Allow me to begin by offering you my prayers and best wishes for a Blessed, Joyful and Healthy New Year.

Some pastors have made inquiries regarding a diocesan policy governing mask wearing in Church in light of the precipitous rise of Covid infections in our county. Given the absence of a state mandate that requires the wearing of a mask at indoor gatherings, I ask that you continue to follow all local guidelines regarding this question and other pandemic-related safety protocols, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic.

Further, in general terms, the Diocese of Bridgeport is strongly recommending that people wear masks while attending Mass in interest of protecting others during the Covid surge. If you wish, please feel free to make this announcement at the start of Mass, as well as online on your parish websites. Also, I ask that you continue to make masks available for those who may have forgotten to bring a mask to Church for use during Mass.

Likewise, our people must be reminded that if anyone feels ill, shows symptoms associated with Covid infection or has serious health issues, they should remain home to protect themselves and their families.

I am writing to you from day five of my quarantine with COVID-19, and I can tell you right now it is not something you want to get. After now having first-hand experience with the virus, I have an even greater appreciation for all who worked to make vaccines and boosters readily available. From the way my body is reacting, I can tell that I would be much worse for wear if I weren’t fully protected.

Our frontline workers are doing important, life-saving work right now and they deserve our love, our prayers and our unwavering support. When I think of them, I think of how Jesus would heal those who would come to Him. The paralytic (Matthew 9:1- 7), the woman with the 12-year affliction (Mark 5:25-34), the man with leprosy (Matthew 8). Would He not provide healing whenever and wherever He could?

As I isolate out of love for others, I am actively working to remain grateful. I started chronicling at least one moment of joy and gratitude each day as I recuperate.

The flowers my mom dropped off, adding beauty to my space.

The soup a friend made, accompanied by a sweet personalized note.

An at-home yoga video to keep my body moving even when it is hard.

A beach I can walk to to see the sunset.

A book a friend sent, reminding me they care.

Friends who journey to the store for late-night medicinal needs.

Although I am physically isolated, I feel an outpouring of love from those around me. They remind me I’m not alone and that my well-being matters to them.

For someone who loves to be active, it is difficult to let my body rest. But the thing about being sick is, it makes you take that time because it’s what your body needs to recover. I am grateful that I can take this time to get better, because many people are finding they have to go to work, even when they are ill, to make ends meet.

In a world that often places our worth in our productivity, Jesus implores us to do the exact opposite. To Him, we are inherently worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of care, worthy of healing.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).

This has often been difficult for me to understand because it is so contrary to what we’ve been taught all our lives. Society weighs us by our achievements, how we perform, what we can give others. But, as Christians, we have to actively fight that notion. Humans are worthy simply because they are. They have dignity simply because it is so.

I can’t physically leave my house right now, but my friends and family remind me that my worth does not disappear because I cannot be available to them.

We are precious in His eyes and honored and loved.

We could let COVID-19 be the great isolator, letting it cut down the “less able” and using tropes like “survival of the fittest,” or we could let it be the great unifier—allowing us to understand that we are all human, we are all susceptible to sickness and pain, but that does not make us less worthy of love.

We could all use a little more love these days. So let us be His hands and feet and bring that love to others.

DANBURY—Understanding and inspiration were the messages shared at the annual Catholic Charities Celebrity Breakfast.

The annual event, which helps raise money for numerous Catholic Charities’ community programs delivering care to those in need, was held at the Amber Room Colonnade and featured Dr. John Murphy, M.D., chief executive officer of Nuvance Health.

“I thank Catholic Charities for the work they do,” Dr. Murphy said as he spoke about the complex approach and collaboration needed for the community response to COVID-19.

Dr. Murphy shared his thoughts on what the medical community missed and misunderstood in the early days about the emerging virus and how the community, with the instrumental help of Catholic Charities, has pulled together for healing.

“As a health system we’ve had 14,000 people with COVID-19 come through our doors,” said Dr. Murphy, adding that about 900 souls were lost. “If you are lucky enough to survive, you are not necessarily out of the woods,” he said. “Long-haulers have it very hard.” Long-haulers is the term used to describe those who have recovered from the acute phase of the illness but continue to suffer from lingering health problems.

Dr. Murphy said besides the obvious health challenges, the impact of the virus often has a ripple effect on families and the greater community from grief for those who were unable to be near a loved one during their illness or death to the fear felt by many, including healthcare workers, who were on the frontlines and putting themselves at risk everyday to help combat the crises.

“There was not only the fear of getting sick but also the economic impact,” said Dr. Murphy, referring to the thousands of people who lost their jobs and were living in uncertainty about having the basics of daily life such as food and shelter.

Dr. Murphy said compounding the health crises was the phenomenal degree of misinformation. He cited statistics of how anxiety, depression and domestic violence have skyrocketed. “The people who are most at risk have underlying issues,” he added, noting how overdoses were the highest ever reported in the United States during this time.

“This crisis hasn’t left us,” Dr. Murphy said. “It is very real. We have to find a way out of this,” he said, adding that Catholic Charities is the compassionate connection in the community helping people navigate their way through difficult times.

“Catholic Charities is there to deal with the isolation and the deprivation COVID-19 has imposed on us,” he said, referring to some of the organization’s programs such as the Morning Glory Breakfast Program, Behavioral Health Counseling Services and Community Support Program.

“Catholic Charities is right there and helping us stay together and soldier through this,” he said.

Indeed, the Morning Glory Program with the help of Douglas Polistena, general manager of the Amber Room Colonnade has delivered more than 50,000 meals to those in need. Morning Glory program coordinator Tamara Espinal was also thanked for her efforts and commitment to making meals in her home and going out to find and deliver it to people in need during the initial months of the pandemic when many services were closed.

During the breakfast, Dr. Barbara Ina Anderson, a noted research scientist who worked at Schlumberger-Doll for over 40 years, was honored by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County for her tireless contributions to the community.

A parishioner of St. Joseph Parish in Brookfield, the 80-year-old Newtown native volunteers at Dorothy Day Hospitality House and serves meals through Catholic Charities.

“The church is now my extended family,” she said, as she accepted her recognition award. “I take all the opportunities to be with my extended family.”

The community of programs offered through Catholic Charities truly has the power to change lives.

Jeffrey Umansky, who was recently promoted to assistant program director of New Heights, an emotional and physical wellness and recovery center run by Catholic Charities, was once a client.

“I found a place of hope and promise,” he said. Jeff said he suffers from social anxiety disorder but wanted to share his story with the group because of the profound effect Catholic Charities has had on his life.

Jeff recounted how he dropped out of school, suffered from bipolar disorder and tried a myriad of medication before he stumbled across Catholic Charities New Heights program.

“I want to provide the support that was provided to me and help make someone’s life better,” he said. “I felt a sense of purpose and empowerment. It helped me a good deal and continues to do so.”

The speeches by both men resonated with those in attendance.

“I thought Dr. Murphy’s talk was very informative and cleared up some misconceptions I had,” said Linda Moritz, a parishioner of St. Rose Church in Newtown.

Moritz said she was touched by Umansky’s story. “It was so enlightening to hear how he trudged on even though he had all those problems,” she said.

Proceeds from the breakfast will support the many programs of Catholic Charities in the Danbury area including Behavioral Health, Homeless Outreach, Immigration Services, Morning Glory Breakfast Program, New Heights/Warmline, Disaster Case Management, Pregnancy Counseling and Adoption Services.

“To see the people here in this hall, it’s an outpouring of love,” said Barbara Talarico, a parishioner of St. Peter Church in Danbury. Anthony Scalzo, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Danbury agreed, “It’s great to see a good turnout for Catholic Charities.”

BRIDGEPORT— All are invited to come out for a morning walk at Seaside Park to get physical activity while getting health tips from local healthcare professionals on Saturday, September 25, 9 -10:30 am at Seaside Park in Bridgeport.




Click here to register.

(For questions email:

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued guidance for those who seek letters of exemption from the Covid-19 vaccine.

In an August 17 letter to clergy the Bishop noted that his guidance is offered in response to inquiries clergy have received from parishioners seeking a letter to claim a religious exemption from any requirement to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

“As you well know, this is a very complex issue, made more complicated by a great amount of misinformation that is found on the internet and via social media,” the Bishop said.

“Our Holy Father and the CDF have taught us that reception of the vaccine fulfills the moral imperative to protect the health of our neighbor and the common good of society. Those who do not wish to be vaccinated must be reminded of their moral obligation to do whatever is reasonable and required by local authorities to avoid becoming infected and transmitting the virus to others.”

The Bishop reiterated that the Magisterium of the Church has clearly taught that there is no moral prohibition for any Catholic to receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Further, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has made it clear that the Johnson and Johnson vaccine can be received by Catholics in those cases where there are no alternative vaccines available.

However, while the Church has urged Catholics to get vaccinated for the common good, the Bishop said it also recognizes that a Catholic, whose conscience is properly informed on the subject after prayerful reflection, can arrive at a personal decision to refrain from receiving the vaccine. In such cases, the person may feel obligated in conscience to refrain from what is morally permissible for a variety of legitimate reasons.

The Bishop said that when people come forward requesting a letter of exemption from the vaccine, it is important that the priest meet with the individuals and explore the reasoning that led them to this conclusion.

However, “because such a decision is made in conscience, informed by faith, for which only the person making the decision can attest,” the priest cannot write a letter directly endorsing the exemption, the Bishop said.

“When a Catholic decides to forgo the reception of the Coronavirus vaccine, that person is making the conscientious decision to hold themselves to a more rigorous religious practice than recommended by the Roman Magisterium. As such, their request is really an affirmation of the person’s conscientious objection, informed by their personal faith and personal circumstances. Since no one can speak for the conscience of another person, only the person who arrived at such a conclusion can write a letter affirming their conclusion,” he said.

Priests can assist in the process by providing two documents that can accompany an individual’s request for a conscientious exemption, a Statement of Resource issued by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a Question & Answer resource provided by the USCCB. Both documents can accompany a person’s request for an exemption from the vaccine.

The Bishop’s letter also included a template that can be used by a person who wishes to request a conscientious, religious exemption from any vaccine mandate.

Among available resources are:
CDF Document on the morality of using some anti-Covid-19 vaccines
Statement from Pro-Life Catholic Scholars
USCCB document on Moderna and Pfizer vaccines
USCCB document on the moral concerns of creating vaccines

BRIDGEPORT—Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater is providing free COVID Vaccinations to any eligible person 12 and older on Wednesday, August 25th from 11am-6pm.  The free COVID vaccination clinic will be hosted at the brand-new Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater in Bridgeport where anyone who receives their vaccination will also win prizes including $25 gift cards and Live Nation concert tickets.

The Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater has partnered with Connoisseur Media, Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent’s Medical Center, New 8, and the City of Bridgeport to continue vaccination efforts and stop the spread of COVID along with its variants.  All partners are concerned for the safety of the public and are hoping that Connecticut residents that have yet to be vaccinated will now consider this highest level of protection.

Starting at 11am Wednesday, vaccines will be free, and no appointment is necessary.

Connoisseur Media’s group of radio stations is teaming up with Hartford HealthCare, the City of Bridgeport, News 8, and the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater for this initiative, made even more important with the rise of the Delta variant.

From 11am-3pm anyone that comes to the free vaccine clinic will have their choice of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson or two shot Pfizer.  From 3pm-6pm only Pfizer will be available.   Children over 12 need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get vaccinated.  Any unvaccinated person is eligible to receive a free vaccine.

Throughout the day radio station personalities such as Chaz from 99.1 WPLR and 95.9 The Fox, Storm N Norman from WEBE 108, Raven from STAR 99.9 and others will be broadcasting live encouraging residents to come down to get vaccinated and pick up prizes.

“Hartford HealthCare St. Vincent’s Medical Center is honored to partner with Connoisseur Media, and the City of Bridgeport to distribute more Covid vaccine to our community at the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater. This unique partnership is another opportunity to reach the unvaccinated and enhance the safety of the community.” commented Bill Hoey, Hartford HealthCare VP of Mission Integration Fairfield Region.

Research shows vaccines can prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID. Everyone 12 or older are eligible to be vaccinated. COVID vaccines are free, and no health insurance is needed, nor do you need to be citizen of the United States to get vaccinated—no ID is required.

“We are happy to host the ‘Shot to Win’ vaccine Clinic with Connoisseur Media, Hartford HealthCare and City of Bridgeport. We are hoping people will come down, roll up the sleeves, and take the shot. This way we all win,” commented Howard Saffan, Owner & Developer—Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater.

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim stated, “First, I want to thank all who have come together for this important cause.  Joining this partnership is critical for our city to ensure that we continue our efforts in vaccinating Bridgeport residents and the surrounding communities.  As we start sending our children back to school and head into the fall, we have to take every precaution in making sure that we don’t see another COVID surge.”

“We want to encourage more Connecticut residents to get vaccinated,” said Connoisseur Media SVP, Kristin Okesson. “Vaccines are our way out of this pandemic. Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect our economy and our health and we plan to use our radio stations to continue to encourage people to get the shot.”

The Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater is located at 500 Broad Street in Bridgeport and parking is free.

VATICAN CITY—The Pope has joined his voice to those of Bishops across North and South America to urge people to get jabbed against Covid-19.

In a video message produced in conjunction with the Ad Council, Pope Francis praised the work of researchers and scientists in producing safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.

“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from Covid-19,” he said in the video released on Wednesday.

He added that vaccines “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”

Vaccination is an act of love

Pope Francis went on to say that getting a Covid jab that is “authorized by the respective authorities” is an “act of love.”

Helping other do the same, he said, is also an act of love. “Love for oneself, love for our families and friends, and love for all peoples. Love is also social and political.”

The Pope noted that social and political love is built up through “small, individual gestures capable of transforming and improving societies.”

“Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable,” he said.

Pope Francis then prayed to God that “each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love.”

“No matter how small, love is always grand,” he said. “Small gestures for a better future.”

‘Strength of faith’

The Pope was joined in the video by several Cardinals and Archbishops from across the Americas.

Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Los Angeles, lamented the suffering and death the pandemic has wrought across the globe.

He prayed that God might “grant us the grace to face it with the strength of faith, ensuring that vaccines are available for all, so that we can all get immunized.”

Mexican Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes linked Covid-19 jabs to a better future for all.

“From North to South America, we support vaccinations for all,” said the Cardinal.

Safe, effective vaccines

Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga said the world has much to learn from the coronavirus.

“But one thing is certain: the authorized vaccines are effective, and are here to save lives,” he said. “They are the key to a path of personal and universal healing.”

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes praised the “heroic efforts” of health professionals in developing “safe and effective” jabs.

He also repeated the Pope’s affirmation that “getting vaccinated is an act of love”.

Salvadorian Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chavez said vaccination helps protect the most vulnerable.

“Our choice to get vaccinated affects others,” he said, adding that it is a moral responsibility.

Unity across the Americas

Peruvian Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos rounded out the testimonies contained in the video with an appeal to unity.

“We are united—North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean—to promote and support vaccination for all,” he said, encouraging everyone to “act responsibly, as members of the great human family, seeking and protecting our integral health and universal vaccination.”

By Devin Watkins | Vatican News

BRIDGEPORT—On Wednesday, August 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano released a letter regarding changes in local mandates requiring the use of masks indoors. The letter reads as follows:

As we have seen in recent weeks, the trajectory of the pandemic has significantly worsened due to the spread of the Delta variant in our state. It is concerning to see the rate of infection and hospitalization begin to significantly rise, after we had seen so much progress against the pandemic in the past few months.

Given this new development, questions have arisen about the need to return to wearing masks indoors during all Church functions, including the celebration of Mass. These questions have taken on greater urgency in those locales where local authority, with the approval of the state, are requiring masks to be worn indoors at all public events.

Regarding the use of masks, I wish to provide you the following guidance:

  1. In the event that your local authorities mandate the return use of masks for all public indoor gatherings, it is my expectation that your parish will comply with the mandate. In such cases, you should inform the people of your parish to bring a mask for use whenever they enter any of your parish facilities, regardless of their vaccination status, until the local mandate is lifted.
  2. In those areas where local officials have not required the use of masks during indoor gatherings, I ask that you remind your people of the following:
    • Those parishioners who are not vaccinated are required to wear a face mask in any of your parish facilities, including during the celebration of Mass;
    • Those parishioners who are vaccinated are welcome, but not required, to wear masks in any of your parish facilities, including during the celebration of Mass.

To my knowledge, there has been no discussion of a return to mandatory social distancing or the reinstatement of the sanitary protocols we observed at the start of the pandemic. As such, there is no need to reinstate any of these measures.

I realize that there will be many mixed reactions to any return use of masks at Mass. However, from the start of the pandemic, we have committed ourselves to protect human life that is most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. We have also cooperated with state and local authorities to protect the common good. It is my hope and fervent prayer that these measures, where they are being mandated, will be short-lived as the effects of the Delta variant begin to recede.

Please be assured of my prayers for you and your leadership during these challenging and unpredictable times.

FAIRFIELD—Connecticut’s COVID-19 Vaccination Vans are on the road and coming to Notre Dame High School in Fairfield to provide no-cost, walk-up vaccinations.

The highly visible yellow Vaccination Vans, provided by the CT Department of Public Health and run by Griffin Health, can administer 100-125 shots per day in a six-hour window of time.  The shots are available without appointment.  It is not necessary to have health insurance or a state-issued ID:  all residents are welcome and no one will be turned away for lack of insurance or ID.

Choosing to get vaccinated is an additional powerful tool in our fight against the COVID-19 virus.  

The vaccine will protect you from becoming seriously ill from COVID19, 

The vaccine will protect your family and friends from becoming seriously ill from COVID19.

The vaccine will allow you to once again gather safely with your loved ones and neighbors.

The vaccine will allow you to get back to a sense of normalcy.

Look for our bright yellow Mobile Vaccination Team SUVs at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.  

DATE:  Thursday, July 29, 2021

LOCATION: Notre Dame High School

220 Jefferson Street

Fairfield, CT  06825


Clinic will be held in the Cafeteria

TIME: 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

The DPH Vaccination Vans are part of the State’s effort to vaccinate as many Connecticut residents as possible.  More than half the state’s population has received at least one shot since vaccinations began in December 2020.  

For more information on vaccinations and COVID-19 visit

BRIDGEPORT—This Friday, June 11, parishes around the diocese will be commemorating the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in a special way with the celebration of Solemn II Vespers.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will lead the way with a Service of Remembrance at St. Augustine Cathedral at 7 pm this evening, which will also be live-streamed for the public.

Vespers, also called Evening Prayer, is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office. In the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church fulfills Jesus’ command to “pray always” (Luke 18:1; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through this prayer, the people of God sanctify the day by continual praise of God and prayers of intercession for the needs of the world.

There is an aspect of remembrance attached to this particular celebration of Vespers designed to implore the loving mercy of God as exemplified in the Most Sacred Heart upon those who died during this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has expressed concern for all those who could not mourn properly during the pandemic. In order to ensure the safety of themselves and others during the pandemic, most family members and friends of the deceased could neither attend nor participate in their funeral services.

“The feeling is that, now that most restrictions have ceased in our area, it would be important to remember all those who have died during the past year, not simply for the sake of praying for their peaceful repose, but to also allow families and friends the opportunity to mourn in some official capacity,” said Father Peter Lenox, episcopal vicar for liturgy and worship.

Father Lenox explained that this will take place during Vespers this Friday in the form of intercession to the Most Sacred Heart, specifically for their souls to be entrusted to the mercy of God, and for comfort and consolation to be granted to their families and friends. In addition, they will be named at the end of Vespers in beseeching the Lord to extend his mercy upon them and raise them to new life.

“The bishop thought that it would be a pastoral help for each parish to remember all who have died on the local level, so as to help grant some type of closure to families who could not participate in their funeral rites,” Father Lenox said.

Also in remembrance of those we have lost to the pandemic, The Leadership Institute will hold a webinar “Grieving What We Have Lost: Life Beyond the Pandemic” on June 16 at 4 pm.

“We have mourned differently in the last year,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute. “This webinar is an opportunity to come together and hear from an expert in the field how we might bring language to those losses and map a path forward.”

The featured speaker for the webinar is Nicholas Collura. Collura earned a master’s of Divinity and trained as a spiritual director at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. He is a board-certified healthcare chaplain, having completed his clinical pastoral education at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and he serves as a visiting retreat director at St. Raphaela Center in Haverford, Penn. A former Jesuit, he has also ministered on several college campuses, at a L’Arche community in the Pacific Northwest, and at juvenile halls and adult state prisons in California.

(Tonight’s celebration of Vespers will be live-streamed on our diocesan Facebook page. For more information on The Leadership Institute’s upcoming webinar, please visit:

BRIDGEPORT—In this video released today to parents and members of the Catholic school community throughout the diocese, Superintendent Dr. Steven Cheeseman offers an update on the accomplishments of the past year and a glimpse into what will hopefully be a normal re-opening for the Fall.

He thanks teachers for their “herculean feat” in keeping the schools open during a very difficult time, and donors for their extraordinary generosity in helping to make that possible.

Dr. Cheeseman also has high praise for teachers and administrators and all those who contributed to a successful school year.

“While many surrounding schools left their families feeling let down, you showed up and you met the challenge,” he said… “All of you – teachers, parents, students, administrators and benefactors – worked together and as a result our Catholic schools were open all year with minimal disruption. Our ability to deliver in person learning along with the supports provided to students who had to learn remotely helped lead to demonstrated academic growth in our students. While many surrounding schools – and schools throughout the nation- lament huge learning losses, our benchmark data shows that, for the most part, our students made academic gains and showed appropriate grade level growth. While we didn’t have the same high level of growth our schools usually have, the fact that we still had growth with all the interruptions of the past year and half is, to me, pretty amazing.”


Following is the complete transcript of Dr. Cheeseman’s talk:

Good evening everyone. As the school year winds down, we breathe a sigh of relief that we have made it through what has certainly been a year like no other and As I reflect on this past year, I am overcome with a tremendous sense of gratitude.

Let me begin by expressing my thanks to our parents and families. Thank you for putting your faith in our Catholic schools and for all your flexibility and understanding as each school navigated the sometimes choppy waters of the past year and a half.

Thank you to our students for your cooperation with covid protocols, your willingness to go with the flow, and for the optimism and positive energy that you displayed as you mastered new learning models and, often, the disappointments of missing traditional events.

I am especially grateful to the administrators and teachers. You pulled off a herculean feat to allow our students to experience in person classes this year. While many surrounding schools left their families feeling let down, you showed up and you met the challenge. There is no greater evidence of the love you have for your students and no greater example of your mission-minded focus. I can only imagine how difficult this year was for you – balancing in person, online, and “zoomed in” students. Completely virtual was hard enough, but I have been to a few meetings where half the group was in person and the other half was on zoom and each time I left those meetings in awe of your ability to balance the two.

I also want to thank the many benefactors who supported our schools this year: Through your support we were able to make chrome books available to schools and to the students who needed them, we were able to provide over 1 million dollars in additional financial assistance, we were able to provide counseling services for students and a telehealth program to support parents and faculty.

All of you – teachers, parents, students, administrators and benefactors – worked together and as a result our Catholic schools were open all year with minimal disruption. Our ability to deliver in person learning along with the supports provided to students who had to learn remotely helped lead to demonstrated academic growth in our students. While many surrounding schools – and schools throughout the nation- lament huge learning losses, our benchmark data shows that, for the most part, our students made academic gains and showed appropriate grade level growth. While we didn’t have the same high level of growth our schools usually have, the fact that we still had growth with all the interruptions of the past year and half is, to me, pretty amazing.

Your hard work is also paying off in enrollment growth. At this moment, we more students registered in Catholic schools for next year than we have attending this year. And while I am guarding my optimism, I am hopeful that for the first time in a very long time we will actually have an overall increase in Catholic school enrollment for next year.

Speaking of next year, I know many of you are asking, “what the fall will look like?” While we will continue to monitor the levels of transmission and the impact it is having on our communities, I am comfortable saying that we will have a near normal looking start to the year and we will be able to reduce the need for social distancing and that we will lift the mask mandate for the fall. It is still recommended that children have masks indoors when in close contact, but it will be optional. Additionally, unless we are forced by government action, we will not mandate the vaccine for students. Although we had hoped to have some additional guidance by the CDC or the state by now, we have decided to not wait and to make a decision based on the facts available to us today. The facts that influenced our decision include:

  1. The significant reduction in the number of cases and levels of virus transmission along with the expectation that this trend will continue
  2. The fact that many studies – including those published or cited by the American association of pediatrics-indicate that children have significantly decreased susceptibility and infectivity rates compared to adults
  3. The fact that we have a near 90% rate of vaccination among teachers and staff in our schools diocesan wide

Of course, we announce these decisions today with the caveat that if the level of transmitted cases rises significantly over the summer we may have to reconsider some or all of them. Let’s pray that does not happen.

I am personally so excited for all the possibilities next year will bring for our schools and our students as we emerge from this pandemic stronger than we were before and, at least for myself, more appreciative of the gifts we have been given and for the commitment of the people who make up our Catholic school community.

I pray you all have a joy-filled summer of fun, relaxation and laughter. May God bless you and may Our Lady continue to shower Her blessings on our Catholic school community.

DANBURY – Graduates of St. Joseph Elementary School were greeted with the sound of cheers and honking car horns from passing motorists as they emerged from their Graduation Mass ceremony.

On Friday, the fourteen joyous graduates tossed their graduation caps in the air in a celebratory gesture to completing this chapter of their education.

“This is a very special and important milestone in your lives,” Pastor Father Samuel Scott told the young graduates gathered with their families at the Robinson Avenue church. “As you take this step on your future path today, go forth as the hope of the world and the light of the world,” he said.

Father Scott congratulated the students for not just fulfilling the obligation of their education but for also learning the value of truth and selflessness.

He urged the graduates to always engage their hearts and minds to make a difference.

“St. Joseph School exists in order for you to have the intellectual and spiritual tools needed in this world,” he said.

Principal Dr. Louis Howe, Jr., agreed and also emphasized the importance of service leadership.

“Take risks,” he said. “As a leader, be able to be different, go outside of your comfort zone and try things, and if you fail, that’s ok,” he said, adding that there are many lessons to be learned along the way.

Father Scott thanked the parents and the parish community for the sacrifices they made to make this day possible. He encouraged students to show their gratitude through their actions to all those who have supported them and continue to support them.

“Thrive not only in school but as Catholic Christians in this world,” Father Scott said.

Scholarships and academic awards were given out to the graduates proudly wearing their school colors of purple and white graduation robes.

“St. Joseph has been a second home to me,” said graduate Olivia Rose Chila, during her address to her fellow classmates. “Even though our last year wasn’t how we envisioned it, we made the most of it,” she said. Among other things, the coronavirus pandemic affected the school’s athletic programs and prohibited the traditional eighth grade class trip.

Dr. Howe said the students showed tremendous resolve and dedication to excel when faced with challenges.

He acknowledged their hard work by sporting a new look of purple hair at the graduation. It was a nod to their accomplishment of exceeding a goal of fundraising $15-thousand dollars. The students’ fund-raising efforts generated more than $42-thousand dollars for the school.

In her closing remarks, graduate Cynthia Kesslin Silverman noted that although the class lived through a pandemic and challenging classes, they knew they could always lean on each other.

“Friendship has the power to conquer everything,” she said.

The graduation Mass was the beginning of an evening of festive celebration. Following the Mass, family and friends were invited to Anthony’s Lake Club on Columbus Avenue for the annual graduation dinner and the presentation of non-academic awards.

“I’m proud of each and every one of them,” Howe said.

By Kathy-Ann Gobin

FAIRFIELD—In an effort to mobilize as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated, President Biden announced a National Month of Action with the goal of administering at least one vaccine shot to at least 70 % of adult Americans, and to reach 160 million Americans being fully vaccinated by July 4.

As part of this initiative, Fairfield University has joined the White House and the U.S Department of Education, along with colleges and universities across the nation in the effort to end the pandemic by taking on the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge. Participating colleges commit to taking three key actions to help get their campus communities vaccinated: engaging every student, faculty, and staff member; organizing their college communities; and delivering vaccine access for all.

As part of its on-going efforts, nearly 1,500 vaccines have been administered at Fairfield University and Griffin Health’s on-campus vaccine clinics this spring semester. The University is also offering incentives and helping to facilitate vaccinations off-campus for community members, which has resulted in 83% of Fairfield’s full-time faculty and 71% of its staff being fully vaccinated. 

Through the COVID-19 College Vaccine Challenge, the Biden Administration is providing resources like training sessions, toolkits, and educational material to assist colleges and universities in vaccination efforts; facilitating on-site vaccinations at schools; and launching a student corps within the COVID-19 Community Corps to recognize and activate students across the country who are taking extraordinary efforts to draw young people out to get vaccinated and engage the youth community.

More than 250 colleges in 43 states have already taken the pledge and committed to the COVID-19 College Challenge.

The Challenge also comes on the heels of new federal efforts announced in early May that make it easier and more accessible for Americans across the country to get vaccinated by increasing walk-in vaccinations at local pharmacies; supporting smaller pop-up vaccination clinics and mobile units; providing support for community-based organizations to hire the staff needed to increase vaccine access; investing in education efforts about the vaccine in underserved communities, as well state and local vaccine outreach efforts; increasing vaccine availability and outreach efforts, as well as testing and mitigation, in rural communities; and launching a plan to reach newly eligible individuals age 12-15.

Fairfield University is a modern, Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools.  In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CNS) — As pandemic-related restrictions ease and businesses look to gradually return to normal operations, two of South Carolina’s religious orders have adapted to change with prayerful grace.

The Poor Clares, a cloistered community of religious women located in Travelers Rest, and the Trappist monks of Our Lady of Mepkin Abbey in Monks Corner, have made significant changes to the way they support their missions over the past year.

The Poor Clares spend their days in contemplative prayer. They live on alms and the proceeds from the altar breads they make for churches in southeastern states.

The Trappists earn an income from their distinctive mushroom farm and loyal benefactors.

A cloistered monastery might seem to be immune to an outside world forced into social isolation by a pandemic, but the outside society does have an impact on their quiet interior.

Sister Mary Connor manages the community’s Partners In Grace program, which develops relationships with volunteers, people who pray with the women religious and donors. She said the pandemic dramatically affected their lives in stages.

The early days of the pandemic were the most painful. On St. Patrick’s Day 2020, the sisters learned they would not have Mass at their chapel. They also closed their doors to volunteers who helped with answering phones, responding to retreat and information requests, managing the grounds and building upkeep.

“The altar bread department had to stop taking orders because churches were livestreaming Masses,” Sister Mary told Catholic News Service. “Now that is gradually changing. The volume of people going to Mass has just started to change a week or two ago, but it is still not back to what it was before. We are not certain how it is going to resume.”

The Poor Clares also have a three-room retreat house that was closed until a couple of months ago. Currently, there are 13 sisters at the monastery. Sister Mary said most of them have received a COVID-19 vaccine, but they are not ready to return to normal operations, however.

The sisters usually take prayer requests by phone or email. The lockdown saw an uptick in requests for their handmade prayer cards because they were available online. Sister Mary said the spiritual direction they offer also continued with phone calls and Zoom meetings.

At the Trappist abbey, Father Joe Tedesco, the superior, said the community sent retreatants home March 9, 2020, and shut the gates behind them. The Trappists also closed their oak-strewn gardens on the banks of the Cooper River to visitors. A small group of employees were allowed to handle the bare necessities such as maintaining the mushroom farm.

“We had no income for months because the restaurants were closed,” Father Tedesco said. “They are our primary source of customers and that was a challenge.”

The abbey has a store which continued to operate online, selling books and packets of dried mushrooms. But sales were limited and the monks stopped growing mushrooms for several months which led to restructuring farm operations and reducing the workforce.

Like the Poor Clares, the Trappists were innovative and began offering retreats, lectures and workshops on Zoom. Father Tedesco said the online programs were extremely successful, with one session having 100 participants.

Each kind of contemplative community has a different charism, Trappists have solitude, but Poor Clares have a connection with those people outside, she said.

“Our spirituality is that we see Christ in the other person as we bring Christ to the other person, so we’ve missed that,” she said. “We’ve missed having people pray with us, we’ve missed the interaction with the volunteers, but we’re not quite ready to have people come back yet.”

Similarly, the monks felt the absence of laypeople.

“We were used to having a full house and having people praying with us,” Father Tedesco said. “It was a very different experience to have no one else here for months. The oldest monk here, Brother Joseph, who has been a monk for 77 years, said we were finally back to being Trappists again.”

Mepkin Abbey recently allowed retreatants to return and Father Tedesco said the monks will consider allowing long-term guests to return during May as long as they are vaccinated. The monks received their vaccinations in January.

Sister Mary said the Poor Clares are meeting regularly and working on a plan to entirely reopen. They are concerned about variants of the virus though.

“We feel responsible for protecting others, not just ourselves. We are praying all the time for people involved in COVID and the health care workers,” she said.

“We have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every day, twice a day and on Sundays before evening prayer, we have special adoration for COVID-19.”

By Deirdre C. Mays | Catholic News Service

BROOKFIELD—Dozens gathered at St. Joseph Church as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano offered a Mass of thanksgiving to honor and thank healthcare workers for their diligence and dedication of service especially during the uncertain times surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“For all those who share in the work of God’s healing we offer this Mass in thanksgiving for their service as we also continue to pray for their protection,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Bishop Caggiano commended healthcare workers and frontline workers for their bravery and courage during these uncertain times.

“You are women and men of courage when the rest of the world was afraid,” Bishop Caggiano said. “I thank you for allowing us to have hope at this time. You were light in a period of ever-growing darkness.”

In part, the Mass represented a reemergence or reopening and renewal of the diocese after more than a year of the pandemic. Most restrictions initiated during the pandemic, such as mandatory mask-wearing, have recently been rescinded, if an individual is fully vaccinated against the virus. Remnants of the impact of the virus were still present as people voluntarily socially distanced themselves from each other in the pews. The Mass was also streamed online for those who could not attend in person.

During his homily, Bishop Caggiano recalled a time when he was teaching as a college seminarian and a 5-year-old child asked, “Why didn’t God heal everyone and save time?” A thought-provoking question that many have surely pondered during times of sickness and especially during these past almost 16 months of the pandemic.

Bishop Caggiano explained, we are baptized into the Lord Jesus so that we may continue His work of healing both body and spirit.

“You and I are called to be the healers of His love in this world,” Bishop Caggiano said. “That is our discipleship.”

Bishop Caggiano applauded healthcare workers and all frontline workers for being the hands, feet, voice and heart of a healing God to those suffering during these challenging times of sickness and loneliness.

“We come here today with grateful hearts for all of you who are involved in this ministry of healing. We have come here today to celebrate your beautiful and noble ministry,” Bishop Caggiano said.

He said compassion and empathy shown to others, at times during their darkest moments of despair, is the work of the Lord.

Jim McNulty, who was dressed in his EMT uniform, attended the service with his wife.

“I have gratitude for being able to serve in this ministry and I feel privileged for being able to serve God’s people,” he said.

Meaning of Memorial Day

Bishop Caggiano also acknowledged the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday and the sacrifices individuals and their families have made for this country.

“This is the weekend we remember all those who have fallen in defense of our country and I’d like to think that we can add to that list those who have fallen in the line of duty in healing.”

“They gave their lives so that others may have life,” Bishop Caggiano said. “They followed fully and completely in the footsteps of Jesus.”

“May the Lord continue to bless you and protect you in all that you do.”

Photos by Amy Mortensen and Kathy-Ann Gobin