St. Catherine of Siena hosts 4th annual kickoff weekend

TRUMBULL—St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull launched a new Pastoral Year on September 12 & 13 on a picture-perfect weekend. Father Joseph Marcello, pastor, Deacon Patrick Toole, and St. Catherine of Siena Parish staff were joined once again by the parish’s Welcome Team for our 4th annual kickoff weekend.

Masses were as full as state guidelines allow. Everyone could easily see by the smiles under every mask that friends were happy to see each other. Christ is alive and at work in our community!  Even though it’s an unsettled time for all of us, it’s going to be a great pastoral year at St. Catherine’s!

Do you know someone who is looking for a spiritual home? Invite them to come see what St. Catherine’s is all about.

The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena warmly welcomes anyone who is new to our area, anyone who is searching for the truth, or anyone who is looking for a spiritual home. We are joyfully and faithfully Roman Catholic in belief and practice – a community of faith, worship, service, and formation – and with open hearts we invite all our brothers and sisters into a living and saving friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, in the communion of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  We are conveniently located at 220 Shelton Road in the Nichols area of Trumbull.

(To view all photos from the event, visit:

Prayers of remembrance and forgiveness at the Site of the Unborn

TRUMBULL—To mark the 8th Annual National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, a group of local parishioners gathered in prayer at the Memorial Site of the Unborn in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Trumbull on a recent Saturday afternoon. Beginning at the holy hour of 3 pm under the warm sun of mid-September, the ceremony included pro-life prayers, special intentions, and the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

Two dozen people from the Trumbull area held long-stemmed white roses and joined together to visit this gravesite, not only to remember the countless number of children who have been aborted but to also acknowledge forgiveness for those responsible.

“The children we remember here today are in Heaven,” said Tina Kelly, a member of St. Catherine of Siena Parish who has organized this event for the past four years. “The real crux is to pray for those who did this and hope that they too get to Heaven. We want them to know that they are forgiven.”

Held each year on the second Saturday of September, the event, Kelly feels, has special significance as it occurs during the week of the Blessed Mother’s birthday on September 8. “We ask for her blessings on us today,” she said as the ceremony began.

As the group recited the “Prayer to End Abortion,” “Prayer for Forgiveness of Those Who Destroy Human Life,” and other devotions, a young girl visiting the cemetery with her family wandered toward the memorial. She paused and gently touched the vase of roses and an unlit white candle, seeming to acknowledge those unborn with the innocence only a child herself could possess. Several attendees said this simple act of kindness reminded them of the line they had just recited: “We pray for the toddler who, like your Son, reaches out in hope to a brand new world.”

The small granite stone, inscribed with the words “In Memory of the Unborn,” is one of 11 memorial sites that have been erected throughout Connecticut. In addition to the ceremony in Trumbull, gatherings also occurred this weekend in Oakdale and Putnam and at the burial place for aborted children in Cromwell.

Kelly said that the group who gathers at Gate of Heaven Cemetery grows each year, with more and more people getting involved in the pro-life movement. “I hope they will become more vocal about their beliefs,” she said. “The Lord is merciful. We are praying for those who destroyed life, not judging them.”

“Forgiveness,” she added, “is what distinguishes our faith.”

By Emily Clark

Immaculate High School returns to school

DANBURY—Immaculate High School recently began a new school year, successfully rolling out their reopening plan and hosting the student body in the building. New protocols throughout the school promote social distancing and safe practices, including temperature sensors at all entrances to the building, directional signage in the hallways and stairwells, air purifiers in all rooms in the building, hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant wipes in every classroom as well as mask mandates for all faculty, staff and students.

Similar to the efforts of all school administrators, school President Mary Maloney and school Principal Wendy Neil, have been coordinating their reopening plan efforts with the Department of Health, local officials, CIAC and the Offices of the Superintendents of Danbury Public Schools and Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools. The first week of school began with Freshman Orientation on Tuesday, September 8 and continued on Thursday and Friday with a hybrid learning platform for the entire student body. Parents were provided an option of sending their student back to the school or for their student to take courses virtually for the first semester.

While prioritizing the safety and well-being of its students and staff, Immaculate is committed to maintaining the rigor of its programs and its Catholic identity. “We have created two cohorts of students who will be participating in their 55-minute classes whether virtual or in-person using Microsoft Teams. Our Wednesday schedule includes shortened periods and special programming to allow students to engage in Mass, Prayer services, Advisory, counseling, extracurricular and after school club meetings,” says President Mary Maloney.

Principal Wendy Neil expressed her enthusiasm in a letter to parents stating “ Together we can make this untraditional start of the year a success. Our teachers have worked endlessly to master their technology skills while designing their lessons, our staff has tried to prepare for every possible scenario and our building is ready. Our coaches and athletic department programs have been responding to every new guideline in order to keep our athletes safe on the field and court.”

To see the full reopening plan, please visit:

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others and personal goals. Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.

New book ponders ‘Silent Sufferings of Mary’

Fernanda Moreira had a dream that changed her life, a dream that led her to a deep devotion to Our Lady and writing a book about the silent suffering the Mother of God endured in the depths of her heart, suffering only another mother could understand.

As a Catholic, she was raised with a knowledge of the Blessed Mother, but says, “I never had a real relationship with her.” During May, she would pray the rosary and honor her, but that was the extent of her devotion.

“My love for Jesus was so great that I didn’t have room in my heart for anyone else, so I stopped my devotion to Mary,” she recalled. “But as a good mother, she would not let me live in such error and ignorance.”

Then, one night she had a dream, and in the dream she became upset when saw a statue of the Blessed Mother lying on the floor.

“My heart felt such sorrow that I went and picked her up, and as I did, she embraced me,” Fernanda recalls. “I can’t express the feeling in my heart. It was like she was telling me, ‘You took me out of your life, but I am your mother, and I won’t let you go.’ And I have been in her arms ever since.”

Years later, Fernanda and her sister-in-law began a worldwide apostolate for the dying, which she says was God’s doing because she never could have spread it across America from California to Connecticut, including parishes in Shelton and Bridgeport, and to places as far away as the United Kingdom, Nigeria and the Philippines. The mission of the Apostolate for the Dying is “to pray for souls at the vital moment of death, when eternal salvation is at stake.” Fernanda and her sister-in-law Lourdes later published the “Holy Hour Devotion for the Dying,” which has been translated into five languages and distributed worldwide.

“The Silent Sufferings of Mary” is Fernanda’s most recent book. It contains 40 meditations to honor and console the sorrowful heart of Mary, and it can be used for prayer and meditation.

“The devotion and love we should have for Our Lady of Sorrows is of the utmost importance,” Fernanda says. “What child would not love a mother like our heavenly Mother? She suffered along with her divine Son for our salvation, and she truly is the most powerful mother this world will ever have because of her great suffering and love. She is our great intercessor.”

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has special importance during our time, Fernanda says.

“She is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and can obtain the peace and harmony the world so desperately needs and is longing for,” she said. “We are living in times of great sorrow and no one knows how to suffer like she did and still does. She has been calling us back to God for centuries, and many do not listen.”

Devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary is based in Scripture and Christian tradition. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is observed on September 15, was introduced in 1239 by the Servites—the Order of the Servants of Mary. In 1814, Pope Pius VII extended it to the universal Church.

During Our Lady’s last apparition at Fatima on October 13, 1917, when the Miracle of the Sun occurred, she appeared as Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Our Lady of Sorrows.

One of the visionaries, Sister Lucia, later said that God wants “to show us the value of suffering, sacrifice and immolation for the sake of love. In the world today hardly anyone wants to hear these truths, such is the extent to which people are living in search of pleasure, of empty worldly happiness and exaggerated comfort. But the more one flees from suffering, the more we find ourselves immersed in a sea of afflictions, disappointments and suffering.”

According to St. Bridget of Sweden, the Blessed Mother revealed she would give seven special graces to those who honored her with a daily devotion to the Seven Sorrows by saying seven Hail Marys and meditating on her “dolors”:

  1. “I will grant peace to their families.”
  2. “They will be enlightened about the divine mysteries.”
  3. “I will console them in their pains and I will accompany them in their work.”
  4. “I will give them as much as they ask for as long as it does not oppose the adorable will of my divine Son or the sanctification of their souls.”
  5. “I will defend them in their spiritual battles with the infernal enemy, and I will protect them at every instant of their lives.”
  6. “I will visibly help them at the moment of their death—they will see the face of their mother.”
  7. “I have obtained this grace from my divine Son, that those who propagate this devotion to my tears and dolors will be taken directly from this earthly life to eternal happiness, since all their sins will be forgiven, and my Son will be their eternal consolation and joy.”

These are the Seven Sorrows of Mary:

  1. The prophecy of Simeon
  2. The flight into Egypt
  3. The loss of Jesus for three days in the Temple
  4. Meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary
  5. Jesus’ crucifixion and death
  6. Jesus is taken down from the cross
  7. Jesus is laid in the tomb

Fernanda, who also wrote “The Hidden Sufferings of Christ,” said that “God is full of surprises and when you place your life into his mighty hands, all things are possible.”

She did not intend to write about the suffering of Mary until a woman in Washington DC called her with the idea.

“I was very surprised and told her I didn’t think I could do it, but she was so convinced I could and should, that I said I would pray about it,” Fernanda recalled.

She asked the Lord to guide her and then went to talk to Fr. James Walsh, the pastor of St. Dominic Church in Cincinnati, who told her, “This is from the Holy Spirit. You have to do it.”

In his foreword to the book, Father Walsh wrote, “In this book, we are invited to get inside the mind and heart of Mary as she experienced the various Gospel events. Fernanda helps us to begin a conversation with Mary that leads us into prayer…This is a beautiful book. May it lead you to a new appreciation of Mary and a deeper relationship with her Son Jesus.”

In her introduction, she wrote, “The Scriptures don’t say much about the sufferings of Mary. So how can we know the silent sorrows in the depths of her heart? The writer of this book doesn’t pretend to know, but as a mother herself, she can easily imagine how great Mary’s suffering must have been, seeing her divine Son so mistreated and killed by those He came to save.”

The meditations take the reader from the Annunciation to the Descent of the Holy Spirit to help us understand the role Mary played in the history of our salvation. The book took her nine months to complete, and she would work on it after she had completed her daily duties as a wife, mother and grandmother.

“During the day, thoughts and inspirations came to me, but it was mostly at night that I had the chance to write,” she said. “Before I did, I always prayed and asked the Holy Spirit and Blessed Mother to give me the words I should write.” She was also assisted by her daughter Paula Dudzinski, who helped with the editing and designed the cover, in addition to finding beautiful artwork to accompany each meditation.

Why 40 meditations? “Just as Jesus, Moses and others in the Bible spent 40 days in the desert, we can spend 40 days meditating on Mary’s suffering and growing closer to her,” she said.

(To obtain a copy of the book or for more information about the Apostolate for the Dying, visit or or write to Apostolate for the Dying, P. O. Box 38-9185 Cincinnati, OH 45238)

St. Mark School in Stratford welcomes students to in-person classes

STRATFORD—As the first week drew to a close on Friday, St. Mark faculty say they aced their first test on back-to-school in the era of COVID-19.

“The kids are so happy to be back at school, as are the teachers,” shared St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner. “Even through their tiny masks you could see the excitement on their faces and they’re being so cooperative with all the health protocols we put in place.”

St. Mark faculty have been meeting all summer long planning the reopening measures, ensuring both teachers and parents had a voice in the planning process.

“I’m so excited to have everyone back,” added grade 8 Teacher Mrs. Agnes Miller. “For most of our students, St. Mark School is a second home.”

Principal Warner said families had two options this fall: in person, five days a week or at-home guided distance learning. Of the school’s 190 students in Pre-K through grade 8, twenty-two students elected remote learning. Students who are ill or presenting any symptoms of COVID-19 can also continue their education remotely if they feel well enough, added Warner.

The school welcomed 51 new students this fall, many of whom transferred from public school. Currently there are waiting lists for kindergarten, grade 4 and grade 8.

Following the guidelines of the CDC and State of Conn., Warner said they rearranged rooms, removed unnecessary furniture and spaced the desks out anywhere from 4 to 6 feet depending on the number of students in the classrooms. The students are kept in cohorts, or small groups, and teachers will move into the classrooms for special programs.

“The smaller size of our school populations and the mission driven zeal of our teachers have allowed us to be flexible in our planning, to use space and instructional time creatively and to create a school environment that is healthy, safe and nurturing,” commented Superintendent of Schools Steven Cheeseman, who is also a St. Mark Alumni Parent and School Advisory Board member.

St. Mark also hired a professional day porter to clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces throughout the day in addition to a second crew who cleans at night. The school also purchased an electrostatic mist machine, also known as a disinfectant fogger, that vaporizes a cleaning solution as an extra layer of sanitation.

“I have to say, it’s run pretty well so far,” added Warner. “It’s an educational experience for everyone. Kudos to the parents, because a lot of them had that conversation at home and now we’re an extension of that conversation.”

As for the parents, Mrs. Warner reports that the feedback has been very positive.

“We could not be happier with how this week went and the clear preparation from principal and staff to make it happen,” commented Deanna Pittore, parent of a St. Mark fourth-grader. “All the extra loving care was evident in every detail. What an amazing job St. Mark is doing to keep our kids in school, safe and still learning.”

St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school, serving students in Pre-K through grade 8. For more information, visit or call 203.375.4291.

Christian forgiveness has no strings attached

BRIDGEPORT—Most of us find it difficult to forgive friends and family who may have betrayed us, but Jesus urges us toward complete forgiveness, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily during his online Mass for 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

“Many of us who struggle with this demand find it difficult to summon the energy and grace to forgive. We can forgive to a point— but with strings attached,” said the bishop from the Catholic Center chapel.

The bishop said it is a very human reaction to want to protect ourselves from further hurt, but the challenge presented by the gospel is that ““True Christian forgiveness does not have strings attached.”

The bishop’s homily was based on the Gospel of Matthew 18:21-35. “ 21 Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

The bishop said Peter probably thought he had done well with his generous figure, but that Jesus goes beyond that exponentially.

“The Call of the Gospel is to be wildly generous, to know no limits or bounds. We are as children to follow the example of the Father in heaven who does the same for you and me and all of us,” the bishop said.

“He remembers every sin but gives us a chance to re-build ourselves without strings attached. He does so by generously, wildly maybe even recklessly loving us.”

The bishop said that one of the most poignant conversations he ever had took place when he began his first parish assignment at St. Jude Parish in Canarsie after returning from studies in Rome.

A woman came to him broken and distressed because she had been deeply betrayed by family and friends.

The bishop recalled “the honest human struggle this woman had to trying to do what the Lord asked… forgive those who had hurt and betrayed her so deeply.”

In the midst of her tears and resignation, she said to him in a whisper, “Fr. Frank, I will do my best to forgive, but I’m not sure I can forget.”

“Forgiveness is not an emotional response,” said the bishop. “It is an act of the will, a choice you make to give someone a new beginning, another chance.”

Forgiveness doesn’t condone what happened or excuse the hurt or sin committed, but it offers the other a fresh start if people are willing to change their lives, he said.

“God is always ready to forgive us, so who are we not to give it to our neighbors and friends and those who have hurt us?” he asked.

The bishop said that people feel the relief of no longer carrying the burden when they are forgiven, but the choice to forgive “is ours to make.”

“The challenge as we go through the coming week is that there are people in your life and mine where we have forgiven but not forgotten—forgiven but held on to the strings just in case,” he said.

“The lord asks us to forgive from the heart. For if He, the father, is willing to forgive us from his divine heart, shouldn’t we do the same for our neighbor?”
In brief remarks following Mass, Bishop Caggiano urged Catholics throughout the diocese to join in the “conversation about the conversation on race” that will be held online this Thursday.

“The diocese has been engaged in online conversations about the presence of racism in our midst, and the evil and sinfulness that needs to be identified and rooted out. In the conversation we will break open what we have learned so far, so that we will be prepared to answer the hard questions about where we will go from here,” he said.
Conversations about Race: The webinar series, features talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, began on July 30. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism. (To view a recording of previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars:

Bishop’s Online Mass: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

‘Restless’ Podcasts and Videos Reach Out to Young Adult Catholics

More than 1600 years ago, a proud, brilliant young man who thought he had everything realized he had nothing. He had friends, women, wealth and prestige, and still his heart was restless … because he didn’t have God.

That man, Augustine of Hippo, a pagan who became one of the Church’s greatest saints, said, “O Lord, our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

That spiritual restlessness still afflicts young people today in an age when we look to worldly pleasures and pursuits to satisfy a longing that only God can satisfy, says Father Joseph Gill of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist, who with a group of young adults developed a podcast and video series titled “Restless” to bring them closer to God and explore issues that touch their lives in modern society.

“We are reaching out to young people through podcasts and videos because this is their language,” Father Gill said.

The Restless project was made possible by a St. John Paul II Fund grant from Foundations in Faith, which is supported by the We Stand With Christ capital campaign. Restless will be broadcast on Veritas Catholic Network at WNLK-AM 1350 radio and be made available as a podcast at

Father Gill will moderate discussions with three young people from Stamford and Greenwich — Lauren Doyle, Diane Kremheller and Javier Tremaria — as they explore such topics as evangelizing in the workplace and navigating the single life with an eye toward marriage. The show is expected to begin airing this October.

=The Restless podcast is being recorded every Tuesday night at a studio Veritas set up in the basement at St. John’s. When Father Gill first arrived at the Basilica a year and a half ago, he had an idea to start a podcast and spoke to Kremheller, a co-founder of Catholic Adventures Stamford, a group for young adults in their 20s and 30s who have an interest in “building community and fellowship” with other Catholic young adults.

“People have had a lot of spare time on their hands during the shutdown, and they are using podcasts to get spiritual nourishment,” he said.

Themes they will explore include Catholics in political life, Catholic dating, how to read the Bible, Christian friendship and incorporating faith into sports.

Father, who acts as moderator, said of his three colleagues, “They are definitely devout, and more than that, they are articulate about their faith and not afraid to share. They are also very ‘normal’ with real struggles and real joys. They work in the secular world and are respected and well-liked by everybody.”

The Restless project is intended to help young adults on their faith journey.

=“It could be one avenue through which the Gospel reaches souls,” he said. “And it is meant for those young adult Catholics who want to go deeper into their faith. A lot of faithful young people feel isolated because there are not too many young adult groups in the area.

The podcasts, which will be 30 minutes long, will be available on Veritas and Spotify, a global digital music, podcast and video streaming service.

Steve Lee, President and CEO of Veritas, said he is excited about the new show, particularly at a time when young people are moving away from organized religion.

“Young adults are leaving the Church, and they don’t even understand what they’re leaving and why,” he said. “I met the young adults Father is working with and heard them do a mock show, and I was very impressed.”

The Restless video series has as its goal to produce faith-filled artistic expression. “People are attracted to God through beauty, truth and goodness,” Father said. “And we are looking at the way of beauty.”

He cited the example of Bishop Robert Barron’s series on Catholicism, which he said people watch over and over because of its profound message and captivating cinematography. Rather than having “talking heads,” Restless will feature different speakers and stunning video. A young volunteer who is accomplished in videography is editing the series, which will explore topics such as devotion to the Blessed Mother, the importance of confession and the meaning of life.

“It is meant for people who are seekers, people who are hungry and thirsty and want to dip their toe into Catholicism,” Father said. “My hope is that it will be used in Confirmation classes and CCD.

The videos will be uploaded to YouTube. In addition, Shalom World TV, a 24-hour television channel that broadcasts Catholic programs, has expressed interest in using the series. The 20 videos, which will be five to seven minutes long, are expected to be completed by spring and begin airing once a week in May.

Kelly Weldon, Director of Foundations in Faith, which approved a grant for the project from the St. John Paul II Fund for Religious Education, Youth Ministry and Faith Formation, said, “It is really a great project, and we are super excited about it.”

“I came to Foundations in Faith with a deep passion for giving young people the opportunity to really use their voice to create positive change, and Bishop Caggiano shares that interest,” Weldon said. “And there’s no better way to engage them than letting them design the program they’re participating in. Our young people know what they need. We seldom ask them what they want. This project is an excellent example of how as a community we can learn from our young people.”

Dr. Marcia Chatelain: An embrace of social justice is an embrace of faith

BRIDGEPORT—”I hope that my talk today can help you bring home some of the strands of the conversation and hopefully give you the vocabulary to share the information within your parishes, schools and community,” said Dr. Marcia Chatelain, the presenter of the seventh of several webinars titled “Conversations About Race” being hosted by The Leadership Institute, the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

“I think a lot about the Lenten season when I think about the issue of racism,” said Dr. Chatelain, explaining how living antiracism is connected to one of the most impactful stories of the New Testament.

Dr. Chatelain compared white supremacy to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). “A similar bargain has been put before many people and it is the reason why white supremacy continues to sustain itself and take on many forms. We are often told that we will have the very best, the best financial rewards, schools, opportunities for our children if we bow before some of the tenets and values of white supremacy,” Dr. Chatelain said.

Dr. Chatelain explained that racism is the externalization of the contempt for people because of their racial identity by withholding care, justice or safety; stating that racism is an obstruction of the ability to facilitate and receive these things.

“We are in a moment right now where people feel deeply compelled to pick sides,” said Dr. Chatelain. “One of the reasons why I think this is happening because we have never before had the ability to chronicle who we are in specific moments as we do now,” she referenced social media and our current ability to access information in a way that is quicker and more available than ever before.

“Regardless of where we stand on a position there are structures in place that normalize inequality in the places that are designed to meet health, housing, nutritional, educational, legal and social needs of people,” the speaker said. “What are we allowing in our society to obstruct people from feeling as cared for and loved as the creator has cared for and loved us?”

Dr. Chatelain explained that bias is an unfounded or narrowly dawn preference or affinity for people or peoples at the expense of building substantive and loving relationships with others.

“Especially now, I think we see the importance and human need of community,” she said. “When it comes to racism, we see our immense power to actually intervene in these problems,” said Chatelain, specifically referencing the Church and its great power to create change, especially in light of its great diversity.

Dr. Chatelain explained that segregation is the result of structural racism and interpersonal racism and it shapes all aspects of American life, from school to neighborhood to church.

“Racial scripts comprise what our families, schools, churches, neighborhoods, political parties and other influential entities teach us about difference, human value and acceptable behavior,” explained Dr. Chatelain, making clear that these scripts are sometimes not explicitly written but are enforced by the community we live in.

“We are a faith tradition that is based on renewal,” Dr. Chatelain said. “We have to have the confidence that our faith will pull us through any tension we feel while standing up for racial justice.”

Dr. Chatelain explained that race shapes how people view and perceive the world around them, especially in reference to feelings of freedom and fear, and expression and understanding of faith.

Chatelain also explained that Catholics are very active when it comes to service, especially prison ministry. She urged listeners of the importance of taking this service and turning it into action in terms of great systemic change.

“So much of the work is about a kind of reflection process,” Dr. Chatelain urged listeners to speak from a place of personal experience when discussing racial justice.

About Dr. Marcia Chatelain 

Marcia Chatelain is currently a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Previously, she was a Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.  She is a proud native of Chicago, Illinois, and an even prouder graduate of the following schools: St. Ignatius College Prep, the University of Missouri-Columbia (bachelor’s journalism/religious studies), and Brown University (A.M. and Ph.D., American Civilization).  She is a scholar of African-American life and culture, and her first book South Side Girls: Growing up in the Great Migration (Duke University Press, 2015) reimagined the mass exodus of black Southerners to the urban North from the perspective of girls and teenage women. Dr. Chatelain’s latest book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America examines the intersection of the post-1968 civil rights struggle and the rise of fast food industry.

Next Thursday at 7 pm, The Leadership Institute will be hosting a conversation about the conversations facilitated by the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism. In this final webinar, listeners will have the opportunity to discuss what differences we can make in our parishes, schools and communities based on the previous webinar conversations.

(Visit for more information.)

Sept. 11, 2001: When John Paul II Grieved With America

VATICAN CITY — As three airliners smashed into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, Joaquín Navarro-Valls, at the time the director of the Vatican press office, delivered the news to Pope John Paul II.

“I remember that terrible afternoon as if it were yesterday. I called the Pope, who was at Castel Gandolfo; I gave him the news. He was shocked not only by the tragedy itself, but also because he could not explain how man could achieve this abyss of evil,” he recalled in a 2011 interview with Vatican Insider.

John Paul II, who had grown up to watch his native Poland overtaken first by Nazis and then by the Soviets, and who as pope navigated the dangerous international waters of the Cold War, was no stranger to tragedy and war.

Still, the terror attacks on the United States shook him deeply.

“He was deeply shaken, saddened. But I remember that he asked himself how so heinous an attack could happen. His dismay, in front of those images, went beyond pain,” Navarro-Valls recalled.

“He stayed for short time in front of the TV. Then he retired to the chapel, which is only a few steps away from the TV room. And he remained there a long time in prayer. He also wanted to get in touch with George Bush, to communicate his support, his pain, his prayer. But it was not possible to contact the president, who, for security reasons, was flying on Air Force One.”

Instead, Pope John Paul II decided to send his message of condolences and assurance of prayers via telegram and was among the first of the world leaders to do so that day.

“I hurry to express to you and your fellow citizens my profound sorrow and my closeness in prayer for the nation at this dark and tragic moment,” the Pope wrote.

In a 2011 article in the Register, James Nicholson, who was the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See in 2001, recalled his first meeting with John Paul II, just two days after the terror attacks.

“The first thing the Pope said to me was how sorry he felt for my country, which had just been attacked, and how sad it made him feel. We next said a prayer together for the victims and their families.”

“Then the Pope said something very profound and very revealing of his acute grasp of international terrorism. He said, ‘Ambassador Nicholson, this was an attack, not just on the United States, but on all of humanity.’ And then he added, ‘We must stop these people who kill in the name of God.’”

Sept. 11, 2001, was a Tuesday.

The next day, Wednesday, is when the Pope is scheduled each week to address the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

While John Paul II normally used this as a time for catechesis on the family or other issues, he set everything aside on Sept. 12 to address the tragedy from which the world was still reeling.

Below is the full text of his words to the United States:

I cannot begin this audience without expressing my profound sorrow at the terrorist attacks which yesterday brought death and destruction to America, causing thousands of victims and injuring countless people. To the president of the United States and to all American citizens, I express my heartfelt sorrow. In the face of such unspeakable horror, we cannot but be deeply disturbed. I add my voice to all the voices raised in these hours to express indignant condemnation, and I strongly reiterate that the ways of violence will never lead to genuine solutions to humanity’s problems.

Yesterday was a dark day in the history of humanity, a terrible affront to human dignity. After receiving the news, I followed with intense concern the developing situation, with heartfelt prayers to the Lord. How is it possible to commit acts of such savage cruelty? The human heart has depths from which schemes of unheard-of ferocity sometimes emerge, capable of destroying in a moment the normal daily life of a people. But faith comes to our aid at these times when words seem to fail. Christ’s word is the only one that can give a response to the questions which trouble our spirit. Even if the forces of darkness appear to prevail, those who believe in God know that evil and death do not have the final say. Christian hope is based on this truth; at this time our prayerful trust draws strength from it.

With deeply felt sympathy I address myself to the beloved people of the United States in this moment of distress and consternation, when the courage of so many men and women of goodwill is being sorely tested. In a special way I reach out to the families of the dead and the injured and assure them of my spiritual closeness. I entrust to the mercy of the Most High the helpless victims of this tragedy, for whom I offered Mass this morning, invoking upon them eternal rest. May God give courage to the survivors; may he sustain the rescue workers and the many volunteers who are presently making an enormous effort to cope with such an immense emergency. I ask you, dear brothers and sisters, to join me in prayer for them. Let us beg the Lord that the spiral of hatred and violence will not prevail. May the Blessed Virgin, Mother of Mercy, fill the hearts of all with wise thoughts and peaceful intentions.

Today, my heartfelt sympathy is with the American people, subjected yesterday to inhuman terrorist attacks, which have taken the lives of thousands of innocent human beings and caused unspeakable sorrow in the hearts of all men and women of goodwill. Yesterday was indeed a dark day in our history, an appalling offence against peace, a terrible assault against human dignity.

I invite you all to join me in commending the victims of this shocking tragedy to Almighty God’s eternal love. Let us implore his comfort upon the injured, the families involved, all who are doing their utmost to rescue survivors and help those affected.

I ask God to grant the American people the strength and courage they need at this time of sorrow and trial.

Below is the full text of Pope John Paul II’s prayers for the faithful and intentions on Sept. 12, 2001:

Brothers and sisters, in great dismay, before the horror of destructive violence, but strong in the faith that has always guided our fathers, we turn to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, salvation of his people, and with the confidence of children, pray that he will come to our aid in these days of mourning and innocent suffering.

Cantor: Dominum deprecemur: Te rogamus, audi nos (Let us pray to the Lord: We beseech thee, to hear us),

1. For the Churches of the East and the West, and in particular for the Church in the United States of America, so that, though humbled by loss and mourning, yet inspired by the Mother of the Lord, strong woman beside the cross of her Son, they may foster the will for reconciliation, peace and the building of the civilization of love.

2. For all those who bear the name of Christian, so that, in the midst of many persons who are tempted to hatred and doubt, they will be witnesses to the presence of God in history and the victory of Christ over death.

3. For the leaders of nations, so that they will not allow themselves to be guided by hatred and the spirit of retaliation, but may do everything possible to prevent new hatred and death, by bringing forth works of peace.

4. For those who are weeping in sorrow over the loss of relatives and friends, that in this hour of suffering they will not be overcome by sadness, despair and vengeance, but continue to have faith in the victory of good over evil, of life over death.

5. For those suffering and wounded by the terrorist acts, that they may return to stability and health and, appreciating the gift of life, may generously foster the will to contribute to the well-being of every human being.

6. For our brothers and sisters who met death in the folly of violence, that they find sure joy and life everlasting in the peace of the Lord, that their deaths may not be in vain, but become a leaven bringing forth a season of brotherhood and collaboration among peoples.

The Holy Father:

O Lord Jesus, remember our deceased and suffering brothers before your Father.
Remember us also, as we begin to pray with your words: Pater noster…

O almighty and merciful God,
You cannot be understood by one who sows discord; you cannot be accepted by one who loves violence. Look upon our painful human condition tried by cruel acts of terror and death; comfort your children and open our hearts to hope, so that our time may again know days of serenity and peace.
Through Christ, our Lord.

This is a reposting from 2015. From

Bringing Christ to the sick and dying

NORWALK—Every day, Father Paul Sankar, chaplain at Norwalk Hospital, sees opportunities for Catholics to come back to their faith. He encounters people who haven’t been to church in a long time, and while they lie in their hospital beds, it seems that Jesus is tugging at their sleeves.

NORWALK HOSPITAL CHAPLAINS (l-r) Father Marcel Saint Jean and Father Paul Sankar

“They say hospital walls hear more prayers than church walls,” Father said. “We see a lot of transformation, especially of Catholics who have not been to church in years. They see us, they talk to us, they receive Communion, and tell us they will return to church.”

Father Paul and Father Marcel Saint Jean, both chaplains at the hospital, bring Christ to the infirm and dying on a daily basis.

“There isn’t a greater way to serve the Lord than when I am helping a vulnerable person,” said Father Marcel. “This is evident when I am present in a room with a patient. What makes it so authentic is knowing I am seeing the Lord in that patient. As a chaplain, there isn’t a time when I am with a patient and not hearing the voice of Jesus resounding in my heart and ears saying, ‘I was sick and you came to visit me.’”

Father Paul, who has been a full-time chaplain at Norwalk Hospital for 12 years, is in residence at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston. Father Marcel, a part-time chaplain there for four years, serves at St. Joseph Church in South Norwalk.

“Their ministry would not be possible without the Annual Catholic Appeal,” said Father William Platt, pastor of The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes in Greenwich and Director of Hospital Chaplains for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Father Platt, who was a hospital chaplain for 25 years, said, “Our chaplains continued to serve with courage through this pandemic. They have had to navigate a wide range of hospital and nursing home protocols in regard to visitation and the last rites. They have done so with skill and compassion. The Catholic Church is the only faith group that provides chaplains to public institutions free of charge. It is something in which we may take pride, thanks to the ACA.”

Father Paul recalls the case of a woman who was dying of cancer and her family asked him to anoint her. He offered to give her Communion, but she resisted because she hadn’t been to church in a long time.

“I told her she could make a simple confession and receive absolution because God knows everything,” he said. “She did, and the whole family was crying and thanked me. Two days later she died. It was a very touching experience for me.”

The hospital setting offers many opportunities for people to renew their faith and come back to the Church, he said. So many Catholics have no parish and many are getting older and no longer practice their faith.

“We hospital chaplains visit these patients, and they are very happy to see us,” he said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were restricted from visiting patients in their rooms and had to rely on phone calls and Zoom sessions to pray with patients who were isolated from their families. The Catholic nurses would often put them in touch with patients who needed prayer and encouragement.

Father Paul, who was a priest in India for 15 years before he came to the diocese, said he is appreciative to Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Being a hospital chaplain is a special calling, he says, which requires a priest to be available whenever a call comes in. Training includes four units of a Clinical Pastoral Education program.

Recently, he received a call from a 75-year-old man concerned about his 70-year-old brother, who was a patient.

“He told me, ‘My brother was a good Catholic but stopped practicing his faith. Can you convince him to come back to the Church?’ He wanted a priest to give him the sacraments,” Father recalled. “He had no family except his brother. He grew up Catholic, but hadn’t practiced his faith in 30 years.”

Father went to see the man, who agreed to confession and then he received Communion. He was very happy and his brother was grateful to Father.

Father Paul’s work also brings him in contact with people of great faith, such as a 39-year-old woman with two children who was dying of cancer.

“Father, I am ready to die; pray for me if it is God’s will,” she said. She was able to deal with it because of her strong faith.

“I learn so much from the patients,” he said. “Sometimes they are like saints. Despite their sickness, they are happy. And those who know they are going to die want to be at peace with God.”

Father says the families of patients still call him, and occasionally he will meet someone in the supermarket who says, “Father do you remember me? When I was sick, you brought me Communion.’”

“It is a wonderful ministry to care for the sick, and to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy,” he says.

Father Marcel, who came from Haiti and was ordained in 1996 in the Diocese of Bridgeport, also served as chaplain in Bridgeport Hospital for four years in addition to several parish assignments.

“Chaplaincy to me is a call to compassion,” he said. “Through my visits and presence to the patients, I have learned patience, humility and kindness. No matter what they are going through, when I leave the room, I always hear these words: ‘Father, thank you for coming. You made my day. Please come back.’”

One of his patients was an elderly woman who was dying and haunted by guilt and hurt because she had been divorced and could not receive Communion. Father knew he had to put her at peace with Christ and help heal her troubled conscience.

“The only way to lift her up was to try to say what Jesus would say in a situation like that,” he recalled. “That day in her room she said, ‘Father, I feel I am being rejected by my own church.’”

“I told her, ‘You are a daughter of Abraham and a beloved daughter of God. Whatever happened in your past life, whatever made you feel guilty, God will not hold it against you.’”

Father Marcel heard her confession, and she told him it gave her the most peace and happiness she felt in a long time.

“I saw a luminous face, and her countenance changed after confession because she knew she was loved by God,” Father Marcel said.

From the time he was 3-yearsold, Marcel Saint Jean wanted to be a priest because of the example of his mother and the Redemptorist missionaries in his parish who built hospitals and schools and set a profound example for the people. He even grew his hair long to be like them, until his father cut it one night while he was sleeping.

As a boy, everyone in the neighborhood called him “Mon Père,” which is French for “My Father.” Although his mother nurtured his childhood vocation, his father directed him to study civil engineering, which he did for a time.

“But the Lord really spoke to my heart, and I remembered the example of those good priests,” he said. And he followed their example. In 2000, he led a campaign to build a school in Portau-Prince to give children an opportunity to succeed in life.

“All they need is a helping hand, and I am glad that I was that helping hand,” he said.

“Being a chaplain allows a priest to make Christ present in a tangible way to patients and their families through his compassion, his words of comfort and the sacraments,” he says. “It lets us follow the words of Jesus who said, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

By Joe Pisani

Diocesan community gathers to pray Rosary for peace

STAMFORD—A statue of Mary surrounded by candles was the focal point at the beautiful St. Mary Church in Stamford on Wednesday night, as members of our diocese gathered for a socially distanced Rosary prayer service for peace and unity in the community.

“This is an effort the ad hoc committee against racism called by Bishop Caggiano has put together,” explained Father Falla, pastor of St. Mary. “We will pray the rosary on this national day of prayer, which is a beautiful day for us to come together in our nation.”

“We pray especially for those who have been victims of racism and prejudice,” prayed Father Falla.

The Rosary was prayed in English, Italian, Hindi, French and Spanish.

“It is a special day for us as we remember St. Peter Claver…a great apostle in the church, who fought against injustice and reached out to people in need, especially those who were enslaved,” explained Father Falla.

At the end of the service, priests that were in attendance gathered at the front of the church to bestow a final blessing on the community.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith and a member of the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, explains that the idea for this event was sparked from a few members’ deep-dive into the USCCB’s document on racism. “The document suggests that all people doing the work of anti-racism consider holding an event on the National Day of Prayer for Peace.”

Weldon shares that members of the committee arrived at the idea for the Rosary because they wanted to take a deliberate step toward change in a way that was humble and prayerful. “We wanted to engage the community while asking Mary to guide us in our work,” says Weldon.

For those who were unable to attend, a live-stream was made available on the diocesan website, which can now be viewed on YouTube.

Love Never Fails – Responding to COVID

September 2020

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

It is with deep appreciation that I write to you today, asking for your support during this time of continuing uncertainty and suffering.   Since the first days of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the diocese has served those in urgent need because many people like yourself responded with generosity, personal service, and prayer.

In the past six months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who came to our outreach programs seeking food, housing, educational assistance, psychological support and spiritual consolation.  Many have lost family members, found themselves without jobs, are suffering ill health and unable to return to work or unable to meet their family’s basic needs. This human suffering will not end anytime soon. In many respects, it continues to grow.

The help that the Church’s ministries have provided has been truly lifesaving. For example, Catholic Charities has served over 500,000 meals from March through August; two to three times the number regularly served. Counseling services have increased as families and individuals needed to address their acute anxiety and depression concerns over the future; and our school students successfully transitioned to continue their education on-line.

Given the fact that many of our neighbors and friends continue to face urgent need, I write now to ask for your help. My goal is to raise $1.5 million to meet the increased demand for our ministries that will help people to survive the challenges they face. I know I can always count on you when I ask you to help the Church reach out to those who are most vulnerable.

Thank you for your gift.  Please make your gift online at  or text the word APPEAL to 475-241-7849.  Our generous donors are the hands of God reaching out to those in need; all donations of whatever amount will help us to help them.

Please stay in touch, be generous, and help us connect with those who have nowhere else to turn.

With every best wish and prayers, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano

Bishop of Bridgeport

P.S.  If you have already made your gift, thank you.

Schools re-open across the diocese

BRIDGEPORT—Students began returning to Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport this week for in-person classes and the start of a new school year.

Even through their tiny masks you could see the excitement on the faces of the elementary school children who were happy to see their teachers and friends once again after months of lockdown as a result of the pandemic.

Many of the twenty-five diocesan elementary and high school schools have different starting dates and some have staggered openings to better acclimate students to the safe return to class, but most schools will be filled with students and fully operational by the end of next week.

Among the first to return to school were the students of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Huntington and Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.

In Danbury, where a recent uptick in the virus delayed school openings, students are expected to return to class next week along with students enrolled in St. Aloysius of New Canaan, St James in Stratford, and St. Mary, Bethel.

The re-opening was made possible by months of planning and preparation for the return to in-person classes throughout the diocese, said Dr. Steven Cheeseman, superintendent of schools.

Dr. Cheeseman asked for prayers for all of the students, faculty and school communities in the coming weeks. “This will be a year like no other, but we can face it together and make the best of it.”

Just prior to the reopening, Dr. Cheeseman addressed parents, students and the school communities in a video that provided an overview of the extraordinary steps taken for a safe and measured re-opening during the pandemic.

Photos by Amy Griffin

“I hope you are all excited to finally get new school year underway and God willing this will be the first step in our return to a sense of normalcy,” he said from his office at the Catholic Center.

Over the next few weeks Dr. Cheeseman will complete his visits to every school to ensure compliance, to share best practices and to run through every possible scenario related to the re-opening and ongoing challenges.

Dr. Cheeseman said that the main concern shared by members of his leadership team and administrators faculty and parents throughout the system has been “ the safe return of over 6,500 students to our diocesan schools.”

While the schools have moved ahead with in-person classes, the diocese has also provided distance learning options for families who prefer to keep children at home through its online academy. At present, more than 150 students are enrolled in the academy: (

Dr. Cheeseman said the schools are also prepared to move ahead with hybrid plans if that becomes necessary as a result of a spike of the virus in a given school.

Any future decisions to close a school or to make a transition to a hybrid model and full distance learning will be made on an individual school basis .

“The decision will be made in consultation between the school administration, the Office of the Superintendent in consultation with the bishop, and the Health Department from the township within which the school is located,” he said.

Factors in the decision if has to be made will be based on state guidelines and include the number of confirmed cases in the specific school and the ability of the school to mitigate risk of virus spread, he said.

Catholic schools have been able to move forward with in-person classes while many public systems can’t because they have been able to meet very strict protocols developed in compliance with CDC and state guidelines for reopening schools, Dr. Cheeseman said.

“While all educators agree that students should be back in school to ensure learning and to provide appropriate socialization opportunities, not all public schools are able to meet the State and CDC requirements to bring students back full time. In most cases it has to do with the size of the school population, the space available and the ability to schedule teachers.

“Thankfully we do not face the same issues. The smaller size of our school populations and the mission driven zeal of our teachers and administrators have allowed us to be flexible in our planning, to use space and instructional time creatively and to create school environments that are healthy, safe and nurturing.”

Put simply, we are able to open because we can meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements and guidelines of the CDC and the State of Connecticut.

As a result of the ability to provide in-person classes, Dr. Cheeseman said that many of the schools have seen an increase in enrollment and a growing number of inquiries from public school parents.

While Dr. Cheeseman is confident that the schools can meet and even exceed government safety requirements, he says that as a parent as well as a superintendent and a parent, he approaches the school year with a sense of caution even as he is excited about the return to the classroom.

Although the intense and comprehensive planning by the diocese has become a model for other school systems, Dr. Cheeseman said he still loses sleep at night because of uncertainty about the pandemic.

“No matter what we do, we can’t answer every question because we don’t know what the future holds.”

However, he feels the schools are ready after “a tremendous amount of preparation and planning and the amazing work of principals” to implement the safety protocols.

(The superintendent’s office has created a COVID-19 hotline (203.209-2894) and email address ( to answer any questions that parents have. The schools office has also released a list of Frequently Asked Questions (download here) that offer detailed information on a variety of topics. The full re-opening plan for diocesan elementary and high schools is available online:

National Day of Prayer for Peace in our communities

STAMFORD—On September 9 at 7 pm, people from around the diocese will gather to pray a Rosary for peace and unity in our in our communities.

Sponsored by the diocesan Leadership Institute and the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, the service will be held at St. Mary Church at 556 Elm St. in Stamford.

The Rosary for peace and unity will be prayed in multiple languages, the goal being to bring together diverse communities throughout the diocese.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith and a member of the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, explains that the idea for this event was sparked from a few members’ deep-dive into the USCCB’s document on racism. “The document suggests that all people doing the work of anti-racism consider holding an event on the National Day of Prayer for Peace.”

Weldon shares that members of the committee arrived at the idea for the Rosary because they wanted to take a deliberate step toward change in a way that was humble and prayerful. “We wanted to engage the community while asking Mary to guide us in our work,” says Weldon.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, space is limited, so please call 203.324.7321 to reserve your spot. Virtual viewing will be available at

Order of Malta food drives to benefit those in need

FAIRFIELD COUNTY—On September 12, the Order of Malta is partnering with three parishes—St. Catherine/St Agnes in Greenwich, St. John in Darien and St. Lawrence in Shelton and hosting three “Drive Through Food Drives” to benefit The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport, Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport and New Covenant Center in Stamford.

“Our hope is that more parishes will continue this COVID-conscious form of outreach and host their own Drive Through Food Drives,” says Cece Donoghue of the Order of Malta. “Our food pantires are starting to run dangerously low on food, unemployment is up, the need is growing and there are so many people to help…food insecurity is a very real problem and growing as a result of the pandemic!”

All social distancing rules and COVID-19 protocols will be followed. Those who wish to donate can remain in their car and volunteers will unload the car.

Times and drop-off points

St. Catherine/St. Agnes, Greenwich—10 am-12 pm

St. John, Darien—11 am-1 pm

St. Lawrence, Shelton—10 am-12 pm

See the flyer below for a list of supplies that are needed at each site.