Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

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

203-372-6521

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 ct.gov/covidvaccine.

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: www.formationreimagined.org.)

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

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate a special Mass this Saturday, open to all, in honor of all healthcare workers throughout the diocese.

You can watch Mass by clicking here. The broadcast will begin at 10:55 am.

This special celebration of Mass will take place at 11 am at St. Joseph Church in Brookfield.

Bishop Caggiano said he felt it was important that the diocese recognize healthcare workers in his pastoral exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”

“Over this past year, many of our healthcare workers offered heroic service on behalf of those who fell ill with the coronavirus, often risking their own lives to care for those who were sick. While I am sure that we have kept them in our prayers each day, we also look forward to this opportunity to affirm their healthcare ministry,” he said.

Registration is not required, the Mass is open to all.

BRIDGEPORT—Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport become the third parish in the diocese to host a mobile vaccine clinic this week, with more than 60 people a day coming forward to receive the free COVID-19 vaccine in their own neighborhood.

The mobile clinic was sponsored by FEMA, the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, and St. Vincent’s Medical Center/Hartford Healthcare working in partnership with the Diocese of Bridgeport.

People were invited to schedule an appointment or walk in and receive a vaccine. The only requirement was they be age 12 and over, and that anyone between the ages of 12–17 be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

On Tuesday, nurses were administering the Pfizer vaccine to parishioners and neighbors under a white tent in the parish parking lot alongside its beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. Throughout the week Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also available by request.

Father Joseph “Skip” Karcsinski, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, was on hand to greet the staff and some of people of all ages who were vaccinated. He said that he encouraged his parishioners to come forward to protect themselves and others, and he tried to set the example by getting vaccinated in advance and assuring parishioners that it is safe and effective.

“Bringing it to the parish and the neighborhood is a good thing,” he said. “It makes it accessible to them in an environment that they know and trust.”

Bill Hoey, vice president of Mission Integration at St. Vincent’s/Hartford Healthcare, said the hospital is moving away from mega-sites to more targeted mobile delivery to neighborhoods that have a much lower vaccination rate than the rest of the state.

“We’re looking forward to working with the diocese and its parishes in order to reach out to people who may face barriers to vaccination and make sure it is accessible to all,” he said.

(In recent weeks, the mobile clinic also served more than 200 parishioners of the St. Augustine Cathedral Parish and St. Charles Borromeo Parish. To learn more contact: www.HartfordHealthCare.org/vaccine)

BRIDGEPORT—Starting Tuesday, May 18, you can schedule an appointment or walk in and receive a vaccine to protect you and others. The only requirements: You are age 12* and over. *Ages 12–17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Sign up NOW: HartfordHealthCare.org/vaccine

Walk-in patients are also welcome

(Dates, locations and times below)

Blessed Sacrament Church

275 Union Avenue

May 18, 11 am – 6 pm
May 19 – 21, 9 am – 4 pm
May 22, 9 am – 3 pm

Department of Public Health

752 East Main Street

May 23, 11 am – 6 pm
May 24 – 26, 9 am – 4 pm
May 27, 9 am – 3 pm

STAMFORD—The City of Stamford in partnership with Stamford Health are to present a virtual town hall, “Faith in a Pandemic: A Way Forward” on Thursday, June 10 from 7-7:30 pm. Watch live at: www.stamfordct.gov/livestream.

BRIDGEPORT— “Christians should be in the world but not of it,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

With the pandemic receding and many people returning to in-person Mass for the first time in a year, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said we are living in a moment of unique challenge and opportunity to bring Christian love into the world.

The bishop said “after this long 15-month winter we have endured together,” we should act in a conscious and intentional way to bring the vibrant, authentic Christian witness of love back into the world.

He described it as a love “powered by what you and I have been offered as we’ve been entering the upper room—to share purposefully, intentionally and joyfully the living power of Christ’s love on the Cross.”

Citing the May 10, letter in which he joined the state’s other Catholic bishops in inviting all people back to in-person Mass beginning with the Vigil of Pentecost, (May 22), the bishop said that today’s online Mass will be the last regular Sunday Mass taped from the Catholic Center chapel.

In the spirit of re-opening and returning to the world, he will begin visiting parishes throughout the diocese to personally welcome people back to Church.

“We will be welcoming people by name back home to church, a reassuring ,merciful, uniting presence in their lives and a golden opportunity in this new spring time to bring the message of Christ’s love to those reluctant to go back to church and to a waiting world,” he said.

The bishop began his homily by noting that he recently had occasion to take the subway from his family home in Gravesend, Brooklyn, to visit his doctor’s office in Manhattan. It was the same 40-minute trip he took as a boy for four years commuting daily to Regis High School.

The bishop recalled his student routine of studying Greek for the first 20 minutes and then allowing himself some “people watching time,” which on the subway could be “better than a Broadway show.”

However, after a time he came to realize that a community had formed on the train with the sullen faces turning into nods and smiles as people gradually got to know one another.

A priest in his Theology class at Regis opened up yet another dimension to the bishop’s subway ride when he challenged the senior class to stand up and make themselves known as Christians by acting and behaving in a caring way.

The bishop saw that principle put into practice on the subway one morning on his way to school when a man died between station stops. Most people in the crowded train didn’t notice because the man had died standing up and slumped to the floor after many had exited the crowded car.

It was then that the bishop noticed that one person had stayed behind to pray over the body, ”a person of love, a person of faith” who did not want the man to die alone.

The bishop said now is the time to contemplate what it means to be Christian because we are about to freely return to a crowded and busy world of friends, parties, sporting events and other activities.

“These are all good things,” he said, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is an important juncture in which we must also bring our faith back into the world as witnesses of Christ’s love.

“Christians are very much in the world. We have become members of the world and that is a good thing provided that we do not become of the world. How do you and I become members of a diverse society and yet remain faithful to who we are, so they will know we are Christians?.”

The Gospel of John has a simple answer for us, he said, but it’s not a matter of how we might dress or outwardly identify ourselves, “but the love we have in our hearts, and our courage to show it to our neighbors whether known or unknown in simple acts of kindness or heroic acts of courage.”

He challenged the faithful not to lose this opportunity, so that people “should know by our manner we are Christians in the very sum total of our lives. Kindness should not be random but always our way of life. Forgiveness is not the exception.”

“They will know whose disciples we have become and the work He has given us in the inauguration of the Kingdom in this world… and that is why the Spirit is coming to us over and over again,” he said.

The bishop said the subway ride brought back many memories but also led him to ask himself an important question, “I being a Christian, a priest, a bishop. Would they know I was a Christian? Please God they know. The world needs Christians to be in it and not of it. They need to know.”

Before giving the final blessing the bishop said he looks forward to welcoming people back in person as he visits parishes in the coming months.

“I am asking you with heartfelt invitation to come back to Sunday worship with our sisters and brothers in person if possible,’ he said. He also noted that diocesan liturgies and other Masses will be live-streamed from St. Augustine Cathedral when he celebrates there.

The bishop thanked Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute for producing the online Mass each week throughout the pandemic, and he also recognized musicians Lindy Toole and David Harris who provided the music and song for his Masses.

BRIDGEPORTBishop Frank J. Caggiano has issued guidelines for the return to Mass now that the state’s three dioceses have called Catholics back to in-person Mass beginning the weekend of May 22,  with the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost.

The new guidelines follow the release of the May 10 letter by Bishop Caggiano, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair, and Norwich Bishop Michael Cote formally lifting the dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation that was put in place last March to safeguard lives during the pandemic.

“It is time for us to come home, It is time for us to come together as a family of faith,” the bishop said in a video that accompanies the guidelines. “The obligation to come to Mass rises and finds its fulfillment in love,” said the bishop who made a fervent and heartfelt appeal “to everyone to come home, to join the sisters and brothers who are already worshiping in person, to come home and to come to Christ and to allow him to feed you his body, blood, soul and divinity.”

After a year of hardship, he said that many are eager to return communal worship and the reception of the Eucharist, and the guidelines will assure them that they can now do so safely.

The new diocesan guidelines are meant to answer the questions of the large number of people who are expected to return to in-person Mass over the coming weeks and to clear up any confusion about what to expect.

Most restrictions put in place during the pandemic have been removed; however, masks will still be required and must be put on prior to entering any church or parish facility.

Among the highlights of the new guidelines, parishioners will no longer have to register for Mass, and all pews will be available for seating because social distancing will no longer be required by the state. For the first time in over a year, the congregation will now be able to join in singing but must do so while wearing a mask.

Communion will only be distributed under one species in the form of the consecrated host, and it may be received either in the hand or on the tongue based on the choice of the communicant.

Confessionals may return to full use through proper ventilation is strongly encouraged. Likewise, social distancing will no longer be required at weddings and funerals.  Beginning May 22, the faithful will notice the return of Church bulletins, holy items, cards, and books. The guidelines also permit outdoor Masses to continue throughout the year.

In announcing the end to most restrictions, the bishop emphasized that the diocese will not drop it guard in its efforts to protect lives. Churches will be sanitized, the faithful will continue to wear masks and parishes will follow state guidelines.

The bishop also made it clear that those who are already sick, who need to quarantine and have other serious health conditions, and their caretakers are excused from the obligation.

The new guidelines are consistent with Governor Lamont’s recent decision to limit indoor restrictions on public assembly only to the mandatory wearing of masks as vaccinations are increasing, and hospitalizations are decreasing throughout the state. All parish or private functions must follow state guidelines. There are no additional restrictions for parish and diocesan events beyond what the state mandates. The state is planning to publish new guidelines for indoor activities on May 19.

“Now that pandemic restrictions are being lifted throughout the State of Connecticut, and given that many of our parishioners have been vaccinated, it is my hope that those who have not been coming to Mass will now be returning to in-person worship. With that in mind, we have published these detailed Guidelines for the celebration of Mass,” said Bishop Caggiano.

Click to read the complete set of guidelines.

Click to read CT Bishops Letter Calling All to Return to Mass

 

  1. General Guidelines
    1. Masks are required in church, but not outside including the parking lot
    2. People must put on masks prior to entering any church facility
    3. No social distancing is required within church
      1. All pews are available for seating
      2. Pastors may want to consider having a “social distance” section for those more vulnerable
    4. Mass registration systems are no longer required
    5. Outdoor Masses are allowed for the remainder of the year
    6. Church bulletins are allowed, as are holy items, cards, and books
    7. It is recommended that at least one weekend Mass should be livestreamed
    8. Holy Water fonts must remain empty
    9. The Church must be cleaned before and after weekend Masses but not in between weekend Masses
      1. Church bathrooms should be open and cleaned before weekend Masses start and after the last weekend Mass
    10. Signs are no longer required on church doors or inside churches
      1. A sign reminding people to wear masks is recommended
    11. Parish or Private functions must follow state guidelines
      1. There are no additional restrictions for these events beyond what the state mandates
      2. The state is planning to publish new guidelines for outdoor activities on May 1st and indoor activities on May 19th
    12. Mass
      1. Missals may be placed in the pews
        1. Disposable worship aids are still the preferred method of publication
      2. 8 person choirs plus instrumentalists are allowed
        1. It is recommended that singing masks be used and social distancing be observed by all choir members
        2. Choir rehearsals should be no more than an hour with social distancing
      3. Congregational singing with masks is allowed
      4. Use of Masks:
        1. Masks must be worn by everyone participating in the processionals and recessionals of Mass
        2. Masks are required in the sanctuary except for the celebrant or anyone speaking to the congregation
        3. Masks are required for anyone who is distributing Holy Communion.
        4. Concelebrants may be seated next to one another but it is recommended that they wear masks
        5. Clergy may greet parishioners before or after Mass while wearing masks
      5. There is no limit on altar servers
      1. Altar servers are not permitted to hold the book for the celebrant
  1. No restrictions on the use of Readers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion
  2. Collection baskets with handles passed by ushers are allowed.
    1. Ciborium lids must remain on until the distribution of Holy Communion
    2. It is strongly recommended that the hosts which are to be consecrated for distribution to the faithful be of at least 1 3/8” diameter to allow for ease of use and sanitary purposes
  1. The exchange of the sign of peace among the faithful remains optional
    1. If the sign of peace is exchanged, then it must be some type of non-contact gesture (bow)
  2. Processions (e.g. Corpus Christi) with masks are allowed
  • Procedures for the distribution of Holy Communion
    1. Holy Communion may continue to be distributed either on the tongue or in the hand. Clergy are not to limit the faithful in their choice of method of reception.
    2. Communion is to be distributed to the faithful only under one species – that of the consecrated hosts. Gloves are not to be worn in the distribution of holy communion, and no type of sanitary device or implement is to be placed over the hands of any communicant during distribution
    3. Social distancing is not required for Communion lines
      1. Two Communion lines in the center aisle are permitted
  1. Masks must be removed by the faithful immediately prior to receiving Holy Communion and then put back on after receiving
  2. Those distributing Holy Communion must sanitize their hands before and after distributing Holy Communion
  3. Sanitizing hands in between communicants is required when someone receives on the tongue or if the person distributing Communion inadvertently touches the communicant’s hand
  4. Kneelers and altar rails no longer must be cleaned in between communicants
  5. Communion is only given under one species – consecrated hosts
  6. Celebrants, concelebrants and deacons who are ministerially assisting at Mass must receive both species of the Most Blessed Sacrament. Appropriate accommodations must be made:
    1. The Precious Blood from the celebrant’s chalice must not be shared with concelebrants or with assisting deacons;
    2. Concelebrants are to self-communicate by means of intinction from a chalice separate from that used by the celebrant.
  • In the case of deacons who are assisting at Mass, the celebrant is to distribute the consecrated host to them so that the deacons can receive either by intinction or from a separate chalice.
  1. Procedures for other liturgical and sacramental celebrations
    1. Sacrament of Reconciliation
      1. Masks are required
      2. Social distancing is not required; confessionals may return to full use though proper ventilation is strongly encouraged.
  • Sanitization procedures are not required.
  1. Weddings and Funerals
    1. The same guidelines above for Mass apply to weddings and funerals
    2. The bride and groom are not required to wear masks

Download CT Bishops Statement on the Eucharist (English)

Descargar la Declaración de los Obispos de CT sobre la Eucaristía (Español)

May 10, 2021

Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

We have lived through an extraordinary year filled with personal challenges, fears, and sufferings caused by the pandemic. At the same time, we have been encouraged by the heroism of health care workers and first responders, the creativity of our pastors, and the kindness of neighbors and friends who by their love and service peeled back the darkness which at times threatened to overwhelm us.

Now that there are clear signs the pandemic is loosening its grip on our lives, we come to you with confidence to take the next step in reestablishing our ecclesial life as a community of faith.

You may recall that when COVID-19 first appeared in our state last March, we, the Latin Rite Catholic Bishops of Connecticut, adopted a series of changes to the celebration of Mass designed to protect those who attended from the possible spread of the virus. However, it quickly became evident that those measures were insufficient to protect our people. After consultation and prayer, it was with a heavy heart that we took the extraordinary step of granting a dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation in each of our respective dioceses. The intent behind that decision was to protect human life, especially the frailest and most vulnerable in our midst from becoming infected by a disease which many doctors were unsure how best to combat. We wish to express our sincere gratitude for your cooperation in observing the safety protocols that resulted in no significant viral spread of COVID-19 at any celebration of Mass in our dioceses.

Thankfully, the situation surrounding the pandemic is slowly improving in our state. For example, vaccinations are increasing, and hospitalizations are decreasing throughout the state. The recent decision by Governor Lamont to limit indoor restrictions on public assembly only to the mandatory wearing of masks marks a watershed moment in our year-long struggle against the COVID-19 virus.

In light of these positive developments, we believe the time has come to review the importance that full participation at Mass has for the spiritual life of all believers and offer a heartfelt appeal for all Catholics to return to the Sunday celebration of Mass in person.

Our Catholic faith teaches us the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the sacramental celebration in which the Mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection becomes present to us through grace. In other words, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, which was offered once for all and atones for the sins of the whole world, is made present to us during the Mass. Personal participation at Mass invites us into the mystery of our salvation in Jesus Christ.

Everything that takes place during the Mass offers us a personal encounter with the Crucified and Risen Christ. We hear him speak to us in his Word, reminding us of the Gospel message and the mandate to proclaim it. We see Christ living among the community of the faithful, where He hears our prayers and encourages us in our daily lives. We experience the Lord in the person of the priest, who preaches the Word and offers the Eucharist in which our Lord becomes sacramentally present to us. Most especially, we encounter the Lord profoundly through the reception of Holy Communion since it is the crucified and Risen Christ himself we receive.

These moments of our encounter with the Lord during Mass offer us a deeply personal opportunity for spiritual nourishment. By receiving Christ’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist, the Lord’s grace strengthens the daily life we share with him through our personal prayer and works of charity. Holy Communion is the celestial food that enlightens our minds, gives comfort to our hearts, and strengthens our wills to live the Church’s mission in word, deeds and manner of life.

Furthermore, when we gather as a community at Sunday Mass, we do so as members of Christ’s Mystical Body. Just as the Lord gathered with his apostles in the Upper Room on the night before he died, in part to strengthen the bonds of love they shared in light of the challenges they would later face in their ministry, so too we gather as members of Christ’s Mystical Body. In imitation of the Lord’s example, we strengthen our bonds of unity and renew our shared mission to bring Christ’s message of redemption, forgiveness, and hope to our troubled world.

In a world that has relied upon technology to keep people united in times of profound isolation, some may question the need to attend Sunday Mass in person. To answer this question, we can never forget that while Christian discipleship involves a deeply personal relationship with the Lord, it is never a wholly private one. At our baptism, each of us received the Spirit of adoption, transforming us into Temples of the Holy Spirit and members of the one Mystical Body of Christ. The pursuit of holiness in our personal lives requires that we come together as a community of faith so that the Lord can bless, unite, and strengthen our shared hopes, dreams, challenges, and sufferings in service to Him.

This communal transformation occurs uniquely during the celebration of Mass. “In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value.”1

We are grateful for all those who joined us and our priests for online Mass during the pandemic, and we look forward to welcoming you back in person. At the same time, we encourage our pastors to continue to live stream the celebration of Sunday Mass for the sake of those who legitimately cannot attend Mass in person.

From apostolic times, the community of believers felt a deep desire to gather in-person to celebrate the Lord’s Death and Resurrection on Sunday, the eighth day ofre-creation and the first day of the week.2 The current law of the Church has codified this ancient, ecclesial practice in the following manner:

Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation [ … ] On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body.3

 
However, the obligation to gather in person and attend Sunday Mass should never be understood simply as an observance of a legal requirement. Instead, it is the Church’s expression of the deep, personal desire that burns in our hearts to come into the presence of the Lord whom we love, who gave His life for our salvation so that we may receive Him as food for our life’s journey unto eternal glory.4 For who among us does not want to spend time with someone we deeply love? How much have our hearts ached this past year isolated and separated from our family and friends? In those moments, were our hearts not burning with a deep longing to see them again face to face? We did not need anyone to tell us we were obliged to seek them, for our love sought them. Similarly, it must be our deep love for Christ that invites us to seek Him in person and by attending Mass, to welcome Him intimately into our lives as food for the journey of life.

Given the reality that the pandemic has not completely subsided, we recognize that some persons may deeply desire to return to Mass in person but are prevented from doing so for legitimate reasons. These reasons include: (1) suffering from serious pre-existing conditions that may make a person more susceptible to falling ill from COVID-19; (2) being ill and homebound or being a caregiver in close contact with someone who is; (3) having tested positive for any contagious disease, including COVID-19; ( 4) being in quarantine due to exposure to any contagion or residing with someone who is quarantined. For anyone facing these circumstances, please remember that the Lord will never invite you to do something that poses a danger to oneself or others.

Furthermore, considering the fact that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and that the Church has determined that moral questions regarding their development do not preclude their use, we encourage people very strongly to receive the vaccine for their own safety, for the safety of their family and their communities, and the common good, because the larger proportion of people who get vaccinated, the more quickly will the pandemic subside.

In light of these reflections and with confidence in the Lord’s grace and protection, we have decided to end the general dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation in person in each of our respective dioceses effective Saturday, May 22, 2021, beginning with the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost.

As we take this hopeful step in our recovery from the pandemic, let us pray that the Lord Jesus, in his great mercy, will deepen our appreciation, love, and participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For with our hearts and minds renewed, we will be ready to go out into the world and courageously proclaim the saving message of the Gospel by our words and witness of life.

In the light of Easter joy and with every best wish, we remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,


1 CCC 1368.

2 “By a tradition handed down from the apostles which took its origin from the very day of Christ’s resurrection, the Church celebrates the paschal mystery every eighth day; with good reason this, then, bears the name of the Lord’s day or Sunday. For on this day Christ’s faithful are bound to come together into one place so that, by hearing the word of God and taking part in the Eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God who “has begotten them again, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, unto a living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3); THE SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Constitution «On the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium», 106.

3 PONTIFICAL COMMISSION FOR THE AUTHENTIC INTERPRETATION OF THE CODE OF CANON LAW, The Code of Canon Law, ns.1246-1247.

4 “Yet more than as a precept, the observance should be seen as a need rising from the depths of Christian life. It is crucially important that all the faithful should be convinced that they cannot live their faith or share fully in the life of the Christian community unless they take part regularly in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly. The Eucharist is the full realization of the worship which humanity owes to God, and it cannot be compared to any other religious experience:, JOHN PAUL II, Apostolic Letter «On Keeping the Lord’s Daily Holy Dies Domini, 81»