Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Catholic Schools close

  • All Diocesan/Diocesan Sponsored Catholic elementary and high schools will close for students effective March 13th and will tentatively reopen on March 30th. Schools will begin implementing their distance learning instructional plan on Monday, March 16th.
  • All school activities and trips are cancelled until further notice
  • While we tentatively plan to reopen March 30th, we will continue to monitor the situation with local and state health officials in order to reassess and determine our next steps
  • Click here for more information

New teen communication internship

WESTPORT—St. Luke Youth teens have long been recognized for their faithful witness, joyful enthusiasm and willingness to share their time and talents with the parish. Now, a new internship has been created allowing teens to contribute to parish communications ranging from writing Gospel meditations to pitching stories to local media.

“This idea originated after a conversation with Deb Toner who is the youth minister for St. Luke’s,” shared Jennifer Coffman, mentor for the SLY Communication Interns. “I saw such joy in the SLY teens and would often say to Deb, ‘I wish we could simply unleash the teens into the world and let their special brand of enthusiasm change the culture.’ After saying this a few times, Deb and I decided to create an outlet to harness the evangelical spirit of the teens.”

Building on the post-synod focus on areas of evangelization, family life and community, St. Luke Church set out to redesign its website and rethink the way in which it communicated the Gospel with parishioners and the broader Westport community, especially by sharing the “good news” of what is happening at St. Luke’s. The internship was established to connect the communication and social media expertise of parish youth with the evangelical needs of the church.

Currently four teens—Allie D’Angelo, Chelsea Fox, Gabriel Sargent and Emma Van Riper—have volunteered to meet twice weekly to discuss upcoming parish programs and to brainstorm communication strategies for each initiative. Successes have already been noted with increased participation in fall and Advent activities and with increases in charitable fundraising efforts benefitting local charities. In addition, the percentage of opened emails and texts has doubled from Advent to Lent.

One SLY Communication Intern, Gabriel Sargent, has updated the website and written and designed several Flocknotes—including Gospel meditations and interviewing staff to highlight the work of parish volunteers. “Being a part of this mission has been such a powerful experience for me because it’s amazing to see how our work engages our parish,” Gabe shared.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this internship is the gift of watching these young teens blossom and seeing their faith deepen with each meeting,” noted Deb Toner. “The teens gain important skills in strategic planning, marketing and communications, presenting to parish advisors, while growing in their Catholic faith. They are learning how to become active Church members wherever they go to college or the workplace.”

SLY Communication Interns Emma Van Riper and Chelsea Fox agreed. Emma commented, “I love how the communication internship has allowed me to combine my passion for writing and my future communications major with my faith. Being able to explore this within the church has also enabled me to find my role in the youth group.”

Chelsea added, “I really love being a part of the internship program because I also want to pursue communications in college and maybe as a career, so it gives me a great opportunity to learn about different communication techniques while connecting to my faith.”

Since the inception of the program in October 2018, the teens have worked on many communication projects, including website design, parish-wide communications using Flocknote, event and activity promotion, Gospel reflections, traditional public relations including press releases, blog posts, event photography, social media assistance and parishioner tech support and tutorials for Flocknote.

SLY Communication Intern Allie D’Angelo added, “I have had the ability to go into groups within the church, such as the Men’s Group, to help them sign up for Flocknote and increase membership within the parish. The internship is a great way to incorporate faith into my passion for communications.”

“As a pastor, communications is a big part of my vocation,” shared Msgr. Andrew G. Varga. “It has been a joy and an enormous help to include the teens in this ministry. I would not have been able to keep the website updated, custom-design weekly Flocknotes and submit event language for local media promotion. I can bring my ideas to the interns and they work with Deb and Jennifer to create the best strategy and implementation plan. Personally, I look forward to Monday afternoons when the team gathers at the rectory dining room table and discusses the Sunday Scripture readings and upcoming Church events.”

There is a wonderful quote attributed to Saint Ignatius of Loyola that illuminates what is happening with this program: “Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.” When parish leaders invite our teens to join them in sharing the Gospel and accompany the teens in their faith journey, Jesus takes it from there.

(To see the SLY Communication Interns’ work firsthand, visit the parish website at: www.saintlukewestport.org and receive updates by texting slwestport to the number 84576 or go to flocknote.com/SaintLukeWestport.)

Greenwich Catholic School Announces New Administrative Team

GREENWICH—The Principal and Board of Directors of Greenwich Catholic School announced today that Mr. Patrick Ledley has been appointed as Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and Mr. Vincent Mascola has been appointed as Dean of Students, effective July 1, 2019.

The Assistant Principal and Dean of Students positions are new to the GCS Administrative Team, and were created in alignment with the Strategic Plan for Greenwich Catholic School: Innovate & Inspire 2021.

Assistant Principal Ledley comes to Greenwich Catholic from The Ursuline School in New Rochelle, NY, where he served as a Department Chair and Teacher, and was a member of the school’s Strategic Planning Committee for Fostering a Growth Mindset. Previously, he was a Teacher at St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City, and was the recipient of the Ignatian Educator Award.

“Mr. Ledley’s experience in teacher development, data-driven instruction, and curriculum mapping is impressive,” said Mario Gaztambide, Chair of the GCS Board of Directors. “His background, combined with his approachable demeanor and focus on student achievement, will be an asset to Greenwich Catholic School.”

Speaking about his commitment to Catholic education, Assistant Principal Ledley said, “As a product of Catholic education, and in building my career in Catholic schools, I see the value of enthusiastic and dynamic teaching, and look forward to fostering the education of the students at Greenwich Catholic School.”

Mr. Mascola joins Greenwich Catholic from the Guilford Public School system, where he served as an Administrative Intern, Classroom Teacher, School Safety Team Leader, and was a member of the School Culture and Climate Committees. As Dean of Students, Mascola will have oversight of discipline, enrichment, after-school and athletics programming, and dining.

“Mr. Mascola is committed to developing students of character, in partnership with the GCS administration, faculty, and parents,” said Patrice Kopas, Principal of Greenwich Catholic School. “We are confident that his expertise will have an immediate and positive impact on the student experience at Greenwich Catholic School.”

When asked about his role as Dean of Students, Mr. Mascola commented, “I am excited to be joining the GCS community, and look forward to working with all GCS stakeholders to continue promoting our core mission and values, while striving to continuously improve the academic and social/emotional growth of our entire student body.”

Parents were informed of the addition of the Assistant Principal and Dean of Students positions as part of a Strategic Planning Update from the Board of Directors in April. Additional initiatives presented at the Strategic Planning Update included plans to form Student Advisory Groups and hire additional teachers in the Math and World Language Departments.

About Greenwich Catholic School

Greenwich Catholic School is a co-educational Roman Catholic day school located on a 38-acre campus at 471 North Street in Greenwich. GCS includes Kindergarten through 8th grade students, as well as a Pre-Kindergarten program for 3 and 4 year-old children. For more information, please visit www.gcsct.org

Students love a happy space to play

BRIDGEPORT—“The first week after our new playground opened, one of my teachers came to me with tears in her eyes to thank me for getting it finished,” recounts Sister Christine Hoffman, ASCJ, principal of St. Raphael Academy in Bridgeport. “She told me that the students were having so much fun running around and climbing on the equipment and simply happy being children, and this was a source of joy for her.”

The St. Raphael Academy of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport welcomes students in grades PreK-3. The initiative for the playground restoration for these youngsters began last year when Boy Scout Luke Feretti, a member of St. Stephen Parish in Trumbull and a senior at Trumbull High School, was exploring possibilities for his Eagle Scout Project. Luke connected with the diocesan Deacons Wives Ministry who knew of the tired condition of St. Raphael’s play space and the need for its renovation.

Luke agreed to take the project on. “I knew it was going to help kids who don’t have a lot of places to play in their neighborhood.”

When Father Giandomenico Flora, rector of St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport, dedicated the playground on June 22, the project had taken more than a year to complete, with assistance of a cadre of volunteers.

Luke’s Eagle Scout project was impressive in its own right. Luke met with Scout leaders and school board members, talked to contractors, and assembled a team of fellow Scouts to do the heavy work of hauling away the old equipment and clearing and leveling the land.

That project earned Luke his Eagle Scout badge, awarded at a ceremony this January.

His initiative set in motion the assistance of many others, a number of them in partnership with DWM and others connected to St. Raphael’s. “The playground project brought together many from our community, who gave of their time, talents and treasure,” says Sister Christine. “In particular, I am indebted to Luke and the Boy Scouts, who gave several days to the work, going beyond the scope of his Eagle Scout project by not only removing the previous structure but returning to assist in laying the new playground surface.”

After the old equipment was carted off, the degraded surfacing had to be removed—a huge job in and of itself. Then the enormous mountain of underlayment pellets for the new surface drew the Scouts again for this next phase, along with student volunteers from Sacred Heart University, parents from St. Raphael, and volunteers from the Hollow Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ). Angie Staltaro, program assistant for the City of Bridgeport, acted as project manager for part of this phase.

Luke was on hand right through the completion of the playground and its dedication by Father Flora. Headed for his freshman year at the University of Vermont this fall, the Trumbull High School graduate plans for a future in civil engineering.

Ilene Ianniello, president of Deacon Wives Ministry, was also on hand for the blessing. “When we walked on the grass-like topping of smooth artificial turf, it was like walking on a cloud,” she said.

In the end, the Deacons Wives Ministry was able to call on generous donors and volunteers for all expenses except that final topping, including the cheerful new playground equipment donated by the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Hamden.

Now enthusiastic youngsters could be seen bouncing up bright pink stairs, hiding in sheltered nooks, peering out of yellow portholes, choosing the long slide or the shorter one and swinging from the bars of the climbing dome.

“Our students love having this new space to play!” said Sister Christine, her face beaming as she watched the children’s joy.

(The only expense outstanding from the entire playground project is $10,000 for the turf surfacing. Anyone wanting to help out with this expense can send a check to Deacon Wives Ministry, 11 Green Acres Lane, Trumbull, CT 06611. Write “Playground Project” on the memo line.)

St. Thomas Aquinas School’s Giving Garden to be Featured at Fairfield’s Farmers Market

FAIRFIELD— Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic School welcomes all to their vegetable and flower garden! The students have worked hard in constructing a garden full of lush veggies and bountiful flowers, and now it is time to sell them to anyone and everyone. The St. Thomas “Giving Garden” stand will be located at the Fairfield Farmers Market on Sherman Green and will be open for business from 10-2pm on Sunday, July 21st. You might see a hut looking like it was built by thousands of garden gnomes. In fact, the shop design, all of its marketing, pricing strategy and the product design and harvesting were decided by the students themselves. This first course in running a market business includes the following upcoming 7th-grade students: Makayla Cunningham, Hollis Huntington, Nora Lesizza, Claire Russell and Maggie Russell.  Stop by and see them on Sunday—they have many veggies, herbs and flowers to sell!

And because I am a twelve-year-old writing a press release as if I was thirty, I highly recommend going to Saint Thomas Aquinas, where there are creative activities year-round such as “running the garden”. We hope you have fun checking out our garden goods, and thank you for participating in helping the students of Saint Thomas Aquinas learn about business!

About St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School
St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School is fully accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and recognized as an award-winning Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  For nearly 100 years in the heart of downtown Fairfield, we have served a critical role in Fairfield County by providing a strong foundation for students in faith and knowledge at an affordable cost for students in Pre-K through eighth-grade.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School is conveniently located at 1719 Post Road, Fairfield.

(For additional information please contact Barbara Turner, director of admissions, at 203.255.0556 x.225 or Barbara.turner@stasonline.net.)

Trinity Catholic: A Living Legacy

STAMFORD—We are writing in response to The Stamford Advocate’s June 30 story, “Trinity Enrollment Drop Has No One Reason.”

The Diocese of Bridgeport’s transparency about the decline in enrollment has been more than matched by its commitment to the future of the school and its belief in the crucial role played by Trinity Catholic High School.

At Trinity, more than $8 million has been invested in our infrastructure, renovations, athletic fields and curriculum over the past three years alone. Bishop Frank Caggiano has visited the school, spoken with parents and personally unveiled plans for a new Trinity that will introduce exciting and contemporary learning opportunities that are second to none in preparing students for academic and career success.

But one thing won’t change — Trinity will remain authentically Catholic and academically excellent.

While Trinity faces multiple demographic, financial and academic challenges, many of the same issues are shared by public and private schools alike. However, much of the Advocate’s story was built on the comments of a few unhappy parents, and it left out the voices of those who are committed to Trinity Catholic High School and its future.

Mike Carlon, a Trinity Catholic alumnus and father of triplets who are seniors at Trinity, says there are “a number of reasons why we chose Trinity for our triplets — the high graduation rate, the strength and rigor of the academics, and the quality of the colleges and universities Trinity students get accepted to every year.”

“Trinity Catholic is not only a ‘college prep’ school, but a ‘life prep’ school,” states Liz Sweeney, a parent of three boys, two of whom have graduated from Trinity and one of whom is a junior here. “The teachers here are committed to excellence, where every teacher knows each student by name. They put extraordinary time, mentoring and ensuring each child’s success.”

Monica Loughran Welch, an alumnus of Stamford Catholic High (Trinity’s predecessor), raised her children in Trumbull. Monica believes the community has a role and a stake in Trinity’s success.

“It’s up to all of us to rebuild Trinity,” Welch says. “‘Angels’ and alumni can help enrollment by funding scholarships for those unable to pay full tuition. Our parishes can stand with Trinity and provide a Catholic pathway for our students. And cultural organizations can develop scholarships in support of various groups to ensure and maintain a rich diversity at Trinity.”

Perhaps parents of recent 2019 grad Maddie Ingram, Doug and Kate Ingram, said it best: “Maddie had teachers who cared about her not just academically, but as a whole person. Because of this and their guidance, Maddie was accepted at the college (Holy Cross) of her dreams.” She has a great foundation for heading to college, not only in her studies, but as a good person, a good citizen, and a good Catholic.”

These parents and students are not alone telling the continuing success story of Trinity Catholic in the lives of its students and the community. This year, 95 of Trinity’s 97 graduates in the Class of 2019 are going on to college. That is 97 percent of the class; historically in-line with the schools 95-100 percent college attendance rate, over the past two decades. This fall, Trinity’s Class of 2019 will be moving on to such prestigious universities as Brown, Purdue, Syracuse, Penn State, Ohio State, Alabama, Villanova, Maryland, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and many others.

These same students received more than $10 million in college scholarships and aid.

Likewise, the average Trinity student’s SATs (English and Math), outperform the Stamford Public Schools and surpass the statewide average. With the real cost of educating a high school student in Stamford approaching $20,000 per year, and private schools costing upward of $45,000 per year, Catholic education remains a bargain at less than half that price. It delivers great dividends for the community.

We are proud that our administration and leadership at Trinity are stronger than ever and well positioned to meet the challenges. We are entering our second year as a Trinity/diocesan team, bringing what we believe is a level of stability the school has not seen in many years. Bishop Caggiano and his entire diocesan team have demonstrated extraordinary support of Trinity during this period of reinvention.

If there is some uncertainty about the future of Trinity, it is more important than ever to tell story of the extraordinary measures taken by the diocese and school leaders to move Trinity forward. It is more important than ever to celebrate the diversity and creativity of our students, their academic achievement, and the profound belief we share in the power of Catholic education to transform lives — even of the students of different faiths who choose to come to the Trinity campus.

The story of Trinity Catholic is not simply important to alumni and current students; it is also a story about the power of faith, education and enduring values that have contributed so much to our young people and to the community. We invite all to join us in this living legacy.

By Patricia E. Brady and Scott E. Smith; Patricia E. Brady is Trinity Catholic’s head of school and Scott E. Smith is principal.

Catholic Education is Essential

From her first years as a cloistered nun through her tenure as headmistress at Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich and Executive Director of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, Sister Joan Magnetti, RSCJ, has been committed to quality Catholic education for all students.

For more than five decades, she has followed the vision of her order’s foundress, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, who formed the Society of the Sacred Heart in 1800 to make the love of God known through the Sacred Heart and to restore Christian life in the aftermath of the French Revolution by educating rich young women…and poor young women.

Sister Magnetti often recalled the words of St. Madeleine Sophie, who said, “You educate a woman, you educate a family; you educate a family and you educate a civilization.”

After ten years, she is retiring as Executive Director of The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, which serves more than 925 children, many of whom are from the poorest families in the county.

Sister Magnetti has been recognized nationally for her commitment to Catholic education, her leadership, her innovation and her compelling desire to work with inner-city children. As she puts it, “Every kid deserves a good education, and it shouldn’t have to depend on a wallet.”

Joan Magnetti is, by her admission, a “Jersey girl,” who grew up in West Englewood and attended public school until fifth grade and later Notre Dame Academy. She went to Manhattanville College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1965. A product of the 60s, she was influenced in large part by Vatican II and John F. Kennedy’s presidency and believed that young people could make a difference. It is a belief she has shared with generations of students throughout her career.

She became quite impressed with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Manhattanville, almost all of whom had PhDs. “They were an extraordinary group of women,” she says. “There was a kind of joyfulness about them, and they had a very large world view. They cared about us as students, and the charity and love they showed us made an impression.”

After graduating from Manhattanville, she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart, an international group of 3,000 religious women who seek to reveal the love of God through education.

“I knew education was their mission and the radicality of giving your life to God; I never thought of doing it differently,” she says. “I love our religious order. I grew into a relationship with God and realized his love for me and wanted to serve him. I never thought about a career. It was all about God.”

During those years, the sisters lived a cloistered life with five hours of prayer a day, which included Mass, the Divine Office chanted in Latin, meditation and meals in silence.

“Everything was very regimented,” she recalls. “You couldn’t even go home if your parents died or there was a graduation.”

Sister always had a close relationship with her brother Donald, who entered the Jesuits and received his doctorate in Near Eastern Studies from Johns Hopkins University. He taught the Old Testament and Semitic languages at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary before receiving his law degree and becoming a professor of torts and trusts at Fordham University School of Law.

With two children in religious orders, their parents Margaret and Gerald Magnetti would often joke, “You can’t say we didn’t do our part to support zero population growth.”

After Sister Joan finished her novitiate in 1968, she received her master’s degree in theology from Union Theological Seminary. She went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, where she taught history and religion and ran one of the houses on campus in addition to overseeing a CCD program for 450 children.

She later became headmistress at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Princeton, where she stayed for 13 years before returning to Greenwich as headmistress.

“I had a lot of work to do when I got there,” she recalls. “There was a prejudice about Catholic schools not being academically strong…and it was a convent school.”

There were only 295 girls in preschool to 12th grade and she faced fierce competition for enrollment from other private schools in the area.

“We worked hard and made it clear what our mission was. We were proud of being an allgirls Catholic school,” she said. “When I left, we had 777 kids, a $20 million endowment and a new middle school, science building and library. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun.”

After 19 years, she retired in 2009, and shortly afterward, Bishop William Lori called her. He knew about her commitment to inner-city education and recruited her for the new position of Executive Director for Catholic schools in Bridgeport. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano later created the model of one school on four campuses.

The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, which comprises St. Andrew, St. Ann, St. Augustine and St. Raphael, recently received its 10-year accreditation. Sister said it has had a balanced budget for the past three years and an enrollment of more than 925 students.

With 80 percent of the students coming from homes near or below poverty level, the Academy awards $2 million in financial aid annually. Seventy percent of students are at or above the national norm in reading and math, and the high school graduation rate is 100 percent (compared with 63 percent for the Bridgeport public schools), and 99 percent go on to college.

AT RECENT FOUNDATIONS IN EDUCATION GALA Sister Joan Magnetti is congratulated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

“I have always wanted things not just to survive, but to thrive,” she says. “So many schools throughout the country have closed, and I am thrilled with all that has gone on—we are thriving.”

She also points out that the Academy produces better results than the public schools with fewer resources. “I am very proud of our achievements and of our board,” she says. “I have never had such an incredible board in my career, and the bishop is one of our biggest supporters.”

Board Chair Bradford Evans, a senior advisor in Morgan Stanley’s investment banking division who has worked closely with Sister for the past ten years, says, “Besides being an outstanding leader and educator, Joan has been a wonderful colleague, mentor and friend who brings great warmth and wit to everything she does.”

Sister Magnetti, who lives in Bedford, N.Y., with several Sacred Heart sisters and her golden retriever Maddy, will stay on temporarily as coordinator of major gifts to assist incoming Executive Director Angela C. Pohlen.

“Catholic education is so essential—and not just for Roman Catholics,” Sister says, noting that 40 percent of the students are non-Catholic. “Our goal has always been to create an environment where kids can learn and find themselves and build strong character and have a sense that no matter what, they are loved.”

Looking back on her career, Sister recalls a favorite saying of St. Madeleine Sophie, who always told her colleagues that she would have founded the order all over again…for the sake of one child.

That “one child” has motivated Sister Joan throughout her 50 years in education. She has seen successes that can be measured in small ways and in large ways, and recently shared the comment of a girl graduating from St. Augustine’s, who wrote in her yearbook, “The most important thing I learned here is that God is always there to help me.”

And that, to Sister, was a monumental success.

By Joe Pisani

Immaculate High School Will Celebrate 30th Golf Outing at New Location 

DANBURY – Immaculate High School is proud to announce that its 30th Annual Immaculate High School Golf Outing, one of the longest-running golf tournaments in the Danbury area, will be on September 18, 2019.  Immaculate invites the public to attend the golf outing at its new location at Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury by registering at www.immaculatehs.org/golf
This year’s golf outing features 18 holes of golf on a beautiful course, cart fees, lunch, awards reception, dinner, silent auction, and 50/50 raffle; new this year is beer tasting at one of the holes sponsored by Reverie Brewing Company of Newtown, and there will be a few chances to win a brand new car for a hole-in-one. Foursomes, as well as individual golfers, are welcome. 
Sponsors are also invited to help support this special 30th anniversary of the popular Immaculate High School Golf Outing. All proceeds from the golf outing benefit Immaculate High School students and school programs. To reserve your spot and/or sponsor the IHS Golf Outing, go to www.immaculatehs.org/golf.  For more information contact Jeannie Demko, Event Coordinator, at jdemko@myimmaculatehs.org or chairpersons Scott Mitchell ‘81 at smitchell@myimmaculatehs.org and Sal Chieffalo ‘81at schieffalo@myimmaculatehs.org.
Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments, and service to others.  Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system. 

Saint Mary School Students Spread Kindness at Ridgefield Library

RIDGEFIELD—Saint Mary School grade three and four students recently visited the Ridgefield Public Library to spread kindness by hiding bookmarks with positive messages in books in the Children’s Library.

Mary Tappan, SMS Librarian led students in brainstorming words of kindness and positivity to put on their bookmarks.  Students in Kindergarten-Grade 4 then made 110 bookmarks with drawings, decorations, and messages, which were laminated and had ribbons attached.  “Our students really enjoyed the creative process of making the bookmarks, and grades three and four were delighted to be chosen to hide the bookmarks in the Children’s Library books. I only wish we could be here to see a child open a book and find one!”

Students were also given a behind the scenes look at the Library by Shay Glass, Children’s Librarian, including how books are returned and sorted.

To schedule a tour of Saint Mary School, call 203.438.7288. To learn more about the admission process, click here.

Saint Mary School is located at 183 High Ridge Ave in the heart of Ridgefield.

Originally posted on Hamlet Hub.

Holy Trinity thrives with renewed educational, religious focus

SHELTON—Two years ago, limited enrollment forced the merger of St. Lawrence and St. Joseph’s schools in Shelton and St. Jude School in Monroe as the Roman Catholic Diocese fought to maintain its private school presence in the area.

The newly consolidated school — Holy Trinity Catholic Academy — struggled in its inaugural year, but the guidance of Lisa Lanni and her staff has helped to bring stability to the fledgling facility.

“We are alive … we are vibrant,” said Lanni in describing the school this past year, her first with Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, a pre-K through eighth grade school housed at St. Lawrence Church.

“It has been a great year,” added Lanni. “I came into a place where the parents are very loyal, dedicated and want only the best for their children. I have a group of seasoned teachers who are excellent role models, both in the academic world and the faith-based world.”

Lanni said that the initial consolidation left some families upset, and that anxiety carried over into year one, which prompted many to leave for other educational institutions — either private or public. So the longtime educator said her primary role coming in was re-educational stability as well as better communication between families and school leadership.

“There were a lot of hurt feelings as a result of the merger,” said Lanni. “Many families left because they were disappointed. But we have started that process of rebuilding, and we just need to get the word out. We are telling families, ‘What you wanted has occurred, just not in the first year.’ We can only get bigger and better. We will be the school of choice in this area.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, which celebrated the graduation of 16 eighth-graders last week, presently has 179 students, but Lanni said her ideal enrollment would be 275 students.

To get to that enrollment total, Lanni said the school has become one of six schools of Diocese of Bridgeport to use the Personalized Learning Initiative — a program which designs the lesson plan to the needs of each student using technology and data.

Lanni said students take a series of tests — Edmentum Progress Monitoring Tests — three times during the school year, and the results are used to develop a “learning path for each student by pinpointing each students’ strengths and weaknesses.” Lanni said the school is 1-to-1, meaning a Chromebook for each student.

“We also use a station rotation model for math and English Language Arts students,” said Lanni. “Students are broken into small groups, and they rotate through various activities in the classroom for learning in math and ELA. It is student-driven.”

Lanni said her staff focuses on individualized learning and relationship building with the students. And the instructors take pride in the improvement of the technology program, which Lanni called one of the best in the area.

“We know the kids,” said Lanni. “They are not just little people in a classroom. We know the kids, we know the parents, the families. The relationships are what really drive the sustainability of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy.”

Lanni said while the educational offerings have improved, the religious instruction remains at the foundation of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy.

“We needed to stabilize the academics by improving what we were already doing but in a more consistent fashion,” said Lanni. “But our other priority is maintaining our Catholic identity. It was there in the school, but really left to the teachers in their individual rooms. We needed to create school-wide Catholic identity, which we have done with the help of an incredible staff.”

Lanni also credited the parent organization for helping with fund-raising activities, which focus more on bringing families together while also raising money in the process.

While academic improvements have been enjoyed, so, too, has athletic success, with several age groups capturing titles during the winter basketball season. Lanni also promoted the track and field squad, which held its meet just prior to the school year’s end.

Students also celebrated field day to close out the year, said Lanni, which she said was important to note because it was driven by the student council, which is in its first year of existence. Students also spent Friday, June 7, outside on the street cheering on the police during the Special Olympics torch run — just another event that brings the school community together.

“School needs to be about memories,” said Lanni. “Reading, writing, arithmetic — that learning can happen wherever students go to school in some shape or form. But it is all the extras that make us who we are. Kids should be able to look back and say I would do it all again if I could. That happens here now. Holy Trinity is home.”

By Brian Gioiele | Shelton Herald 

Our Lady of Fatima School Celebrates Commencement

WILTON—Our Lady of Fatima School-Wilton held its commencement exercises on Friday evening, June 14 for its graduating eighth-grade class. The event included a Mass celebrated by Reverend Damian Pielesz and the gospel and homily offered by Our Lady of Fatima pastor, Father Reginald Norman.  Featured commencement speakers were Fatima “graduating” parent, John Doyle and school principal, Stanley Steele. During the commencement, annual scholarships and awards were presented as follows:  Eugene Rooney Award:  Brian Andrew Weiss; School Board Scholarship Awards: Anais Melanie Salageanu and Isabela Sofia Davalos; Speer Performing Arts Award: Liliana Benanti and the Phillip Lauria Jr. Memorial Award: James Robert Doyle.

Members of the Class of 2019 include William Joseph Beggan, Hailey S. Bembridge, Liliana Benanti, Isabela Sofia Davalos, Dominic DiCiacco, James Robert Doyle, Bianka Edouard, Amelia Piera Fleming, Samantha Nicole Grimmer, Mary Agnes Highland, Ryan Xavier Lovas, Molly Elizabeth McLaughlin, Anais Melanie Salageanu, Raegan Hope Wauthier, Brian Andrew Weiss, Devyn W. Westcott and Jadyn C. Westcott.

The graduates will attend the following high schools in the fall: Academy of Information Technology & Engineering-Stamford, Immaculate High School-Danbury, Norwalk High School, Saint Joseph High School- Trumbull, and Wilton High School.

Our Lady of Fatima School is a Roman Catholic co-educational school offering Pre-Kindergarten 3 through Grade 8. Recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School, Our Lady of Fatima has a rich history of Catholic education and academic excellence spanning over 57 years. The school was selected as one of six Diocesan schools to participate in the Personalized Learning Initiative launched in fall 2018. The blended learning experience of the traditional classroom with updated technology infrastructure and programming provides each child with a personalized approach to learning. Our Lady of Fatima School is located at 225 Danbury Road, Wilton, Conn.

(For admissions information for fall 2019, please contact 203.762.8100 or visit www.fatimaschoolwilton.org.)

Photo caption:  Pictured with graduates include (left, front row) ELA Middle School Teacher, Danielle Mancuso; (right, middle row) Reverend Reginald Norman, Our Lady of Fatima Church Pastor and (left, back row) Stanley Steele, Principal. Photo Credit: Lifetouch

Catholic Academy Upper School in Move-in to New Space

STAMFORD—If a rainy move-in day is really a sign of good luck, then the Catholic Academy upper school has a really bright future in its store for it.

The long-anticipated move to the newly-renovated space in the west-wing of the Trinity Catholic building is becoming a reality. The process of finishing classrooms, moving desks, furniture, boxes and effects began Monday and continued into a rainy Tuesday, as rooms were being assigned and the blueprint for the new upper school began to emerge.

The space, blessed by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on Pentecost Sunday,  is bright, airy, with beautiful exterior views of the courtyard and athletic fields outside modern, clean classrooms. In a mere eight weeks, a new era in Catholic education and Personalized Learning will commence at 948 Newfield Avenue.

The Catholic Academy of Stamford will also open this fall to the addition of a second principal for the school. Principal Natalia Cruz will be based out of the permanent Lower School campus at 1186 Newfield Avenue, while veteran Trinity Catholic vice-principal, Christine Wagner, will assume the helm of the upper school, grades 6-8, just down the road.

Immaculate High School Announces New Ice Hockey Coach and Return to an Independent Team

DANBURY—Beginning in the 2019-20 season, Immaculate High School will return to an independent ice hockey team with a new coach and an excited commitment to build an independent team and take on the challenges of the highly competitive world of Division 1 high school ice hockey.  

Winning Head Coach Brian Lugo will lead coaches and team members to put on their skates and new Mustang uniforms and take to the ice at the Danbury Ice Arena for practices and games beginning next winter. The team played as a co-op for several years with New Fairfield High School and went from a DIII to a DI classification when they earned a 13-5-3 record two years ago. Now, with many returning skaters and an experienced coach, the independent Mustang team is poised for another successful season.

Lugo has coached from mite level hockey through the junior level. When he was the coach for J.W. Mitchell High School in Port Richey, FL, the team won the State Championships two out of three years, and the team also went on to win Nationals and now has many players currently playing D1 and D3 college hockey with one player drafted into the NHL. Also, in 2013 his U16 travel team won Nationals, and he coached the first Midget team in Florida to ever win Nationals. Back up in the Northeast, Lugo coached for the Yale Youth team in 2018 and his U12 team won States while his U14 team won States and then went on to win New England Regionals.

“The co-op team was a great experience and allowed student-athletes to play on a high school team, and we are grateful for all that New Fairfield High School athletics and players contributed to the team and its high level of play,” said Coach Lugo. “The goal now is to build the chemistry in one school and one place the players can call home and find the perfect balance between academics and athletics. Being an independent team allows the players the opportunity to better compete for State titles,” he said.

Lugo’s goal for the first year is to teach the new systems and style of hockey the team will be playing. “Immaculate High School has a great reputation for academics; my goal is to bring and build up a program the school can be proud of. “‘Will always beats skill, unless skill works with will.’ I want to build a program that supports the school as well as have huge community involvement, including among alumni. We want the community to see what the players are doing, and come out and support a program the city, as well as parents and alumni, can be proud of and see the legacy continue,” Coach Lugo explained.

Lugo pointed out that the team already has some great assets in place, including a “fantastic” locker room, an equipment repair and sharpening center and a nutrition area, and an arena that will be refurbished under new management. “We will train harder than ever before, and we take players that want to succeed and put them in a system that gives them the opportunity to succeed, and make everyone proud,” he said.

Lugo began coaching ice hockey 18 years ago when his son, who now plays for Post University, began playing the sport. He is now happy to take his talents, experience and excitement to the return of the independent Immaculate High School Ice Hockey Team, where the student-athletes, parents, alumni and school staff have already welcomed him.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others.  Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

Trinity Students Excel

STAMFORD—The summer months leave no shortage of news from Trinity Catholic! The following are two recent alumni stories and one future alumni story.

Trinity’s Willette in West Point Academy Program

Our own Fiona Willette took on a challenge of a different kind last weekend.

West Point Military Academy Summer Leadership Experience is a highly competitive program that gives high school juniors a one-week immersive experience as a cadet to inform their college selection decision. SLE is a fast-paced program consisting of academic classes, military training, physical fitness training, and intramural athletics. 

During the week, Fiona was part of a squad with students from all over the US who woke up at 4:45 am every day for physical training, followed by classes or military training and group activities until 10 pm each day. The Candidate Fitness Assessment was also administered to all participants, which is a requirement for admission to any military school and Fiona passed it. Timed sit ups, push ups, chin ups and running ensure that all prospective applicants are physically able to succeed in a military environment.

To all, keep the experiences coming and we’ll share them with everyone.

How Trinity Changed My Life 

2018 Grad Broncati Headed to Rutgers 

“Navigating through high school can be uniquely challenging for most kids.” Thus began a heartfelt note to the Trinity Administration from Trinity alumni parents Anthony and Elizabeth Broncati. Not only did changing high schools mid-stream (for son David ) prove to be a great decision, it “changed the entire path for our son’s life”, Elizabeth Broncati stated.

Following graduation last year, David Broncati decided to do a prep year at nearby St. Thomas More. It made sense for David. After a great experience his Junior and Senior years at Trinity, this definitive student athlete furthered his college readiness with the decision.

In the fall of 2019, former-Crusader David Broncati will enter Rutgers University as a preferred walk-on as kicker for the Scarlet Knights.

“David is a true a gentleman,” states his former guidance counselor John Carrigan. “A consummate athlete, David raises the tide for everyone. His faith, his confidence becomes infectious to his teammates, in every situation.”

The Broncatis credit “caring teachers… guidance counselors… those who willingly provided extra help…encouragement and guidance”. Their contributions to David’s life helped him play two sports while at Trinity (baseball as well). He continued to improve in his studies, and made the Deans List and Honor Roll at St. Thomas More before landing at Rutgers.

“This is the finest example I’ve seen of the best bond between home and school, parents, teachers, coaches and administration,” adds John. “David made Trinity his home.”

David will be studying Sports Management and or Turf Management at Rutgers. “Anything in the field of sports” he adds.

We wish David all the success in his world come this fall and beyond.

Pensiero Awarded UNICO National Scholarship

Recently-graduated senior, Sam Pensiero, recently received a $1,000 scholarship from the UNICO National, Inc. Stamford Chapter. The award was presented at a family-style awards night held last Wednesday at The Minturnese Social Club in Stamford.

Sam was among seven Stamford seniors from Stamford high schools who received the scholarships during the Stamford Chapter’s annual awards dinner. The awards were presented by UNICO Coordinator and VP, Mrs. Josie Costa Weller. The event was also attended by Sam’s proud parents, Keith and Liz, along with his guidance counselor, Ms. Kathryn Devine and TCHS Guidance Registrar, Miss Stephanie Smith-Morton.

Sam will be attending Quinnipiac University in the fall. Congratulations to Sam and his family!

Bishop Blesses New Academy Upper School

STAMFORD—On a bright beautiful morning that was Pentecost Sunday 2019, Bishop Caggiano blessed the newly-renovated classroom and lab space that will house the Catholic Academy’s Upper School this fall.

The mood was reflective and anticipatory as several hundred people attended mass at St. Gabriel’s church. This special mass was presided over by Bishop Caggiano, whose homily centered around the gift of the Holy Spirit commemorated this day. Likening the Spirit’s enabling of the first disciples to the hope for The Catholic Academy, the Bishop then led a procession up the driveway to the new Upper School space.

As the faithful gathered first outside the new building at the entrance to what is currently the Trinity Catholic High School courtyard, he read a special prayer for the school’s dedication, before blessing those gathered. Head of School Pat Brady, Lower School Principal Natalia Cruz, Upper School Principal Christine Wagner, Assistant Superintent of Schools Stacey Steuber and a dozen or so faculty and staff were in attendance. The Bishop, escorted by Deacon Michael Clarke and others, then proceeded inside to bless the hallways and each classroom in the new Upper School west wing.

A reception was held following the Blessing. The school will be formally dedicated and opened in the fall as students arrive. Classroom furniture and furnishings will begin to move-in next week. The exterior walkways and entrance to the new school are expected to be completed during the summer, prior to school’s opening.

May God bless the Catholic Academy of Stamford, all its faculty and staff, parents and students as we near a new beginning.