STRATFORD—Students and staff at St. Mark School will take a break from their normal routines during the week of January 30 in order to celebrate National Catholic Schools Week.

The annual weeklong celebration focuses on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, communities and nation. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”

Students do not have to be Catholic to attend St. Mark School. “There are a number of students who are not Catholic,” shares Principal Melissa Warner. “However, many do practice their faith inside and outside of the school day. In fact, 34 students participate as altar servers at weekend Masses, weddings and funerals.”

The week kicks off on Sunday, January 30, with the school’s annual preschool-grade 8 open house. Student ambassadors will showcase the school to prospective families by providing them with tours and their personal experiences and testimonials. Students also read essays at Mass on what their Catholic education means to them.

Some of the highlights of the school week include dress-down days, community service projects, making valentines for seniors, no-homework days, and fun-filled surprise activities aimed at celebrating students, parents, faculty and staff.

“Our students look forward to Catholic Schools Week,” states Janet Rodriguez, grade 4 teacher and coordinator of the Catholic Schools Week activities. “The whole school gets involved with the planning. It’s a really fun week which encourages students to reflect on the benefits of their Catholic education and how the grounding in faith, excellence and service will help them throughout their lives.”

Despite declining Catholic school enrollment, Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Elementary Schools have experienced a growth of 10 percent over the last year. At St. Mark School alone, it increased by 18 percent this year with many classes at wait-list status.

The current enrollment of 234 is an all-time high for St. Mark School!

“We are proud of the work we do educating the whole person,” comments Warner. “We have wonderful students and so much to celebrate!”

BRIDGEPORT—Yesterday, on Catholic Academy of Bridgeport’s St. Raphael campus, CT Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz held a press conference with Deputy Commissioner Heather Aaron, Mayor Ganim, Executive Director Angela Pohlen, principal Sr. Elizabeth Doyle, and several state and local officials to discuss the importance of getting children vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to keep schools in person.

The conference was followed by a free vaccine clinic at St. Raphael for children and adults.

Bysiewicz said the clinic location was a natural choice since a benefit of being vaccinated is greater resistance to COVID-19 and a shorter, milder illness in the event of a breakthrough case. All of this means children stay in school instead of being home either sick or quarantining, she said.

“Now, when we’re seeing this huge spike in cases, the governor and I are really focusing on how we can best protect our children,” Bysiewicz said. “We know in-person learning is the most effective. We are here to highlight that in Bridgeport, as of December 29, only 50 percent of children 12 to 17 are fully vaccinated. It’s even less among children 5 to 11, so that’s why we’re here.”

St. Raphael offers instruction for children in grades K-3, so its students are statistically the least likely segment of the population to be vaccinated. State Deputy Health Commissioner Heather Aaron said the vaccines had proven effective in keeping COVID-19 at bay.

Angela Pohlen, executive director of the city’s Catholic Academy, which includes St. Raphael, agreed. With children starting to require hospitalization, she said vaccinating the youngest members of the population was the highest priority.

Catholic Academy will be hosting numerous clinics in the coming weeks, and Pohlen invited anyone in the community to attend.

“We welcome everyone,” she said.

(Click here to read the full CT Post story)

SHELTON — What started as a project for St. Margaret Mary Alacoque students to bring some Christmas joy to the residents of Gardner Heights Health Care Center spread throughout the community in the spirit of the season until hundreds of gifts were collected, from pajamas and socks to crossword puzzles and personal care items.

“What began as a little idea blossomed and grew rapidly,” said Heather Moura, the Director of Religious Education. “This is the result of the mustard seed that grew into a beautiful bush.”

It all began when Deacon David Sochacki and his wife Kathy made their regular visit to the home to pray the rosary and give Communion to the residents and were approached by the recreational therapist Morgan Lovell who told them, “I wish you could do something for them for Christmas because many of them don’t have family.”

Deacon Sochacki approached Moura, who emailed the families of the 80 students in her religious education program. Many of the parents, in turn, spread the word to organizations they were involved with, including ambulance services, the Knights of Columbus, the Walking With Purpose Bible study group, Mary Kay beauty products and even the University of Connecticut dental clinic, which donated dental supplies.

Moura said the wide variety of several hundred gifts included toothbrushes, soap, cosmetics, lotions, perfumes, cologne, eyeglass chains, pajamas, slippers, socks, hats, gloves and bags of candy from the Girl Scouts. In addition, $400 in donations was collected, which will be used to finance an event for the residents.

There was such an outpouring of giving that each of the 100 residents received two bags of gifts with enough left over for people who move there in the future.

“The students also made Christmas cards and helped me wrap the gifts over two weekends,” Moura said.

She was joined by parishioners Sarah Graham, Deacon Sochacki and Thomas Jensen of the Men’s Group, who loaded up four cars and brought them to Gardner Heights the Monday before Christmas. Because of COVID restrictions, the students did not go to the home.

“The staff was waiting outside for us, jumping up and down they were so excited,” Moura said. “It was the cutest thing. They ran out and hugged us and were shocked that the cars were piled to the top with gift bags. They unloaded them and brought them to the recreational room, where they will be distributed. And they’ll send pictures of the residents opening their presents to the students.”

The best gift of all is the one the students received, which was a lesson about giving.

“It teaches the kids about the importance of giving,” Moura said. “It’s not just about receiving. It’s about giving and caring for the elderly.”

Stratford, CT – Students from St. Mark School in Stratford got a surprise when they arrived at school Wednesday morning to find their principal dressed up as a Scout Elf, along with Santa Claus himself, throwing magic snow from the roof.

Car horns honked, bus horns honked, and families clapped and laughed.

This is the second year that St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner decided to spread some holiday cheer as Peppermint Sparkle, the St. Mark Elf on the Shelf.

Not only did Warner dress as the holiday icon, but she also hid in different places around the school where students were able to find her. Photos show her keeping an elf surveillance on the students so that she can report to Santa Claus.

When spotted, students gathered around her with smiles, squeals and waves.

There was a very serious debate in Kindergarten whether Mrs. Warner was a real elf. It was overheard that “Mrs. Warner can’t be a real elf because she is big and elves are small.”

“We are all about the kids here at St. Mark School; service to students above all else,” commented Warner. “As a Catholic school we spend the Advent Season preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus. As an elementary school, we do what we can to bring joy and cheer.”

Just like the popular, sneaky little Elf on the Shelf, Peppermint Sparkle made some mischief wherever she went. Of all her antics, the students’ favorite was when she challenged the middle school students to a snowball fight.

Principal Warner admits there is not much she would not do to make her students smile. Last year, Peppermint Sparkle visited St. Mark School after a snowstorm. Students watched from their classroom windows as the elf sledded down hills of snow.

Parents helped the elf with her mischievousness this year, including a 2nd grade father dressing up as Santa himself.

“Seeing the looks on the kids’ faces made it all worthwhile,” shared Santa, aka Derek Masterbone. This is one small elementary school with educators that are going to bat for kids every day and going above and beyond to make things exciting and magical,” he said.

BRIDGEPORT—After a year off due to COVID-19, Harvest Party returned to Kolbe Cathedral High School on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Harvest Party is the longest-running tradition at Kolbe Cathedral and is meant to help bring the students together as they work to win the various competitions. Each class decorates their assigned hallways in a theme they choose. This year’s themes included Hollywood Legends, and the 90s.  Students competed in games including volleyball, hungry-hungry hippo and tug-of-war. Because service and helping those in need are important to the Kolbe community, they held a can drive and collected over 700 canned goods for the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. At the end of the day and the points were totaled, the Class of ‘22 came out on top winning a half-day off for their strong team play.

Paying homage to Harvest Party, the school launched its first-ever annual fund. It is named the Annual Harvest Fund to recognize the hard work, care and nurturing it takes each year to produce a bountiful crop of caring graduates and college-bound students in the largest and poorest city in Connecticut. This fundraising effort will run through June ’22.

(For more information, visit and click the “Donate” button)


DANBURY—Immaculate High School recently inducted 37 students into the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapter of the National Honor Society, an affiliated chartered chapter of the National Honor Society at a ceremony held at the Amber Room. Students who are inducted into the National Society are required to have a minimum 3.5 GPA. They must also have a leadership role in either the school or community, inspire positive behavior in others, have served at least 75 hours (juniors) or 100 hours (seniors) of community service and consistently demonstrate respect, responsibility, trustworthiness, fairness, caring and good citizenship. Membership is offered to juniors and seniors who meet the criteria established by the National Association of Secondary School Principals in the areas of scholarship, leadership, service and character. Once accepted, members are expected to uphold the criteria of excellence in all four areas.

“These students should be proud to be members. It’s more than just academics: these students provide many hours of service to the community and are leaders among their peers,” says Dana Pickney, advisor of the National Honor Society. Keynote speaker Kat Keeley, an English teacher at the school, told students to always remember to use their knowledge, compassion and talents to make a difference in the lives of others.

Students inducted include Julia Babcock (Ridgefield), Colleen Blackman (New Fairfield), Gavin Buttafuoco (New Fairfield), Dominic Chila (Danbury), Julianna Chronakos (Brookfield), Julia Cirone (Newtown), Carina Clark (Danbury), Caitlin Conley (Ridgefield), Isabella Desintonio (Patterson, NY), Chase Dietter (Brookfield), Aidan Doolabh (Danbury), Olivia Esposito (Danbury), Joseph Falcao (Danbury), Nicholas Garcia (Danbury), Benjamin Gasparrini (Ridgefield), Alyssa Hartnett (Ridgefield), Amanda Hoyt (Danbury), Sadie Jarboe (Danbury), Anna Kopec (Bethel), Qianhui Liao (New Milford), Michaela Martin (Ridgefield), Patrick McKenzie (Newtown), Madison Moreau (Redding), Kayla O’Marra (Bethel), Angela Pacheco (Danbury), Talia Pereira (Brookfield), Elise, Quartaro (New Fairifield), Abbe Radigan (Ridgefield), Mia Romano (Bethel), Cole Ross (Brookfield), Connor Sahl (Danbury), Caleb Schmidt (Ridgefield), Sarah Tallaksen (New Milford), James Toscano (New Milford), Kerry Tuccinardi (Bethel), Sofia Velez (Danbury).

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 academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others, and personal goals.  Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.

Photo l-r: Julia Cirone, Patrick McKeenzie, and Sofia Velez

DANBURY—Principal Wendy Neil of Immaculate High School announced that William Doran and Julong Williams have been named Commended Students in the 2022 National Merit Scholarship Program.  A Letter of Commendation from the school and National Merit Scholarship Corporation, which conducts the program, will be presented by the principal at an awards ceremony to these two exceptional students.

About 34,000 Commended Students throughout the nation are being recognized for their exceptional academic promise.  Doran and Williams placed among the top 50,000 students who entered the 2022 national competition by taking the 2020 preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

“Those being named Commended Students have demonstrated outstanding potential for academic success, commented a spokesman for NMSC.  “These students represent a valuable national resource; recognizing their accomplishments, as well as the key role that their schools play in their academic development, is vital to the advancement of educational excellence in our nation.  We hope that this recognition will help broaden their educational opportunities and encourage them as they continue their pursuit of academic success.”

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 a Diocesan-sponsored school.

STRATFORD—Christmas came early this year at St. Mark School, as the elementary school hosted its traditional Breakfast with Santa. Throughout the morning, over 200 people attended the annual holiday event that was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students and families from St. Mark School and parish gathered Sunday morning for breakfast and activities with Santa Claus and his elves.

The school gymnasium was transformed into The Polar Express. Kids were able to visit Santa Claus and take photographs with him before he boarded the train to the North Pole.

Breakfast was hosted and coordinated by Stratford’s Paradise Pizza Owner and St. Mark Parent, Andy Tsichlas. Under Andy’s leadership, members of the school community as well as Andy’s family made and served waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage links and other breakfast items.

The event also featured Christmas arts and crafts, cookie bake sale and themed basket raffles. Upper grade students and recent alumni helped with set up and clean up.

“The breakfast spoke volumes to the power of Christmas spirit and coming together,” shared St. Mark Parent and Event Chair Michele Rouse. “Many of us yearn for togetherness after being impacted by the pandemic.”

“Breakfast with Santa is a magical time for our students and their families,” commented St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner. “Our school is especially blessed with wonderful families that dedicate so much of their time and talents into organizing events that the students happily await each year. Each year’s event seems to outdo the last!” Warner added.

St. Mark School is a 2009 Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school, serving students in Pre-K through Grade 8. This year, St. Mark School welcomed 88 new students and continues to attract families looking for an exceptional in-person education.

(For more information, visit or email

NEWTOWN—The faculty and students at St. Rose School have been busy learning wonderful lessons and partaking in acts of service.

The school’s “buddy teams” joined together for a Turkey Trot race and collected more than 3,500 canned goods for Faith Food Pantry in November.

The school also participated in the Knights of Columbus Coat Drive, collecting 517 coats that will bring warmth to children and adults in the community this winter.

Monsignor Bob held storytime for the preschool and kindergarten classes during the Scholastic Book Fair and the whole school celebrated the 50th day ’50’s style!

On the Feast of St. Nicholas, kindergarten and first-grade students learned about the loving saint and discovered some treats in the shoes they placed outside their classrooms.

It’s a joy to be on this learning adventure together.

About St. Rose School

St. Rose of Lima Catholic School is a Christ-centered community committed to academic excellence in an atmosphere that nurtures the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical and moral development of each child. The dedicated staff partners with families to prepare students to be responsible leaders in a global society by fostering integrity, service and respect. By creating a sense of family where all are welcome, they encourage each child to develop his/her gifts and to become Christ’s compassionate heart and hands in the world. They center their community of learning around the four core values of respect, integrity, academic excellence and service. Their spirituality is fostered through their close connection with St. Rose of Lima church. Students attend weekly Mass and are blessed by the continual presence of Msgr. Robert Weiss and the other parish priests.

(For more information on St. Rose of Lima school, visit their website at:

BRIDGEPORT—The Diocesan Schools Office has issued its 2021 Annual Report, which notes that student enrollment has increased by 11 percent this year, which is the highest increase in enrollment in decades.

Total enrollment for 2021 was 8,462 students in pre-school through high school. The diocesan system includes 19 elementary schools, five high schools and one special needs school, along with five independent Catholic schools in Fairfield County.

Dr. Steven Cheeseman, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the diocese, attributes the growth in enrollment to the strong, faith-based learning communities that helped schools remain open and responsive to students during the most difficult days of the pandemic.

“It is that gift of community that has helped our schools through the rough times caused by this pandemic. While there can be no doubt that the pandemic has challenged our schools, our leaders, teachers and families. We must acknowledge the many blessing that have come from everyone’s commitment to mission and focus on the academic success of our students,” he said.

Dr. Cheeseman also noted that the personalized learning initiative, introduced in schools prior to the pandemic, helped students and teachers overcome many obstacles and helped students achieve growth in Language and Math proficiency, while other school systems reported academic losses.

In his introductory letter to the 2021 Annual Report, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano wrote, “Teaching in any given year is a difficult task, but this past year has truly put our Catholic educators to the test, and they have met every single challenge.”

The bishop said he was deeply grateful to donors who have given generously to support innovations in Catholic education and to the teachers and administrators “for their heroic leadership that has helped ensure the healthy, safe and joy-filled learning environments so that students can grow in academics and in faith.”

Among the highlights of the report is that 100  percent of students graduate from Catholic high schools, and 99 percent go on to college or the military.

The report also features schools such as Cardinal Kung Academy (CKS) in Stamford and St. Theresa School in Trumbull that have adopted a Classical education model. The classical model of Catholic education puts Jesus Christ at its center with a curriculum that focuses on the humanities suppled with art, music and Latin coursework.

The diocesan schools’ report also introduces the Seton Collaborative, an operations support network (OSN) that will support schools with financial and information technology services. The shared service organization grew out of the 2020 Strategic Plan initiative to create expertise in running the business side of the school while freeing administrators to focus on the educational mission. Kevin Lawlor, retired executive vice president of Fairfield University, is serving as the executive director.

The report acknowledges the key role played by Foundations in Education (FIE), which has awarded $2.7 million in tuition assistance to diocesan K-8 families through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. The foundations (along with Foundations in Faith and Foundations in Charity) were established as part of the We Stand With Christ capital campaign. It provides innovation and leadership grants that have supported professional development and upgraded technology in the schools.

For enrollment information, contact numbers, and locations, visit the diocesan Catholic schools website:

To read the 2021 Diocesan Catholic Schools Annual Report report in its entirety, visit:

DANBURY—Immaculate High School announced that six students achieved perfect scores on college admissions exams. Both ACT and SAT scores are used for college admissions decisions and awarding merit-based scholarships.

Students William Doran and Zifeng Zhan received the distinguished accomplishment of a perfect 800 score on the Math SAT section. Additionally, perfect ACT scores were achieved by Caitlin Doherty (English), Calista Dudas (Reading and Writing), Kennedi Muller (Reading), and Caroline Tucker (English). In addition to congratulating each of these students, Principal Wendy Neil thanks the “remarkable dedication of faculty and staff in presenting exemplary personalized college-preparatory academic and support programs.”

Immaculate High School was recently recognized as an A+ school by NICHE, a national organization that ranks elementary through college schools based on key statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Education and parent/student reviews.  With a counselor-student ratio of 1:125 and teacher-student ratio of 1:7, Immaculate’s academic program offers a diverse college-preparatory program that includes 30 Advanced Placement, 8 dual enrollment courses and 3 certification courses, namely nursing, graphics arts and technology. Outside its academic programs, NICHE ranked the school  #16 out of 270 high schools that are “Best for Athletes.”

To learn more about the reasons why students who attend Immaculate are enjoying their college-preparatory experience and to learn more about becoming a part of its thriving community, visit

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.

STAMFORD—Congratulations to Reethi Thota, a 4th-grade student at Catholic Academy of Stamford for winning the nationwide iWrite award!

Reethi’s short story ‘Two together’ was selected to be published in the 2021 iWrite anthology ‘I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids.’ The annual publishing contest organized by iWRITE Nonprofit organization selects 100 stories, plays songs and poetry each year for kids in 3rd to 12th-grade.

This year, the iWRITE Nonprofit Organization offered students in the 3rd-12th grades the opportunity to submit short stories, plays, poetry, songs, and artwork to their annual publishing contest called, I Write Short Stories by Kids for Kids.

About Catholic Academy of Stamford

The Catholic Academy of Stamford provides academic excellence in a nurturing, small school atmosphere. It is an environment of faith and personalized learning- both in-classroom and through robust, 100% teacher-led distance learning. It keeps students engaged, always seeking personal excellence. It helps build strong foundations for life through a supportive community, and, a lifelong love of learning, of God and of each other. The Catholic Academy of Stamford is a fully accredited Pre-K through 8th-grade school.

(For more information, visit:

DANBURY—Immaculate High School celebrated Veterans Day by hosting a powerfully reflective Veterans Tribute in its Bobby Plumb Gymnasium.

To prepare for the day, students researched the history of the day, created a wall of honor of family members who served in the armed forces and a hill of honor with American flags on the front lawn of the school.

The tribute included patriotic songs presented by its band and choir with reflective prayers offered by the school’s Chaplain, Deacon Jeff Font. Honored guests included Thomas J. Saadi, Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs, Colonel Tom Mertens, U.S. Army Ret., Sergeant Michael Kearns US Army Ret. and decorated 1st Lieutenant Zach Long, U.S. Army Ret.

Keynote speaker State Commissioner Thomas J. Saadi encouraged students to make an effort to actively support veterans as a way to recognize their sacrifices. The school raised funds through its sale of American flags and presented Commissioner Saadi with a $1,160 check to support programs and services provided by the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs. The tribute concluded with students personally thanking each of the veterans.

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 academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others, and personal goals. Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.

STRATFORD—Joseph “Sparky” Minar, a sixth-grade student at St. Mark School in Stratford, read a news article about United States veteran and Louisiana native Lawrence Brooks, who recently celebrated his 112th birthday. Sparky clipped the write-up about the oldest living World War II veteran and brought it into school to share with his classmates.

Sparky also brought in a birthday card and a thank you card that he suggested the class sign and mail to Brooks in an extraordinary gesture of altruism and citizenship.

The class included the following note to Lawrence Brooks:

“All of us in the 6th grade at St. Mark School express our profound gratitude and deep appreciation for your life and service to our nation. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your contributions to the struggle against fascism, authoritarianism, and militarism.”

“As his teacher, it gives me an unbelievable amount of pride to witness Sparky’s kindness, compassion, and patriotic spirit,” shared Matt Bonito, middle school history teacher at St. Mark School. “Sparky took the initiative of this incredible project completely on his own and our class and our school are a better place for it. I can’t wait to see how he impresses me next.”

St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner added to Bonito’s praise, “Sparky’s leadership, gratitude, and benevolence are examples of the moral character and faith development we promote at St. Mark School.”

Born in New Orleans in 1909, Brooks served as a support worker in the Army’s 91st Engineer Battalion, a majority African-American unit stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines during the war. He reached the rank of private first class.

As of 2020, only 325,574 of the 16 million who served in World War II are still alive and according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, we are losing more than 290 veterans a day.

(For more information visit:

DANBURY—, a national group that ranks K-12 schools across the country, awarded Immaculate High School with an A+ grade and placed it as the #2 Catholic school in Fairfield County and #6 of all Catholic schools in Connecticut for the 2021-22 year.

In addition to its exemplary diverse college-preparatory academic program that includes options for over 30 Advanced Placement college level courses and professional certification programs, the student SAT scores average 1220, and recent graduating classes have earned a three-year average of $24M in college scholarships and awards. School Principal Wendy Neil shares that students are able to be successful because of the “collaborative personalized academic planning and low teacher-student ratio.” Neil attests that the recognition by NICHE is a reflection of an exceptionally caring, dedicated teaching and counseling staff.

At the school, located in the heart of Danbury, Immaculate students welcome the competitive academic and extracurricular opportunities, the faith-based learning environment, and academic support.  In addition, students affirm that there is a family atmosphere that fosters respect and responsibility. “We pride ourselves on our ability to prepare students to be critically thoughtful, intelligent, faith-filled leaders’, exclaims school President Mary Maloney. In addition, Maloney notes that the school is able to deliver a recognized meritorious program for its students while maintaining a comparatively reasonable tuition for its families.

To learn more about the reasons why students who attend Immaculate are enjoying their college-preparatory experience and to learn more about becoming a part of its thriving community, visit

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 academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others, and personal goals. Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.