Bereavement program offered in parishes by Catholic Cemeteries

TRUMBULL—Carolyn Killian believes bereavement has no boundaries. She has seen the loss of a loved one afflict the young and the old, parents and children, the rich and the poor, believers and non-believers.

“The grief that people face is the hardest thing they’ve ever faced,” Killian said. “It is overwhelming and exhausting.”

As Director of Bereavement for Catholic Cemeteries she is in charge of programs being created for parishes throughout the diocese.

“In our effort to extend support and comfort to our families, we have established a new bereavement outreach, which involves partnering with parishes interested in joining a diocesan-wide consortium working together,” she said.

Called the New Day Bereavement Program, it has distinguished itself for decades as a highly successful faith-based, small group support program.

“We have seen young people and old people in deep grief,” she said. “We’ve seen many, many parents who have lost children. There are so many people struggling to figure out how to go forward with incredible loss, and this offers a way to see where God is in their grief journey.”

Killian and her colleagues have trained 15 facilitators—with six more currently undergoing training—from St. Catherine of Siena-St. Agnes in Greenwich; St. Michael the Archangel in Greenwich; St. Roch in Greenwich; St. Thomas More in Darien, St. Mary in Greenwich and St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel in Stamford.

She recently began outreach to Spanish-speaking parishes and is working with Father J. Abelardo Vasquez, the pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bridgeport.

“We’re in the initial phase and planning how we’re going to implement the program and find facilitators,” she said.

As part of her outreach to the Hispanic community, they have trained Spanish-speaking facilitators in Greenwich and are hoping to offer New Day in Spanish by next March.

“We’re very sensitive to the fact that every community has its own specific traditions, and we want to be respectful and mindful of them,” Killian said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work with the pastor and people in the parish to see how it will fit into their tradition. The Spanish community is a vibrant part of our diocese, and we want everyone to feel welcome by this program and benefit from this invitation to healing.”

“New Day,” with materials in English and Spanish, is based on a textbook written by psychologist J. William Worden, the foremost authority on grief. Dominican Sister Mauryeen O’Brien, O.P., who has decades of experience as a grief counselor, put his work into a Catholic framework and developed “The New Day Journal: A Journey from Grief to Healing.”

The author of several books, Sister was longtime coordinator for the bereaved at the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Hartford.

Killian, who was appointed six months ago, said their goal is not to displace or disrupt existing parish programs, but to introduce New Day to any parish community that would like it. Catholic Cemeteries will finance the training and all the materials.

“We’re looking for pastors who support it and parishioners who want to be trained and participate,” she said. They will be reaching out to some 20 pastors who indicated an interest. In the fall, they will add a fourth parish, St. Cecilia and St. Gabriel.

The bereavement groups meet for nine weeks for 90 minutes a week with about eight participants and two co-facilitators, who accompany fellow parishioners on their journey from grief to healing.

“New Day” is a structured program that includes prayer, Scripture readings, journaling and sharing responses to questions in a confidential setting, based on “The New Day Journal” by Sister O’Brien.

The participants are guided to accept the reality of the loss, experience the pain of grief and find a way to remember the deceased while embarking on the rest of life’s journey, Killian said.

“We rely on the comfort provided by our Lord, and the compassion extended by fellow participants, to meet the life-changing challenges presented by loss,” she said.

The program is currently being offered at St. Catherine of Siena-St. Agnes, St. Michael the Archangel, St. Thomas More and soon at St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel in Stamford.

Killian said she relies on volunteer bereavement facilitators to conduct the New Day sessions.

“We depend on individuals who are interested in being trained to serve as bereavement facilitators,” she said. “Most volunteers have experienced loss in their own lives and want to accompany fellow parishioners on their journey from grief to healing.”

Anyone interested in supporting fellow parishioners who are grieving and would like to volunteer for this ministry should contact her at 203.404.0023 or by email at

For further information about the program, go to

“People are drawn to be facilitators when they have been through grief themselves and they want to do something to help others,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t know quite what they can do, but when they hear about this, they’re drawn to it and sign up. It’s a healing experience to be a facilitator, and it has a huge impact on a persona’s spiritual journey. It is incredibly healing to be around other volunteers. It is also an extraordinary way to get closer to God.”

As a member of the Parish Partners Ministry of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes Parish, Killian organized a bereavement training initiative several years ago based on the New Day program, along with pastor Father William F. Platt and Jeannemarie Baker, who began Parish Partners.

Killian says the necessary characteristics that facilitators must have are compassion, empathy, the ability to listen quietly and to understand that their primary role is not to give advice, but to listen. She said that those who are grieving are in so much pain they can often tell the same story numerous times … and that is part of the healing process.

She compared it to the Risen Christ’s encounter with two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. He listened to his grieving friends and let them talk about the pain they were suffering over his crucifixion.

“We have to do the same thing when we walk with people in pain over a death,” she said. “They have to realize they are not alone. They have to walk through their grief. They have to realize ‘I am not the only one who is angry, mad or guilty.” And also that it is God who inspires other people to show up to help them. …We are just walking with people and listening to them the way Christ did.”

Our Lady of Fatima Pastor Father Reggie Norman celebrated the 8am Mass in honor of the feast day of Blessed Michael McGivney. The feast day is celebrated in the church every on August 13th. The Mass included an honor guard from Knights of Columbus Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100. At the conclusion of Mass, parishioners were able to venerate the first class relic of Blessed Michael McGivney.

The founder of the Knights of Columbus, Father Michael J. McGivney was a central figure in the growth of Catholicism in America, and he remains a model today. His example of charity, evangelization and empowerment of the laity continues to bear fruit and guide Knights of Columbus around the world. Blessed McGivney was beatified on October 31, 2020 and we pray for his canonization.

Blessed Michael McGivney Pray for us!

Sitting around the table for a recent Father’s Day meal, my family started discussing people we knew who were going away on extravagant summer vacations. I’ll admit, most of us began to express our jealousy and desire to hop on a plane to an exciting destination. It was then that my mom piped in. She reminded us that we were all out for a meal together as a family, which was more than enough to be grateful for.

As we enter the summer months, our social media feeds will likely be full of pictures of people enjoying themselves on vacation. It will be hard not to fall into the trap of envy and jealousy, letting it consume us as we scroll.

But in doing this, we would be missing out on all the small moments that create our beautiful, extraordinary, messy lives. Moments of inspiration and creativity, laughter, joy, nostalgia, and everything in between.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” That statement is increasingly true in a world where we can share our good fortune at a moment’s notice. But it is important to remember that we only see each other’s good moments— curated, filtered and vetted before posting.

Life is a kaleidoscope of moments, each accompanied by a unique set of emotions. Our human connection allows us to be with each other in moments of joy, as well as moments of struggle—and this is where a hidden beauty lies.

Can we learn to embrace all of these moments? Both the joyful and the difficult. It may seem like others have it better, but we all have ups and downs. Our humanity makes that something we can always be sure of.

In the same way, can we learn to find genuine joy in others’ good fortune even in the face of our own hardships?

We mustn’t judge others or begrudge them their happiness. James 4:11 says, “Do not speak evil of one another, brothers. Whoever speaks evil of a brother or judges his brother speaks evil of the law and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

It is easy to judge others by what we see online. We feel a separation from them on the other side of a screen. But we never know what someone is like until we talk to them face-to-face. We could all use a little more love, understanding and acceptance in our lives.

In our humanity, we often fall victim to the judgment of others. “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye’” (Matthew 7:4-5).

If we look around at what we have and find the joy and wonder there, we won’t have any room left for judgment or comparison of others, for our hearts will be full.

BRIDGEPORT—Each spring, so many teenagers look forward to their high school prom with anticipation and excitement, helping to plan it, choosing an outfit, and then dancing with friends and classmates. The students of St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services are no different. With a 1970s disco theme as their backdrop, they held their annual prom at the school in Trumbull on Friday, May 27 after two years of a heavily-restricted event due to COVID-19.

As the sounds of the Bee Gees and KC & the Sunshine Band filled the room, the students, many wearing sequined shirts, colorful beads, and bell-bottoms, moved to the music and posed at the photo booths as their aides, some in roller skates, guided them on the dance floor. Disco balls, streamers, glow sticks, and strobe lights created the perfect atmosphere for these prom-goers, all with multiple developmental disabilities and complex medical needs.

“There is so much excitement!” said Geri Durnin, principal of St. Vincent’s Special Needs Services. “The kids couldn’t wait to see everyone—and they love to be in photos. This day is so special for all of them. It’s really a ‘Celebration’!”

Part of what makes it so special is the role the students played in planning this prom. According to Durnin, they chose the theme, made a playlist of songs such as “Boogie Oogie Oogie” and “That’s the Way,” and helped their teachers create the décor by painting, gluing, and designing some of the artwork. Each classroom picked one year of the decade and made bulletin boards highlighting ‘70s icons like “The Partridge Family” and John Travolta, all of which hung on the walls for viewing during the prom. In doing so, students learned not only 1970s pop culture but also about life in that era and the cost of items then and now.

“We incorporate the kids’ abilities in the preparation, and work education into it all,” said Colleen Gorman, a special education teacher and behavioral management specialist. “They get involved with the planning from the ground up.” Gorman added that since her classroom had 1978, they discovered which foods and brands were popular that year such as Ben & Jerry’s and Ding Dongs.

“With everything we do, we try to give our students as many typical opportunities as anyone else, and we just want them to have a good time,” said Durnin, who also commended her staff for the work they do. “I’m so appreciative of them for making it so special for the kids. They are absolutely wonderful.”

Thirty-eight students ages 15 and up attended either the morning or afternoon prom with the graduates being crowned kings and queens. Though this event has occurred for at least 30 years, the past two were scaled back significantly, and even now, parents could not join in as they had before the pandemic. Nevertheless, the feeling of unity and joy shown through all aspects of the day. Gorman said those with visual impairments enjoyed seeing the bright lights and colors, and those in wheelchairs were “sitting up tall, taking it all in.”

“The kids love the hustle and bustle of the day,” she said. “The environment is very stimulating for them.”

No one needed any excuse to “c’mon, get happy” at this prom—special in so many ways. When asked what her favorite part of the day was, one girl smiled brightly and answered, “The dancing!”

By Emily Clark

As I grow older, I notice more and more that we all have strengths and weaknesses. My sister is getting married in May, and the role of maid-of-honor comes with many tasks to complete and things I have to plan. I always had an inkling that this wasn’t my strong suit, but I am now learning just how much that is the case.

It is hard not to take this as a personal failing. Some people are so good at the little details that go into planning trips and parties and know just how to wrangle the troops together to get things done in a way that is efficient and productive. And in our hustle-and-bustle world, those traits are often revered. But that is just not me. I am much happier working behind the scenes—gathering decorations and coming up with verbiage and creative signage.

This is becoming more apparent in my professional life, as well. I would much rather take notes on a meeting, than present information to a group. It is why I am a writer and an editor, rather than a teacher or an event planner.

That being said, all different kinds of people are required to get things done and make the world turn. There is a balance needed in all things. We need creative thinkers just as much as we need he analytical thinkers. As James 1:17 says, “every perfect gift is from above.”

We all make up the Body of Christ with all our multitude of gifts and talents. “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10-11). As long as we are using our talents for good and for the greater glory of God, we can’t go wrong!

One of the great reliefs of getting older, for me, is that now I have the vocabulary and self-awareness to know where my strengths and weaknesses lie and can actively seek out situations in which I can capitalize on my strengths.

When we are younger, we don’t always have the authority to be able to choose those situations. I have found that this knowledge has made a big difference in the way I live my life as an adult. It has taken years of experience to learn where my appropriate boundaries are and what situations it is necessary and healthy to push myself.

God instructs us not to hide our talents from the world but instead to share them and use them to serve others. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). I have enjoyed writing this column because I do feel like I am letting my light shine. I love hearing from readers, and when they can find some wisdom from and connection to something I’ve written, it makes me feel like I am doing something good.

As Lent approaches, perhaps we can offer our gifts and talents to the Lord. Whether that be offering to help plan a fundraiser at a local parish, offering to take notes at the next youth group meeting, or lifting our voice in song at Mass. How can we serve our community with our God-given talents, and how can we give thanks to the one who bestowed them upon us?

BRIDGEPORT– On Tuesday, August 3, from 4:30 PM-6:00 PM, roughly 150 people turned out on each of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport’s four campuses for their first-ever “Summer Social.” Both longtime and newly enrolled families gathered together to enjoy free ice cream, music, games, and giveaways. There were laughter, fun, and smiles all around.

“A surprise was that several alumni even showed up on each campus, from the recently graduated right through sophomores in college,” Said Angela Pohlen, CAB’s Executive Director. “These grads came back to see their school and show support. What a true testament to what our Academy is to our families.”

The wonderful event captured the essence of CAB’s “Something More” promise, and the Academy hopes the “Summer Social” will become an annual one for its very special school community. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the night so memorable!

The Catholic Academy of Bridgeport welcomes all faiths, and we offer generous financial assistance to all who qualify. To enroll your child for the fall, please go to APPLY NOW or call (203) 362-2978. Limited spaces for 2021/2022! Some grades are already full.

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

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 and participants in the Ambassador program called for in his pastor 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.