Jesus in his simplest way, to know love and to be love, even through the times of unanswered prayers.

By: Grace Wagner

Will we recognize Him when he comes?

It happened so fast. “For Pete’s sake,” he said, “some homeless guy just came in here for food! I’m keeping an eye on him.” Internally, I was registering this complaint and scowling back. The words that followed flew from my mouth, “Imagine that concept! A homeless person coming to the Catholic Church for food…”

I wish my tone had been gentler, but my thoughts met their mark because this opportunity became my personal road to Emmaus. For in the moments that followed, I ran to respond to human hunger, physically and spiritually. The desire to love was resonating throughout my whole being.

Running out of the building, I found the man and said, “No, no, please stay. Please come with me. Please just stay.” And there it was: the face of hope.

We sat together on the curb right in front of the church sharing a cheese sandwich, some fruit, a bag of potato chips, and a bottle of water. I’m sure that most would think that I fed this man on that day, when in reality, this man fed me.

Jesus calls us to be his disciples. He nourishes our souls in the best way possible in the breaking of bread and offers himself to us in a world that is hungry for peace and love. Are our eyes open to see Jesus? Will we recognize Him when he comes, however he may come? Oh that our hearts would continue to burn within us so we are prepared and ready to say, “Jesus please stay with us!”

By: Sue Baldwin