Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

DANBURY—Immaculate High School (IHS) will honor Anthony W. Cirone, Jr., of Newtown, Conn., and Msgr. Thomas Powers of Darien, Conn., at their 17th Annual Gala “Together Again on Broadway” for their support and commitment to Immaculate High School, Catholic education and their communities. The event will be held at the Amber Room Colonnade, Danbury, on March 26.

Anthony T. Cirone, Jr. will receive the Nancy K. Dolan Leadership Award. He has been an Immaculate High School board member in numerous capacities since 2010 and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the board of directors as well as a member of the board finance committee which he chaired for over six years. Tony has assisted with the financial stewardship of the school as well as serving as an advocate for the school to the local business community. After spending several years working in a large Connecticut-based firm, he returned to Danbury to begin his own CPA practice in 1992. Tony is now the managing partner of CironeFriedberg, LLP, a leading regional CPA firm serving middle-market, privately held and family-owned businesses and individuals with a full range of tax, audit, accounting, and business advisory services with office locations in Bethel, Shelton and Darien, Conn.

While attending WCSU, Tony met his wife, Jen. They are the proud parents of Immaculate alumni Mike ‘15, Lauren ‘17, Kristen ‘19 and their youngest, Julia ’23. Each of their children graduated from St. Rose School in Newtown. Tony and Jen’s commitment to Catholic education has been a priority; the faith-based education their children received enabled each of them to pursue acceptance to the college of their choice and ultimately to pursue a career path they enjoy.

An active leader in community and professional organizations, Tony is a member of the boards of directors of the Western Connecticut State University Foundation, Ancell School of Business at Western CT State University, the associate board of directors, Nuvance Health, and The Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce where he also serves as treasurer. He is a corporator of Union Savings Bank as well as an active member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and The Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants.

The Nancy K. Dolan Leadership Award was established in 2006 in honor of Nancy Dolan, the first chairperson of the Immaculate High School Advisory Board. This award honors special individuals who exemplify the beliefs, dedication and work efforts of Mrs. Dolan, who served IHS tirelessly and was a strong community leader committed to Catholic education, works of charity and to helping those in need.

Msgr. Thomas Powers will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. Msgr. Thomas W. Powers, son of Thomas, Sr., and Margaret Mary, was raised in Newtown, Conn. with his three sisters, Kathleen, Susan and Meghan, and his younger brother, Christopher. While at Immaculate, Msgr. Powers played football and tennis, was engaged in several clubs and activities and served as student council president his senior year. He attended the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he graduated in 1987 earning a bachelor of arts in economics and minoring in finance. Upon graduation, Msgr. Powers worked as a financial consultant with Andersen Consulting in New York City, followed by one year in Puerto Rico with the Center for Social Concerns of the University of Notre Dame.

In 1992, he entered St. John Fisher Seminary in Trumbull and later earned a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University and a licentiate from the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Msgr. Powers was ordained a priest on May 24, 1997.

After serving as parochial vicar at St. Theresa Parish in Trumbull from 1998 to 2001 and as the spiritual director of St. John Fisher Seminary and chaplain of Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford from 2001 to 2005, Msgr. Powers was assigned as an official in the Congregation for Bishops in Vatican City from 2005 to 2015. During that time, he lived at and served as a spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College. While in Rome, he was also tapped to be the “English-language voice of the Vatican” during Christmas Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. In 2010, Monsignor Powers was named a “Chaplain to His Holiness” by Pope Benedict XVI.

In 2015, Msgr. Powers returned to the Diocese of Bridgeport to serve as vicar general. Since October 2020, while continuing in the role of Vicar General, he has been pastor of St. John Parish in Darien.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to the service of others in their community, parish, family and circle of friends as well as recognition and support to Catholic education and its importance in the lives of our young men and women.

Immaculate’s Annual Gala will feature dinner, dancing, silent and live auctions and a $10,000 cash raffle drawing. Tickets are $175 per person or $350 per couple. There are sponsorship and advertising opportunities available. To purchase tickets, sponsorships or advertising, please visit: www.immaculatehs.org/gala.

For more information about the Gala, contact Jeannie Demko, director of events, at jdemko@myimmaculatehs.org or call 203.744.1510 ext. 158.

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

TRUMBULL— POSTPONED St. Joseph High School, Connecticut’s largest, co-ed, Catholic, college preparatory school, announced today the names of fifteen student-athletes who will sign National Letters of Intent or Celebratory Letters in six different sports has been postponed.

The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a document used to indicate a student’s commitment to participating in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) colleges and universities. The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NLI member institution. The Celebratory Letter (for Division III athletes) indicates that a student has been accepted to and plans to attend an institution.  The following St. Joes Seniors will participate:

 

Isabelle Casucci – Lacrosse – Marquette University – Division 1

Dennaye Hinds – Basketball – Presbyterian University – Division 1

Mary Lundregan – Soccer – Dartmouth College – Division 1

Caroline Sheehan – Soccer – University of Connecticut – Division 1

Lauren Wasikowski – Softball – University of Rhode Island – Division 1

Sean Callinan – Lacrosse – Rivier University – Division 3

Kayleigh Carson – Basketball – Worcester Polytechnic Institute – Division 3

Mia Geignetter – Lacrosse – Franklin and Marshall College – Division 3

Tommy Kramer – Football – Ithaca College – Division 3

Maddigan Leifer – Lacrosse – Hamilton College – Division 3

Lily Mattison – Volleyball – Hunter College – Division 3

Josh Newall – Lacrosse – Endicott College – Division 3

Kirsten Rodriguez – Basketball – Western Connecticut State University – Division 3

Erika Stephens – Basketball – Hamilton College – Division 3

Ava Tuccio – Volleyball – Middlebury College – Division 3

“When you think about the amount of time spent on and off the field, the dedication of St. Joe’s student-athletes is truly second to none,” remarked Kevin Butler, Athletics Director. “Their hard work and commitment, both academically and athletically, are incredible achievements and we wish them all the best as they begin their collegiate journeys.”

As part of their NLI, prospective student-athletes agree to attend the institution full-time for one academic year and the institution agrees to provide athletes financial aid for one academic year.

About St. Joseph High School

St. Joseph High School (SJHS) strives to be the premier college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut. The school provides a learning environment that embraces the Gospel values of the Roman Catholic faith and promotes a commitment to family and community. SJHS prepares young women and men to realize their potential, helps them to excel in higher education, and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives. St. Joseph High School is a member of NCEA, NAIS, NEAS&C.  www.sjcadets.org

Photo by Owen Bonaventura

SHU Multicultural Affairs, the Office for Diversity & Inclusion, the Welch College of Business & Technology, the Davis & Henley College of Nursing, College of Arts & Sciences, College of Health Professions and the Farrington College of Education present:

Celebrating the Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, January 18, at 1:30 pm;
Edgerton Theater 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield
Guest speaker: Father Reggie Norman

Father Reggie Norman is the vicar of the African American Apostolate of Catholics for the Diocese of Bridgeport and the pastor for Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church in Wilton. He will be discussing Dr. King’s legacy and memory, as well as how Dr. King’s work and the work of so many others during the Civil Rights Movement should be continued not just by African Americans but all of us in society.

The North American Vocation Team (NAVT) of the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND) invite young adults ages 18 and older to online evening prayer on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 8 p.m. EST (7 p.m. CST). The dates for evening prayer during the first half of 2022 will be January 25, February 22, March 22, April 26, May 24 and June 28. More information and registration for the Zoom links is available at ssnd.org/events.

The monthly online evening prayer was started in 2020 in response to the need to adapt outreach efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the Liturgy of the Hours, the online evening prayer typically lasts about an hour and includes scripture, psalm responses, the Magnificat, personal and communal intercessory prayers as well as time for small-group community building.

“Our online evening prayer has allowed us to connect regularly with sisters and young adults all across the U.S. and Canada,” said Sister Bridget Waldorf of the NAVT. “It has been an amazing opportunity to share our daily prayer and community time with those who are seeking to better recognize and understand God’s presence in their lives.”

The NAVT accompanies young adults as they discern God’s call while informing them about the mission and charism of SSND, an international community of almost 2,100 women religious founded in Bavaria in 1833. The SSND mission is to proclaim the Good News, directing their entire lives toward that oneness for which Jesus Christ was sent. Continuing the sacred work of their foundress, Blessed Theresa of Jesus Gerhardinger, School Sisters of Notre Dame transform the world through education, giving special emphasis to women, young people and those who are poor. Learn more at ssnd.org.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The 49th annual national March for Life on January 21 is expected to bring tens of thousands of people to Washington D.C. as the Supreme Court considers a ruling that could weaken or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which since 1973 has led to 63.5 million abortions in America.

People of all faiths, denominations, races and backgrounds are planning to converge on Washington to march for life and stand against abortion. This year’s theme is “Equality Begins in the Womb.”

“There is a strong hope that the court will either overturn Roe or send the issue back to the states, which is a good thing because many states are already passing pro-life laws to protect the unborn,” said Maureen Ciardiello, coordinator of Respect Life & Project Rachel for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

She said that polls on abortion in recent years have indicated that up to three-quarters of  Americans favor significant restrictions on abortion and that an increasing proportion oppose tax dollars going to support abortions abroad.

The Washington event will include a rally on the National Mall and a march to the Supreme Court. Last year’s march was a virtual event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, attendance was estimated as high as 100,000.

Ciardiello said, “Some local efforts are planned this year despite the challenging times in which we are navigating.”

St. Theresa Church of Trumbull will sponsor a bus to the march, and the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull will hold a pro-life Holy Hour that day.

Dave Janny, a parishioner of St. Theresa’s who is coordinating transportation, said the bus is scheduled to make a day trip to Washington on Friday, January 21.

“It is crucial that we start to see sign signups ASAP, so we can get an idea on turnout,” he said. “For those who have been to the march, you know what a spectacular and moving experience it is. For those of you who have never attended, I strongly urge you to seriously consider attending as it truly is an unforgettable experience.”

He said, “It is very important that we pray and make our voices heard” because later this year the Supreme Court will announce its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an appeal by Mississippi to remove a lower court’s injunction on a law that bans most abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.

The itinerary for the St. Theresa trip is as follows:

  • Mass at 4:15 am that morning at St. Theresa.
  • Bus departs at 4:45 am.
  • Participants can bring snacks and bags and leave them on the bus.
  • The bus will go at a rest stop for breakfast and for dinner on the return trip.
  • The group is expected to arrive in Washington about 10 or 10:30 am in time for the rally.
  • Afterwards, the march will commence on Constitution Avenue.
  • Departure from Washington will be at 4 pm and the bus will arrive in Trumbull late in the evening.
    The cost for the trip is $80, reduced for $90. The link to sign up is: rally.co/march-for-life-st-theresa-trumbull. For further information, contact Janny at: 203.856.8496.

He strongly recommends downloading the Rally Bus mobile app to your phone to ensure the best means of communication.

“If the weather or the pandemic prevents us from going, money for the trip will be refunded on cancellations,” he said.

The District of Columbia has a vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but outdoor events are not affected, although participants should wear face masks.

Ciardiello said that for those who are unable to attend the march but would like to prayerfully participate, the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull will be hosting its annual Holy Hour for Life on Friday, January 21 from 7 to 8 pm, in person and live-streamed. During  Eucharistic Adoration, a Pro-Life Scriptural Rosary will be prayed, concluding with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. For more information, visit the parish’s website at: www.stcathtrumbull.com.

“It is so important that we persevere in prayer and make our voices heard in opposition to abortion to protect the lives of babies and to help mothers who are faced with the decision,” said Ciardiello. “Prayer goes a long way, and I hope more parishes start to do Holy Hours for Life. People should continue praying for an end to abortion even if they can’t get to a Holy Hour. Pray a rosary, fast, do some penance or offer up good works to remember the day in some way.”                She praised the pro-life efforts of St. Theresa, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Aloysius in New Canaan, St. Rose of Lima in Newtown, the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, and St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield.

She also praised the faithful who conduct vigils at the abortion clinics in Bridgeport, Stamford and Danbury. There are chapters of Sidewalk Advocates for Life in Stamford and Danbury, and she urged people to get involved in their counseling ministry, whose goal is to provide “a peaceful, prayerful, loving and law-abiding sidewalk outreach” to women and staff outside abortion facilities so they can pursue “life-affirming alternatives.”

Ciardiello said Sidewalk Advocates for Life was founded in 2014 by Lauren Muzyka, a licensed attorney who is now President and CEO of the international organization. The group estimates that it has saved 13,358 babies, with 3,665 hopeful saves (where the mother decided to think about the alternative to abortion).

They also say their efforts have prompted 78 abortion clinic workers to quit and 27 facilities to close.

The program leader of the newly formed Danbury chapter is Tom, who is seeking volunteers to become counselors and/or prayer partners. Free training is provided to prepare counselors for their ministry. People from the Greater Danbury Area and New York are welcome to join. Membership is not required to benefit from the training, which is available to pro-life believers of any denomination, as well as “secularists, scientists, legal and humanity supporters,” he said.

Anyone interested in training (virtually or otherwise), with or without joining the Danbury chapter, or in the work of the group should contact Tom at tai32@gmail.com and visit the Sidewalk Advocates for Life website for further information.

Ciardiello also coordinates Project Rachel, a ministry of the Catholic Church that offers a program to help post-abortive women in the healing process.

(For more information, contact Ciardiello by phone at 203.416.1445 or email at mciardiello@diobpt.org)

DARIEN—More than thirteen couples recently attended a dinner at St. John Church in Darien to learn more about “Missionaries to the Family,” an initiative to revitalize the domestic Church.

Missionaries to the Family is a lay formation and ministry initiative launched by Paradisus Dei and the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame in 2019. With four missionary couples already established within the Diocese of Bridgeport, it is the hope of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, along with Father Peter Towsley, chaplain of Paradisus Dei, to grow this initiative even more.

The goal of Missionaries to the Family is to form modern marriages and families upon the model of the Holy Family at Nazareth. Couples discern this calling for their own family, receive the formation needed to live that life in their own homes, and share what they have learned with other couples and families through intentional, spiritual friendships and accompaniment. After their formation year, they begin their active mission work, which takes place right in their own homes and communities.

“The spirit of the initiative is for couples to live the spirit of Nazareth in their own home,” said Father Towsley, who emphasized Missionaries to the Family as an initiative rather than a movement. “We invite couples to see this initiative as a way of life, rather than a program,” he said. “It is a spiritual plan of life.”

The formation year includes online coursework covering the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, practical training for missionary outreach, and a spiritual vision for marriage and family life. Missionary couples will also attend three in-person weekend retreats, two of which are hosted at the University of Notre Dame. Missionaries must be able to commit two hours per week for this initiative and be married in the Church.

Father Towsley, who has been involved with Paradisus Dei for over 14 years, explained that the goal is to encourage couples to encounter Christ in their own homes. “That is where Christ wants to live in the domestic Church,” he said.

Once couples have gone through their formation period they move into their apostolate phase, during which they invite others into their home to experience what they have learned, first-hand.

Couples participating in the initiative can discern together which apostolate is best for them. They are encouraged to give back to the parish for at least two hours a week. Their work includes leading marriage preparation sessions, leading marriage enrichment efforts, hosting young adult and family small groups in their home, and even leading regional outreach to recruit other missionary couples.

“Their primary vocation is to live marriage and family life,” said Father Towsley, clarifying that the apostolate the couples choose must always fall under that umbrella.

Couples are encouraged to reach out to the peripheries to those who may need it most. “Their apostolate is a fruit of what they are trying to live in their own life,” he said.

Father Towsley explained that the hope for growing Missionaries to the Family is to establish priest chaplains, an apostle couple and mentor couples, who would work within the diocese to establish a greater presence. The plan is for the class to gather on a monthly basis after their commissioning.

“We want to make sure this sticks,” Father Towsley said.

The Missionaries to the Family initiative is currently established in 17 other dioceses, with 137 couples in formation, 111 of whom are in the field.

The first class of missionary couples completed their formation year and were commissioned in the summer of 2020. The second class will be commissioned this summer, and the third class is now being assembled and will begin formation this August. The first missionary couples have already begun their active mission work, and in spite of the pandemic-restricted environment, they are having an impact!

Adrienne and Al Keogler, parishioners of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, were one of the couples commissioned as missionaries in August 2020. “Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church and using the example of the saints chosen for the Missionaries to the Family, the professors and teachers do a wonderful job presenting the material in a very knowledgeable and engaging way,” Adrienne explained of the program.

“The basic idea that is repeated over and again during the year of formation is that anything God wants to do through you, He first wants to give to you,” said Adrienne.

She explained that the year of formation was a year to settle in and receive, learn, refine and go ever deeper into the Faith.

“Through seven basic steps, we are to model our homes and family life on the home of the Holy Family at Nazareth,” she said.

“Missionary work can take on a variety of forms,” said the Keoglers, “whether filling the needs within one’s own parish, or inviting others into their homes. There are many programs available through Paradisus Dei that can be used to help facilitate things. All this is to help foster a relationship and friendship with other couples, to walk with them on the journey, and to help them to find God within themselves, each other and ultimately their homes.”

(For more information, visit: www.paradisusdei.org/missionaries-to-the-family)

By Elizabeth Clyons

NEW CANAAN—“We’re here to pray,” said Father Rob Kinnally at a service and rosary held in St. Aloysius Church to pray for Teddy Balkind and his family.

“Prayer draws us closer to the God who has always loved and cared for Teddy and will continue to do so. Praying as a community reminds us that God is in our midst and will walk with us in our pain,” Father Kinnally said.

The St. Luke’s School sophomore lost his life in a tragic accident after being fatally injured in a hockey game against Brunswick School in Greenwich. Families around New Canaan placed hockey sticks outside their doors on Friday.

The hour-long service was led by teen rosary leaders and included messages of comfort and music.

“Teddy and his family are members of our community, and our hearts are broken,” Father Kinnally told the Connecticut Post. “We gathered to pray for Teddy, his family and for all who mourn his passing.”

Father Kinnally said he was comforted to see the more than 400 young people in St. Aloysius Parish and their prayerful act of solidarity during a time of loss and grief.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education’s gala returns to Woodway Country Club in Darien, Conn., on May 5, 2022 with honorees Barbara and Peter Ripp, Mutual of America and Dr. Steve Cheeseman, superintendent of Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools. Our Gala Committee, chaired by Barbara and Bob Scinto are hard at work.  They will be joined this year by professional auctioneer, Mr. Bobby D. Ehlert.

Bobby D. is a World Champion Auctioneer and expert fundraiser who co-founded Inspire Hearts Fundraising with his wife, fellow auctioneer Erin Ward, in 2017. He helps nonprofits around the nation to strengthen communities, fund missions and inspire hearts along the way.  His clients include the Overlook Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen and many more.

Foundations in Education raised over $875,000 in 2021 and seeks to raise even more in 2022! Thanks to the generosity of our donors we have some one of a kind auction items that will help reach our goal.  We are excited to feature wonderful and unique items in its live auction, most notable are the following:

  • Private reception with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano at your home
  • All-expense-paid trip for 6 to Lido Key, Fla., which includes lodging at a magnificent 12,000 square-foot, 6-bedroom mansion right on the coast
  • Lake George getaway for 14 which includes a guest cottage, direct waterfront access and dock space for up to a 30-foot boat
  • Round of golf with 2-time Super Bowl Champion and former New York Giant quarterback Eli Manning at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

All proceeds support the mission of Foundations in Education, including tuition assistance for approximately 1,200 students through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund as well as Innovation and Leadership Grants for teachers and administrators.

(If you wish to volunteer, sponsor, contribute or learn more about Foundations in Education or the Gala, please visit www.foundationsineducation.org or contact Megan Quinn at 203.416.1671 or mquinn@foundationsineducation.org.)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Before baptizing 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis reminded parents and godparents of their responsibility to care for and preserve the Christian identity the infants were about to receive.

“This is your task throughout your lives: to guard the Christian identity of your children,” the pope said. “It is a daily commitment: help them grow with the light they receive today.”

The pope baptized the seven boys and nine girls — the children of Vatican employees — in the Sistine Chapel during the celebration of Mass Jan. 9, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

The annual tradition of baptizing infants on the feast day, which began in 1981 by St. John Paul II, was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Although the baptisms resumed this year, the number of infants was significantly reduced. In January 2020, the pope had baptized 32 infants in the Sistine Chapel.

Delivering a brief, off-the-cuff homily, Pope Francis recalled a hymn for the feast day that said the people of Israel went to the Jordan River to be baptized “with bare feet and bare souls.”

“These children today also come here with ‘bare souls’ to receive God’s justification, Jesus’ strength, the strength to move forward in life,” he said. “Your children will receive their Christian identity today. And you, parents and godparents, must guard this identity.”

With the sounds of fussy children filling the frescoed chapel, the pope repeated his usual advice to mothers of infants, encouraging them to make their children comfortable, and to not worry if they start to cry in the chapel.

“This ceremony is a bit long, the children then feel uncomfortable here in an environment they do not know. Please, they are the protagonists: make sure that they are not too hot, that they feel comfortable,” Pope Francis said.

“If they are hungry, breast feed them here, in front of the Lord, no problem,” he added. “And if they cry out, let them cry out, because they have a community spirit, let’s say a ‘band spirit,’ a spirit of ensemble, and all it takes is for one to start — because everyone is musical — and immediately the orchestra comes! Let them cry, let them feel free.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education, Inc is pleased to announce that applications to the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund open February 1, 2022.

The mission of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is to help families afford a Catholic education at diocesan elementary schools in Fairfield County.

In the 2021-2022 academic year, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund received 2,257 applications for tuition assistance and awarded 1,197 students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 nearly $2,500,000. Awards ranged from $300-$3,500 per student.

A composite of this past year’s average Bishop’s Scholarship Fund recipients includes:
• 49% raised by single parents
• 52% qualify for free or reduced lunch
• household average gross income = $58,724

The nineteen elementary schools welcomed 1,510 new students this year and continue to attract families looking for an exceptional in-person education.

“There’s no better time to experience the difference a Catholic School can make for your child,” remarked Foundations in Education Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine. “We encourage all families who need financial assistance to apply to the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. Consideration may be given to families with multiple elementary school-aged children.”

Applicants apply online via the FACTS Grant and Aid application and complete all questions relative to Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2022 for families with a child currently enrolled in K-8 at any of the diocesan schools and April 15, 2022 for families new to our schools.

Foundations in Education is a non-profit initiative created to assist the Diocese of Bridgeport’s ongoing mission to support Catholic education in Fairfield County.

(To learn how you can support Catholic education or for more information, visit www.foundationsineducation.org.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We welcome everyone,” she said.

(Click here to read the full CT Post story)

BRIDGEPORT—Each week the Office of Safe Environments will post a frequently asked question or tip on the topic of child safety, abuse prevention, VIRTUS training, mandatory reporting, criminal background checks, victim assistance, vulnerable adults and information from our Safe Environments Handbook.

If you have a question related to any of these topics, you are not alone and others may benefit. Please send your questions or suggestions for a weekly topic to Erin Neil, L.C.S.W, director of Safe Environments and Victim Assistance Coordinator at: eneil@diobpt.org or call 203.650.3265.

Did you know?

Every U.S. State has a hotline for reporting abuse of a minor. If you call the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) Care-line here in Conn., at: 1.800.842.288, they will provide you with the number to call in the State where the incident took place. There are many resources for reporting abuse online so to be sure you have the correct one, call DCF. The U.S.C.C.B. Office of Child and Youth Protection is a resource for dioceses, including international contacts. Victim Assistance Coordinators in every US diocese may be found at: www.usccb.org/resources/victim-assistance-coordinators-around-us.

Additional Information:

The child abuse hotline in each state will ask for your name and contact information, the name and contact information of the perpetrator, the name, date of birth and contact information of the victim and his or her parents’ information. The more details you are able to provide, the more likely they can accept a report for further review; however, this should not stop you from reporting what you know and this does not mean that you should investigate since this may interfere in a police investigation. You can start a report and if you receive more information then you should call in a new report. You may also ask a hotline operator to keep your information confidential.  When contacting the police in a non-emergency, begin with the police department in the town where the incident occurred.

Several Catholic dioceses outside of the US have a dedicated person in place to assist with an allegation of abuse that occurs internationally and they may be able to provide you with a contact in local law enforcement. If you don’t know what to do with an international report of child abuse, start with the local police department in the town where you received the information. The USCCB Office of Child and Youth Protection is also a resource for dioceses. Victim Assistance Coordinators in every US Diocese may be found at: www.usccb.org/resources/victim-assistance-coordinators-around-us.

To report abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult or an incident of child pornography in the Diocese of Bridgeport involving any person from the Church, call DCF at: 1.800.842.2288 and Erin Neil, L.C.S.W. at: 203.650.3265 or Michael Tintrup L.C.S.W. at: 203.241.0987. You may also contact a Third-Party reporting hotline at: www.lighthouse-services.com/diobpt or call: 833.990.0004 or fill out a written report of abuse or neglect at the following link: www.bridgeportdiocese.org/safe-environments/incident-report-of-an-allegation-of-abuse-or-misconduct.

Just as the Magi were guided by a shining star, Christians can rest assured that the light of Christ will guide them to a happy and meaningful life, Pope Francis said on the feast of the Epiphany.

Pictured: Pope Francis is assisted by Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, as he celebrates Mass for the feast of Epiphany in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 6, 2022. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

“The Magi teach us that we need to set out anew each day, in life as in faith, for faith is not a suit of armor that encases us; instead, it is a fascinating journey, a constant and restless movement, ever in search of God,” the pope said.

Pope Francis celebrated the feast day Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Jan. 6.

In accordance with an ancient tradition, after the proclamation of the Gospel, a deacon chanted the announcement of the date of Easter 2022 (April 17) and the dates of other feasts on the church calendar that are calculated according to the date of Easter.

After celebrating Mass, the pope led the recitation of the Angelus prayer with visitors in St. Peter’s Square.

In his Angelus address, the pope said that in prostrating and worshipping baby Jesus, the humble Magi showed that their true wealth did not lie in fame or success, but in “their awareness of their need of salvation.”

Like the Magi, Christians must also follow their example of humility, otherwise, “if we always remain at the center of everything with our ideas, and if we presume to have something to boast of before God, we will never fully encounter him, we will never end up worshipping him.”

“If our pretensions, vanity, stubbornness, competitiveness do not fall by the wayside, we may well end up worshipping someone or something in life, but it will not be the Lord,” the pope said.

Earlier, in his homily at Mass, the pope reflected on the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem. Although “they had excellent reasons not to depart,” having already attained knowledge and wealth, the three men “let themselves be unsettled” by the question of where the Messiah would be born.

“They did not allow their hearts to retreat into the caves of gloom and apathy; they longed to see the light,” the pope said. “They were not content to trudge through life, but yearned for new and greater horizons. Their eyes were not fixed here below; they were windows open to the heavens.”

The “spirit of healthy restlessness” that led them on their journey, he explained, was “born of a desire” to seek something greater than themselves or what they possessed.

Christians also must live their journey of faith like the Magi, which “demands a deep desire and inner zeal,” and they must ask themselves whether their faith has remained stagnant in a “conventional, external and formal religiosity that no longer warms our hearts and changes our lives,” he said.

“Do our words and our liturgies ignite in people’s hearts a desire to move toward God or are they a ‘dead language’ that speaks only of itself and to itself?” he asked. “It is sad when a community of believers loses its desire and is content with ‘maintenance’ rather than allowing itself to be startled by Jesus and by the explosive and unsettling joy of the Gospel.”

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said it was also sad when a priest or bishop closes the door to a desire for God and instead falls into “clerical functionalism.”

The current crisis of faith in life and in society, he added, is “related to a kind of slumbering of the spirit, to the habit of being content to live from day to day, without ever asking what God really wants from us.”

And, he said, Christians must allow themselves to be “unsettled by the questions of our children, and by the doubts, hopes and desires of the men and women of our time.”

Their journey, he said, also mirrors the upcoming Synod of Bishops on synodality, which is a time of listening “so that the Spirit can suggest to us new ways and paths to bring the Gospel to the hearts of those who are distant, indifferent or without hope, yet continue to seek what the Magi found: ‘a great joy.’”

The Magi’s journey ends with the adoration of baby Jesus, Pope Francis noted.

“Indeed, our hearts grow sickly whenever our desires coincide merely with our needs,” the pope said.

“God, on the other hand, elevates our desires; he purifies them and heals them of selfishness, opening them to love for him and for our brothers and sisters. This is why we should not neglect adoration: let us spend time before the Eucharist and allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus,” he said.

By: Junno Arocho Esteves | catholicnews.com

MONROE—When Fran Bifulco of St. Jude Church heard about Blessed Carlo Acutis, the 15-year-old who documented Eucharistic miracles around the world before dying of leukemia, something stirred in her heart.

She began researching the Italian teenager, whose cause for sainthood is before the Vatican, and learned about the exhibit he created, which has been viewed in dozens of countries across five continents and in thousands of parishes and university campuses.

Through her efforts, the Vatican International Exhibit of Eucharistic Miracles, designed and created by Acutis, will be on display at St. Jude Church at 707 Monroe Turnpike on Saturday, January 22 from 1 to 6 pm and on Sunday, January 23 from 8 am to 2 pm.

Because of his intense love of the Blessed Sacrament, he used his computer skills to document Eucharistic miracles throughout the centuries. He spent four years on the project, which was made into an exhibit after his death and has been received praise throughout Europe and the United States.

Although his parents were not religious, Acutis developed a love for the Eucharist at an early age and often said, “The Eucharist is my highway to heaven” and that “being close to Jesus” was his life plan.

“Something stirred in my heart,” Bifulco said. “And I thought this is what we need to bring our youth back. They really need to see this exhibit because so many Catholics are unaware of the many miracles that prove the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”

Bifulco said that Acutis, who was born in England and raised in Italy, was an ordinary teenager with a special love for Jesus. He played soccer, enjoyed computer games and doing practical jokes. He was declared blessed on October 10, 2020 after a miracle in Brazil was attributed to his intercession, and in a short time, he has earned the nicknames of “God’s influencer,” “Cyber-apostle of the Eucharist” and the “First Millennial Saint.”

As an amateur computer programmer, Acutis was able to catalog the miracles before he died, and they can be found on a website he designed—www.miracolieucaristici.org. The website has been translated into 17 languages, including Vietnamese and Swahili.

The exhibit at St. Jude consists of 159 panels with photographs and historical descriptions that provide a virtual visit to the places where the miracles occurred and prove that Jesus is really and truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament.

Bifulco, who is a “media missionary” for EWTN and promotes the network’s seasonal programming, recently retired after 21 years as parish secretary at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newton. She previously attended the exhibit at St. Louis Church of St. John XXIII Parish in West Haven.

“I was so moved that I felt this was something the Lord was telling me to do something about,” she said.

She approached Father Joseph Gill, parochial administrator of St. Jude, about bringing the exhibit to Monroe, and he agreed because of its importance to Catholics, especially young people.

“You can’t just look at the exhibit without knowing about Carlo,” she said. “He was a faith-filled young person, a regular kid who did something on his computer that will resonate with youth. That’s why I feel so strongly about this. This is a teenager. This is not an old person talking. Carlo is part of their generation.”

She said that ever since Acutis made his first Holy Communion he was in love with the Eucharist and received it as often as possible, in addition to praying the rosary every day because of his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Acutis loved Assisi and would often go there. In the tradition of St. Francis of Assisi, he used his money to buy sleeping bags, which he distributed to the homeless living on the streets.

He died of leukemia in 2006 at 15, and his body was interred at Assisi. It was later exhumed and put in a tomb in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Assisi, where he is dressed in jeans, a track suit jacket and sneakers. His heart, which is considered a relic after his beatification, is in a reliquary in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis has called Acutis a model of holiness in the digital age and suggested that his use of the computer resembles the efforts of the first disciples who traveled on foot to bring the Good News of Christ to people.

Pope Francis said Acutis is a role model for young people today, who are victims of “self-absorption, isolation and empty pleasure.”

“Carlo was well-aware that the whole apparatus of communications, advertising and social networking can be used to lull us, to make us addicted to consumerism and buying the latest thing on the market, obsessed with our free time, caught up in negativity,” the pope wrote. “Yet he knew how to use the new communications technology to transmit the Gospel, to communicate values and beauty.”

After examining the miracles in the exhibit, Bifulco believes they have a common thread—someone doubted the Real Presence or a Eucharist was defiled because of disbelief.

“All these miracles took place over the centuries, but I believe miracles are still happening today, and we need to recognize them,” she said. “Carlo was so moved by the Eucharist that he used his computer skills to bring these miracles to the world so that you can believe if you have doubts. We need something positive in the world today—something to give us hope.”

There is no admission fee for the exhibit, but visitors are encouraged to make a free will offering, and to wear a mark, she said. Those interested in bringing the exhibit to their parish, may contact Bifulco at fran_gargano@hotmail.com.