NEWTOWN—St. Rose School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony took place on Friday, June 26 in the school parking lot. Mr. Gjoka, principal, Mrs. Petrillo, eighth-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Bokuniewicz, dean of student life and Msgr. Bob, pastor, along with the class parents, worked very hard to make the celebration possible despite these different times.
Chairs were arranged alphabetically for every student and their parents. The ceremony was limited to parents and siblings only to adhere to safety measures. Every student and guest wore a mask. The church organist piped an opening song, “Here I Am Lord” through the speakers and closed it out with “Pomp and Circumstance.” Msgr. Bob began the ceremony with a prayer and Gospel reading. He also offered words of wisdom and encouraged the students to use their 2020 vision to make the world a better place. Mr. G, Mrs. Petrillo and Mrs. B all spoke at various times. Mr. G called each student to receive his/her diploma which Msgr. Bob presented to them. The President of Student Council Thomas Phelan, and the President of National Junior Honor Society Evie Komninakas, each gave engaging, insightful speeches. At the end of the ceremony the students processed, alphabetically, to their lawn signs that were set up on the grass in front of the school. They stood beside their sign and at the count of three tossed their caps into the air. Then, according to safety rules, each family returned to their cars.
The sun was shining and it was a lovely ceremony—certainly different from years past but all the more memorable because of it. Family and friends were very happy to tune into Facebook Live—there was even family from Portugal watching. So everyone was together in spirit!
There are 24 graduates, all going off to a variety of high schools including Newtown High School, Immaculate High School, St. Joseph High School, Canterbury, Fairfield Prep, Hopkins School and The Gunnery. Several of the students received merit scholarships based on their entrance test scores.
About St. Rose
St. Rose of Lima Catholic School is a Christ-centered community committed to academic excellence in an atmosphere that nurtures the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical and moral development of each child.
The dedicated staff partners with families to prepare students to be responsible leaders in a global society by fostering integrity, service and respect. By creating a sense of family where all are welcome, St. Rose School encourages each child to develop his/her gifts and to become Christ’s compassionate heart and hands in the world. Their learning community is centered on four core values. These are: respect, integrity, academic excellence and service.
The community’s spirituality is fostered through close connection with St. Rose of Lima Church. Students attend weekly Mass and we are blessed by the continual presence of Monsignor Robert Weiss and the other parish priests.
(For more information on St. Rose of Lima school, visit their website at: www.stroseschool.com.)
WILTON—On Friday evening, June 12, 2020, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy held commencement exercises for its graduating eighth-grade class. Featured commencement speakers were Clara and Gerry Davis, parents of a graduating student and Stanley Steele, school principal. The event included a Mass celebrated in the church parking lot and homily offered by Our Lady of Fatima Church pastor, Father Reginald Norman.
OLFCA proudly announces the members of the Class of 2020: Veronica Bosco, Connor Bowron, Lauren Davis, Rico de Guzman, Mary Kate Doyle, Allison Edouard, Ava Fleming, Michael Meenan, Sofia Pace, Fabrizio Perez, Ava Robinson, James Scimeca, Chelsea St. Cloud, Rick Wang and Alex Wong.
During the celebration, annual scholarships and awards were presented as follows:
Eugene Rooney Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
School Board Scholarship Awards: Sofia Pace and Lauren Davis
Speer Performing Arts Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
The Phillip Lauria Jr. Memorial Award: Alex Wong
The graduates will attend the following high schools in the fall (listed alphabetically): Fairfield College Preparatory School, Immaculate High School-Danbury, Lauralton Hall-Milford, New Canaan High School, Norwalk High School, Notre Dame High School-Fairfield, Saint Joseph High School-Trumbull and Wilton High School.
Signs highlighting each graduating student have been placed in front of the school along Danbury Road.
The school is also celebrating the successful completion of a recent fundraising initiative to make up for a COVID-19-related budget shortfall. Members of the OLFCA community created a poignant video thanking their many supporters; the vide can be seen on the school’s website www.olfacademy.org or on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVXNxofOLpM&feature=youtu.be.
After achieving a balanced budget for 2020-2021, the school has now shifted to expanding enrollment, which has been hindered by the pandemic.
Principal Stanley Steel reported multiple new enrollments just in the last several days, with room for 28 new students to enroll for the fall while remaining COVID-compliant.
School officials recently announced their plans for the return-to-school in the fall, with a COVID-compliant, full-time, five-day, in-person school week. Principal Steele said, “Our school is well positioned for these unusual times. We offer a “Personalized Approach to Learning” with small classrooms and instruction based on individual student needs.”
He added, “We are small enough to be flexible, whether that is on a distance platform or in person.”
Photo caption: Pictured with graduates are Geri Galasso, Middle School Mathematics Teacher (far left); Reverend Reginald Norman, Our Lady of Fatima Church Pastor (center front) and Stanley Steele, Principal (center back).
Photo used with permission: Hector Panchas Photography
About Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy is co-educational, National Blue Ribbon School offering a Pre-Kindergarten 3 through Grade 8 education model. The Academy’s Personalized Approach to Learning blends classroom and small group instruction with technology to provide learning that is fluid and flexible based on the ability of the student. Multi-age, child-centered classrooms offer continuous learning. OLFCA’s faith-based environment nurtures the whole child and emphasizes strong moral values and respect for self and others.
Registration for 2020-2021 is ongoing. Virtual tours and other information are available on the school’s website, www.olfacademy.org. The Academy is located at 225 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897. For more information, contact Principal Stanley Steele at firstname.lastname@example.org.
DANBURY—Immaculate High School announced that Denise Suarez of Bethel and Jeannie Demko of Danbury will assume new leadership roles at the Catholic college-preparatory school beginning July 1, 2020.
Denise Suarez has been appointed to be the Director of Admissions. Suarez is a 1987 graduate of Immaculate, and has served as the Director of Alumni Relations since 2013. In that position she developed and continuously expanded Immaculate’s alumni program to reach and engage its ever growing base of over 7,000 alumni, including members of her own family.
“After thoroughly enjoying my work with our incredible alumni community over the last seven years, I look forward to serving my alma mater in this new role. I am excited to build upon the great work of our Admissions department as I look to welcome the next generation of Immaculate students as Director of Admissions,” she said. “I can say without hesitation that the academic continuity, development of compassionate leaders and vibrancy of the Immaculate community have remained steadfast during these challenging times. There has never been a better time to consider Immaculate and I look forward to sharing the mission, values and outcomes of an Immaculate education with prospective families,” Suarez added.
Jeannie Demko will serve as the school’s Director of Alumni Relations. A 1988 graduate of Immaculate High School, Demko returned to Immaculate as Event Coordinator in 2018. In that role she helped plan, organize and run special events including the annual Golf Outing, Spring Gala and Scholarship Breakfast.
“Working at Immaculate for the past two years has been an absolute joy. In my new role as Director of Alumni Relations, I will have the privilege and honor to work directly with our amazing network of alumni. Thanks to the leadership of Denise Suarez, our efforts in this area have never been stronger,” Demko said. “I am inspired and energized to continue creating pathways for alumni participation that advance the goals of IHS. As an alumna, parent of an alumnus and current parent I am passionate about the mission of Immaculate and have seen firsthand how alumni relations help benefit our students and contribute to their growth,” she noted.
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, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.
When he was a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Thom Field had a feeling one afternoon that he was being “called,” being called to the ministry and not to a career in engineering.
He came from a devout Protestant family in Greenwich and had a strong education in the faith. His Sunday school teacher at Second Congregational Church was Claude Kirchner, a celebrity of children’s TV in the 1950s, and as a teenager his youth minister at the First Presbyterian Church was Bud Collyer, host of “Beat the Clock” and “To Tell the Truth.”
“They were both devout men,” Thom recalls. “Collyer was able to go beyond the religious and could understand teenagers’ lives and advise us on important things.”
Although there were many spiritual influences in his life, the one that stands out the most was his high school classmate Anita Caporale, the woman he later married who led him to the Catholic faith.
Today, Thom Field is an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston and president of the Serra Club of Bridgeport, a group committed to supporting seminarians and encouraging vocations to the religious life.
“During my upbringing, I was truly a Christian, but I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other faiths,” he recalled. “A couple of my classmates were Jewish, but I didn’t understand faiths outside of Christianity. When I got to college, I had the feeling that someone was calling to me, and I started to entertain the idea of becoming a Protestant minister and struggled with that for the better part of my freshman year.”
He walked the path to the Church many years, and throughout that time, he had Anita as an example of what it means to be a Catholic committed to Christ. They first met in the choir during sophomore year and had math and science classes together.
“We never dated in high school although we knew each other from the chorus,” Thom said. “I always thought she was beautiful, but I was pretty shy and never asked her out.”“I thought he was a terrific person and a good guy,” Anita recalled. “I sat in the first row, and Thom would walk in every day and say, ‘Hi, beautiful!’”
However, when she invited him to her 16th birthday party in her senior year, he spent the entire evening talking with another girl. Then, Thom went off to Rensselaer, and Anita went to the University of Connecticut, where she majored in chemistry and French with a pre-med focus. Later, she switched to physical medicine.
In 1967, they reconnected and Anita began writing to Thom after he joined the Navy.
At the Naval electronic school, he graduated first in the class and was recognized for heroism in 1970 while he was with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal as part of an anti-submarine helicopter squadron that rescued a man who had fallen overboard. Along with his other crew members, he received the Sikorsky ‘S’ pin, which was pinned on them by Igor Sikorsky himself.
“We continued to date and then fell in love,” Anita recalled. “I was so sure this was it. We loved each other, but he was leaving for an eight-month tour.”
During that time, Anita planned their wedding, and Thom bought a ring to surprise her. When he returned in July 1970, her parents set up a Christmas tree to observe Christmas in July. Among her gifts was a pair of shoes. She reached into a shoe that didn’t fit and pulled out the ring. They were married October 17, 1970 at St. Roch Church in Greenwich.
“I think the most important thing for us is that we never felt coming into marriage from different religions was a stumbling block,” Anita said. “The unifying force was we both believed in Christ. Christ was a great unifying force. His father was a very devout Presbyterian, and his mother and aunt would even come to the Catholic church with us.”
“I had no problem with that because I was learning more and more about the Catholic faith, and I came to the realization that I was becoming more faithful than I was as a Protestant,” Thom said. “I learned about the Sacraments and the saints, and it was a deeper faith than I had…but I didn’t convert.” And Anita never pressured him.
In June 1971, his tour ended, and in March of the next year, they moved to Connecticut, where their son Christopher was born. Thom began studying accounting at the University of Bridgeport and he was hired by Price Waterhouse even before graduation.
The job took them to Paris for several years. Then, they moved back to the United States and settled in Weston. They began attending St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Although Thom was a regular fixture in church, he never converted to Catholicism.
One day in 1994, he was asked to become an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.
“By that time, I had been going to Mass with Anita for over 20 years and people presumed I was Catholic,” he said.
He looked at Anita and asked, “What am I going to do? I’m not Catholic.”
“Thom, you’re on your own on this one,” she told him.
That evening he joined the RCIA program. Today, after 25 years as a Catholic, he is forever grateful to Ralph Palumbo for pushing him in that direction by asking him to be an extraordinary minister.
At the Easter Vigil Mass in 1995, he received the Eucharist and Confirmation and was accepted into the Catholic Church. It was one of most memorable occasions in his life.
“I was nervous,” he recalled. “Everybody was surprised and smiling. Once the ceremony was over, Monsignor Grieco asked everyone to applaud.”
He assumed many responsibilities in the parish, and several years ago, he and Anita, who are both members of Serra, began teaching RCIA classes. As a project for the parish, they also create calendars for Advent and Lent, which have daily scriptural readings.
Anita, who after a career in physical therapy went on to study to become a gerontologist, has been a lay Franciscan for 20 years and belongs to the St. Mary of the Angels fraternity that meets at the Convent of Sr. Birgitta in Darien on the fourth Sunday of every month.
Looking back on his faith journey, Thom says, “Anita inspired me. She never applied pressure. We raised our children in the Catholic faith, and her dedication to that faith truly encouraged me to continue to attend Mass and become part of the Church. If I had been married to a less faithful Catholic woman, I might never have converted.”
The appreciation is reciprocal. Anita says, “He is such an amazing Christian.” She tells the story of when she was at a low point in her faith and considered leaving the Church. “My faith was at an ebb, but he would not let me deny the Church and he brought me along.”
Their journey together has not been without tragedy. Two years ago, their daughter, Amanda, died of a heart disorder at 41, leaving behind her husband Heath and 6-year-old son Gunner.
Amanda was always a joyful and upbeat person, Anita said. When she lived in New Jersey, Amanda had a clown ministry and was known as “Sunshine.”
On Mother’s Day 2018, she gave Anita a plaque that said, “With God all things are possible,” and Anita gave her a mother’s locket.
“I always wanted one of these,” she told her mother, adding, “Mom, if anything ever happens to me, please make sure Gunner gets everything I want for him.” Anita promised her they would do that. Two weeks later, she passed away.
And they kept that promise. Today, their young grandson lives with Thom and Anita and goes to church with them every Sunday.
WASHINGTON—The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has released a new Directory for Catechesis.
As the Preface explains, “The criterion that prompted the reflection on and production of this Directory finds its basis in the words of Pope Francis: ‘we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal…. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart’.”
Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, welcomed the new text: “We are excited to have a fresh and focused tool to enhance our evangelization efforts in catechesis. The new Directory highlights the centrality of the Church’s mission of bringing the world to an authentic encounter with Christ, an encounter that inspires and propels people as witnesses for the faith. In an age marked by tremendous social and cultural challenges, as well as ever-expanding digital tools which have often left the field of catechesis behind, the timing of this updated resource is providential.”
The Second Vatican Council originally inspired a Directory for Catechesis to ensure that the Church’s catechetical efforts might be vibrant, informed, faithful, and attuned to the needs of the times. First released in 1971 and then updated in 1997, this latest edition considers both the opportunities and the challenges which the Church faces in an ever more global and secular society. The new Directory builds upon the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the ongoing work of the new evangelization—particularly as called for in Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium . . . (The Joy of the Gospel). With a vision that brings the content of these beautiful resources alive in the context of contemporary society, the Directory invites the Christian faithful to be courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ in the family, in the workplace, and in the wider community.
Bishop Barron observed that, “The Directory’s call for a ‘kerygmatic catechesis’ affirms the Conference’s recent focus on the importance of living as missionary disciples. The authentic proclamation of the Gospel leads to the conversion of hearts and minds, which cannot help but manifest that ‘missionary impulse capable of transforming everything’ with the healing power of the Holy Spirit (EG 27).”
BRIDGEPORT—The seed of Tim Bolton’s vocation was planted shortly after his daughter Kaitlin was born with a chromosomal abnormality in 1993. “My youngest daughter taught me,” he says.
At the time, he and his wife Mary Ellen were members of St. James Church in Stratford, where they were embraced by the faith community, who brought them meals, prayed rosaries and held a benefit for them when the insurance company refused to pay for Kaitlin’s final surgery.
“It was an unbelievable gathering of people, prayer, love and faith,” he recalls. “I really saw what a Christian community is like. My vocation to the permanent diaconate was born that day and evolved over the next ten years. And Fr. Tom Lynch cultivated that call.”
Today, Deacon Tim Bolton, who left his family business after the Recession, extends that same compassion, care, prayer and presence to others in his assignment at Hartford HealthCare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where he is Manager of the Pastoral Care Department.
“A hospital is a container for everything from the beginning of life to the end of life and everything in between that is imaginable or unimaginable,” he says. “It is an amazing environment to be part of and see people offering themselves in the service of others. As a chaplain, you get to observe everything through the lens of faith. We see more than other clinical disciplines do because we participate across the spectrum. We see patients receiving a diagnosis, going through treatments, at the start of life and at the end of life with prayers of commendation at their bedside.”
Very often, he says, family members see themselves at the foot of the cross, like the Blessed Mother and St. John, with no power to influence the outcome. They are present to their loved one and recognize, some for the first time, the possibility of the Resurrection.
“We have this opportunity to be with families and frame for them through the lens of faith their part in the Passion and see their loved one as a unique reflection of the image of Christ, a reflection of the image the world has never seen before,” he said.
When Deacon Bolton was ordained in 2006, he was originally assigned to St. James Church but was later given permission to do his ministry full-time at St. Vincent’s, where he began working in 2011.
The challenges his family has confronted helped him understand God’s plan and recognize the needs of others facing a medical crisis.
“It is really the grace of God,” he said. “We have lived through a lot and also experienced great love, unlike any family has ever experienced from the community.”
Mary Ellen, who is principal at Jane Ryan School in Trumbull, has gone through three bouts of cancer over the past 20 years.
“I saw the need for people to have someone to talk to while she was in the hospital,” he recalled. “And I learned about the clinical surrounding when Kaitlin went for treatment….I know what it is like in the newborn intensive care when a doctor says to a family, ‘We need to do an MRI on the baby’s brain lesions.’ I know what it is like, and I can be in that place with them.”
Deacon Bolton calls himself “a trench guy” and says a fundamental part of his ministry is to accompany people. “I identify with the mystery of accompaniment and presence to help people feel comfortable and meet them where they are, while trying to have a healthy humility,” he said.
He tells the story of a woman dying of cancer, who asked if she and her husband could renew their wedding vows. Several months before she passed away, they were joined by their family members and friends at the vineyard where she worked. In the barn, with her gown on, she and husband renewed their vows. Deacon Bolton later went to her home, where she was receiving Hospice care, and did the prayers of commendation while her family and friends were present.
“I really feel privileged to do the work I do,” he said, “It is a privilege to accompany people at moments in their lives when they let you in. In those encounters, you can let them know they are not alone.”
Deacon Bolton manages the Pastoral Care Department at St. Vincent’s under the direction of Bill Hoey, Vice President of Mission.
“Pastoral care has been an integral part of how we provide care at St. Vincent’s since we were founded by the Daughters of Charity, and we have been blessed with some of the most gifted chaplains imaginable,” Hoey said.
There are lay and priest chaplains. The priests celebrate Mass, administer the Sacrament of the Sick, hear confessions and sometimes do a crisis baptism. They provide spiritual support to all patients, even those who are not Catholic, Hoey said.
“They are not just here to bring the Eucharist to a Catholic patient,” he said. “They provide a full array of chaplain services and will offer support to a Jehovah Witness or a Muslim or a member of the Jewish faith, or even a person of no faith.”
The department has full- and part-time chaplains, along with volunteer pastoral care assistants and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The chaplains include priests, deacons, rabbis and representatives of different faiths.
“We talk about reverent holistic care, and the chaplains ensure that we are attending to the spiritual needs of the patient,” Hoey said.
Very often when a patient receives a life-altering diagnosis, it raises the question of “Where is God in all this?” A medical crisis, he says, provides an opportunity for people to re-examine their lives and their relationship with God.
“We all get so busy in our day-to-day lives that those may not be questions we ask,” Hoey said. “But if you get a blocked artery or renal disease, it can provoke a crisis as well as the receptivity to take a look at spiritual issues—and what better person to help you than a well-trained chaplain?”
“Many patients are very receptive to them because it is a different component of care,” Hoey said. “Just as important as medical treatment is the question of ‘Am I right with God?’ Having a trained, empathetic, compassionate chaplain fulfills the goal of reverent holistic care. They are right there near your hospital bed. It brings the Church to the people.”
BRIDGEPORT—At a time of uncertainty, division and rancor in public discourse, we need not be overcome by our fears if we remember what Christ has taught us, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his homily at Mass for the Twelfth Sunday of ordinary time.
“Jesus said to the 12 disciples, fear no one and nothing, but I ask myself, ‘How can I get to that place,’” Bishop Caggiano said in his reflection on the gospel of Matthew (10: 26-33).
The bishop began his homily by noting that when he was a young boy, an episode of Superman frightened him. It portrayed aliens coming out of the manhole covers, and he had nightmares until his mother explained that it was a TV show and he had nothing to fear.
He said that as he grows older and sees the state of the world, he finds himself growing more fearful and filled with worry along with questions about the future we are leaving for the younger generation.
“There is no listening and dialogue, things are cold and cruel. There is no mercy or tolerance and no overriding desire to seek justice despite the cost,” he said of today’s society.
“In our church I also see divisions that frighten me. I see the inability to see beyond what I want rather than what is for my neighbor’s good,” he said, urging the faithful to seek the truth of the gospel.
“Knowledge dispels fear,” the bishop said, noting that truth of faith brings hope and strength to those who believe in and follow Christ.
“You and I as believers in the Lord must remember the things we have been taught and that we know… and we know at that bottom of our heart that there is a savior and redeemer who has come to touch your life and mine.”
The bishop said that by taking up the Cross, Jesus walked in our own footsteps and knows what it is to suffer and to be lonely, misunderstood and reviled. His sacrifice gave us new life that we need not fear losing and that no one can take from us.
Referring to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s statement that there is “nothing to fear but fear itself,” the bishop said that Jesus goes one step further in that formula.
“Jesus tells us we should fear nothing–not even fear itself. With him, knowing who he is. what he has done, what he offers and what he promises, I ask you in the end, what is there to be afraid of.”
After the final blessing the bishop thanked the growing number of people who have been joining him for his regular online Sunday Mass, and he wished all men a happy Father’s Day.
“In a Special way I wish to offer my greetings and prayer so all fathers, grandfather, Godfathers, spiritual father and foster fathers. May God give you the grace to be good fathers leading hour children and all those you love to the Lord Jesus.”
BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano ordained two men as transitional deacons on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St. Augustine Cathedral, urging them to fulfill their ministry of service by following Our Lady’s example during these extraordinary times.
“I know you are both men of great integrity, of great faith, of great prayer, of great honesty and of great transparency, and I am delighted to be able to ordain you to be deacons and one day priests of Jesus Christ” he told Guy Dormevil and Brendan Blawie.
Ordination as a transitional deacon is the last step before ordination to the priesthood, which typically occurs a year later after additional pastoral, liturgical and educational preparation.
Attendance at the ordination on June 20 was limited to family members and guests because of restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“What a wonderful day to gather on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” Bishop Caggiano said. “She has much to teach us. Your lives could not be more different, and yet they were foreordained by the Lord, for in your triumphs and sufferings, in your struggles and in the ordinary routine of your lives, you have been molded like a sacred piece of clay in the hands of the great Master so that you could — both by the gifts he has given you and by the willingness you have to open your heart to his grace — serve him as his deacon.”
Bishop Caggiano said the ministry of the diaconate was foreordained by Christ through the Apostles “so there would be those among us who would be at ready service to the needs of the community and the needs of the world.”
However, he said the ministry is more than simply an ordination “to do something” but represents “a Living Sacrament of Service, which is far more than the things ‘you do,’ because you are called ‘to be’ as well as ‘to do.’”
He told the candidates, “From this moment on, everywhere you go, every word you utter, every opportunity to serve actively or to help others will be your gift to God’s people. You are and will forever be a Sacrament of Service, and so you enter into a great mystery, a mystery you could not live on your own, and for that reason, through the laying on of the hands and the invocation of the power of the Holy Spirit, you will have an abiding in the indwelling presence of God, who will allow you to do and be what you could not do or be on your own.”
The service they are called to is threefold — Service to the Word, Service to the Altar and Service in Charity, he said, adding that they were blessed to be ordained on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary because “She is a great teacher who will help you live that threefold service well, as only a mother can do.”
He recalled Our Lady’s last recorded words in Scripture at the Wedding Feast at Cana, when she told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
“The power of a preacher,” Bishop Caggiano said, “is to remind all God’s children that the only path to trust and joy and the only road to eternal life is to follow the words of the Master. To do what he tells us, what he has revealed to us in season and out of season, whether we like it or not, whether it is easy or not….I ask you to always preach courageously, to preach fearlessly, to preach with courage and compassion and mercy, mindful of the struggles that you and I and all God’s children face day in and day out. Do not fail on every occasion to tell those you have the privilege to preach to and with to ‘do whatever he tells you.’”
Regarding, Service to the Altar, Bishop Caggiano said that Our Lady’s faithfulness allowed her to remain at Calvary when others fled. There, the sword of sorrow pierced her Immaculate Heart.
“You will come and serve not simply to aid in worship,” he told the candidates, but so you can bring your heart to it and allow it to pierce you so that the hopes and tears and sufferings and challenges of all God’s children that you and I have the privilege to serve will be presented at the altar through you, where they find healing and meaning and hope.”
He urged them to remember the example of the Blessed Mother because she will teach the profound meaning of Service in Charity, just as she did to the Apostles in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit came upon them.
“Why was she there?” he asked. “She was there because like any good mother, she was accompanying the friends of her son. She was there as the consoler, as the encourager, and throughout the Early Church, they came to her because she was the pillar of strength. They laughed with her, cried with her, danced with her and went on mission with her. She understood that charity is not simply giving to those who have not, but it is an accompaniment of life so that they may be encouraged, supported, lifted, freed, healed and never left alone.”
“We gather in extraordinary times,” he said. “If we were not people of faith, how could we endure the challenges we are facing because they are many and they are grave and they demand action of us. And yet it is precisely because these times are challenging that I am saying to you, Brendan, and to you, Guy, do not be afraid. Have hope and have joy because the Lord has called you, and the Lord will empower you. The Lord will strengthen you with whatever grace you need in every moment. He will never ask you to do what you cannot do, so do not allow the challenges around us to discourage you. Allow this day to be the first day of a joyful life of ministry. Remember, there will be many occasions when you will have no answer to give, when there will be no clear path, but the fact you are there. And the Lord will do what you cannot do yourself.”
When Bishop Caggiano concluded his homily, he examined the candidates, who knelt before him and declared publicly their intentions to undertake the office to assist the bishop and priests and serve the people of God.
Then, as they lay prostrate, the Litany of the Saints was prayed on their behalf, supplicating God for the grace to serve him and the Church. Later, extending his hands over each candidate, the bishop recited the prayer of ordination and they were vested with a stole and dalmatic. Bishop Caggiano presented them the Gospels and said, “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach.”
The ordination was followed by photos and a gathering of family and friends who congratulated the newly ordained men on the lawn outside the Cathedral.
Deacon Dormevil said he was blessed to be taking a step closer toward fulfilling a dream of his father Gustave to have a son who was a priest. He was certain his late wife of 29 years, Magalie Adolphe, who died in 2015, was looking down and proud of him for pursuing the vocation to which God called him. His children Guyvensky and Guylendy attended the ordination with family members and friends from the Haitian community.
He was born in Haiti to Gustave Dormévil and Angélie Louis Charles, where he was raised with his 15 siblings. In 1988, he left his job as immigration inspector to take refuge in the United States, where he worked as a nursing aide and produce manager. He attended college and received a certificate of English as a Second Language and an associate degree in business administration.
On August 3, 2016, Bishop Caggiano approved his application to enter St. John Fisher Seminary, where he began pre-theology studies. A year later, he entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass., where he will continue his fourth year of theological studies in the fall.
He has been active in his parish and on a diocesan and national level. At his parish, he was leader of the liturgical committee, leader of the Haitian Charismatic Prayer Group, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, member of the parish council, a member of the finance board and a parish trustee.
In October 2009, he received the Saint Augustine Medal of Service from the Diocese of Bridgeport, while he was serving as a diocesan pastoral council member. In 2014, at the fourth diocesan synod, he served as delegate of the Haitian Community and St. Joseph Parish. Currently, he is one of the five members of the Haitian National Charismatic Committee based in New York.
“After my wife’s death, my plan was to fulfill the dream of becoming a Permanent Deacon,” he said. “However, the Lord had something far better planned for me. He re-kindled the priesthood call he made to me as a young adult so I prayerfully said yes to the call.”
Deacon Blawie was born and raised in Newtown and received all his Sacraments at St. Rose of Lima Parish. He is the middle of three children, with an older brother, Jack, and a younger sister, Marian. His parents, Karen and John Blawie, raised him in the faith, although he admits to not thinking much about being a priest as a boy.
“It was in high school that I began to actually learn about and love our faith,” he said.
He enrolled in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech in the Marine Corps ROTC program, before transferring to Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned his degree in accounting.
While at Franciscan, he pursued a commission with the Marine Corps, graduating from Officer’s Candidate School in Quantico, Va. in 2012. This fulfilled a dream he had of being a Marine officer, but in the end, it was clear to him that it may have been his plan, but not the Lord’s.
Instead of commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant, he entered St. John Fisher Seminary and completed two years of pre-theological studies before being sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he spent three years. In 2019, he received his theology degree, magna cum laude, from the Pontifical Gregorian University and has been on pastoral assignment at St. Thomas More Parish in Darien for the past year.
“I look forward to returning to Rome in the fall, where I will begin my studies for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology,” he said. “Life with Christ is always an adventure, and these past six years of formation for the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport have been filled with joy and peace.”
“Approaching diaconate ordination has been a wonderful blessing,” he said. “It is something for which I have prepared and anticipated all these years of formation….Seminary formation is never the young man forming himself, but allowing the Lord to form him, so as to be a priest after his own Sacred Heart. Conforming our lives to the Will of God allows us to trust in his providence, and I can reflect back with much joy on all the twists and turns of the road of my life that have led me to this point of approaching his altar to receive Holy Orders. Being ordained during a pandemic was never how I pictured it, but I have learned that my plans are often flawed. I continue to trust in his will and his love, and pray that will lead me toward a worthy life of ministry.”
The Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano
By the Grace of God and the Authority of the Apostolic See Bishop of Bridgeport DECREE MERGING THE PARISHES OF
SAINT JOSEPH, NORWALK, CT
SAINT LADISLAUS, NORWALK, CT
In virtue of the office entrusted to me, I, the Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, duly concerned with the spiritual welfare of the souls entrusted to me, zealous of removing everything that may be detrimental to their well-being and desiring to promote everything becoming of their progress, having engaged with the people of Saint Joseph Parish, Norwalk, CT and Saint Ladislaus Parish, Norwalk, CT, having prayerfully considered the information presented to me, the law and the facts, having heard all those whose rights may be harmed (c. 50), on November 16 & 23, 2019, February 12 & 29, 2020, April 2, 2020 and June 2, 2020 and having ascertained from documents and deeds and consulted those concerned that there are no major donors or heirs to be heard, and having heard the Council of Priests (c. 515 §2) on January 23, 2020, and having determined that the good of the souls requires it,
The above two parishes be merged through an extinctive union so as to form one parish. This determination has been made to strengthen the pastoral care of the people of God in this area of my diocese especially through mutual coordination in the common mission of the Church and the re-evangelization of youth and to address several trends that are of serious concern, including: diminished Mass attendance, lack of sustainability in the face of diminishing income, declining sacramental celebrations, and clergy availability. Also, to be noted is that, the two parishes are territorial adjacent.
Wherefore, I, the undersigned Bishop of Bridgeport, in virtue of c. 515 §2 of the Code of Canon Law, do hereby decree that Saint Joseph Parish, Norwalk, CT and Saint Ladislaus Parish, Norwalk, CT, which up until now have been independent parishes, be merged as to form one parish which will be named Saint Joseph and Saint Ladislaus Parish.
I also hereby decree that all the rights, obligations and privileges of the members of Christian faithful domiciled in the territories of the now extinct Parishes of Saint Joseph, Norwalk, CT and Saint Ladislaus, Norwalk, CT, accorded to them by law or legitimately acquired, are to be transferred to and made part of Saint Joseph and Saint Ladislaus Parish.
The territorial boundaries of the aforementioned parishes, by this canonical decree, shall be amalgamated to become the boundaries of the newly formed Saint Joseph and Saint Ladislaus Parish.
Furthermore, the intentions of the founders and donors of the patrimony of Saint Joseph Parish, Norwalk, CT, and Saint Ladislaus Parish, Norwalk, CT, must be respected, in accordance with the law (c. 121 & 122).
All sacramental registers, seals, and parish files of the amalgamated parishes are to be properly transferred to, preserved and safeguarded by Saint Joseph and Saint Ladislaus Parish in accord with the norm of law.
The Church of Saint Joseph and the Church of Saint Ladislaus shall remain open as worship sites of the newly formed Saint Joseph and Saint Lad is la us Parish.
This decree will become effective on October 1, 2020, The Memorial of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church.
This decree is to be communicated to the Pastors who are the proper administrators of the two juridical persons that are being amalgamated into a new juridical person, as well as the freely appointed Pastor of the newly formed juridical person. It is also to be communicated to all interested persons, according to the norm of law ( c. 532). It may be challenged within the peremptory time limit of ten (10) days from the legitimate notification of the decree and in accordance with the norm of law ( c. 1734 §2).
Given this 19th day of June, 2020, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, at the Catholic Center, Bridgeport, Connecticut.
BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will ordain two men as transitional deacons for the Diocese of Bridgeport on Saturday, June 20, 10 am at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport.
Traditionally, ordination as a transitional deacon is the last step before full ordination to the priesthood. For the transitional deacons, the year ahead will include pastoral, liturgical and educational preparation period for the priesthood.
Attendance at the ordination will be limited to immediate family members and other invited guests in order to conform to the public health recommendations for returning to indoor Mass during the pandemic.
Guy Dormévil was born in Haiti to Gustave Dormévil and Angélie Louis Charles, where he was raised along with his 15 siblings. He was married for 29 years to the late Magalie Adolphe, who died from cancer on August 23, 2015. He has two children, Guyvensky (28) and Guylendy (25) Dormevil.
In 1988, he had to leave his job as an immigration inspector to take refuge in the U.S. Since his arrival to the U.S., he has worked as a Burger King clerk and manager, a certified nursing assistant, a grocery store produce clerk, and lastly a produce manager for 19 years. He attended college part time and received a certificate of English as a Second Language and an associate degree in Business Administration. He also obtained additional nondegree credits at UCONN and Sacred Heart University.
On August 3, 2016, Bishop Caggiano approved his application to enter St. John Fisher Seminary Residence, where he began pre-Theology studies. A year later he entered Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, in Weston, Mass., where he will continue into his 4th year of Theological Studies this Fall.
Guy has been a very active layman in the Roman Catholic Church. His involvement not only included his home parish, but also expanded to both diocesan and national service. He started as a very young altar server, progressed to a youth group leader and then a charismatic prayer group leader. A few of the roles he has exercised at his parish are leader of the liturgical committee, leader of the Haitian Charismatic Prayer Group, eucharistic minister, member of the parish council, a member of the finance board and a parish trustee.
In October 2009, he joyfully and gratefully received the Saint Augustine Medal of Service from the Diocese of Bridgeport, while he was serving as a diocesan pastoral council member, with Bishop William E. Lori, presently Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland. In 2014, at the fourth diocesan synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, called by Bishop Caggiano, Guy served as delegate of the Haitian Community and St. Joseph Parish. Currently, he is still one of the five members of the Haitian National Charismatic Committee based in New York and Msgr. Joseph Malagreca, Chaplain.
“After my wife’s death, my plan was to fulfill the dream of becoming a Permanent Deacon,” explains Dormévil. “However, the Lord had something far better planned for me. He re-kindled the priesthood call He made to me as a young adult. So, I prayerfully said yes to the call.”
Of his readiness for ordination, Dormévil shares, “I am willing to learn as much as possible in order to become a good shepherd to God’s people. I hope to be at the service of anyone who requires my help. But most importantly, I will eternally need the prayers of God’s people and I will pray for them as well.”
Brendan Blawie was born and raised in Newtown, Conn., and received all of his Sacraments at St. Rose of Lima Parish. He is the middle of three children, with an older brother, Jack, and a younger sister, Marian. His parents, Karen and John Blawie, raised him in the faith, although he admits to not thinking much about being a priest as a young boy.
Brendan loves sports, playing football and basketball through high school and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. “It was in high school that I began to actually learn about and love our faith,” he shares.
Brendan enrolled in the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech in the Marine Corps ROTC program, before transferring to Franciscan University of Steubenville where he earned his degree in accounting.
While at Franciscan, he also pursued a commission with the Marine Corps, graduating from Officer’s Candidate School in Quantico, Va. the summer of 2012. This fulfilled a dream he had from his childhood of being a Marine Officer, but in the end, it was clear to him that it may have been his plan, but not the Lord’s.
Instead of commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Brendan entered seminary for the Diocese of Bridgeport. He completed two years of pre-theological studies at St. John Fisher seminary, before being sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he spent three years. In 2019, he received his theology degree, magna cum laude, from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and have been on pastoral assignment at St. Thomas More parish in Darien for the past year.
“I look forward to returning to Rome in the fall where I will begin my studies for a Licentiate in Sacred Theology,” shares Blawie. “Life with Christ is always an adventure, and these past six years of formation for the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport have been filled with joy and peace. I look forward to a life of priestly ministry in this diocese, which is my home.”
“Approaching diaconate ordination has been a wonderful blessing,” he says. “It is something for which I have prepared and anticipated all these years of formation, but I still find myself a bit anxious as the date grows near. Seminary formation is never the young man forming himself, but allowing the Lord to form him, so as to be a priest after His own Sacred Heart.
Conforming our lives to the will of God allows us to trust in His providence, and I can reflect back with much joy on all the twists and turns of the road of my life that have led me to this point of approaching His altar to receive Holy Orders. Being ordained during a pandemic was never how I pictured it, but I have learned that my plans are often flawed. I continue to trust in His will and His love, and pray that will lead me toward a worthy life of ministry,” he said.
BRIDGEPORT—In response to hardships caused by COVID-19, Foundations in Education is extending the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund application deadline for new families so as to encourage their consideration of a Catholic education for their children entering grades K-8.
The mission of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is to help families afford a Catholic education. In this past year, the fund awarded nearly $2.8 million in aid to families of students attending Diocesan elementary schools in Fairfield County.
With COVID-19 interrupting in-person school visits as early as mid-March, many new families were unable to tour Catholic elementary schools or set up “shadow” dates for their children to spend the day among prospective classmates.
Spring is typically a busy enrollment period in Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic elementary schools. While schools make outstanding efforts to provide prospective families a quality virtual admission experience, many have seen a delay in new student applications.
The deadline extension enables Foundations to be nimble and responsive to the changing needs of Catholic schools and to the communities they seek to serve. It also provides flexibility to families considering a switch to Catholic schools, which have navigated the transition to remote learning exceedingly well and ahead of some neighboring district schools.
For new families, K-8 applications to Bishop’s Scholarship Fund are still being accepted for the 2020-2021 academic year and will be available until funds are expended. Prospective families who need financial assistance are encouraged to apply today as tuition assistance is available only while funds last.
The application process is streamlined for convenience. Applicants apply online via the FACTS Grant and Aid application at www.FACTSmgt.com/aid. Schools can assist new families with the application process.
Superintendent Dr. Steven Cheeseman has reported that the diocese plans to begin the next school year in September with in-person classes and the ability to make a fluid transition to distance learning if it becomes necessary.
“There’s no better time to experience the difference a Catholic School can make for your child,” commented Foundations’ Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine.
The mission of Foundations in Education is to strengthen and transform Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport by supporting innovation in academic and extra-curricular programs, fostering opportunities for the professional development of school leaders in innovation and leadership and providing tuition assistance to families in need. For more information about Foundations in Education, please visit www.foundationsineducation.org
NORWALK—On a beautiful Corpus Christi morning, the Brothers of Knights of Columbus Westport Council 3688 and members of councils which make up Bishop Fenwick 4th Degree Assembly 100 hosted a drive-through food drive benefitting the St. Vincent DePaul and St. Philip Church food pantries. Two pick-up trucks and two cars were filled. This drive helped to re-stock these food pantries which have been serving hundreds of families every week during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our Founder, Michael J. McGivney would be pleased to see the Knights of Columbus in action working as a team to help our families in need of food by assisting the parish pantries at St. Philip’s and St. Vincent DePaul. We are very grateful to our pastor, Father Cyrus, his staff; our councils in Assembly 100 and our District Deputy George Ribellino who was a huge help in pulling it all together,” said Westport Council Grand Knight Bill Macnamara.
The council has assisted with other food drives since the start of the pandemic and after consulting the Church of the Assumption Pastor, Father Cyrus Bartolome decided to host a food drive with the help from Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100.
“My brother knights reflect the spirit of Father McGivney of fraternity, charity, and unity. There are so many people who are in need in our community and collecting food for needy really is putting faith into action. Thanks to the many parishioners and people from the community who donated food, gift cards and monetary donations,” said Church of the Assumption Pastor Father Cyrus Bartolome.
The Knights of Columbus are called to step into the breach and leave no neighbor behind—especially in this time of crisis. As the coronavirus pandemic continues, our duty is to lead our families, protect our parishes and serve our communities, remembering always that where there’s a need, there’s a Knight. Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson has challenged Knights to take this moment as an opportunity to deepen the commitment to the very principles which define the Order: charity, unity and fraternity.
Westport Council 3688 will host more food drives during the summer in continuing to assist those in need.
BETHEL—Stop, look, remember and listen was the message shared with worshippers at St. Mary Parish on Sunday, June 14, marking the celebration of Corpus Christi and the reopening of the church for the first time following nine-months of extensive renovations.
“We mark this feast just once a year but we actually celebrate the gift of Christ himself each time we go to Mass,” said Pastor Father Corey V. Piccinino, at the first indoor Mass offered since March. “Every time we receive the Eucharist we celebrate Corpus Christi, the body of Christ, becoming living tabernacles.”
Corpus Christi is the solemn commemoration of the institution by Christ of the Holy Eucharist as a sacrament and the Church’s official act of homage and gratitude to Christ for this gift.
Father Piccinino said Catholics should approach receiving communion with wonder and awe. “Behold a miracle is happening. A mystery is happening right in front of you and the greatest holy gift is given to you.”
Congregants gathered at the Mass, shared the sentiment.
“To receive for the first time (since March), it’s like my First Holy Communion. This is great,” said Edith Jaccarino of Redding.
“The Mass was wonderful. It’s a joy to be back,” said fellow parishioner, Marilyn Murray of Newtown.
“We’ve been coming every day to say the Rosary,” she said. The women are part of a group that prays the Rosary daily at the church. The Dodgingtown Road church is the only Catholic church in Bethel and is open every day.
“Part of the joy of being back is tempered by what we need to now do,” Father Piccinino said, with a nod of acknowledgment to precautions that need to be taken to keep everyone safe.
Congregants must pre-register online to attend mass. The newly renovated church which can hold 850 people, is allowing up to 65 people in the church at a time. All in attendance must wear masks. Seating areas are roped off to maintain proper social distancing, missals and hymnals are absent from the pews and there are signs to guide people where to stand when consuming communion.
About two dozen volunteers attending the Mass made navigating the changes easy. Markers were also placed in the parking lot to maintain one empty parking space in between each vehicle.
Father Piccinino encouraged congregants to stop and take the time to look and see the ever-changing and new world we live in and listen with our eyes, ears and hearts to recognize the importance of each other and our duty to protect one another in these challenging times.
“This disease (COVID-19) is real,” he said. “We need to keep safe. That is our Christian duty.”
Father Piccinino said he has heard and understands the frustrations of parishioners wanting to return to a pre-pandemic way of life including going to church and receiving the Eucharist.
“This is not a punishment from God or from the Church. This is what is best for everyone now. We have to care about the least of our brothers and sisters (who may be susceptible to the coronavirus). We have to protect each other in that one body (of Christ).”
Father Piccinino said his cousin, thankfully, has recovered from the coronavirus after twice almost falling victim to it.
“If you don’t have a personal experience with someone who has had it, you don’t see the need for (all of these precautions),” he said.
The church has been streaming Masses on Facebook and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The live-streamed Masses have given parishioners a glimpse into the beautifully renovated church.
There is much symbolism throughout the church from the painting of the dove above the altar with light emanating from it, to the tile work on the floor that commemorates the Trinity and so much more. There is even a painting on the wall depicting the original 1883 Gothic-style church that still stands on Greenwood Avenue. A book highlighting all the changes and symbolism will be available soon.
“The renovated church is beautiful and uplifting. It gives me hope,” said Filomenia Magrino, who attended the Mass with her husband, Joseph. “It felt very peaceful to be back.” He agreed, “It’s nice to return to our Sunday routine.”
TRUMBULL—Though they donned face masks, made a reservation online, and sanitized frequently, parishioners at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Trumbull rejoiced in the opportunity this past weekend to once again attend public indoor Mass. Since mid-March, Father Joseph Marcello has looked out at empty pews while celebrating the Eucharist, but on this Sunday morning, he greeted the faithful with a wide smile and a joyous “Welcome home!”
As this pastor and his Reopening Team readied the church for the weekend’s homecoming, they acknowledged people’s enthusiasm but also recognized their apprehension due to the health concerns of COVID-19. Jim Panullo, Director of Parish Operations, emphasized that sanitizing was the first and foremost concern.
“We want to be sure that everyone feels safe. That is our priority,” he said, adding that the church building can accommodate up to 85 parishioners based on current guidelines. “We have volunteers for check-in, seating, and guarding the doors, and we’re cleaning all pews between Masses.”
Those pews, though not full due to social distancing, were nevertheless occupied by dozens of parishioners who returned to a very different protocol than they remember from three months ago when the pandemic shuttered churches in the diocese. Though many have watched the live-streamed Masses, Panullo said that it’s just not the same for them without Holy Communion.
“Our parishioners have been very enthusiastic about returning, and I’ve heard from many families how much they’re looking forward to being back in church for Mass,” said Father Marcello.
Such enthusiasm was felt as parishioners, standing six feet apart, waited for the doors of St. Catherine’s to open on this Corpus Christi morning. With red roses adorning the altar and mild June breezes blowing through the windows, the church was filled with a sense of renewal.
Upon entering and presenting their reservation ticket, those in attendance were then escorted by volunteers to preassigned seats as only every third pew was open. Masks, required throughout the entirety of Mass, were allowed to be briefly removed during Holy Communion. For added safety in the foreseeable future, the offertory basket will not be passed, hymnals have been removed, and the Sign of Peace has been omitted. To keep a proper social distance, parishioners are guided by blue tape in six-foot markings on the floor and yellow caution tape around the vacant pews.
Despite these changes, it was the expectation of being together again with his parishioners that excited Father Marcello. “I’m really looking forward to just seeing them again and praying with them, notwithstanding that the experience of Mass will be necessarily a little different for the time being,” he said. Many people, he added, especially those in high-risk categories, will continue to view Mass at home.
That sense of community was also something that longtime parishioner Tom Matthews missed over the past few months. “It’s really good to be back,” said Matthews, a volunteer member of the Reopening Team. “I take pleasure in the routine of Mass and in the strong connection between faith and community. There was an emptiness there.”
As Father Marcello addressed his congregation, he acknowledged the suffering many have withstood during the pandemic but reminded his parishioners that Christ was ever present. “Our lives have been off balance. We are all longing for a return to a semblance of normalcy,” he said. “But throughout this time, there has always been hope. The flame above the sanctuary has never left us. Christ is powerfully sustaining us.”
Weekend indoor Masses at St. Catherine, which require an online reservation, will be held on Saturday at 4 pm and 7:15 pm and on Sunday at 7:30 am, 9 am, and 11 am. No reservation is needed for the 7:30 am Daily Mass.
STAMFORD—For Father Gustavo A. Falla, Pastor of St. Mary of Stamford Parish, Jesus had a clear message for Catholics as public Masses resumed inside churches on the Feast of Corpus Christi: “I want people to receive me once again.”
Over the weekend for the first time since public Masses were suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, the faithful began returning to the pews of St. Mary Parish, which includes St. Benedict-Our Lady of Monserrat. Many expressed their joy at being able to receive the Eucharist again, appropriately on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.
“You can see in their expressions the eagerness to receive the Eucharist, and I find it to be a beautiful gift of the Lord for us to be able to open up to the public on the feast of Corpus Christi,” Father Falla said. “It is the Lord telling us, ‘I want to be received. I want for people to receive me once again, not only spiritually but physically.’”
Dozens of faithful gathered at St. Mary of Stamford for the 10 am Mass, one of five that were celebrated over the weekend there and at St. Benedict-Our Lady of Monserrat.
Extensive preparations went into the opening the churches. Pews were marked off with signs and tape to ensure appropriate social distancing. People were required to register in advance and wear face masks. Upon entering the side door, they were greeted by members of the Welcome Group, who provided hand sanitizer and checked their temperatures.
“I have never seen anything like this in my life, and I never anticipated anything like this, Father Falla said. “It is absolutely different. It really brings into perspective what it means to prepare for Mass. Before it was just a matter of coming in and setting up the chalice and getting the readings and all that, but at this point it is very important that every individual who comes in is safe and that the Eucharist will be celebrated in a proper way without giving in to all the distractions that are associated with the preparations.”
St. Mary of Stamford was among 30 parishes that resumed public worship inside the church buildings. On May 29, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced the beginning of the Phase 2 of the plan to return to Mass inside churches on June 13-14, after each pastor submitted a re-opening plan to the diocese.
Indoor weekday Masses, Funeral Masses and Nuptial Weddings will also resume inside churches in parishes prepared to re-open in a safe and reverent manner. Given the limited seating capacity required for social distancing indoors, the bishop said parishes may continue to offer Mass outdoors for up to 150 people.
He also gave approval for ongoing parking lot Masses and encouraged pastors to continue live-streaming Masses for those who are unable to get out. The dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for all those who are vulnerable or concerned about their health or the health of loved ones will continue until further notice.
Father Falla said despite the restrictions, the Catholic Church has never been closed. “Our temples have been closed, the buildings have been closed to the public, but the Church has never been closed,” he said. “We have been offering sacrifices to God daily and in prayer so we need to make the distinction between the Church being closed and a building that has been closed. Often times people think of the Church as a building.” He said he was delighted to finally be able to open the doors for public Mass.
In his homily, Father Falla said, “When the Lord gives himself to us, he gives himself completely. He reserves nothing for himself, not even his blood for his blood is given to us. He sheds his blood for the salvation of the world and the remission of sins. He doesn’t save his own body, he gives his body to us, so that you and I can be members of one body, his own….When you and I receive Holy Communion, we publicly declare that we are in common union with God and the Church. There is no Church without Christ and there is no Christ without the Church.”
Father said that if we want to receive Holy Communion, we must be in the state of grace, “in the state of friendship with God and union with him.” If we fall out of the state of grace through mortal sin, it can be restored through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
He reminded the congregation that “He who gives himself completely to us wants for us to give ourselves completely to others and to the Church.”
He urged them to encounter Christ in the Eucharist and continue to increase in devotion to the Lord in the Eucharist, reminding them the Blessed Sacrament is exposed every Sunday at St. Benedict from 8 am to 8 pm for adoration and prayer.
After Mass people approached Father and expressed their gratitude and appreciation that public Masses had resumed.
Yulisa Vivieca and her daughter Ashley Peralta attended the 8 am Spanish Mass at St. Mary. “It was amazing, it felt good,” Yulisa said. “We have been at home and kept praying but to be back in church and feel the energy of the people was amazing. We even had our temperatures taken.”
Ashley agreed and said, “It was really nice and I enjoyed it. We plan to come back again.”
At the side entrance of the church, Stefania Canneto, administrative assistant for Father Falla, was working at a registration table with Mary Catherine Herbert, checking people off the list of pre-registrations as they entered. Preparing for the Masses at St. Mary and St. Benedict required hours of work to set up the pews with tape and signs.
Vigil Masses were held at St. Benedict on Saturday with a 4:30 Mass in English and a 6:30 Mass in Spanish, she said. On Sunday, St. Mary celebrated an 8 am Mass in Spanish, a 10 am Mass in English and a noon Mass in Spanish. A group of almost a dozen volunteers called the “Welcome Group” assisted Stefania at both churches.
Mary Catherine said she voiced concerns to Father on Saturday that public Masses might be starting too soon, but her worries were allayed when “I saw all those people in church who were very happy to be there again.”
A lifelong member of the parish and a graduate of St. Mary School, she said, “I was definitely happy to receive the Eucharist, so happy I almost wanted to cry.”
Sharon MacKnight, the parish photographer who has been a member of the church for 30 years, said the Vigil Mass on Saturday was the first she has attended since mid-March and that she was so moved, she cried to receive the Body of Christ again.
“As Father says, you don’t need a building to go to church because God is with us, and people have been coming all along to pray and light candles.” Even though there were no public Masses, St. Benedict was open for Eucharistic adoration and Mass was live-streamed from that church.
Sharon walked to the front of St. Mary, where a shrine to Our Lady of Grace had been erected in the foyer, looking out onto Elm Street. The statue of Our Lady was surrounded by flowers and candles as people knelt on the floor and prayed to her. Sharon said the doors are open from 7 am to 7 pm and that whenever she drives by the church, someone is there, praying to the Mother of God.