A Friend of God

|   By Thomas Hicks
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Msgr. John Sanders died January 6, 2019 (Feast of the Epiphany).

John Sanders was always known as the priest who played with the Duke Ellington Band. His relationship with Duke Ellington went much deeper than that.

Here are some words Duke Ellington wrote about John Sanders: “John Sanders was always, as a musician, as a man, as an ambassador, a major credit to our band, right from the beginning when he joined it in 1954. A valve trombonist, he played solos that were the nearest we ever had to Tizol’s originals. He was a brilliant musician and an irreplaceable aide when we were orchestraiting en masse with a devastating deadline at our heels. In addition, he was a gentleman in every sense of the word—in manners, ethics, and appearance. I love John Sanders and think that just about everyone else who knows him loves him for the great human being that he is. He is from a beautiful, gentle, educated family. His total intent is absolute, unadulterated good, and I tried but could not find a better or more fitting word that that—good.

Here are some words John Sanders wrote about Duke Ellington: “While Duke is one of the great creative people of our times, he is above also a very fine human being. You could tell by the way he treated the men in the band and his audiences that he lived the Gospel message. He never once was above anyone— everyone mattered to him, from celebrities to the average person who would ask for one more number beyond the time to quit. No one-night-stand ever was unimportant to Duke.”

After he left the band, Elkington and John remained in contact with frequent phone calls. John would play an occasional show or recording session with Duke.

John Sanders began his musical career in high school in Harlem, New York. After some time in the Navy, he studied at Julliard on the GI bill. He later played with Lucky Thomson’s orchestra, and occasionally with Mercer Ellington, Duke’s son. It was the younger Ellington who put John in touch with the Duke.

John Sanders once said about himself: “More than anyone, I thank God for allowing me to live such as blessed life: growing up with my wonderful family in New York, my Navy experience, Julliard, playing with Duke, and the priesthood.”

I am among the few people who actually saw John play in the Duke Ellington band. John occupied the middle chair in Ellington’s 3-man trombone section. It may be hard for many people to imagine this quiet, humble, bit shy man playing songs with names like “I Got it Bad and That Ain’t Good,” or “Don’t Mean a Thing if You Ani’t Got that Swing,” and other Ellington classics.

John Sanders and I were friends for more than 60 years. The Catholic spiritual writer, Garrigou-Lagrange, said that continuance of friendship for twenty years or more is a sign that the friendship had a divine origin. I believe that. John was the sweet friend of my youth who aged along with me. We passed down the same corridors of time together. He was the companion of my pilgrimage, a journey that would have been much bleaker without him. My friendship with John has been one of the enduring influences of my life; one of the most unfailingly helpful and delightful relationships of my life.

He was a loyal friend to me in joy and in sorrow. He never let me down. I was always cheered and comforted by his presence. Being with him was restorative. He was always a tower of strength and a place of refuge, the comprehending companion whom I count with some of the happiest hours of my life. I came to hold his wisdom in respect, and loved how he could dispense the joy of life; he could be a very funny man. He was probably the most guileless person I have ever known.

John could look with pride back over the years of his priesthood. So many people can recall how this gentle priest touched their lives, was their faithful priest and loyal friend. There’s a saying that goes: “Some people touch our lives and quickly go. Some leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.” Like Duke Ellington said, John radiated goodness. I know no one else who did so as simply and unselfconsciously as he did. He was incapable of bearing a grudge. He seemed to keep getting gentler as he grew older.

The Book of Wisdom (7:27) states that “in every generation Wisdom passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God.” John Sanders was one of those friends. His whole life was a sermon.

As Duke Ellington pointed out, John came from “a beautiful, gentle, educated family.” I first met John in the 1960s in South Jamaica, Queens. Soon after I met his family. There was his incomparable mother. “Incomparable” is a feeble word for what that lady was. Every inch of her was charged with an energy; she was quick to laughter. There was a joy that came from the depths of her soul. She was filled with generous kindness

His father was an obliging, rare and wonderful man, a sweet, gentle friendly man.

And there were the five sisters, only two of them still with us. All of them were so generous and sweet-tempered, dispensing the joy of life; all of them so very tender in their humanity, women of uncommon perception, intuitive and kind. I never knew anyone who resembled sunshine more than those girls.

John lived to be 94. In his last years John fought the long fight, always filled with the steady virtues of loyalty and kindness.

I count it one of the great graces of my life that I befriended this man; there is gratitude for all that he brought into my life. And now he’s gone. I think of some words the poet Wordsworth wrote after he stopped to listen to a young reaper singing at work in a field. Wordsworth noted:
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Join the Pilgrimage to March for Life

WASHINGTON—On Friday, January 18, 2019, many will gather at our nation’s capital to commemorate the 46th anniversary of the passing of Roe vs. Wade. Thousands from across the country will march, peacefully and in unity, to the steps of Capital to raise awareness of the many lives lost to abortion. To date, almost 60 million lives have been taken since the landmark decision was handed down by the Supreme Court.  


The March for Life in Washington, D.C., began as a small demonstration in 1974 and rapidly grew to be the largest pro-life event in the world. The peaceful demonstration that has followed on this somber anniversary every year since 1973 is a witness to the truth concerning the greatest human rights violation of our time, legalized abortion on demand.


Consider joining us on our diocesan bus. We will leave from St. Augustine’s in Bridgeport making stops at St. Thomas in Norwalk and The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford. 


(For more information and to register go to our website at or contact Maureen Ciardiello, Coordinator of Respect Life at 203.416.1445 or


Gov.-elect Ned Lamont visits nonprofits on ‘day of service’

STAMFORD—Gov.-elect Ned Lamont traveled across Connecticut Sunday to bring attention to nonprofits that help those in need.

Lamont’s first stop was at the New Covenant Center in Stamford. Lamont and Lt. Gov.-Elect Susan Bysiewicz kicked off their morning learning about the center’s mission, services and needs.

Then they got their hands dirty, suiting up with aprons and hair nets to help volunteers prepare Sunday lunch.

They learned more about how the New Covenant Center is able to serve over 600,000 meals each year and how elected officials can help further their reach

By shining a light on local nonprofits, Lamont and Bysiewicz hope to encourage people to join the effort by donating their time, money, or food

Lamont and Bysiewicz also visited Homes for the Brave in Bridgeport and the Beth-El Center in Milford.

Lamont will be sworn in on January 9.

Original story   I   News 12 Connecticut

Priest, Musician Monsignor John C. Sanders, 93

STAMFORD—Reverend Monsignor John C. Sanders passed away today, January 6, 2019, the Epiphany of the Lord. He was 93 years of age.

“Known to jazz fans across the country as the priest who played in the Duke Ellington Band, Monsignor Sanders was also much loved in our own diocese as a humble priest and pastor who was grateful for the gift of his vocation. His remarkable life was a blessing and an inspiration to all of us,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “We ask for prayers for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family.”

John Conrad Sanders was born in Elmsford, New York, on June 30, 1925, son of Alexander and Agnes (Garcia) Sanders. He was baptized on July 19, 1925, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Elmsford.

Following his graduation from the High School of Commerce in New York in June 1943, he served in the United States Navy at the U.S. Frontier Base in San Diego, California (1943-1945) and in U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School in Orinda, California (1945-1946). During his term of service, he played in the U.S. Navy Band and earned the rank of Musician Second Class. Returning to New York, he entered the Julliard School of Music and received a diploma in Trombone from the Orchestral Instrument Department in 1949. After completing his course work at Julliard, he worked as a trombone player, including playing in and touring with the Duke Ellington Orchestra from 1953-1959. He also worked as a classical music salesman for G. Schirmer, Inc. (1961-1962) and as the orchestral librarian at Julliard (1962-1965).

Pursuing his lifelong dream of being a priest, he began his priestly formation at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut (1965-1968), and continued at Pope John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts (1968-1973). He was ordained to the Priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis in Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport on February 10, 1973.

He first served as Parochial Vicar of Blessed Sacrament Parish (1973-1974) and, in June 1974, was named Co-Pastor of Blessed Sacrament and appointed Diocesan Director of the Apostolate of African Americans. In June 1975, he was named Parochial Vicar of Holy Family Parish in Fairfield, while continuing his role in the Apostolate. In August 1985, he was appointed Parochial Vicar of Saint Mary Parish in Norwalk, where he served until his retirement in July 2000, including two terms as Temporary Administrator of the parish, one in February 1988 and another in October 1998. Throughout his years of priestly ministry in the Diocese, Monsignor Sanders also served on the Presbyteral Council, the College of Consultors, the Clergy Personnel Committee and the Advisory Board and Executive Committee of Catholic Charities.

Monsignor Sanders was appointed a Chaplain of His Holiness, with the title of Monsignor, by Pope Saint John Paul II on May 4, 1988. On May 22, 2005, Fairfield University conferred upon Monsignor Sanders an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his contributions to the Church and to the world of music.

At the request of Monsignor Sanders, there will be no wake or Vigil Mass. The Funeral Mass will take place at Saint Bridget of Ireland Church in Stamford on Wednesday, January 9th at 11:00 AM. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will be the principal celebrant and Monsignor William Scheyd will be the homilist.

Condolences and contributions in his memory to support retired priests can be sent to the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence, 274 Strawberry Hill Road, Stamford, 06902.

Click to read a profile of Msgr. Sanders from a 2018 “Catholic Culture” posting:

Diocese Announces “We Stand With Christ” Campaign

BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport has announced the launch of the $75 million “We Stand With Christ” campaign to continue the work of renewal and strengthen the Church for future generations.

The announcement comes after the successful silent phase of the campaign which has raised almost $50 million from Leadership Gifts and ten parishes that have participated in the pilot program, making it already the largest and most successful campaign in the 64-year history of the diocese.

The “We Stand With Christ” capital campaign is being led by Bishop Caggiano and a 26-member Campaign Executive committee with the support of priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders. Brian Young of New Canaan and Fr. Reggie Norman , pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, are serving as co-chairs.

With the public launch of the campaign, parishioners throughout the diocese are now being asked to make a pledge that will benefit the long-term needs of the parishes and essential diocesan ministries.

“I am asking people of faith the to join with me in this generational challenge of taking a great leap forward in the evangelical and spiritual renewal of the diocese,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in the “We Stand With Christ” video which is now available throughout the diocese.

“We have accomplished much in the past five years, but there is much more to do. These are challenging times in the Church and our larger society. Now is the time to accompany each other and all those in need in our spiritual journey and to plan for the future.”

The Bishop said he is deeply grateful for the generous and enthusiastic response to the silent campaign and looking forward to the public phase, which will begin in January when the parishes that did not participate in the pilot program will formally launch their fund raising efforts.

“This is a large and historic challenge that will ask sacrificial giving, but it is a singular moment in moment and opportunity to roll up our sleeves and rebuild the Church one person at a time,” said the Bishop.

The aggregate goal for the remaining 69 parishes is an additional $58 million, which will ensure the “We Stand With Christ” reaches goal and enable the bishop to address special projects such as the recent personalized learning initiatives inaugurated in its schools.

Parishioners are being asked to make a pledge between January and June of 2019 with up to five-year redemption and payment schedules.

This year’s Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) will be folded into the capital campaign for the participating parishes. Parishioners who participated in the pilot phase and have already given to the capital campaign will resume their contributions to the ACA.

The ACA sustains the ministries of the diocese on a yearly basis while the capital campaign seeks to transform the ministries in the future by giving parishes and diocesan programs the ability to innovate and invest in a new generation of faith formation, charitable and education initiatives.

The campaign initiative stems from the 4th Diocesan Synod and the subsequent pastoral planning process undertaken by the Diocese and its 82 parishes and one shrine.

In 2017, a period of discernment and consultation began among the pastors and laity which confirmed the urgent need to address critical education, charitable and pastoral and parish priorities.

With its objective of strengthening local parishes to encourage a vibrant Catholic life, the campaign will designate 50% of the funds raised, an estimated $37.5 million, for parish needs.

The remaining 50% will be invested in three major foundations: Foundations in Education
( $12.5 million), Foundations in Faith ($15 million), and Foundations in Charity ($10 million). Each of the Foundations has its own Board of Directors.

“We Stand With Christ” has been set up as a separate 501 C3 not for profit corporation, which will be overseen by a Board of Directors charged with ensuring the donations are used for the intended purpose of the donor.

The endowments established through the campaign will continue to grow through reinvestment and the addition of new gifts. The interest income generated by the endowment will provide a steady source of revenue for these Foundations. An Annual report will be pushed for the parishes and benefactors detailing the use of the funds raised.

Statistics show 435,000 registered Catholics who are part of 108,000 families, representing about 45% of the total population of Fairfield County. The diocese also numbers, 343 priests and deacons, and is the largest private educator in Fairfield County with 9000 student in 26 schools. More than 35,000 young people participate in its faith formation programs.

The campaign is being coordinated by CCS, a New York City based fundraising consultancy with decades of experience in faith-based campaigns.

For more information on the We Stand With Christ” campaign for the diocese, call (203) 648-9050. Visit the web at

Give online at

Statement on painted Anti-Semitic symbol

Statement from the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano

As many of you know, on Friday morning, police officers on patrol discovered a swastika painted on the doors of the Cathedral of St. Augustine in Bridgeport. Though the police have yet to identify the perpetrator of this crime, I am appalled and outraged by this act of vandalism against the Mother Church of our Diocese and this brazen and disgusting display of anti-Semitism which is morally abhorrent and an affront to our Catholic faith. It is deeply distressing to see such a display of hatred at a time when we need to strengthen our efforts to come together as a community in mutual respect and support. My thoughts and prayers are with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the city of Bridgeport and beyond. We stand with you and condemn every form of anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry wherever it may be found.

As I am on retreat with the other bishops of the United States in Mundelein, this incident only came to my attention this afternoon. I am deeply disturbed and outraged that someone would violate the sanctity of our Church. To use a clearly anti-Semitic symbol is participating in unspeakable evil. I know I speak for everyone at the Cathedral Parish and the Diocese as we condemn the act, we condemn what it signifies, and we hope the perpetrator will be found.

Coach Brian Hayes Named USTFCCCA Coach of the Year

DANBURY—Immaculate High School Coach Brian Hayes was recently named the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association’s Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year for Connecticut. The award is given annually by the United States Track & Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) to a boys team coach and a girls team coach team from each State. Coach Hayes is also a candidate for the National Coach of the Year award.

A Danbury police officer for 21 years, Hayes believes that he was selected in a “close contest between some great coaches” but it was the performance of his teams that brought him to the top of the list.

“This award is a great honor because it comes solely from the accomplishments of our team. This season would not have been possible if the amazing girls I coach at Immaculate High School had decided anywhere along the way that they were satisfied with their accomplishments so far,” said Coach Hayes. “Winning the SWC Championship and the Class SS State Championship, plus being the runner-up at State Opens were not enough—they made it a point to finish up on top and to stand atop the podium at the Manchester, New Hampshire New England Meet to receive the 3rd place plaque; this was even higher than the top five position we all had set as a goal. They solidified their place as the greatest team in the history of Immaculate High School cross country,” he added. There are 491 teams in New England, and this race crowned Immaculate as the #3 team, one of only 30 teams total and six from Connecticut that made it to the final race. Additionally, the boys cross country team he also coaches at Immaculate won their first Class SS championship this year.

Since Hayes started coaching at Immaculate in 2004, he has led the Immaculate Cross Country and Track runners to the following victories:

Girls Cross Country:  SWC Champions in 2011, 2013 and 2018 (runner-ups 2012, 2016 and 2017); Class S Champions in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017; Class SS Champions in 2016 and  2018 (runner-ups 2010 and 2011)

Boys Cross Country:  Class SS Champs in 2018 (runner-ups 2017)

Girls Indoor Track: SWC Champs in 2012 (runner-ups 2014), Class S Champions in 2017 (runner-ups in 2018)

Boys Indoor Track: SWC Champs in 2016, Class S Champs in 2016

Girls Outdoor Track: Class S runner-ups in 2017 and 2018

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 allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, Conn., Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

Chicago lay movements gather to pray for bishops

CHICAGO—To show support for the U.S. bishops as they gathered at the Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake near Chicago for a weeklong retreat in early January, members of lay ecclesial movements met at St. Mother Theodore Guerin Parish in Elmwood Park Jan. 3 to pray.

More than 70 people attended Mass and adoration at the parish as part of a larger effort of the 21 lay movements active within the Archdiocese of Chicago to support the bishops. Each group is taking a day to have its members pray during the bishops Jan. 2-8 retreat.

“We want to show them that we support them, that they are not alone in this,” said Renata Kaczor, co-chair of the archdiocesan committee for lay movements and a member of Domowy Kosciol (“Domestic Church”), dedicated to the sanctity of marriage. “We also want to ask God to help them, help us and everybody in the very difficult situation the church is going through now.”

Many lay ecclesial movements and associations have arisen within the Catholic Church, mostly in the 20th century. Movements active in the archdiocese include Focolare, Charismatic Renewal, Legion of Mary and Regnum Christi.

Talking about the bishops, Michael Sublewski, co-chair of the archdiocesan committee for lay movements and a member of Neocatechumenal Way, said: “I’m sure they feel very isolated and persecuted. We want them to know that we support them, and prayer is the best way to do that.”

“There’s nothing more diabolical” than the abuse of children by priests, said Lauretta Froelich of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, “and yet Jesus told us that not even the gates of hell are going to prevail against his church.”

By praying for and supporting the church’s leaders, the lay movements are fulfilling their mission, Sublewski told the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“The movements are a help to the church,” he said. “Especially in this time where there’s a scarcity of priests, we’re here to help, to nourish, to look for the far away, the people who have left the church, the people who have no religion at all, the people who don’t have an answer to their life and who are struggling.”

Froelich said that what the lay movements are doing is akin to what Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household leading the bishops’ retreat, did after Pope John Paul II was elected. He stood in St. Peter’s Square beneath the windows of the papal apartment and cried out “Courage, John Paul! Courage!”

“I really think that’s what the lay movements are doing now, tonight and every day in the life of the church. We’re the ones who go out to the world and so we’re crying out to the priests and the bishops, ‘Courage!'” she said.

By Joyce Duriga | Catholic News Service

Bishop Reflects on USCCB Retreat

During yesterday’s talks, Father Cantalamessa introduced the overall theme for the (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) bishops’ retreat. It is a theme that can easily apply to anyone who wishes to follow the Lord as His disciple.

Father Raniero began his remarks by noting that Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry preparing his disciples to undertake their apostolic, missionary work. By his estimation, approximately 40% of the Gospel is devoted to this “formation work.” At the heart of what Jesus offered his apostles was a choice: to leave behind a way of thinking that the world wants us to embrace and to begin to see all things in life as God sees them. In other words, Jesus desired to give his apostles a new “mindset”, one that sees the world in a radically new way, in terms of what God desires for creation, humanity and his disciples.

This choice was illustrated beautifully by the Lord Jesus at the moment after Peter’s profession of faith, when Peter rebuked the Lord’s prediction of His suffering and death. The Lord chastised Peter because he was thinking as the world thinks, not as God thinks. To lack such a divine perspective is to live life spiritually blind- leading to personal chaos and sin.

Father Raniero asked us to look within ourselves and to see what “personal chaos” exists within our lives and hearts. It is chaos that is marked by sin, blindness, acceptance of the ways of the world and a stubbornness of heart. Such personal chaos exists when we lose sight of God’s way of thinking. As such, Father Raniero suggested that rediscovering this “divine way of thinking and living” is the starting point for true personal and ecclesial conversion.

As we begin this new year, perhaps we can all benefit from looking for those areas in our lives that are in chaos, precisely because we are looking at life as the world does. For just as in the Book of Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovered over the great abyss (chaos) and called it into order (cosmos), so too the Holy Spirit is ready to enter into your personal chaos and mine and bring it to order and new life.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! 

U.S. Bishops Receive Letter from Pope Francis

|   By Judy Keane | Catholic News Service
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WASHINGTON—The U.S. Bishops have received a letter from Pope Francis as they gather in northern Illinois at Mundelein Seminary this week. The weeklong retreat is taking place at the invitation of Pope Francis who has asked all bishops in the United States to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times.

The Preacher to the Papal Household, Capuchin Friar Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., is directing the retreat under the theme of “He appointed Twelve, to be with Him and to Send Out to Preach” based on Mark 3:14. The structure of the retreat includes time for quiet reflection, including silent meal times, daily Mass, time for personal and communal prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, vespers, and an opportunity for confession. No ordinary business is being conducted during the retreat.

Mundelein Seminary, located on the campus of the University of St. Mary of the Lake, is the principal seminary and school of theology for the formation of priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and educates nearly 200 seminarians from 34 dioceses across the country and around the world.

Click to read the letter from Pope Francis

Click to read National Catholic Register report

(By Judy Keane | Catholic News Service—CNS photo by Bob Roller)

Governor-elect to Visit New Covenant Center

STAMFORD—In advance of Connecticut Governor-Elect Ned Lamont’s Inauguration on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, he will be visiting Catholic Charities of Fairfield County’s program, New Covenant Center, on Sunday, January 6.

The Governor-Elect chose the 40-year-old food insecurity program in Stamford in recognition of providing over 600,000 meals each year through their 365-day-a-year Café (Soup Kitchen) and three-day-a-week Food Pantry. Mr. Lamont will make his first stop at New Covenant at 11 am and plans to stay 30-45 minutes. This is part of his five-stop “Day of Service” throughout the state. Susan Bysiewicz, the Lieutenant Governor-Elect, will also visit various nonprofits throughout Connecticut.

“We are honored that Mr. Lamont has selected New Covenant Center as his ‘inaugural’ stop on his Day of Service to draw attention to nonprofit agencies that are helping those most in need,” said John Gutman, executive director of the program.  “He will be assisting other volunteers and staff in the preparation of our Sunday lunch.”

The Governor is encouraging lower Fairfield County residents to donate food items for New Covenant’s food pantry or make monetary donations. This can be done between 10 am and 1:30 pm on Sunday, January 6. The Center is located at 174 Richmond Hill Avenue, at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Richmond Hill Avenue. Please enter through the front double-glass doors on the corner.

The mission of New Covenant Center is to provide a nutritious meal to all those who are hungry. By creating a safe, warm and compassionate environment, they are taking the first steps toward empowering men, women, and children to reach their full potential and regain their dignity and self-respect.

(For more information and to get involved, visit the Governor-elect’s website.)

St. Thomas Aquinas School to Expand Pre-K Program

FAIRFIELD—St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School announced that it will expand its pre-kindergarten program for the 2019-2020 school year. The new program will include children who turn three-years-old on or by August 31.

Jo Ann Mathieson, principal, said the development of a two-year pre-school program was by popular demand. “The emphasis of a two-year preschool is to build on, expand the child’s experiences and ultimately prepare for kindergarten. We are making this change to best accommodate the needs of families working or living in Fairfield, Westport and the surrounding area. The expanded program hours mirror the hours of our regular school day. All pre-k children will also have the additional option to arrive as early as 7:30 am and stay until 5:30 pm.  Flexible schedules and shorter options are also available.”

The school has an experienced and dedicated group of early education professionals who love working with this age group. Shelby Vosk, program director, is a proponent of mixed age benefits for preschoolers, “We strive to meet the needs of each child in our program which takes the best practices from Montessori, play-based and kindergarten readiness skills programs. The classroom is divided into learning centers to enable a broad developmental range, free and creative play, theme-based curriculum and age-appropriate religious education.  We have benchmarks for three and four-year-olds and differentiating skills assessments. Our goal is to provide each child the foundations needed for elementary advancement.”

St. Thomas will hold a school-wide open house on Sunday, January 27 between the hours of 10 am and noon.  Families living or working in Fairfield, Westport and surrounding towns are encouraged to stop by, take a tour, and speak to the administration, faculty and other parents.

The school is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Fairfield at 1719 Post Road.

(For additional information please contact Barbara Turner, director of admissions, at 203.255.0556 x.225 or

Patrick Donovan’s New Year Reflection

I’m sorry…I didn’t mean it
I take it back
Strike it from the record

What is as irreversible as murder, violates its victims more than theft, is as deadly as an epidemic? And is a lot closer to you than you want to think?

Gossip, slander, and thoughtless speech. Gossip is a million-dollar industry in our country today. We tend to think of it as a sport, harmless and fun. After all, it’s only words. We even have shows devoted to it.

As Christians, we are called to see things differently. Which is worse, we must ask, to steal from someone or to speak ill of someone? To defraud a person or to humiliate him? Answer: Property can be restored, but the damage done to another can never be undone. In fact, our Jewish brothers and sisters compared slander and humiliation with murder: the destruction is irreparable and enduring.

You can’t take it back. What we say about each other is terribly powerful: words have a long, long half-life, and they can destroy in unseen, unhealable ways.

Our words are a footprint we leave for the world. What will they reveal about the way we treat our children, our parents, our friends, students, co-workers, employees? How we treat ourselves?

It’s a new year. Perhaps none of us will find a cure for cancer, or feed the world’s hungry, or bring about world peace. But nearly every day we find ourselves with someone’s reputation or sense of worth in our hands.

We can improve our world in a powerful, pervasive way; we can act as though our words had the power of life and death.

They do.

About this Reflection

When I was a child, there was an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal with the headline and text above, though I have edited some text. The ad was in celebration of the Jewish New Year, I believe. My mother, wise as she was, cut it out and posted it on the refrigerator. If you said or did something that warranted further reflection, you got to stand in front of the full page of newsprint. In time, I had it memorized. When her children moved out of the house, my mother made sure we each got a copy. Mine hangs on the refrigerator and I can still say it by heart. We learn slowly as children…and sometimes more slowly as adults.

Happy New Year One and All.

– Patrick Donovan (Director, The Leadership Institute)

Veritas Catholic Radio Purchasing WNLK-AM Radio

NORWALK — A Ridgefield man is purchasing WNLK-AM 1350 radio and will begin broadcasting EWTN programming throughout Fairfield County, the north shore of Long Island and parts of Westchester after the application is approved by the FCC, a process that typically takes 45 days.

Steve Lee, President & CEO of Veritas Catholic Network Inc., is purchasing the station and an FM translator W280FX at 103.9 MHz from Sacred Heart University, which owns several AM and FM stations. The translator will allow Veritas to simulcast on the FM dial.

Veritas plans to broadcast EWTN programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week in addition to providing local coverage of Catholic and community events.

Lee said the EWTN programming will include “Catholic Answers Live,” “Called to Communion” with Dr. David Anders, “Kresta in the Afternoon,” “The Doctor Is In” with Dr. Ray Guarendi and “Christ Is the Answer” with Father John Riccardo.

Veritas will also simulcast shows like “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo and classic programs featuring Mother Angelica and Father Benedict Groeschel.

He said Veritas will have a local presence at parish festivals, school fairs, sporting events and conferences at Catholic colleges and universities. Some morning drive-time shows he plans to produce will feature a rotating cast of clergy, including Bishop Frank Caggiano, parish and school news, and programs for young people and religious communities in the area. In addition, he plans coverage of community events such as the Norwalk Oyster Festival.

Listeners will also be able to live stream through the website and an app that is being developed.

Lee hopes to begin broadcasting in several months, and his future plans include building an office and a studio.

Bishop Caggiano, who is on the board of Veritas, has said, “The Lord can touch people in profound ways while they are sitting on the Merritt Parkway.” He has voiced his support of the effort, which he called “a new frontier for our Diocese.”

Lee, who worked in finance on Wall Street, stresses the importance of radio in evangelizing and bringing the Catholic faith to listeners.

“I’m sure there is a woman in Fairfield County who is pregnant and scared and thinking about having an abortion,” he said. “And a young man who is questioning his faith and a homebound lonely grandmother with no family nearby. We will bring them the truth and beauty and goodness of the Catholic faith. We can help that young mother, that young man and that grandmother. We can bring Christ to them. We will do it because we have a mandate, a duty as Catholics, to evangelize.”

The mission of Veritas Catholic Network, he said, is to share the truth of the Gospel and fullness of the Catholic faith by broadcasting faithful and entertaining programs on multiple media platforms.

“Catholic radio is a consistent, steady, faithful teacher, and our broadcast will be available day and night,” Lee said. “People will be able to encounter Christ through what we bring them.”

Lee cited research that suggested 93 percent of Americans 12 and older listen to terrestrial radio every week and that 82 percent of media consumers 18 and older prefer AM/FM radio.

“There is a great market here, with 400,000 Catholics,” he said. “Our diocese benefits from an outstanding bishop and strong priests, but like Catholics everywhere, there is a need for a new evangelization that spreads the faith. We hope to extend the Sunday experience out to all seven days so that Catholics in the diocese can become more involved and more educated.”

A survey of 1100 EWTN listeners showed that 56 percent said Catholic radio helped them teach their children, 58 percent increased the amount of time they give to others, and 51 percent became more involved in their parishes. In addition, 127 respondents said it helped save their marriages, 78 converted to Catholicism and 129 considered a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

“Catholic radio has had remarkable effects on society, particularly in Catholic communities,” Lee said. “There are conversions to the Church, a deeper understanding of Catholic teaching among the faithful, a strengthening of Catholic families, support for Catholic schools and parishes, as well as for Catholic business owners who provide underwriting for these stations.”

There are currently 380 EWTN affiliates in the United States. After operations begin in Fairfield County, Lee hopes the network can expand further into Westchester County and New York City and eventually throughout Connecticut.

Lee and his wife, Roula, whom he credits with providing him spiritual and moral support for his initiative, live in Ridgefield with their three children.

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Walking in His Footsteps

Those who read the four Gospels and understand the power of the messages each Gospel carries has the opportunity to grow more deeply in faith. There is, according to the late Benedictine monk, Father Bargil Pixner, a fifth Gospel. Whereas the first four record the life of Jesus, the fifth invites you to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

From July 18-27 2019, The Leadership Institute invites those between 19 and 35 to visit this “fifth Gospel” and travel to the Holy Land to study Sacred Scriptures and the life of our Lord and Savior. Beginning in Bethlehem and ending in Jerusalem, the pilgrimage will follow the life of Christ chronologically. The trip will also include a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee, a visit to the Mount of Beatitudes, and day in Capernaum, where Jesus taught and performed many signs of wonder.

“Pilgrims will celebrate Mass together each day, take turns leading reflections, and participate in classes that assist in their faith development,” said Bishop Caggiano, who accompanied the young adults for the 2018 pilgrimage in January. “This year’s pilgrimage was moved from March, when it was originally scheduled, to July. Our hope is that moving the pilgrimage to the summer will allow more of our school teachers to participate.”

“My own pilgrimage experience was a powerful week of reflection, prayer and spiritual growth,” said Grace Shay, who participated in the 2018 pilgrimage and will help guide the 2019 pilgrims on their journey. “There is something very special about traveling with others who are energized on the trip, but also working to navigate what it means to be a faithful disciple back home.”

Shay’s desire to grow in her faith was one of the reasons she took part in the inaugural pilgrimage. “There is no better way to continue our Catholic education and explore the foundations of our Catholic identity than by traveling to the source of our faith.”

Another one of the original pilgrims, Marcelle Morrisey, agreed. “We were in the same spot, physically and mentally, that the disciples were in. They had to figure out what they were going to do next. They had to muster up the courage to step out and be the witnesses they were called to be, which is exactly what my fellow pilgrims and I were called to do after what we experienced on our trip.”

Looking ahead, Shay hopes that other young adults will join the 2019 journey. “This is a chance for a personal encounter with the Lord,” Shay said. “Challenge yourself to grow more deeply in your faith in the place where it all began. Feel the breeze of the Sea of Galilee, read the Gospels among the olive trees and attend Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – and risk having your life turned upside down.”

“The cost is $3,500 per person,” according to Patrick Donovan, executive director of The Leadership Institute, which sponsors the pilgrimage. “This includes just about everything pilgrims will need.” Some scholarship money is available, and the complete registration process and scholarship information can be found on the Institute’s website,

“Many of those who traveled with the bishop last year still get together to pray and study,” Donovan said, “Those who were friends before we left have only grown stronger and those who were strangers when we departed quickly became friends. One of the beautiful things about pilgrimages is the lasting impact the journey has on those who participate. I anticipate that will be no different this year. In fact, post-pilgrimage meetings are built into our schedule.”

“The bishop invites those that fall in this target age to consider joining the pilgrimage,” Donovan said. “I know it is a sacrifice to miss work or to try to arrange to be away from school, which is why we changed our plans from March to July. But the benefits far outweigh the costs. To wake up each day and find yourself walking in the footsteps of Jesus is a powerful antidote to the busyness in which we so often find ourselves.”

To learn more about the journey or how you can help sponsor participants, please email

Heroic Navy Chaplain Armed Only With Faith

Monsignor Stephen M. DiGiovanni, historian, author and pastor of The Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, tells the compelling story of Father Capodanno’s life, his missionary work in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and his service as chaplain during the Vietnam War, in a new book titled, “Armed with Faith: The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M.”

Servant of God Father Capodanno, who died at 38 on a hill in Vietnam during a fierce firefight on September 4, 1967, stands as an example for priests in our troubled time. A Navy chaplain, he often said that where his men were he wanted to be. He shared the hardships and the deprivations of war with them and was known among Marines as “the Grunt Padre.”

Throughout his 16 months in Vietnam, he was a humble hero, who never told his family about the military awards and decorations he received. He was a priest so committed to his Marines and to his faith that he ultimately died for them and was posthumously awarded our nation’s highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. Now, he is being considered for a much higher honor — sainthood.

Vincent Capodanno was the youngest of ten children and named after his father, a native of Gaeta, Italy, who came to the United States in 1901 and worked as a ship caulker in New York City. Vincent attended P.S. 44 on Staten Island, where his classmates voted him “Best Looking” and “Best Dresser.” At the time, he wanted to be a doctor and he claimed as his motto, “Do a good turn daily.”

After graduating from Curtis High School, he began taking night classes at Fordham University. He attended daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration in the evening, and by the summer of 1949, he considered applying to the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, known as Maryknoll. He was inspired by the stories of missionaries that he read in the society’s magazine, The Field Afar.

Vincent Capodanno was ordained on June 14, 1958 by Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York, and began his new life as a priest in Maryknoll, which actor Gene Autry famously described as “the Marine Corps of the Catholic Church,” Msgr. DiGiovanni said.

After seven years of missionary work in Taiwan and briefly in Hong Kong, he asked to be assigned as a Navy chaplain, and on December 28, 1965, he received a commission as lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps. Soon after, he was sent to Vietnam.

On September 3, 1967, Father Capodanno said Mass in a village near Da Nang before moving out with the Marines on Operation Swift in the Que Song Valley.

A fierce battle began without warning, when a few companies of Marines confronted a regiment of 2,500 North Vietnamese. Two platoons of M Company from Father Capodanno’s battalion were being overrun by the enemy.

Eyewitnesses recalled that through the intense fighting, Father Capodanno was running unarmed from one wounded Marine to another on the battlefield to administer last rites, encourage them, tend to their wounds and pull them to safety.

He was wounded by rifle fire and then an exploding mortar shell. His arms and legs were bleeding and part of his right hand had been blown off, but he refused assistance from a corpsman and told him instead to help the others. He refused to leave the battle even though he was bleeding and choking from tear gas.

In his eulogy at Father Capodanno’s funeral, his friend and fellow chaplain Eli Takesian told the congregation, “Hearing the fatal news, a young Marine tearfully came to me and asked, ‘If life meant so much to Chaplain Capodanno, then why did he allow his own to be taken?’ ‘The answer is in your question,’ I replied. ‘It was precisely because he loved life—the lives of others —that he so freely gave of himself.’ His was the pilgrimage of a saint. Even to the end, he faithfully held to the precept of Our Lord that ‘greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.’”

Msgr. DiGiovanni’s book is a moving account of bravery and faith and Father Capodanno’s unselfish concern for servicemen in the struggle of battle. It is the story of a man who eschewed the glories of the world to follow Christ, even unto death. Equally important, Father Capodanno stands as an inspirational example of everything that Christ intended a Catholic priest to be.

Msgr. DiGiovanni had been asked to serve as the chairman of the historical commission of Father Capodanno’s cause for sainthood by Archbishop for the Military Services USA Timothy Broglio

For more information about Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno, visit

By Joe Pisani

KofC 4th Degree Assembly Presented Civic Award

NORWALK, Conn. – Knights of Columbus’ Bishop Fenwick 4th Assembly #100 has been awarded the Supreme Council’s Civic Award. The Assembly is comprised of Fourth Degree Knights from various councils in Norwalk, Wilton and Westport.

The Assembly was presented with the award by Connecticut District Master Allyn Temple at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury.

The Supreme Civic Award is presented as a tribute to the spirit of patriotism and national pride exemplified in the patriotic activities conducted by all 4th Degree Assemblies. “Our #1 goal as an Assembly is to promote patriotism, support our veterans and defend our Catholic faith,” said Faithful Navigator George Ribellino, Jr. Assembly 100 is very active in such events as Columbus Day festivities, raising money for Veterans organizations including Homes for the Brave, American Legion and Fisher House CT and paying tribute to those men and women who have and still protect our freedoms in the United States.

Knights of Columbus Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100 is hosting its Third Annual Patriot Dinner on Saturday May 11, 2018 at 7p to benefit the Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes in Bridgeport. The fundraiser dinner will take place at the Knights Hall at St. Ann Club on 16 Hendricks Ave in Norwalk. Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes (FS: FH) is Connecticut’s first and only community-based transitional home exclusively for homeless female Veterans and their young children. Housed at the Nicholas A. Madaras Home, FS: FH provides ten beds for female Veterans and five beds, when available, for their young children. Since opening in 2011, the program helps female Veterans by meeting their needs for a safe, secure home and adequate food, and by empowering residents to move forward with their long-term goals: obtaining permanent housing, achieving financial stability, and working toward greater self-determination. Each resident works with a Case Manager to develop personal, housing, and employment goals. ABRI vocational staff coach residents in the job search process, including resume writing, interview techniques, computer training, and other life skills For those interested in attending this fundraiser dinner, please go to to make reservations. No walk-ins, reservations required.

In addition, the Assembly assists the youth in the city of Norwalk by making a donation to the Norwalk Public Safety Cadets since they assist with the serving, set up and clean up for the Patriot Dinner.

“I am so excited for our third annual Patriot Dinner fundraiser to help our Veterans who have defended our freedom and way of life. If you are interested sign up quickly since limited seating is available,” said Ribellino.

Knights of Columbus Bishop Fenwick Assembly 100 4th Degree Knights of Columbus, is based in Norwalk, CT since 1914. The Fourth Degree is the outgrowth and culmination of the desire of the Members to manifest their love for country and pride in their Catholic American heritage. In 1882, the Reverend Michael J. McGivney had founded the Knights of Columbus to provide mutual aid and assistance to its members and their families. At that time the Order had only three Degrees exemplifying the principles of Charity, Unity and Fraternity. In compliance with the wishes of the body as a whole, the national board of directors met in August 1899 and approved the addition of a Fourth Degree to the work of the Knights of Columbus. The new ritual was adopted on the 9th of December and went into effect in 1900 with its primary purpose to foster the spirit of patriotism through the demonstration of one’s love for its country and by responsible citizenship. It is the highest Degree in the Knights of Columbus, giving a greater knowledge and appreciation for our Catholic heritage. For more information, go to

Bishop’s Christmas Op-ed

Now that Christmas Day has arrived, we can look back on the last few weeks and appreciate how truly hectic they have been for many of us. We managed competing obligations that demanded our time and attention, often making it difficult to immerse ourselves in the true meaning of Christmas and the many blessings of this season.

The distractions we face are also tied up in a net of our own making, given our growing dependence on cell phones, emails and social media that are always buzzing and demanding our immediate attention. Even the landscape of public discourse, that has grown more polarized and even militarized via social media, is a growing distraction, rendering us unable to access unbiased information with which we can understand the depth of the challenges we face in our contemporary society.

Given our lives filled with such distractions, how do we discover and enjoy the true meaning of Christmas? How can we build a personal and communal spiritual life in the midst of such constant “noise”? As I reflect upon my own busy and sometimes distracted life, it seems to me that these questions will not have an answer unless we intentionally rediscover the power and necessity of silence.

For it is in the quiet whispers found deep within our hearts that God speaks powerfully to you and me. It is in the quiet that God reminds us that He is always with us, inviting us to draw closer to Him. For the child of Bethlehem is Emmanuel, which means “God-is-with-Us.”

If we summon the courage to face the power of silence, we will also rediscover a new clarity of vision. In Proverbs 29:18, we read, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” Other translations of this proverb are more direct. They suggest that people perish when they lack a common vision. While this admonition clearly applies to the responsibility shared by leaders of all faiths, it is a question that each person must address in his or her own life.

Perhaps Christmas, more than most times of the year, offers us a glimpse into a vision that can transcend political and personal divisions. Its meaning is universal and enduring: peace on earth, goodwill to men and women, and hope for the world because of God’s love for us!

As Christians, we celebrate this great festival of love, and we find ourselves joining the shepherds and the magi as we adore the infant in the manger who is love incarnate. Who are we to receive such a divine gift from our God who loves us so unconditionally that He walks with those whom He created?

However, to welcome the gift of God’s love born in Bethlehem, we must be able to recognize His presence. This means we need to turn down the volume of the noise around us, allowing silence and true rest to enter our lives. Can you remember the last time you took a few hours to just sit and reflect? In the silence of your soul, are you willing to let go of whatever anger and resentment you may be feeling, and replace it with the light of God’s love?

The Christian mystic, St. John of the Cross, once taught: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” At first glance, it may seem strange that he makes no mention of orthodox faith, faithful attendance at Mass or even observance of the commandments as the main criteria for judgment, as important as they are. However, all these righteous and necessary acts must flow from a life that has encountered, embraced and lived love fully in every circumstance that we find ourselves. For if they do not flow from love, they will not give honor and glory to our God, who is Love Himself.

We encounter many people who have good intentions and believe that they are doing the right things but act without love. Such people may seem righteous, but their efforts will bear little lasting fruit. In our digital world, where we are encouraged to “react” to anyone who has offended us, we should pause and reflect. We must learn to resist the temptation to lash out in anger or vent our frustrations. In the face of hatred and division, we must learn to stop, take a moment to sit in silence and offer only love in return. Those are the “actions” that can help us to rebuild our fractured society.

There is no doubt that we will face many challenges in 2019, for each of us personally, as a nation and as a community. In this Christmas season, let us reject all division, anger and contempt that is found in our world. Let us seek to love our neighbor as the Lord loves us and leave everything else behind.

Pope’s Christmas Wish

By Courtney Grogan | CNA

Vatican City, Dec 25, 2018 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Christmas, Pope Francis prayed for peace and renewed brotherhood in Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and other parts of the world experiencing conflict.

“May all of us receive peace and consolation from the birth of the Savior and, in the knowledge that we are loved by the one heavenly Father, realize anew that we are brothers and sisters and come to live as such,” Pope Francis said from the center loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his “Urbi et Orbi” blessing, Pope Francis said his Christmas wish is for brotherhood among people with different ideas that they might have the capability of listening to one another.

“By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures,” he explained.

The pope prayed in particular for Israelis and Palestinians to “resume dialogue and undertake a journey of peace.” He expressed hope that the truce brokered by the international community in Yemen may bring relief to “people exhausted by war and famine.”

“Without the fraternity that Jesus Christ has bestowed on us, our efforts for a more just world fall short, and even our best plans and projects risk being soulless and empty,” he said.

Francis called upon the international community to “work decisively for a political solution” in Syria without “partisan interests” so that Syrian refugees can “return to live in peace in their own country.”

“May the Child Jesus allow the beloved and beleaguered country of Syria once again to find fraternity after these long years of war,” Pope Francis prayed.

Pointing to the recent rapprochement between North and South Korea, Pope Francis prayed that Christmas may “consolidate the bonds of fraternity uniting the Korean peninsula,” enabling leaders to reach solutions “capable of ensuring the development and well-being of all.”

Francis also called for reconciliation and fraternity in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Ukraine, and countries in Africa where refugees are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The pope asked that God grant religious minorities around the world recognition of their rights, particularly the right to religious freedom.

“A particular thought goes to our brothers and sisters who celebrate the Birth of the Lord in difficult, if not hostile situations, especially where the Christian community is a minority, often vulnerable or not taken into account,” he said.

After the Christmas blessing, the great bell of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out in celebration of Christ’s birth. The campanone bell is only rung on the solemnities of Christmas, Easter, and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

Pope Francis called on the 50,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to silently contemplate Christ’s nativity.

He said, “Like the shepherds who first went with haste to the stable, let us halt in wonder before the sign that God has given us: ‘A baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ In silence, let us fall to our knees and worship.”

Commentary: Is Anyone ‘Ready’ for Christmas?

Denver, Colo., Dec 21, 2018 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- After communion at Mass this morning, our parish school choir began one of my favorite hymns.

The first line filled my heart.

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.”

It was darling to hear those solemn words intoned by the cherubic voices of third and fourth graders, already giddy for Christmas break to begin.

I looked at my wife and smiled– at her, at the baby in her arms, and at the thought of our older children kneeling in prayer with their classes, indistinguishable in the sea of plaid jumpers and navy sweaters, somewhere in the pews ahead of us.

The moment felt to me like the end of Advent should feel– Christ is coming, our family will be together, work and school and activities will be put on hold for a few days of feasting, and resting.

But then the school choir sang the next lines:

“Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in His hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to demand.”

I realized then that I had spent most of Mass pondering “earthly-minded” things.

I had been thinking about the work I had to get done before Christmas could begin. I had been thinking about the presents I still wanted to buy. I had been thinking about friends I hoped to see, and books I hoped to read over Christmas break, and for a while, I had gotten sidetracked thinking about why our den is so drafty and what I can do about it.

None of that seemed to me like “full homage” of Christ, our God. If God was demanding that I should be thinking only of celestial things- of angels and saints, perhaps- I was failing.

My warm feelings about Advent eroded quickly. My mortal flesh had not kept silent. I was not, I realized, ready, in a spiritual way, for Christmas.

But the extraordinary thing about Christmas is that no one was ready for it. Mary and Joseph were not ready to be expecting a baby. Bethlehem innkeepers were not ready to welcome the Holy Family. Herod was not ready to receive the news that the Messiah had come.

Christmas came- Christ came- no matter who was ready.

There’s a reason for this. The reason is that while Christ warns us to be ready- ready for his coming, ready for our deaths, ready for our judgment- Christ also is the one who makes us ready.

We cannot be ready for the things that matter most unless Christ has come into our lives, and transformed them.

We cannot be ready to respond to hatred with love unless Christ has tamed our tongues and quieted our hearts. We cannot be ready to give without counting the cost unless, in Christ, we know that self-denial gives us real joy. We cannot be ready to go out and make disciples unless Christ has made us disciples.

And we cannot be ready to give up pondering “earthly-minded” things unless Christ has lifted our sights, transformed our vision, filled us with a love that consumes all else.

That transformation takes a lifetime. It is the transformation of becoming a saint. We have a part to play. Mostly our part is to ask for grace, to try, to fail, to repent and try again. To trust that our efforts are not in vain, and that, by grace, our habits will become virtues and our virtues will perfect our intellects, our appetites, and our wills.

But all of that starts with Christ. With grace. With his coming into our lives- through the sacraments, and Scripture, and the Church- just as he came into the world in Bethlehem.

In his 2010 Christmas homily, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that in the Christmas message, two “elements belong together: grace and freedom, God’s prior love for us, without which we could not love him, and the response that he awaits from us, the response that he asks for so palpably through the birth of his son.”

He continued: “God has anticipated us with the gift of his Son. God anticipates us again and again in unexpected ways. He does not cease to search for us, to raise us up as often as we might need. He does not abandon the lost sheep in the wilderness into which it had strayed. God does not allow himself to be confounded by our sin. Again and again he begins afresh with us. But he is still waiting for us to join him in love. He loves us, so that we too may become people who love, so that there may be peace on earth.”

Things start small. With a glimpse of hope, or a moment of self-mastery- with an act of charity that surprises us, or a moment of clarity we didn’t expect. Faith grows. Hope grows. Love grows.

God doesn’t move in our lives because we are perfect, God moves in our lives to make us perfect.

We may not be ready for Christmas, but Jesus Christ is ready for us.

By JD Flynn | Catholic News Agency

Being Holy Brings Joy, Pope Tells Vatican Employees

VATICAN CITY—This Christmas will people go to adore and be amazed by Jesus, or will they let themselves be detoured by distractions? Pope Francis asked.

In fact, one sign of holiness is being able to “be astonished, to feel wonder before God’s gifts, his ‘surprises.’ And the greatest gift, the ever-new surprise is Jesus,” he told Vatican employees and their family members during a meeting Dec. 21 in the Paul VI audience hall.

The pope continued a tradition he began in 2014 of offering Christmas greetings to people who work at the Vatican. The special audience comes right after a longer-held tradition of the pope meeting with officials of the Roman Curia.

Christmas cheer was in the air as Vatican employees and their families, many dressed in festive clothes, greeted the pope and gave him Christmas cards, gifts and hugs.

Christmas is the season of joy because the source of true joy — Christ the savior — has come, the pope said.

“But often we realize that people and perhaps we ourselves are caught up in so many things and, in the end, there is no joy or, if there is, it is very superficial. Why?” he asked.

Joy, he said, comes from being holy or at least trying to be good, being close to Jesus and letting oneself be touched by wonder and “contaminated” by the joy that surrounds him.

Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and all the others gathered at the manger, gazing at the Christ child, are “overflowing with holiness and, therefore, with joy,” he said.

Mary and Joseph had so many things to worry about, but they were happy because “they welcomed this gift from God with so much faith and so much love.”

He told the employees that his wish for them this Christmas was “to be saints, to be happy.”

People must not be superficial saints, just “normal saints,” that is, people who are holy even with all their defects and sins because “we ask for forgiveness and go forward,” he said.

It takes just a little to be on the road to holiness, he said, just a small ray of sunshine, “a smile, some attention, a favor, saying sorry.”

Little things like that make the workplace “more breathable,” too, he said. It lightens up that stifling environment “we create with our arrogance, closed-mindedness and prejudices, and people even work better” with better results.

The pope reminded them to avoid criticizing others behind their backs. If something is bothering them, they should confront the person directly and speak frankly, he said, or else just bite their tongue.

Do not gossip or backstab, he said, because it destroys “friendships and spontaneity.”

With this being his sixth Christmas at the Vatican, the pope said he has gotten to know many holy people who work there.

They are “saints who live the Christian life well. If they do something bad, they apologize. But they go forward,” he said, adding, “you can live this way. It is a grace and it is very beautiful.”

Often these saints “who live next door” are hard to notice because they are modest, do their jobs well and work well with others, he said.

“And they are joyful people, not because they are always laughing, no, but because they are very serene inside and they know how to spread it to others. And where does that serenity come from? Always from him, Jesus.”

“We are not afraid of holiness,” the pope said. “I can tell you, it is the path of joy.”

By Carol Glatz  |  Catholic News Service

The Boss’s “Confessions”

Those who are not fans of Bruce Springsteen might be surprised to find that Catholic themes and imagery reside deeply in the music and the life story of a man who is a pop superstar.

His most riveting songs are haunted by a sense of sin, forgiveness and redemption as he spins tales of blue-collar families living on edge of violence and poverty; tortured souls often riddled with guilt over their decisions and actions.

Many who missed “Springsteen on Broadway” can now see it on Netflix, but for a deeper treatment of his themes and ghosts, it is worth dusting of his 2016 autobiography, Born to Run (Simon and Schuster), where his Catholic sensibility moves over to the printed page as he discusses the emotions and experience behind much of his best known work.

The reader is barely 12 pages into the 500-page book, when he is surprised by a chapter titled, “The Church.” We learn that Springsteen grew up in the shadows of St. Rose of Lima Church in Freehold, served as an altar boy, attended the school– and could barely wait to escape the parochial confinement of the late 50’s and early 1960’s, only to come to a realization that you can run but you can’t hide:

“As I grew older, there were certain things about the way I thought, reacted, behaved. I came to ruefully and bemusedly understand that once you’re a Catholic you’re always a Catholic. So I stopped kidding myself. I don’t often participate in my religion but I know somewhere deep inside I’m still on the team.”

Living across from the Church imbued him with a sense of the sacramental rhythm of life in the weddings, communions and funerals he witnessed as a young boy. His first marriage, to actress Julianne Philips, was held at Our Lady of the Lady of the Lake Church Oswego, Oregon in 1985.

“In Catholicism there existed the poetry, danger and darkness that reflected my imagination and my inner self. As a young adult I tried to make sense of it… that there are souls to lose and a kingdom of love to be gained. As funny as it sounds, I have a personal relationship with Jesus. He remains one of my fathers… I believe deeply in his love, his ability to save…”

The central pivot in Springsteen’s personal and artistic identity is the wounded relationship between him and his father. He writes movingly about his father’s menacing silence that occasionally would erupt into rage. The chapter on the death of his father, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder later in life, is the most moving and powerful in the book. Both men reached an accommodation later in life, a spiritual healing. In one of the final chapters, Springsteen notes that the song “My Father’s House,” is the best song he’s written about his father and reprints this verse:

My father’s house shines hard and bright
It stands like a beacon calling me in the night
Calling and calling so cold and alone
Shining cross the dark highway
Where our sins lie unatoned.

The sacrament of baptism washes through his lyrics and songs, where people frequently head to the river for renewal. “Racing in the Streets” ends with the lines: “ Tonight my baby and me we’re gonna ride to the sea, and wash these sins off our hands.” In “The River,” a couple locates the ebb and flow of their troubled relationship in the trips they take to the river: “We’d go down to the river And into the river we’d dive, Oh down to the river we’d ride.”

Readers just in it for stories about the music and the E Street Band will not be disappointed, but fans may get more than they bargained for in his near harrowing revelations about his struggles with intimacy, his need for control and bouts of depression.

There is also a stunning passage about his own personal isolation in light of the adulation he experiences. On one cross-country auto trip at the age of 32, he and his friend stop at a small Texas town where a Mexican community is celebrating.

“From nowhere, a despair overcomes me. I feel an envy of these men and women in their late summer ritual, the small pleasures that bind them and this town together. … All I can think of is that I want to be amongst them, of them, and I know I cant. I can only watch. That’s what I do. I watch and I record. I do not engage.”

In some ways the book is the “Confessions” of a man with profound spiritual depths alongside an intense awareness of his own flaws and divided nature. The singer/songwriter known to millions at “The Boss,” an adept drill sergeant of his band, admits he came to realize that he had no control over his personal life: he is not sure he can love or is worthy of being loved.

Like many Catholics of his generation, Springsteen left the Church. What is it they couldn’t find in the Church? What is it they couldn’t totally leave behind?

In the last chapter, he slips into the remembrance of himself as a St. Rose of Lima schoolboy dressed in green blazer and ivory shirt, reciting the Lord’s Prayer. His closing paragraph offers the prayer on the printed page, “Our Father, who art in heaven…” in effect, asking the reader to join him in the mystery and continuity.

He unexpectedly repeats that same stunning moment on stage at the end of his Netflix concert, when he refers again to his Catholic boyhood and recites the “Our Father,” just moments after he has referred to his life work as “my long, noisy prayer.”

How does the Church reunite the boy and the man, the prodigal sons and daughters who went elsewhere in their search for meaning?

Springsteen may have been “born to run,” but he couldn’t quite out run his own emptiness. In some sense, the book is about rebuilding faith—faith in himself and others. Ultimately it’s a humbling message and a recognition of the power of the spiritual life.

St. Catherine Academy Brings Message of an Angel

FAIRFIELD— Parents and friends of Saint Catherine Academy were treated to a spirited and joyful Christmas pageant this morning in the school auditorium in Fairfield.

Two hundred turned out for the annual “The Message of an Angel,” pageant performed by academy students who are impacted with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“What we witnessed today is the finest homily about Christmas I’ve ever seen,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano, who congratulated the students for their singing and reverent portrayal of the Nativity.

“This is the season when many of us search for the perfect gift. Let us not forget that the gift of Christmas is the only one that really matters, and the students have given us all a beautiful gift today.”

St. Catherine student Anna Stowe narrated the pageant while Jennifer Molina portrayed Mary and Jaheim Hamlette played the role of Joseph.

This year’s production featured a live Baby Jesus, Ella Fitzgerald, who won the heart of the audience. New to the production this year was also a memorable sequence in which the narrator called each of the actors by name and asked, “What is your gift this Christmas for Jesus?”

One by one the young men and women came forward and offered the gifts of themselves: “Joy, singing, helping, smiling, loving…”

“Enthusiasm,” said one young man who danced for joy on his way back to his place in the choir.

After the 14-member cast processed up a dramatic ramp in the center of the hall, the production began with “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

The audience enjoyed concert favorites including “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “Let There be Peace on Earth,” and “Joy to the World,” and joined the students in singing “Silent Night.” Heavy rain drummed the roof in between songs.

The cast finished the production with the audience favorite, “Feliz Navidad.”

Other cast members included Jennifer Molina, Jack Crowell, Luke Norris, Philip Palilla, Ronald Scott, Briana Beliard, Tanisha Delgado, Lizabeth Gonzalez, Nyah Holmes, Lindsy Paul, Fabricio Almeida, Frank Maldonado, Herbierto Moya, and Donte Dedrick.

The production was written by Sister Eileen Boffa, RSM, and directed by Sister Cheryl Driscoll, RSM.

Fairfield University Quick Center provided the lighting, and St. Catherine’s also received support from the St. Patrick’s Council of the Knights of Columbus, volunteers from the Order of Malta, and its Board of Directors.

The bishop praised St. Catherine Center executive director Helen Burland for her leadership. “Your leadership has allowed St. Catherine to prosper and grow.”

In her introduction to the event, Burland said the pageant is a “special occasion for the academy each year and an opportunity to showcase the talent of our students.”

She also asked all those in attendance to consider this question, “What is your gift to Jesus this year?”

“Each one of us is an innkeeper. You have to decide if there is room for Jesus,” she said.

Established in 1999 as a full-time day school for special needs students who benefit from a functional academic, social and life skills curriculum in addition to developing academic skills, St. Catherine Academy educates students ages 5-21 who are motivated to learn but unable to thrive in an inclusive setting.

St. Catherine Academy is located at 760 Tahmore Dr., Fairfield (on the grounds of Holy Cross Parish). For info call (203) 540-5381. Online at:


Photos by Amy Mortensen

Youth Choir Unites Diocesan Family in Song

BRIDGEPORT— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and more than 800 people in attendance received an early Christmas present when the Diocesan Youth Choir delivered its most accomplished and vibrant performance yet at the “Arise and Shine” Christmas Concert at the Klein Memorial Auditorium in Bridgeport on Friday evening.

In a remarkable performance the 135-member choir under the direction of Mary Bozzuti Higgins united the diocesan family and inspired all those present with a joyful and reverent celebration of Christmas.

The choir, featuring singers from grade six through seniors in college, received a standing ovation at the end of the hour-long performance, which included traditional Christmas music and contemporary classics.

Their voices lit up the first evening of the winter season as proud parents and friends recorded the performance on their cell phones and responded with thunderous applause.

“As we stand at the threshold of Christmas there is no better way to prepare than to raise our hearts in song. This has been a night of grace that we have spent together because of these young people,” the bishop said in his remarks following the concert.

“In a divided world, they have shown us what different people can do working together. In a wounded world, they have given us a taste of what it means to be healed. In a world of hatred, they have shown us the power of love,” said the bishop as he thanked the young people.

From the rousing version of “Arise and Shine” that began the concert to the reverent and resonant arrangement of “Dark is the Silent Night” that ended the program, the choir soared and seemed to gain strength from the four years that many of the members, including returning college students, have worked together.

The choir, which performed in their signature blue and white robes, sang in front of a beautiful alpine backdrop designed by J. Galt Design Backdrops.

One of the highlights of the evening was the performance of “Christ Child Noel,” which brought out members of children’s choirs from St. Theresa in Trumbull, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, and St. Matthew in Norwalk to join the larger chorus.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

This year’s concert also introduced new music with an 8-part cantata, “Were you There on That Christmas Night,” an extended and innovative movement combining different musical styles that interwove Christmas standards with contemporary songs and arrangements.

Student narrators for the cantata included Jack Smith of Fairfield Prep; Julia Rosati, St. Joseph High School; Emma Baughman, Immaculate High School; Thomas Griffin, St. Joseph High School; Odera Smart, Kolbe Cathedral High School; Evan Bean, Fairfield Prep; Gabrielle Wasco, Joel Barlow High School; and Citlalli Santiago of Kolbe Cathedral High School.

The young people’s voices also soared on “Mary Did You Know,” a contemporary classic, and “Believe,” a selection from the popular movie The Polar Express.

The young singers were backed by a gifted seven-piece ensemble including Clay Zambo, accompanist and arranger; Jessica Raposo, flute; Don O’Keefe, percussion; Nick Loafman, Trumpet; Dr. Ralph Kirmser, Oboe; Joachim Petzold, Trombone, and Robert Lenkowski, violin.

“What an accomplishment,” said Father Robert Kinnally, Chancellor of the Diocese and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, in his welcome in which he noted that the choir was formed four years ago, as a “dream of our bishop.”

Mary Bozzuti Higgins, who demonstrated why she is considered one of the premier choral directors in the state, described the young singers as “happy, joyful, and full of faith.” She said they had rehearsed for months for the annual concert and benefited from the support of many people including members of the St. Augustine Guild.

To learn more about C4Y and how to support the choir, please visit the Choir’s web page.

Reverend Monsignor Thomas J. Driscoll, P.A., 81

BRIDGEPORT—Reverend Monsignor Thomas J. Driscoll, P.A., passed away today, December 20, 2018.  He was 81 years of age.

“Monsignor Driscoll will be fondly remembered by many for his service in several leadership posts in the diocese and for his faithful witness over many decades as a priest and pastor. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Monsignor Driscoll, and for the consolation of his family,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Thomas Jerome Driscoll was born in Danbury, Connecticut, on February 15, 1937, son of Dr. Jerome and Mary Margaret (Devitt) Driscoll. Following his graduation from Danbury High School, his priestly formation began at St. Thomas Seminary College in Bloomfield, and continued at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. He was ordained to the Priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend Martin J. O’Connor in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on December 20, 1961.

He first served as Parochial Vicar of St. James Parish in Stratford, and later as Spiritual Director of the former Cathedral Girls High School in Bridgeport, before returning to Rome for studies in moral theology at the Accademia Alfonsiana.  Upon his return to the diocese, he served as Priest Secretary to Bishop Walter W. Curtis and as Vice Chancellor and Notary to the Tribunal.

In 1974, then-Father Driscoll was appointed Pastor of St. Luke Parish in Westport, where he served until 1990, at which time he was appointed Chancellor by Bishop Edward M. Egan. In 1997, he was appointed Vicar General, and served Bishop Egan and Bishop Lori in this capacity until 2012. His last assignment was as Pastor of Notre Dame of Easton Parish, where he served from 1999 until his retirement from active ministry in 2014. He also served on various boards, committees, and councils during the years of his long and varied service to Christ and the Church.

He was appointed a Prelate of Honor of His Holiness, with the title of Monsignor, by Pope St. John Paul II on August 31, 1991, and a Protonotary Apostolic supernumerary by Pope Benedict XVI on November 22, 2007.

Monsignor Driscoll’s body will be received at Saint Luke Church located at 49 North Turkey Hill Road, Westport, CT 06880, 4:00 pm on Thursday, December 27 and will lie in repose until the Vigil Mass at 7:00 pm. Monsignor Thomas W. Powers will be the celebrant, and Monsignor Laurence R. Bronkiewicz will be the homilist.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Funeral Mass at 11:00 am on Friday, December 28, and Monsignor Charles Murphy will be the homilist.

Condolences may be sent to Monsignor Driscoll’s brothers, Alfred F. Driscoll, 9154 Beaver Brook Way, Charlotte, NC 28277 and Jerome Driscoll, 6 Shady Knolls, Danbury, CT 06811.

Tickets available for tonight’s Christmas Concert

BRIDGEPORT—  Tickets are still available online and at the door for the “Arise and Shrine” Christmas Concert set for Friday night, 7:30 pm at the Klein Memorial in Bridgeport.

Now in its fourth season, the Arise and Shine concert performed by the Diocesan Youth Choir has become an evening that officially ushers in the celebration of Christmas in the diocese in a moment of beautiful song, joy and reverence.

More than 135 singers from grade six through seniors in college will perform traditional carols and contemporary favorites during this year’s concert, which will be attended by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

The bishop called for the formation of the choir in 2014 to engage young people in the Church. He has offered his thanks and praise at each concert.

“I have great gratitude for this remarkable choir and all those who attend,” said the Bishop. More than one hundred young singers will give the gift of song and of their generosity and faith. The choir celebrates the real meaning of Christmas: the gift of an encounter with God who took flesh and was born to the Virgin Mary. The concert will help us encounter the Lord Jesus.”

The choir, which has rehearsed for months in settings throughout the diocese to prepare for the concert, will be led by Mary Bozzuti-Higgins of Wilton, a member of Our Lady of Fatima Parish. A former professional opera soprano, she is highly regarded for her work in conducting large music ensembles for schools and civic groups, and is the founding director of the Diocesan Youth Choir.

This year’s concert will feature a seven-piece ensemble, including piano, oboe, flute, trumpet, violin, trombone and percussion. Beginning with the customary first piece “Arise and Shine,” Bozzuti-Higgins has also chosen singer favorites like “Mary, Did You Know? ,” a modern Christmas classic, and “Believe,” a selection from the popular movie The Polar Express.

This year, students plan to combine with three children’s choirs from local parishes—St. Theresa in Trumbull, Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton, and St. Matthew in Norwalk—to perform “Christ Child Noel.” Additionally, concert-goers will be treated to the eight-movement musical journey “Were You There on That Christmas Night?” with four C4Y narrators and two college soloists accompanying the ensemble.

A highly anticipated number is always the final selection “Dark Is the Silent Night,” performed against a backdrop set to resemble a snow-topped pine forest. As the lights descend and the piece concludes, choir members hold small candles, enhancing the mood of the dark and silent night.

In addition to the regular choir, dozens of former C4Y members will be returning from college to participate, sharing that their devotion to their faith does not end when they graduate.

“We have 40 alumni performing,” said Bozzuti-Higgins, who holds the dress rehearsal with dinner, cookie swap and gift exchange for the entire choir the evening before the concert. “It’s so much fun for them that they keep coming back!”

In sharing a devotion to their faith through a passion for their music, the youth of C4Y will surely bring joy to all those who believe in the glory of this season.

General Admission tickets are $20 until December 20, $22.25 on December 21. On December 21, tickets can be purchased only at the door of the Klein, online or by calling 800.424.0160. To learn more about C4Y, please visit the Choir’s webpage.

Shehan Center Celebrates Retirement for Terry O’Connor

STRATFORD—Over 250 guests gathered on December 17 at Vazzano’s Four Seasons in Stratford, Conn. to celebrate Terry O’Connor’s 26 years of service as executive director of the Cardinal Shehan Center and six years of service to the McGivney Community Center.

O’Connor passes the torch to Lorraine Gibbons as the new executive director of both the McGivney Community Center and Cardinal Shehan Center as of January 1. O’Connor’s son Ryan will be the new director of development.

His retirement marks the end of an era of growth and transformation at the downtown youth center sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport. Congratulations and best wishes, Terry!

The Cardinal Shehan Center is a non-profit organization located in Bridgeport. For 55 years the Center has served the recreational, educational and social needs of moderate and low-income families and young people of lower Fairfield County, particularly inner-city Bridgeport. Their mission is enriching lives through learning. This is accomplished by offering an after-school & Saturday youth development program, summer day camp, various basketball leagues, sign-up programs, physical education classes to grammar schools and alternative education programs. The Center commits itself to offering a clean, safe environment where positive, growth-enhancing opportunities are offered regardless of race or religious affiliation.

 (To find out more about the Cardinal Shehan Center visit:

Photos by Amy Mortensen

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Immaculate High School’s Kayla Mingachos Named All-American

DANBURY—Kayla Mingachos, a senior and powerhouse soccer player at Immaculate High School, was recently selected to the prestigious 2018 Fall High School Girls All-America Team by United Soccer Coaches. The Danbury resident is one of only 58 girls in the country to receive this honor. United Soccer Coaches is the world’s largest soccer coaches organization. Kayla, who plays midfield, was also named an All New England and All State First Team player for girls soccer.

Kayla was an integral part of the Immaculate girls soccer team, which ended their 2018 season 12-3-1 with an appearance in the SWC finals and the State Championship tournament, where they were runner-ups. She also was an important player for the 2017 team, which had a record of 19-1 and was named Patriot Division champs and won the SWC Championships. That was the fifth time the lady Mustangs have won the SWC title.

“I am so honored to have received the All-American award; it’s surreal to be acknowledged as one of the best players in the nation,” said Kayla. “The soccer program at Immaculate is always expected to be top in our league and the State, which inspires me to perform at my best in every practice and game. My coach, Nelson Mingachos, has pushed me and believed in me from the start which formed me into the player I am now,” she noted, adding: “Being a student at Immaculate High School has shaped me into a better person on and off the field; being a part of this special community has allowed me to grow academically as well as supplying me with lessons that I will take with me throughout my future endeavors.” Kayla, who is Coach Mingachos’ niece, will attend Quinnipiac University and play for the college’s Division 1 Women’s soccer team on an athletic scholarship. She also currently plays for CFC United.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to coach Kayla over the past four years,” said Coach Nelson Mingachos.  “As a player she is not only competitive but thoughtful of others that are less experienced. Using her knowledge of the game, she guides younger teammates to be stronger, more confident players,” he noted, adding: “Kayla has always led by example and successfully balances schoolwork with soccer. She joins many other prominent IHS student- athletes and has worked hard to deserve this prestigious accolade.”

Players on this year’s United Soccer Coaches High School All-America Teams will be recognized for their accomplishments at the All-America Ceremony & Reception on Saturday, January 12, 2019 at McCormick Place West in Chicago in conjunction with the 2019 United Soccer Coaches Convention.

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 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 parochial school system.

 (For more information, go to

Celebrating the ‘Missionary Heart’

STAMFORD—Three years ago, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano decided to enkindle the missionary spirit in the Diocese of Bridgeport by opening a Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford whose purpose is to prepare priests for missionary work anywhere in the world — from China to Europe and from the Philippines to the streets of Bridgeport.

“I asked for the seminary because my experience had been, when I was in Brooklyn, that the men who are part of the Neocatechumenal Way are deeply devout, they’re enthusiastic and they have a missionary heart. They want to evangelize,” he said. “And that’s ultimately what we are about in the Church.”

Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) seminaries are under the auspices of the Neocatechumenal Way, a 55-year-old community in the Church, dedicated to Christian formation and the New Evangelization.

Bishop Caggiano invited them to form a seminary that would develop priests who could be sent anywhere on the globe, depending on the need.

“They can be missionaries to the four corners of the Earth, missionaries in different parts of the country and missionaries in our own diocese,” he said. “To be a hero for Christ takes many different forms. You could be the pastor of a parish and really give your life in sacrifice. You can also do it by traveling the world to some distant mission or knocking on doors in Bridgeport. They remind us that we are all called to do that.”

Redemptoris Mater international seminaries were inspired by St. Pope John Paul II and his call for a “New Evangelization.” The first seminary opened in 1987 in the Diocese of Rome, and today there are 127 on five continents.

Since they began, more than 2,000 men have been ordained to the priesthood, and some 1,500 seminarians are in formation worldwide. Even though they have an international character, they function as diocesan seminaries with the same theological formation, except that the young men are also sent out to do mission work for two years.

The Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford opened in January 2016 under the direction of Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish. It was the ninth in the United States. Today there are eight young men there under the direction of Father Marco Pacciana, who serves as the rector and Father Giandomenico Flora, who is the spiritual director and also rector of St. Margaret’s Shrine in Bridgeport.

“We need priests to spread the Gospel of Christ wherever there is a need,” says Father Pacciana, who came to Stamford a year ago.

A native of Bari, Italy, he grew up in the town of Ginosa, and was introduced to the Neocatechumenal Way at age 19. From then, his life changed. He was led by the Lord to the priesthood and a strong commitment to the mission of Redemptoris Mater seminaries.

He said the Neocatechumenal Way is founded on small Christian communities in parishes worldwide. Begun in Madrid in 1964 by Spanish artist Kiko Arguello and lay missionary Carmen Hernandez, the Way has spread to 900 dioceses in 105 countries with 25,000 communities in 6,000 parishes. Its goal is the formation of Christians committed to the Word of God, the Eucharist and strengthening the Church. In the Diocese of Bridgeport, there are 15 communities in five parishes.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “The Church has recognized the Neocatechumenal Way as a special gift inspired by the Holy Spirit.”

Father Pacciana says that post-Christian society faces many of the same challenges that confronted the early disciples in the pre-Christian age.

“We are training men to go out into post-Christian society, when people have often abandoned the practice of the faith or no longer believe in God,” he says.

Father Flora, the seminary’s spiritual director, is a native of Calabria, Italy. As a seminarian, he went to different parts of the world and worked with missionary priests in Estonia and Turks and Caicos.

“I saw people struggling in their lives who found help in the Church, in the Sacraments and the World of God,” he said. “God helped me minister to the suffering in the missions despite the difficulty to communicate in other languages.”

He sees the same role for the young men at Redemptoris Mater. “I am glad to be here since the beginning,” he said. “I have seen the action of God in the opening of this seminary.”

Father Pacciana points out that the process for the approval of a Redemptoris Mater seminary can take years. However, Bishop Caggiano’s request was approved within two weeks, which to him is a sign that God wanted it here.

Teitati Barairai has been at the seminary for seven months discerning his vocation.

“I want to be a missionary wherever the Lord sends me,” he says. “Coming to America has been a new experience for me.”

Barairai comes from a family with three sons and one daughter, and his mother always prayed that one of her sons would become a priest.

“I believe this is an answer to her prayers,” he says.

Commenting on Redemptoris Mater, Bishop Caggiano said, “I am delighted that the diocesan priesthood is expanding to include these men. Some people see them as outsiders, but they are actually priests of Bridgeport, and even if they go on mission, they will come back to Bridgeport. I am also delighted that St. John Fisher Seminary and Redemptoris Mater are growing closer and closer together, and the young men are becoming comfortable with each other and growing in fraternity.”

Christmas Eve marks 200th anniversary of beloved carol ‘Silent Night’

WASHINGTON—Exactly 200 years ago this Christmas Eve—Dec. 24, 1818—in a little church in what is now Austria, the world heard for the first time a poem set to music that eventually would be hailed as one of the most popular and beloved Christmas carols of all time.

“Silent Night” was sung for the first time that Christmas Eve at a midnight Mass at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire. The lyrics were written by a young Catholic priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and the music was composed by Francis Xavier Gruber, an organist and schoolmaster.

There is a popular legend that “Silent Night” was composed because the organ at Father Mohr’s parish church, St. Nicholas, was broken.

According to the story, the priest wrote the lyrics to “Silent Night” — “Stille Nacht” in the original German — and asked Gruber to compose the tune for guitar so that there would be music at the midnight Mass.

This was all supposed to have transpired during the day of Christmas Eve of 1818, just hours before the carol was to be performed for the first time.

The truth is a little less dramatic.

Father Mohr wrote the poem “Stille Nacht” in 1816 in the Austrian town of Mariapfarr, near Salzburg. Two years later, while serving at St. Nicholas Parish in Oberndorf, the priest asked Gruber to compose a melody for the words. It is not known why Father Mohr wanted to set his poem to music. Gruber composed the music and “Silent Night” did indeed premiere at the Christmas Eve Mass.

The fact that the song was performed in German at the Mass would not have been uncommon or unusual in the Austrian Empire at that time, according to Sara Pecknold, professor of practice in the history of sacred music at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

“The vernacular (the language of a particular country or region) was being used in the liturgy. Even at a sung high Latin Mass, it would have been common to use German (in the Austrian Empire) in the songs,” she said.

This, she said, was partially due to the influence of Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor who died less than 30 years before “Silent Night” was composed, and who defied the papacy and simplified the Mass and decreed other liturgical reforms in his empire.

“He certainly limited the splendor of the Latin Mass with an austere and almost Calvinistic approach to worship,” Pecknold told the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese. “So it certainly would have been proper to have a hymn sung in German accompanied by a guitar.”

The carol eventually spread its way from the small village to other parts of the Austrian Empire and eventually to the rest of the world. The attraction to the carol comes from “it’s blend of the particular and the universal,” Pecknold noted.

Father Mohr’s poem, “Stille Nacht,” was written “in the wake of tumultuous activity,” Pecknold said. “The Napoleonic Wars were still fresh in everyone’s mind, so to write a poem about stillness and peace certainly makes sense. And it speaks about the universal peace that Christ brings to all people.”

The carol’s English version begins with the words:
“Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace”

The tune composed by Gruber “is interesting because it is not very sophisticated, but composed in a very folksy style. It is basically a simple tune with a folksy, pastoral setting and an undulating melodic swing. It is not too difficult to sing,” Pecknold said.

The carol’s fame—and popularity—in the United States is due in a large part to the Rainer Family Singers, a popular early 19th-century group of traveling singers from Austria who performed the song as part of their repertoire. It is believed the group brought the song to this country during their 1839 tour here.

“Stille Nacht” was translated into the English “Silent Night” by an Episcopal priest, the Rev. John Freeman Young.

“The English translation could be a little better,” Pecknold conceded. The original “Stille Nacht” has six verses. The English translation only has three—the first, second and sixth verses of the original.

According to the Stille Nacht Association, an Austrian-based organization dedicated “to make the song, its origin and its message resonate in the hearts and minds of locals and visitors from all over the world, “the carol is universally beloved.

“By the turn of the (20th) century ‘Silent Night’ was being sung on all continents, brought to the far reaches of the globe by Catholic and Protestant missionaries. Today we are aware of translations into more than 300 languages and dialects,” the organization notes on its website.

The carol is believed to have caused a somewhat miraculous and well-documented Christmas truce during World War I.

On Christmas Eve 1914, British and French troops were encamped in trenches in a faceoff against German troops in Ypres in Flanders, Belgium. The two sides began singing Christmas carols to each other, and “Silent Night” was the only song all the combatants knew.

Singing the song together broke the ice and led to a temporary cease-fire with soldiers from both sides meeting in the middle “No Man’s Land” to trade tobacco and candy, play soccer and sing carols.

As it marks its 200th anniversary, “Silent Night” remains as popular as ever. Bing Crosby’s 1935 recording of the carol is the third biggest-selling single record in history; his 1942 recording of “White Christmas” holds the No. 1 spot.

A Time magazine survey found the song to be the most recorded Christmas carol, with “Joy to the World” a distant second. In 2011, the UNESCO declared “Silent Night” an honored part of “our intangible cultural heritage.”

A 2016 worldwide survey of choral directors found “Silent Night” to be one of the 25 greatest Christmas carols of all time.

“We sing songs like ‘Silent Night’ because there is something about Christ’s infancy that takes us deeper into the mystery of the Incarnation,” Pecknold said. “We sing because there is something about the human voice in song that expresses something very intimate about ourselves and our joy.”

By Richard Szczepanowski | Catholic News Service

The Face of Prayer Adds Seven Catechists at NCCYM

TAMPA—Over the three-day National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministry (NCCYM) in Tampa, Fla., Emma Ryder, coordinator for The Face of Prayer, met with seven new catechists to answer questions posed by young people about the Church and their faith. The new faces coming to the site include Catholic speaker, artist and author, Chris Padgett; Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter, Sarah Hart; professor of pastoral leadership at Graduate Theological Foundation, Dr. Ansel Augustine; director of the Hispanic Catholic Charismatic Center and pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in the Archdiocese of New York, Father Joseph Espaillat II; and three Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Sr. Faustina Ferko, Sr. Josephine Garrett, and Sr. Emmanuela Le.

The addition of these seven catechists will make for a total of thirty on the site, with more to be added in the New Year. Together they answered thirty-six questions about staying faithful, facing adversity, Mary, Church teaching, Church history, the Eucharist, prayer, relationship with God, religious life and suffering.

With two hundred videos on the site since launching in September, The Face of Prayer continues to reach new milestones. Three thousand people around the country receive a daily prayer intention from Bishop Caggiano by texting PRAY to 55778, with more receiving the intention via email. Hundreds of prayer requests are received on a monthly basis. And teachers and youth ministers have been using the videos and resources in their practice.

(To learn more about all the catechists and watch their videos visit

St. Aloysius Participates in ‘Love Your Neighbor’ Food Drive

NEW CANAAN—St. Aloysius Knights of Columbus, Confirmation students, and teens from the youth group collected and delivered bags of groceries to the New Canaan Food Pantry.

St. Aloysius has a mission of engaging high school teens in service to their brothers and sisters in need.

St. Aloysius youth ministry are a part of Bishop Caggiano’s Catholic Service Corps which aims to foster Catholic identity by uniting young people to be the face of Christ in service to others.

Service opportunities include: midnight/breakfast runs to feed the homeless in NYC, service in the New Covenant House of Hospitality Soup Kitchen and the Thomas Merton Food Pantry, work with children in need through Breakthrough Options in Norwalk, Thorpe Family Residence in the Bronx, Missionaries of Charity in Bridgeport, relationships with individuals with special needs through St. A’s Buddies ministry and MORE!

Mission trip opportunities are offered twice a year, as are special dramatic presentations through Religious Education/Vacation Bible School and the annual presentation of the Living Stations of the Cross during Lent for the parish.

It is the desire of St. A’s youth ministry to bring teens together with the many faith filled young Catholics in the diocese who are striving to life a Christ-centered life.

Information on upcoming opportunities can be found on the parish website at:, in the bulletin and on the St. Aloysius Catholic Church Youth Ministry Facebook page.

(For more information please contact Chris Otis at: or 203.652.1154.)

A Very ‘Immaculate’ Christmas!

DANBURY—“We were glad that our neighboring families and their friends were able to join us in celebrating the wonderful joys of the Christmas season,” said president of Immaculate High School, Mary Maloney, of the “A Very Immaculate Christmas!” concert and tree lighting which took place on Sunday, December 2.

The event featured seasonal performances by Immaculate High School’s acapella group, mixed and concert choirs, guitar ensemble and concert band, as well as a special guest performance by the choir from St. Joseph School in Danbury.

In addition to hot cocoa and festive cookies, guests enjoyed a special lighting of a Christmas tree and a visit from Santa Claus.

“The voices of our choirs, ensemble group and guest children’s choir group captured the hearts of all in attendance,” said principal Mary Maloney.

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 allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others. Immaculate High School is located at 73 Southern Blvd. Danbury, CT 06810. Online at

U.S. Catholics Prepare for ‘9 Days for Life’ Campaign

WASHINGTONOn January 14, 2019, thousands of Catholics across the country will join in prayer for “9 Days for Life.” The prayer campaign, sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, leads up to the annual Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children. The novena and day of prayer are a time of recollection and reparation in observation of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal throughout the United States.

The overarching intention of the novena is that all human life will be respected. Each day of the “9 Days for Life” novena highlights a related topic and provides a reflection, educational information, and suggested daily actions.

Participants can subscribe to receive the daily prayers at

WHO: Since 2013 over 100,000 Catholics have joined together to pray this annual novena for the respect of human life sponsored by the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through prayer and sacrifice, we can help build a culture of life.

WHEN: 9 Days for Life will run Thursday, January 14 – Tuesday, January 22, 2019.

WHAT: is the dedicated website for joining the novena and for accessing resources. Participants can receive the novena by downloading the free 9 Days for Life app, or by subscribing to daily emails or text messages. (A printable version is also available online.) Those who join the campaign are invited to pray a multi-faceted novena that includes a new intention, brief reflection, related information, and suggested actions for each day.

WHERE: For additional information and updates on ways to get involved, please visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is an assembly of the hierarchy of the United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of the United States. The purpose of the Conference is to promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate fittingly adapted to the circumstances of time and place. This purpose is drawn from the universal law of the Church and applies to the episcopal conferences which are established all over the world for the same purpose.

(For more information, visit and Follow the USCCB on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.)

Neapolitan Presepio at St. Margaret’s Shrine

BRIDGEPORT— You will want to visit St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport after watching this short video on the “Presepio” or Nativity scene that is open to the public free of charge throughout the month of December.

St. Margaret Shrine is a beautiful place to pray and reflect any time of year, but it really comes alive in a special way during the Christmas Season. The Shrine is a hidden gem that invites prayer, reflection and reverence through its beautiful displays and devotional areas.

The Shrine’s Neapolitan “Presepio,” a beautiful nativity carved into a hillside cave, will transport the viewer to the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

“Any person who goes to see a presepio anywhere in the world goes to see the source of our joy—Jesus Christ, our Lord,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, when he blessed the newly opened presepio during a 2015 visit.

A presepio is a Nativity scene with figures depicting everyday life in Naples during the 18th century, from milkmaids to bakers, cobblers to blacksmiths. Each figure, down to the freshly baked loaves of bread and the butcher’s trimmed meats hanging on a rail, is a finely crafted miniature work of art.

The original presepio was the Nativity crèche created by St. Francis of Assisi. It spread worldwide, but none became as elaborate as those from Naples. As many Italian families settles in the Bridgeport area and supported the Shrine, they brought that tradition with them.

The Nativity scene at St. Margaret’s Shrine as designed by artist Armando Palumbo. “Growing up in Italy during World War II wasn’t easy,” recalls Palumbo. “Since we didn’t have toys or many social activities to occupy our time, my brothers and I would go out into the fields during the summer and fashion figures from fresh farm clay for the Christmas Presepio. We baked the figures in the hot summer sun and when they dried, we’d paint them.”

The Palumbo family migrated to America after the war. “During my first visit to St. Margaret’s Shrine, I knew I wanted to be part of this holy place,” says Palumbo, who has worked on many shrine projects over the years. He designed and built the twenty-foot wrought iron sculpture of Jesus on the cross that stands above the building housing the presepio.

He received authorization in early 2012 to begin the project, which included major structural work to contend with water problems, replacing the roof, and preparing the entire building before work on the presepio itself could begin. “When you see how impressive this is, you realize how much work went into it,” said Deacon Faust, the Shrine’s administrator.

The Presepio will be open for viewing during the Christmas season: Open the Month of December:
Monday thru Friday 11 – 3; Saturday 3 – 6; Sunday 9 – 12:30 . For more info, call St. Margaret’s Shrine: 203.333.9627 or email

Bishop Reflects on Saint John of the Cross

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of Saint John of the Cross, who endured great sufferings in his lifetime to help reform the Carmelite Order of which he was a member. He was also a mystic who wrote a series of texts that speak of the need for divine intimacy in our lives- an intimacy that can only be realized when we set aside all other “goods” in our life and seek the “One Good” who is God Himself. In fact, when I have quoted passages from the book Divine Intimacy, written by Father Gabriel, much of what he explores is based on the spirituality of Saint John of the Cross.

Perhaps the most famous citation in all of the writings of Saint John is also the most provocative. You may have heard some variation of it in various homilies and talks over the years. Saint John once taught: “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” At first glance , it may seem strange that he makes no mention of orthodox faith, faithful attendance at Mass or even observance of the commandments as the main criteria for judgment. However, all these righteous and necessary acts must flow from a life that has encountered, embraced and lived love fully in every circumstance that we find ourselves. For if they do not, they will not give honor and glory to our God, who is Love Himself. Sadly, we encounter many people who seemingly are doing all the right things, even working for the “reform” of the Church, but act without love. Such people may seem righteous but their efforts will bear little lasting fruit.

As we contemplate the Second Coming of the Lord, who will return to judge the living and the dead, let us contemplate the words of Saint John of the Cross. Let us reject all division, polarization, anger and contempt that is found both in the world and in our Church. Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Cross, where Love triumphed over all sin and evil.

Let us seek to love our neighbor as the Lord loves us and leave everything else behind.

Bp Frank

Newtown Residents Seek Solace at Special Services

NEWTOWN — Newtown residents and the public crowded into church pews Friday night to seek solace in their shared grief and lift up victims of the Sandy Hook shootings in prayer and song.

The annual memorial Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church — and a sister service at Congregation Adath Israel of Newtown, sponsored by the Newtown Interfaith Clergy Association — brought a solemn close to an emotional sixth anniversary that was punctuated with acts of kindness, statements of support and an early Friday bomb hoax that evacuated children at Sandy Hook School.

“It’s very dark right now but we don’t have to live in darkness,” said Monsignor Robert Weiss, the pastor of St. Rose of Lina Church, addressing several hundred families at one service. “We can turn that darkness into light by living more authentic lives.”

A highlight of the St. Rose service was a silent opening ceremony that consisted of children bringing up illuminated glass angels — one for each of the 26 shooting victims — as the victim’s name was read and a bell rung. The children hung the angels on a Christmas tree next to the altar.

Meanwhile at an interfaith service at Congregation Adath Israel, local leaders read verses from Christian, Muslim, Bahai and Jewish texts.

The services capped what was supposed to be a regular day at work and school in Newtown, except for an early morning ecumenical service for educators and brief moments of silence and reflection in classrooms and town offices.

It almost was. But a hoaxer called in a bomb threat to Sandy Hook School shortly after 9 a.m., causing administrators to send the students home while police concluded the threat was unfounded.

It was the last thing Newtown needed on a day when many families struggle not to dwell on the tragedy, but the strength and the solidarity of the community came through, schools Superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue said.

“I applaud the courage and the strength that was so visible throughout the day,” Rodrigue said in a statement after the bomb hoax.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., agreed.

“Nothing we do can ever bring those kids back, but we should be inspired by Newtown’s efforts to make the world a kinder, gentler place,” Murphy said in a statement. “We can reach out to one another and help those in need.”

The Friday night services in Newtown were part of a larger effort in Connecticut and across the country to galvanize support for the victims of gun violence. In Ridgefield, town officials and the leader of a gun violence prevention group called for new federal gun safety legislation. Elsewhere in the country, high school students in Iowa City, Iowa, walked out of school Friday to protest school shootings.

Closer to home, Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., encouraged Americans to honor the anniversary by volunteering, and to support stronger gun laws.

“This is the year we must muster the courage to turn our rhetoric into results,” Blumenthal said in a statement.

Published in | 203-731-3342

St. Rose School Gets in the Christmas Spirit

NEWTOWN—Third graders at St. Rose School in Newtown have partnered with River Glen Health Care Center in Southbury to do various pen pal activities together. “It gives us a wonderful opportunity to practice writing friendly letters, which unfortunately is becoming a lost art in the digital world we live in,” said Mrs. Pam Zmek, third-grade teacher. In the letters students told their pen pals what they are learning in school,  some of their favorite things to do and stories about their pets. Several were proud of their cursive writing skills and told about learning cursive. Many of the children were curious about what their pen pal’s third-grade experience was like, asking questions such as “What was your favorite subject in third grade?”

Students also made many handmade ornaments from recycled Christmas cards for their pen pals to hang on the tree at River Glen. Each pen pal will receive a gift bag with the ornaments and a letter on December 14th, just in time for Christmas!

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 around 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.

Capuchin will lead U.S. bishops’ retreat

VATICAN CITY—For more than 38 years, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa has preached to the pope and top officials of the Roman Curia. In early January, he will lead the weeklong retreat of the U.S. bishops.

As they continue to study and discuss ways to respond to the clerical sexual abuse crisis, the bishops will gather for the retreat Jan. 2-8 at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.

Pope Francis suggested the bishops hold the retreat and offered the services of the 84-year-old Father Cantalamessa, who has served as preacher of the papal household since 1980.

In an email Dec. 6, the Capuchin declined to be interviewed about the retreat, saying, “At this delicate moment in the life of the U.S. church, I don’t believe it would be opportune for me to give interviews.”

The theme of the U.S. bishops’ retreat will be “the mission of the apostles and of their successors” and will draw from Mark 3:14, which says Jesus “appointed 12 — whom he also named apostles — that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach.”

Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service, “You can see why the pope asked the bishops to make the retreat together in what he told the bishops of Chile: without faith and without prayer, fraternity is impossible.”

“At a moment like this, the bishops need to be united in prayer, and Catholics in the U.S. should see them at prayer,” Burke said Dec. 13. “A retreat is always a time for conversion, and perhaps there’s been no time in the U.S. with more need for conversion than now.”

The job of “preacher of the papal household” is not a fulltime position; each year it requires the priest to give an average of eight meditations — one each on most Fridays of Advent and Lent — and the homily during the pope’s Good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion.

The title, and the ministry, has a very long history. Superiors of different religious orders took turns preaching to the pontiff and his aides during Advent and Lent until the mid-1500s when Pope Paul IV appointed the first preacher of the papal household; his successors followed suit, always choosing a religious-order priest for the job. Pope Benedict XIV decided in 1743 to be more specific, decreeing that the preacher of the papal household always be a Capuchin friar.

St. John Paul II asked Father Cantalamessa to take the job in 1980; since then, the Capuchin has given more than 300 spiritual talks and homilies to the popes and their closest aides in the Roman Curia.

When he is not preaching to the pope, Father Cantalamessa leads retreats around the world, writes books and articles and works with charismatic Catholics; in late October, he was named ecclesial adviser of “Charis,” the new international coordinating body for the Catholic charismatic renewal.

In a 2015 interview with CNS, he said the first time he climbed the steps to the lectern in St. Peter’s Basilica to preach to the pope on Good Friday, “It felt like I was climbing Mount Everest.”

But, he told TV2000, the Italian bishops’ television station, “this post of preacher of the papal household says more about the pope than the preacher. He has the humility to set aside all his important tasks on the Fridays of Advent and Lent to come listen to the preaching of a simple priest.”

The three popes he has preached to have given him the freedom to choose the topics for his meditations, he told CNS in 2015. “I try to understand, including with the help of prayer, what are the problems, needs or even graces the church is living at the moment and to make my little contribution with a spiritual reflection.”

“Putting the word of God into practice must characterize all preaching,” he said. “Pope Francis gives us a stupendous example of that with his morning homilies.”

While focused on challenging and strengthening the faith of those he is preaching to, Father Cantalamessa’s homilies have touched on religious persecution, Christian unity, signs of hatred and prejudice in society, violence against women, war and peace, the defense of human life and the abuse crisis.

His homily in St. Peter’s Basilica on Good Friday in 2010 caused controversy. At the service, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, the Capuchin focused on how Jesus broke the cycle of violence and victimizing others by taking on the world’s sins and offering himself as a victim.

He had noted that in 2010 the Christian Holy Week and the Jewish Passover coincided, and he told the congregation the Jews “know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence,” and they recognize when other groups are being attacked simply because of who they are.

He then read a portion of a letter he said he received from a Jewish friend, who wrote that he was following “with disgust” attacks against the church and the pope, including because of the abuse scandal. The repetition of stereotypes and using the wrongdoings of some individuals as an excuse to paint a whole group with collective guilt reminded the Jewish author of “the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,” the letter said.

Father Cantalamessa later said he was sincerely sorry if he offended any members of the Jewish community or any victims of sexual abuse.

The Capuchin also has preached on the need for the Catholic Church to be honest and transparent about the abuse crisis and to repent for it.

In December 2009, just a few hours before Pope Benedict XVI met with Irish bishops to discuss the clerical sex abuse crisis, Father Cantalamessa gave one of his Advent meditations. He told the pope and other Vatican officials that, as a matter of justice, the church must publicly admit the weakness of some of its priests.

However, he had said, acknowledging weakness is not enough to “launch a renewal of priestly ministry.” For that, he said, the prayers of priests themselves and all the faithful are needed as is a renewed commitment by all priests to devoting themselves totally to serving God and their brothers and sisters.

And, in Advent 2006, leading a meditation on the passage from the beatitudes that says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted,” Father Cantalamessa said the church’s tears of shame for the abuse crisis must be turned into tears of repentance.

Rather than mourning for the damage done to the church’s reputation, he said, the church must weep “for the offense given to the body of Christ and the scandal given to the smallest of its members.”

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

School tragedies bond two priests in faith and compassion

NEWTOWN—An ocean and 3,000 miles separated two Catholic priests in Newtown, Conn., and Dunblane, Scotland, but they were brought together in faith, friendship and suffering by the terrible tragedies they shared.

The bond that developed between Msgr. Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown, and Msgr. Basil O’Sullivan, pastor of Church of the Holy Family in Dunblane, is the topic of a recently released film titled, “Lessons from a School Shooting: Notes from Dunblane.”

The 22-minute documentary by the director of the film “Newtown” follows the two priests in the months after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, which took the lives of 20 young children and six educators. Eight of the children and one adult were from Msgr. Weiss’s parish.

Msgr. O’Sullivan, whose community lost 16 children and one teacher in the deadliest mass shooting in British history on March 13, 1996, reached out to Msgr. Weiss and shared his own experiences and offered compassion and encouragement.

Msgr. Basil wrote, “Your tragedy brought a lot of memories back to us here in Dunblane…I write to inform you that in this Church of the Holy Family, there were prayers and tears for you all at Mass this Sunday morning.” Thus began an exchange between the two priests,  trying to bring compassion and hope to their communities, and searching for light as they confronted the darkest of evils.

In an on-camera interview, Msgr. Weiss says, “This hurt is so real; it’s just unimaginable that something like this could happen here. How do you live with it?”

Later, he adds, “I will admit it continues to overwhelm me. I find myself exhausted —physically I’m exhausted, spiritually I’m exhausted … and emotionally.”

Msgr. O’Sullivan confided that he could not stop crying in the months following the Dunblane shooting and that he suffered an emotional breakdown. For a year or two, the sight of a five-year-old would make him weep. He turned off his television because the violence disturbed him so much.

Both priests received counseling and rehabilitation, but to this day, Msgr. Weiss still suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I break down a lot,” he said in a recent interview. “I haven’t slept well one night since this happened, and I have terrible anxiety about flying and crossing bridges. It has been hard, and it has certainly taken a toll on me physically and emotionally.”

At the invitation of Msgr. Weiss, the Irish priest, who was then 81, came to Newtown to mark the first anniversary of the shooting. A humble man, he described himself as “a very ordinary chap with no charisms of any kind.” And yet in a moving display of faith, this simple man of Christ told the congregation at St. Rose of Lima, “Love, although it looks weak, always overcomes hatred and evil.”

“To me, the message of the documentary is that you never know what is going to bind you to another person,” Msgr. Weiss said. “In this day and age, the film captures a different side of the priesthood that is really important. It points to the importance of faith in the midst of tragedies like this. We were both called on to minister to the families we knew. Priests are human and just because you’re a priest doesn’t mean you don’t feel and experience the terrible loss.”

In October, St. Rose of Lima hosted a screening of the film, which won a first prize at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. Producer Maria Cuomo Cole and director/producer Kim Snyder were on hand, along with former Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra. The film, which can be viewed on Netflix, includes news footage, interviews with the priests and coverage of Msgr. O’Sullivan’s visit to Newtown.

Looking back, Msgr. Weiss says, “The one thing that really surprised me in my situation is that from the beginning, people saw this clearly for what it was — an act of evil by a very sick young man. For me, it was not a matter of losing faith in God, but of losing faith in people. The lack of respect for life that has overtaken this country just amazes me.”

On the Sunday after the tragedy, he recalls, the church had to be evacuated because someone made a threat against it. SWAT teams and police cars arrived in the middle of the service.

“The accumulation of that within 48 hours just was overwhelming,” he said. “Why would a person call us in the midst of all this and want to inflict more evil? That is what we had to struggle with as we tried to rebuild our lives.”

The path to healing and forgiveness has not been an easy one, he said. The emotional strain weighed heavily on families in the community, and in some cases led to breakups, substance abuse and domestic turmoil.

“The tragedies in these people’s lives continue and as a priest, you have to be present,” he said. “What we learned rather quickly is that tragedies happen every day. For a while, we got so focused on this that we failed to be sensitive to others who lost a spouse or lost a child in another situation. There were a lot of lessons to be learned going through this.”

With each anniversary, anxiety wells up in the community. “This is a little town with limited resources that had to deal with 26 deaths,” he said. “To this day, it has taken a lot of local concentration and energy. Every time there is another shooting, the media look back to Sandy Hook and you have to keep reliving it.”

The town is currently considering a permanent memorial to the victims, and while some residents question the decision, many others are convinced it is something that must be done.

The tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary School has affected the community in countless ways, he said. Today, even the parish school has a security guard and a counselor.

At the same time, his congregation is looking to the future with renewed hope. St. Rose of Lima is currently in the middle of a $6.1 million church renovation, and the enthusiasm that the project has inspired is a positive development, he believes.

“That’s a sign we are moving ahead,” he said. “People are excited about it. The whole town is excited about it. In addition to the renovation, we are building an addition and creating a Garden of Peace that is going to be really beautiful.”

Msgr. Weiss, who has been pastor for 19 years, is three years away from retirement. He would like to remain a fourth year, which would be his 50th anniversary as a priest, bringing Christ to others in joyful times and in their darkest hour.

Looking back on the past six years, he says the school shootings at Sandy Hook and Dunblane are tragic reminders that “Something has to change. We have to reclaim the value of human life, and the changes have to come from within each person.”


Teens travel to Kentucky to Spread Christmas Cheer

KENTUCKY—With temperatures rising into the 60’s and steady pouring rain, it certainly didn’t feel like Christmas late November in Corbin, Kentucky. Despite the lack of “festive” weather, the youth of St. Aloysius were unconcerned, traveling from house to house spreading Christmas cheer.

On November 30, 24 youth and 12 chaperones from St. Aloysius Parish traveled to Kentucky as part of their annual “Project 1,000,” an initiative that seeks to distribute a thousand filled Christmas stockings to children in need in Kentucky. The team met at St. Aloysius in early October to help facilitate the massive undertaking of packing the stockings, working with Director of Youth Ministry Chris Otis and a large team of religious education students. The evening in October also included Eucharistic Adoration, and a presentation on the needs of the poor in Kentucky.

After a day of travel that featured a two-hour flight, a lengthy car ride and a quick stop at both Chick-Fil-A and the Kentucky Horse Park, the weary group arrived late in Corbin, Kentucky, which is in the southern part of the state.

The following day, it was time to get down to the business of serving the people of God. Despite the early morning wake-up, the youth were energized and excited to meet with the families who would be receiving stockings.


As one would imagine, such an undertaking requires massive organization and preparation. Working with Chris Otis were members of the Christian Appalachian project, as well as local parishioners from the Diocese of Lexington. The morning began at the Christian Appalachian project’s headquarters, where the cars were loaded, and the group was divided into six teams, each of which were assigned a local guide. After that, the teams were off to meet with their families!

Teens, accompanied by two chaperones and their guide, made visits to over 40 homes. Their mission was not simply to deliver stockings, but to meet and talk to the families, and specifically the children present at each house.

“I was so incredibly proud of the teens,” said John Grosso, a chaperone on the trip, “they wasted no time playing with the kids, holding them and asking them meaningful questions about their lives. They overcame any shyness or fears they may have had and were totally open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”

Along with exchanging gifts, the youth gave the families groceries and Christmas hams. They also joined with the families, especially the young ones, in singing Christmas carols.

Each team visited between six and eight houses each, as well as stopping throughout the day when they saw children in their travels around the town.

“It was wonderful to deliver the stockings to the families,” said Chris Otis, who organized every aspect of the trip, “but what was really profound was that our teens were able to spend time with each family and made time to listen and to love!”

After a beautiful and emotional day, the group re-gathered in Barbourville, to participate in the town’s annual Christmas parade. The group traversed the city distributing plush hedgehogs and lots of candy and won third place in the parade! After a brief dinner with the community of St. Gregory Parish, the teens and chaperones met to discuss their reflections on the day.

“It was really stunning to me, how faithful Archie (a Grandfather one of our groups met with) was. He has been through so much recently, losing his daughter and his wife in such a short period of time and yet he was unwavering in his faith,” one of the youths shared.

The youth closed out the day skating at an indoor roller rink before heading to bed.

The following morning, on Sunday, the team again rose early – this time to travel to a homeless shelter in the region to bring breakfast, coffee, food, winter gear, and Christmas cheer.

Though the day was uncharacteristically warm – around 60 degrees, there was plenty of Christmas spirit to go around. Teens joined the guests of the shelter in their makeshift chapel, singing Christmas hymns and joining together in prayer and reflection.

“One of the most impactful moments to me was when we started to sing ‘Lord I Need You,’ and the guests of the homeless shelter stood up and sang with us arm and arm,” one of the group members said.

After an impactful visit, the group joined the parishioners of St. Gregory Parish for Mass celebrated by Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, followed by a delicious lunch of homemade Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Though the trip home was long (two hours of travel to the airport, followed by several more of waiting for a delayed flight and then a drive back from Newark), the youth and their chaperones radiated the love and joy they had experienced the entire weekend.

Chris Otis said is best, as she spoke to the kids before embarking on the trip home, “We are very blessed, and it is very important for you to see why God put us on this earth…to serve our brothers and sisters in need!”

What is a lay ‘Parish Life Coordinator’?

WASHINGTON—Last week the Diocese of Bridgeport announced the appointment of a lay “parish life coordinator” in the parish of St. Anthony of Padua.

Dr. Eleanor Sauers has been placed in charge of the day-to-day administration of the parish, following the untimely death of the parish’s former pastor, Fr. John Baran.

The appointment has led some to ask: What is a parish life coordinator? What does such a lay person do?

In Bridgeport, the arrangement, announced in a letter from Bishop Frank Caggiano, will see Sauers “work with the parish community to develop and foster its pastoral vision and mission.”

It is the first appointment of its kind in Bridgeport, though similar appointments have been common in other American dioceses for some years.

When such an appointment is made, it can strike some parishioners as a novelty. In fact, the possibility of lay “parish life coordinators” exists in the Code of Canon Law, and has been an option available to bishops since in 1983.


The first option offered by the canon is for a parish, or several parishes, to be given into the care of a team of priests, with one of them serving as the “moderator,” of leader of the team, responsible for coordinating the pastoral care of the people.

The second option the canon presents is for a deacon “or some other person who is not a priest” to be given “a share” in the “exercise of the pastoral care of the parish.” This is only to be done, according to canon law, because of a shortage of priests; it is a remedy for exceptional circumstances and not something the Church allows to be done for its own sake.

In addition to the sacramental life which is the heart of their existence, modern Western parishes are busy places, often requiring leadership and coordination on the ground.

There are clear advantages to placing a lay person in charge of the day-to-day coordination of the parish’s activity, rather than a team of priests who could be spread across a number of other parishes and have many other demands on their attention.

Overseeing finances, religious education programs, the maintenance of buildings and other facilities, even a school in some places, is a complex set of responsibilities – one that, in the judgment of some bishops, cannot be overseen effectively by even a well-intentioned and well-organized team of non-resident priests.

In the case of the parish of St. Anthony of Padua, this would seem to be the role Caggiano has in mind, noting in his letter to parishioners that Sauers will “oversee the day-to-day operations of the parish.”

She will also be “working with a team of priests who will provide the sacramental ministries at St. Anthony,” while having decision-making authority in the parish itself.

Arrangements like these often leave some Catholics with the impression that the priests are working “for” or “under” a layperson (which would be a novelty in a parish setting, but not unusual in other ecclesiastical settings). However, there is a distinction in canon law, and in the teaching of the Church, between collaboration and a hierarchical relationship.

Finding the right balance in ecclesial collaboration is important. Bishops are enjoined to promote and authentic expression of the gifts of all members of the Church and to avoid any blurring of roles and responsibilities, that might obscure the unique dignity of the different members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

St. John Paul II issued in 1997 an authoritative instruction on lay and clerical collaboration, Ecclesiae de mysterio.

The pope instructed that arrangements like the one at St. Anthony of Padua should only be made in “exceptional cases” and because of a shortage of priests. The possibility of such arrangements is not, St. John Paul said, to be used for “convenience or ambiguous ‘advancement of the laity.’”

The faithful have the right, expressed in c. 213, to receive the administration of the sacraments, the preaching of the Word of God, and other means of obtaining sanctity from the pastors of the Church – that is from the priests and bishops. When lay parish life coordinators are appointed, they are not given charge of the spiritual care of the community: the “care of souls” is explicitly reserved to the clergy.

For that reason, while canon 517 creates the possibility for a layperson to be given “a share” in the running of a parish, it also requires that there be a priest designated responsible for the pastoral care of the people. Whenever a deacon or layperson is appointed to such a role, “the bishop is to appoint some priest who, with the powers and faculties of a pastor [parish priest], will direct the pastoral care” of the people, canon law explains.

This condition, Ecclesiae de mysterio affirms, must be followed with “strict adherence” in order to safeguard both the care of the faithful of the parish and the distinction of the roles between a lay collaborator and a priest.

“Directing, coordinating, moderating or governing the parish; these competencies, according to the canon, are the competencies of a priest alone,” the instruction explains.

In Ecclesiae de mysterio, St. John Paul taught that the impetus of Vatican Council II “opens vast horizons, some of which have yet to be explored, for the lay faithful.”

As the Church responds to the changing landscape of society in different parts of the world, new ways for the laity to work together with the clergy will continue to emerge.

St. John Paul II taught that as those new modes of collaboration are developed, it is important for bishops to promote the role of lay people in the Church while ensuring among Catholics “the correct understanding of true ecclesial communion.”

By Ed Condon | Catholic News Agency

SHU Creates Innovative Coworking Space

FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University will enter into an agreement with Verizon and Alley, for the creation, management and operation of an innovative coworking space at SHU’s West Campus, formerly corporate headquarters for General Electric, in Fairfield, Conn. This new partnership, called Alley powered by Verizon, will be the first in Connecticut and the first time Alley powered by Verizon is located on a college campus.

This innovative coworking space will be a hub for innovation teams from large and small companies; for entrepreneurs who want to test their ideas, grow their businesses and work collaboratively in a supportive environment; and for individual professionals who want to work in a dynamic office environment. This space will offer various levels of memberships and services that include private office space, hot desks, meeting and conference room space, events, recruiting services, marketing services and programming services. The innovation community will draw on SHU faculty, staff, students and other resources to build an academic-focused environment that attracts local startups, entrepreneurs, corporations and other forward-thinking organizations and individuals.

Verizon and Alley together have successfully built innovation hubs in New York, Cambridge, Washington, Palo Alto and Los Angeles. The innovative coworking spaces allow Verizon to tap into local startup and innovation networks, build relationships with potential partners and open new doors for ideas and technology. With Verizon, Alley is bridging the gap between startup and corporation by helping the community workspace build next-level ecosystems for entrepreneurs. Verizon provides entrepreneurs and start-up companies working on new products with the technology and services they need for growth. The new center at Sacred Heart University will further Verizon commitment to cultivate strong relationships with academic institutions with emerging technology curricula.

“A robust commitment to innovation is in keeping with the University’s dedication to educating our students on technology, emerging trends and entrepreneurship. This is exactly the kind of innovative and entrepreneurial platform that Connecticut desperately needs, and we’re delighted to be hosting it on our campus, working collaboratively with Verizon and Alley,” said SHU President John J. Petillo. “SHU has been making great strides in our efforts to integrate technology, IT, engineering, cybersecurity and computer sciences into our Jack Welch College of Business. The symbiotic relationship between business and technology is critical for incubation, economic growth and job creation. With our partners Verizon and Alley, and the many small and large businesses and organizations that choose to align with our innovation center, we will introduce a new creative working model and rich opportunities for fostering talent, ideas and business growth.”

SHU will provide a fully furnished and equipped turnkey facility on its West Campus, and the University will dedicate resources from faculty and staff to build programming and curricula to connect the innovation community to SHU’s academic mission. A dedicated SHU project coordinator will help identify, activate and create engagement between the innovation community and SHU’s faculty, staff, administration and student body.

As part of this venture, Alley will oversee marketing and advertising to develop a vibrant community of members, manage member experience and help coordinate events and programs.

SHU also will establish a Student Concierge Service that members can use as a resource for making connections with various University programs, internships, recruiting, events, speaker sessions, office hours and mentoring. Members will also have fee-based access to the labs and facilities that include computer, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, engineering/design, gaming, finance and motion-capture labs, as well as a makerspace and production studios.

“This is a major boost to Fairfield’s economic development efforts to bring more jobs and businesses to our town,” said Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau. “I am very excited about this Sacred Heart University initiative as it certainly goes a long way to helping replace the loss of GE in our community.”

“Sacred Heart has long been committed to innovation and creative thinking, making it a natural fit for attracting and building a successful startup community,” said Jason Saltzman, CEO of Alley. “Fairfield County has several corporations and businesses that stand to benefit from the work that will be done here, not to mention its ideal location between New York City and Boston. We’re helping to create a startup mindset and environment that will provide members much-needed access to corporate resources typically unavailable to small businesses, from key relationship introductions to cutting-edge technology.”

Work on the new innovation coworking space is expected to be completed with the space open for business late next year.

Notre Dame Celebrates ‘Our Lady Day’

FAIRFIELD—On Friday, December 7, Notre Dame High School in Fairfield celebrated their second annual “Our Lady Day.” This was an all-day event celebrating our Blessed Mother, after whom our school is named, and the ND mission of building character, faith and intellect. Coming a day before the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a prayerful, motivational and enjoyable day was planned for students and faculty. 

The day began in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit on the Sacred Heart University campus. Father Bob Crofut, assisted by Chaplain Deacon John DiTaranto, celebrated Mass. The world-famous Whippenpoofs from Yale University performed music during Mass and at a special concert following. In addition, nearly 65 current Notre Dame mothers attended the Mass with their children.

Following Mass, Orly Wabha, the founder of Life Vest Inside and a Ted Talk presenter, spoke to the student body about the power of kindness. With the school in the midst of its 26 Acts of Kindness campaign, Wabha’s talk was very well received.

Students then worked with Rise Against Hunger to prepare nearly 15,000 meals of rice which will be shipped to Africa to support those most in need. Students also completed Christmas crafts which will be shared with residents at local nursing homes.


To close out the day, the community again gathered in the gym for a special performance by the ND band, chorus and dance classes. Students and staff also received “Marian Awards” at the closing ceremony, highlighting those who embody the spirit of Notre Dame and a commitment to their faith.

St. Theresa Youth Give Back

TRUMBULL—St. Theresa Church in Trumbull recently launched its new youth group comprised of 13 high schoolers committed to serving God through charitable works in the community. Under the guidance of Karen Lannigan, director of youth ministry at St. Theresa, and Father Brian Gannon, pastor, the goal of this new ministry is to provide a venue for newly-confirmed teens to establish and lead worthy service projects that engage the entire parish community.

“Teens have an innate desire to be radical in their thinking and actions,” said Lannigan. “We want to channel that energy towards their faith, harness their creativity and apply it to service, all while nurturing their relationship with Christ.”

Over the past few months, the teens were provided with the opportunity to do just that. By spearheading two service projects to help needy children in third world countries and the greater Bridgeport area, the youth group, along with help from parishioners, found enormous success in both programs.

“They set lofty goals and met them,” Lannigan added. “They saw they could make a difference.”

In October, the teens established their first service project at St. Theresa. Box of Joy, a program through Cross Catholic Outreach, delivers small Christmas boxes packed with items of necessity such as soap, toothpaste and toys to underprivileged children in less-developed countries. By engaging all students in grades K-9 and the parish community at large, they were able to fill 1000 boxes and bring “joy” to needy children in Central America.

Closer to home, the group partnered with Binky Patrol, an organization that delivers homemade fleece blankets to ill and traumatized children in the greater Bridgeport area. After raising $650 through donations to cover the cost of materials, the youth group hosted a Binkathon and pasta dinner on December 8 where, with assistance from parishioners young and old, 100 blankets were made.

Lannigan said, “By sponsoring parish-wide service initiatives, such as Box of Joy and Binky Patrol, we offer teens the opportunity to lead meaningful service projects that offer families the opportunity to serve together.”

Merton: ‘His place is with those who don’t belong’

KENTUCKY—The great Thomas Merton died 50 years ago today, and I can’t let this moment pass without sharing once again this reflection of his, which seems perfect for Advent and speaks to the times in which we live:

“Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room.

His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.”

I had the privilege of spending a few hours in Merton’s hermitage at the Abbey of Gethsemane 14 summers ago. “Father Louis” left an indelible mark on my life and on countless others around the globe. Who knows how many vocations — to the priesthood, to monastic life, to social justice, to writing of all kinds — he inspired?

I remain forever in his debt.

By Deacon Greg Kandra |

St. Joseph Church Celebrates Advent with ‘Lessons and Carols’

SHELTON—St. Joseph Church in Shelton welcomed in the Advent season with a Lessons and Carols concert on Saturday, December 8 at 7 pm.

The concert featured festive seasonal hymns accompanied by readings from the books of Isaiah, Matthew, Luke and John presented by members of the parish.

Carols included O Come, O Come Emmanuel, O Holy Night, Ave Maria, Silent Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

The concert featured vocalists Krista Adams Santilli and Ron M’Sadoques, violinist Darwin Shen, flutist Monica Attell, cellist Tom Hudson and pianist Yuan Wang.

The congregation joined together in joyful song and enjoyed a light reception afterward!

Holy Trinity Catholic Academy Students Recognized For Leadership

SHELTON- Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Fifth Bishop of Bridgeport, and Foundations in Education recently hosted the 2nd Annual Leaders of Tomorrow Breakfast Reception at the Catholic Center in Bridgeport.

More than 160 turned out to honor the 44 young Catholic school students who were selected as Leaders of Tomorrow. Leaders of Tomorrow is a unique program of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to students in Catholic elementary schools who are identified by their principals as students of good character, academic promise, and leadership potential. Donors to the program transform the lives of children through the gift of Catholic education.

The reception brought together students, their families, principals and the donors who sponsor a portion of their tuitions. In his welcoming remarks, Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport and a generous sponsor of a 2018-19 Leader of Tomorrow remarked, “This is one of my favorite moments in the year; when we celebrate our young women and men who are here, our Leaders of Tomorrow. Quite frankly, they are our leaders of today for many of their classmates follow their good example and continue their journey in wisdom and faith in Christ.” The scholarship recipients from Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, Shelton, were Hailey Hainsworth, 4th
Grade, and Owen Gannon, 5th Grade; accompanied by family members and Mrs. Lisa Lanni, Head of School.

There are currently 21 donors sponsoring 44 students in the program who may otherwise be unable to attend Catholic schools. Roger Fox, a sponsor of a Leader of Tomorrow, shared his motivation for donating to Foundations in Education: “I’m delighted to contribute to this organization because I’m confident that by doing so, I am helping young people. With a good solid Catholic education as a foundation, these students can go forward and make a difference in this world.” Foundations in Education is a non-profit initiative created to assist the Diocese of Bridgeport’s ongoing mission to support Catholic education in Fairfield County by supporting innovation in academic and, curriculum programs, fostering opportunities for the professional development of school leaders and providing tuition assistance to families in need.

To learn more about Foundations in Education or to learn how your gift can help transform the lives of students, please visit the Foundations in Education website.

Sold Out Crowd attends Norwalk ‘Celebrity Breakfast’

NORWALK—Hundreds of people from around the Norwalk and New Canaan area came out to the Shorehaven Golf Club on December 7 to support the programs of Catholic Charities in the city of Norwalk.

This year’s breakfast featured guest speaker Father Robert Kinnally, chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish.

Though quick to poke fun at his “lack of celebrity status,” Father Rob began his inspiring talk by quoting the famous Mother Teresa, saying: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

He then took to the podium to beautifully describe his parents, who he credits as having taught him the importance of charity and how to give of oneself generously.

“My parents didn’t just explain to me why it was important to be charitable, they showed me, every single day by their example,” Father Rob explained, sharing multiple beautiful (and often humorous) stories about his youth.

One such story involved a particular Thanksgiving when then Rob asked his mother “who was coming to dinner?”

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Well, how many people are coming?” Father Rob remembers asking.

“I don’t know,” was the answer then too.

In his speech, Father Rob explained that his parents would invite “everyone who didn’t have a seat at someone’s table” to Thanksgiving, which often led to a diverse and varied group each year. This was just one example of their “radical hospitality” that Father Rob referenced throughout his speech.

As his speech closed, Father Rob praised both Catholic Charities programs hosted in the city of Norwalk—Behavioral Health Services and Room to Grow Preschool. Both programs assist individuals, children, and families by educating and counseling them on a daily basis to help them navigate their way through life.

In addition to hearing from Father Rob, Al Barber, president of Catholic Charities began the day, Richard Madwid, director of Behavioral Health Services shared an update on what is happening in the program, and Nancy Owens, director of Room to Grow Preschool elaborated on the importance of the program to the Norwalk community.

Bill Tommins of the Catholic Charities Board of Directors closed out the morning and Msgr. Cullen led the opening prayer.

For 25 years, the Norwalk Breakfast has supported Behavioral Health Services and Room to Grow Preschool. Now more than ever the success of this event is vital as the agency strives to expand the services provided by Room to Grow Preschool to include financial literacy, English as a Second Language class, afterschool homework support, and parenting education. Catholic Charities is also working hard to promote the necessity of behavioral services throughout the City of Norwalk to help those struggling and battling mental health issues such as grief and loss, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc. is one of the largest private social service providers in Connecticut. Since 1916, Catholic Charities has served all people with programs that feed the hungry and homebound, shelter the homeless, strengthen families, assist the physically and emotionally challenged and deliver consultation and assistance to immigrants. They serve all people without regard to age, race, religion or ability to pay. Catholic Charities puts faith into action by providing food, housing, mental health, adoption, immigration, and family support services to the needy and vulnerable of Fairfield County.

(For more information visit:


Bishop announces new leadership model at St. Anthony

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano today announced that Dr. Eleanor W. Sauers has been appointed Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield and will oversee the daily administration of the parish while a team of priests will fulfill its sacramental needs.

Dr. Sauers, who has been Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Minister since 2002, has been in charge of church administration since the death of its pastor, Father John Baran, last March.

“St. Anthony’s has had a long history under Father John Baran of developing an extensive and co-responsible lay leadership that has allowed the parish to prosper, and Eleanor was instrumental in helping to make that a reality,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Saint Anthony’s was ideal to have this new model of leadership, where Eleanor is the parish administrator and a group of priests will come to attend to the sacramental ministerial needs of the people.”

While the model is new to the Diocese of Bridgeport, it has been in use a long time in other dioceses, including Albany, Syracuse and Baltimore, and is supported by Canon law, the Bishop said.

He added that Father Baran’s illness in many ways necessitated that Dr. Sauers assume administrative responsibilities and that her appointment as Parish Life Coordinator was a “natural evolution for the people of St. Anthony’s.” Bishop Caggiano also said that he met twice with the leadership of the parish in discerning who should follow Father Baran.

“I am delighted that this is possible in part because it is another avenue being opened for lay leaders who with the proper training and experience can exercise leadership in the Church,” Bishop Caggiano said. “The key for success in our parishes is that we engage lay leadership in real, substantial, competent and appropriate ways.”

“I am thrilled to have been appointed to the position of Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony’s,” Dr. Sauers said. “I am grateful to Bishop Caggiano for his recognition of the unique character of the parish, and his understanding of the culture of lay involvement and ownership. This new model of governance is a tribute to that recognition and hopefully will lead to the continued flourishing of the parish.”

She also expressed gratitude to the parishioners for their support and for assisting in many ways to the life of the church. “I know they stand ready to continue to work together as we move forward in mission and ministry, and in doing so, honor the legacy of Father John.”

Since his death, she, Frank Macari, director of music, and Beth Paris, pastoral minister for youth, have worked with Father Michael Boccaccio, Director of the Propagation of Faith, to manage the pastoral and administrative needs of the church.

Dr. Sauers has a master’s degree and PhD in religious education from Fordham University and a bachelor’s in history from Emmanuel College. While at Fordham, she was named to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She is an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, where she teaches a course in Christian spirituality and is a board member of the Center for Catholic Studies.

Her dissertation was a case study in the transformation of St. Anthony of Padua Church, and her writing has been published in “Commonweal” and “Church.”

“Eleanor is tremendously competent in what she does, and I have confidence in her,” Bishop Caggiano said. “She certainly is very well respected by the people of the parish and has a keen pastoral sensitivity to them and their needs. I am very confident she will do a great job.”

Patrick Turner, Director of the Office of Strategic and Pastoral Planning, said the leadership model of Parish Life Coordinator has been implemented in dioceses across the country from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, as well as many Northeast dioceses, as many undergo reconfigurations as a result of declining number of clergy in recent decades. One of the primary purposes is to allow the priest as the sacramental minister to focus on the sacraments and to allow a lay person, as administrator, to focus on the various aspects of parish life.

Turner said that when he and Bishop Caggiano met with the parish leadership about the appointment, they were excited and supportive of the change.

“As our Church looks to increase lay involvement in our parishes, this is an ideal opportunity for us to implement this model,” he said. “St. Anthony of Padua Parish is fully ready for this type of leadership. Eleanor has been there as a full partner with Father Baran in the life of the parish community, and she has the theological and pastoral credentials to do this. This is someone who has been formed in ministry and administration for a number of years.”

Looking to the future, the Bishop said changes in parish leadership are inevitable.

“All of our parishes except for the one have residential pastors,” he said. “The model of the residential pastor in each parish is eventually going to morph into a series of models.

In her new role, Dr. Sauers will have the decision-making authority for the parish and be responsible to Bishop Caggiano. She will work with the Parish Council and the community to develop a pastoral vision and mission, in addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations and administration of the parish, including its financial management and strategic planning. She will also be responsible for recruitment, training and management of employees and volunteers and work with a sacramental ministry team that will be named by Bishop Caggiano.

Click here for Bishop Caggiano’s letter.

Immaculate High School Names Nelson Mingachos Interim Athletic Director

DANBURY—After an unprecedented 2018 Fall Sports season for Immaculate High School, which saw seven teams going to SWC and State tournaments and three teams winning State Championship titles, Nelson Mingachos ‘89 will now serve as interim Athletic Director after Tim Dunn announced his resignation from the position effective December 14.
Succeeding Jeff Castaldi, Dunn was hired as the school’s Athletic Director in June 2017. A former football player, coach, fitness trainer and PE teacher, Dunn extended his vision to improve Immaculate High School’s athletic facilities and made the school mission his priority.
“I have been pleased to have accomplished so much at Immaculate High School,” said Dunn.  I wish everyone at the school continued success.”
“On behalf of our Immaculate High School students, parents, coaches, faculty and staff, I want to thank Mr. Dunn for his service as Athletic Director and we wish him much success in the future,” said Dr. Patrick Higgins, Principal of Immaculate High School. “Mr. Dunn’s dedication, innovation, personal kindness and overall hard work have and will continue to be appreciated by our Immaculate High School family.”  
Nelson Mingachos, an IHS graduate from the Class of 1989, has been a head coach at Immaculate since 2003. He was named SWC Coach of the Year six times, including last year when he received the SWC Coach of the Year for Girls Soccer honor after leading the team to win the SWC Championship. Also named Coach of the Year by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association, the CT Sports Writer Alliance and by the Danbury News-Times (four times), last year Mingachos also coached the IHS boys basketball team to the ultimate victory by winning the CIAC Division II State Championship.
Dr. Higgins also welcomed Nelson Mingachos to his new role at Immaculate High School. Mingachos will serve as interim Athletic Director and assume all department responsibilities until a formal AD search committee is selected and a new Athletic Director is retained.
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 allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others.  Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

Greater Danbury Tip-Off Classic Coming to Immaculate High School

DANBURY—The 19th Annual News-Times Greater Danbury Boys Tip-Off Classic will be held at Immaculate High School on Thursday, December 13 and on Saturday, December 15. The Tip-Off Classic is a fundraiser basketball tournament to support local recreation and sports programs at the Danbury War Memorial, presented by S.P.O.R.T.S. of Greater Danbury, Inc. and is sponsored by the News-Times of Danbury.

Come see exciting boys high school basketball, including the 2017 CIAC Class S State Champions the Immaculate Mustangs. Admission is $5 for all! The schedule is as follows:


Thursday, December 13:


3pm           JV Boys Game – Abbott Tech Vs. Danbury

4:15pm      JV Boys Game – Bethel vs. Immaculate

6pm           First Round Tip-Off Game – Abbott Tech vs. Danbury

8pm           First Round Tip-Off Game – Bethel vs. Immaculate


Saturday, December 15:


3pm           Freshman Boys Game – Joel Barlow vs. Danbury

4:15pm      Freshman Boys Game – Bethel vs. Immaculate

6pm           Tip-Off Classic Consolation Game

8pm           Tip-Off Classic Championship Game (winners of First Round), Awards Ceremony


A Marian Motto for the Immaculate Conception

COMMENTARY: Mary reveals true humanity. She is what human beings should have been like, but for sin.

The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is often the subject of confusion. Some people seem to think that the “conception” referred to is Jesus. But the Church celebrates the conception of Jesus March 25, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, because Jesus — “true God and true man” — lived in Mary’s womb, like any human child, for nine months.

For much of Christian history, March 25 also marked the start of the civil year (instead of Jan. 1).

Yet Dec. 8 marks not Jesus’ conception but Mary’s. As the novena prayer puts it, “O, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.” When, during the Marian apparitions at Lourdes, Bernadette asked Mary her name, Our Lady replied simply: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and, despite the Pope’s clear teaching, some Catholic theologians have tried to diminish its significance, claiming it to be an impediment to ecumenical dialogue with Protestants. They’re wrong.

While the theology of Mary (Mariology) was one time prone to accentuate the Blessed Mother’s special privileges, Catholic theology since Vatican II has tended rather to focus on Mary as the model disciple, the model Christian.

Mary is, after all, purely human. St. John Paul II liked to quote the Second Vatican Council, which taught that “Jesus Christ fully reveals man to himself,” but we can build on that perspective. Mary also reveals true humanity; Mary is, after all, what human beings should have been like, but for sin.

Sin is not part of the natural human endowment. Sin (and its punishment, death) should not have been part of human destiny.

Mary, conceived without sin by God’s prevenient grace, assumed to God body and soul, “when her earthly life was ended,” shows us what humanity could have been but for sin. But she also shows us what we can be, in a fallen world, by cooperating with God’s grace.

The Venerable Tomas Morales (1908-1994), a Spanish Jesuit and founder of the male and female secular movements the Crusaders of Mary, is a candidate for canonization. His spirituality puts great focus on the Immaculate Conception, and Crusader communities attach great attention to the vigil of the Immaculate Conception.

In his meditations on the Immaculate Conception, Father Morales captures the essence of understanding the Blessed Virgin Mary as model disciple and model Christian in this saying: “I am God’s, only God’s, all God’s and always God’s” (Soy de Dios, solo de Dios, toda de Dios, siempre de Dios). We might take that saying as a motto for life.

I am God’s: Mary was God’s most perfect example of love outside the Trinity.

As Father Morales points out elsewhere, sanctity is first and foremost God’s work: The sheer variety of saints points to the diversity of God’s love, the many ways in which it finds expression.

Jeremiah (1:5) captured the idea of the Immaculate Conception when, examining his own vocation, he speaks in God’s voice: “Before you were formed, I knew you; before you were born, I set you apart.”

From all eternity, amid all the people who ever have or ever will walk this earth, all of whom God infinitely loves, he loved in a special way a young girl in a small Jewish town over two millennia ago and chose her in a special way to bring the rest of that humanity back to God, to God who would also be her Son.

And just as every other human being who must respond to his or her vocation individually and freely, Mary had to say “Yes” — and did — because “I am God’s.”

And only God’s: The First Commandment is not primarily about prohibiting the worship of idols with the heads of hawks or exaggerated genitalia. The First Commandment is about putting first things first — and nothing else in that place. Mary was “only God’s.”

As Father Morales points out, Mary depended wholly on God. As we approach Christmas, consider that dependence. Her vocation as Theotokos, as Mother of God, was simply impossible by human standards. She broaches that topic: “How can this be, since I do not know man?” And God — who takes those he loves seriously — tells her that his power will overshadow her. She no longer asks how, no longer wants details. “Let it be done as you say.”

“Let it be done,” even though she has no idea how she will explain this to her fiancé, or how — based on his reaction — she might be exposed to death, or how she would cope if he “put her away.” She is “only God’s,” and she leaves her trust in him. And all God’s is her commitment: Body and soul, she belongs to God.

The Church affirms that exclusivity in honoring her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. A society that increasingly does not recognize sexual intercourse as a sign of a deeper belonging is unlikely also to understand the value of virginity. Nor is it likely to recognize the depth and truth of that love.

That is why, perhaps more than anything, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, honoring the patroness of the United States, should this year be a day of renewal of the Church in this country, recovering the purity of love and sexual purity that can begin to repair the squalor of this year’s clerical homosexual sex-abuse scandals.

Mary may be the pattern of pure holiness never violated; but Mary Magdalene is also the pattern that holiness can be recovered.

And always God’s: Mary’s fiat was absolute, irrevocable and indissoluble. She was accompanied: by Joseph to Bethlehem, by John to Calvary; but — in both cases — she was accompanied to follow her vocation, not flee it.

Mary teaches us that love has its own logic, a logic that chooses and persists in that course — now God’s and always God’s.

And that is why the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception leads us to the Solemnity of the Assumption, because she who was God’s, only his, totally his and always his, is now his — forever — body and soul, in heaven.

Let’s make the words of Father Morales — “I am God’s; only his, all his and always his” — our own this Marian feast day.

By John M. Grondelski |

No dispensation for weekend feast day

WASHINGTON—Just last year, Catholics were required to attend separate Masses two days in a row for the Sunday obligation and Monday’s Christmas Mass. Now, they have a similar opportunity this year with the feast of the Immaculate Conception falling on a Saturday—Dec. 8.

The vigil Mass on Saturday evening is not a “two-for-one” Mass for both days.

Last year, the U.S. bishops gave Catholics a heads-up about the back-to-back Sunday and Christmas liturgies 10 months in advance in a newsletter issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship. It also referenced what would occur this year and will recur when Dec. 8 falls on a Monday.

The newsletter specifically noted that the Saturday vigil does not count for both the holy day and Sunday in the very rare circumstances when two of the church’s six holy days of obligation—the feast of the Immaculate Conception or Christmas—fall the day before or after Sunday.

“When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations,” the committee said.

There is dispensation from a holy day Mass obligation when other holy days fall on Saturdays or Mondays but this does not apply to Christmas or the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

The U.S. bishops voted in 1991 to lift the obligation to attend Mass on holy days of obligation that fall on Saturdays or Mondays for three of the six holy days: the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Jan. 1; the feast of the Assumption,  Aug. 15; and the feast of All Saints, Nov. 1.

Most dioceses have transferred observance of the feast of the Ascension from the Thursday 40 days after Easter to the following Sunday.

The bishops’ committee has looked ahead to when these consecutive liturgies will happen again. In the next 12 years, Christmas will fall either on a Saturday or a Monday four times and the feast of the Immaculate Conception will fall on either of those days three times, including this year.

The Dec. 8 feast day has a long history in the United States. The U.S. bishops commended the nation to the patronage of Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception in 1846. Pope Pius IX approved their decision Feb. 7, 1847. Eight years later, the pope declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary, that she was conceived without original sin, to be an article of faith. It became a holy day in the U.S. in 1885.

The feast was celebrated in some monasteries before the beginning of the eighth century and became more widespread in the 18th century.

The divine worship committee’s newsletter emphasized the benefit of going to Mass on holy days even when they occur before or after a Sunday, stressing: “It would be hoped, of course, that Catholics foster a love for the sacred liturgy and hold a desire to celebrate the holy days as fully as is reasonably possible.”

Or as one person responded on Twitter to this reporter’s announcement about the Dec. 8 obligatory Mass attendance on Saturday: “That’s correct! Daily Mass can be rewarding.”

By Carol Zimmermann | Catholic News Service

Christmas spirit in the air as Vatican unveils Nativity scene, tree

VATICAN CITY—The annual unveiling of the Vatican’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene brought some much-needed warmth to people’s hearts as winter approached.

Hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square Dec. 7 applauded as white curtains unfurled, revealing a 52-foot wide artistic representation of Jesus’ birth made entirely of sand and dubbed the “Sand Nativity.”

The bas-relief sculpture, which weighed over 700 tons, was made with sand from Jesolo, an Italian seaside resort town roughly 40 miles north of Venice.

Shortly after, as the sun set behind St. Peter’s Basilica, the sounds of “Silent Night” filled the square before the lights of the Vatican’s towering Christmas tree were lit.

The 42-foot-tall red spruce tree, donated by the Diocese of Concordia-Pordenone in the northern Italian region of Veneto, was unveiled at the Vatican’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

Among those present at the annual Christmas tree lighting were Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State; Archbishop Francesco Moraglia, patriarch of Venice; and Bishop Giuseppe Pellegrini of Concordia-Pordenone.

The “Sand Nativity” scene and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jan. 13.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis met with delegations from the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, responsible respectively for the 2018 Vatican Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

Thanking the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the Nativity scene and Christmas tree are visible signs that “help us to contemplate the mystery of God, who was made man in order to be close to us.”

The bright lights emanating from the Christmas tree, he explained, “remind us that Jesus is the light of the world, the light of the soul that drives out the darkness of enmity and makes room for forgiveness.”

The soaring height of the Christmas tree, he added, also symbolizes “God who—through the birth of his son, Jesus—came down to man to raise him to himself and elevate him from the fog of selfishness and sin.”

Pope Francis also reflected on the unique composition of the Nativity scene. Sand, he said, is a poor material that “recalls the simplicity, the littleness and frailty with which God show himself through the birth of Jesus in the precariousness of Bethlehem.”

“The child Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, whom we lay in the manger, is holy in poverty, littleness, simplicity and humility,” the pope said. “By contemplating the God-child who emanates light in the humility of the manger, we, too, can become witnesses of humility, tenderness and goodness.”

Kicking off preparations to celebrate the birth of Christ was special exhibition in the morning of over 100 different Nativity scenes at the Vatican. The event, now in its 43rd edition, was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

Dubbed “100 Cribs at the Vatican,” the Dec. 7-Jan. 13 exhibition featured a wide variety of artistic representations depicting Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

In a statement promoting the event, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the pontifical council, said the exhibition of different Nativity scenes—a tradition credited to St. Francis of Assisi—was “a strong instrument of evangelization.”

“So many people stop every Christmas before the mystery of God made man, represented with figurines —which in many cases are authentic masterpieces of art—to pray, to reflect and to discover the love of God who became a child for us.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

Holy Hour for Vocations: ‘Beautiful and Moving’

NORWALK—On November 14, the faithful joined Fr. John Connaughton and seminarians of the diocese to spend an hour in Adoration of Jesus, and to pray for vocations at St. Ladislaus Church in Norwalk.

“It was an amazing Holy Hour, a grace-filled night. The church was filled to capacity with people standing everywhere. Fr. Abelardo Vasquez, assistant vocations director, presided and Fr. Juan Acosta did a great job along with his team both in church and afterwards with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. We thank him for his leadership,” said Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski, VF, KCHS, dean of Deanery G, Mother of Divine Grace.

“As so many people said to me, ‘This was beautiful and moving. We need to do this more often,’” remarked Msgr. Orlowski.

St. John Fisher Seminary is an initiative of the Diocese of Bridgeport to prepare college-aged men and young adults for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood.  Founded in 1989 by Most Rev. Edward M. Egan, the third bishop of Bridgeport, the St. John Fisher Seminary program exists to provide young men with a place in which they can come to a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus as they discern whether He is calling them to His priesthood.

For more information, please contact Fr. John Connaughton, vocation director by phone at: 203.322.5331 or by email at:

Saint Catherine Center Celebrates Special Needs Mass

FAIRFIELD – On Sunday, December 2, Holy Cross Church in Fairfield was full of family and friends who gathered for the annual Mass Celebrating People with Special Needs, hosted by Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs.

“Even though it is just the first Sunday of Advent… today is like Christmas,” proclaimed Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who celebrated the Mass. Twelve young people from eight parishes received the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion. “This is one of the most important days of your life,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Thank you for saying ‘yes’ to Jesus.”

Each year, Saint Catherine Center offers the opportunity for individuals with special needs to receive one or more Sacraments of Initiation outside the typical faith formation program. Gail Milkosky, director of parish & community support for the Center, worked with directors of religious education throughout the diocese to coordinate preparation and participation.

Members of the Knights of Columbus Honor Guard, Saint Catherine Center board members and staff joined the celebration and a student from Saint Catherine Academy and an adult participant from the Center’s Day Program gave the readings for the Mass. “I thank the parents, sponsors and godparents who support these young people,” Bishop Caggiano said. He also acknowledged the staff of Saint Catherine Center for their work with young people with special needs. “They don’t just serve them,” he said, “They love them.”

“It’s so important that we remember that everyone is welcome in our Church and should feel included,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director of the Center. “This beautiful Mass reminds us of that.”

For more information, visit the website at:, call: 203.540.5381, or email:

Photos by Michelle Babyak

‘Peace Light’ Comes to Danbury

DANBURY—Each year, a child from Upper Austria fetches a light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The light is carried in two blast-proof miners’ lamps on an Austrian Airlines jet from Tel Aviv, Israel to Vienna, Austria from where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations from across Europe who take it back, with a message of peace, to their own countries.

Austrian Airlines then flies the miners’ lamps containing the Peace Light from Bethlehem to New York City. This year, the light arrived at JFK on Saturday, December 1. Upon arrival, the Peace Light was transferred through a ceremony at Our Lady of the Skies Chapel.

Gary Allen Prybylski, a long-time member of St. Peter’s Church, and his son who attends religious education classes there, were Peace Light coordinators this year and will bring the Peace Light to St. Peter Church in Danbury on Friday, December 7 from 7-9 pm.

On Friday, St. Peter’s, along with all the churches in Danbury will come together to welcome the Peace Light and stand together for peace throughout the world.

“Our aim is to see this Peace Light offering grow year by year in the Greater Danbury area and to share this message of peace and harmony with as many people in our community as possible,” said Prybylski.

This beautiful evening will consist of lighting candles, having a bonfire, light refreshments and joining together in the name of peace.

PBS Premiers New Movie on Faith

RIVERSIDE- SACRED, a movie that explores faith as a primary human experience, will have its national PBS telecast on Monday, December 10, 2018, at 10:00 PM on Channel Thirteen (WNET). St. Catherine of Siena in Riverside’s parishioner Bill Baker served as the film’s executive producer. It has been seen in theaters around the world and has won many awards including the Gabriel Award for “Best Religious Film of the Year.”

SACRED is a sweeping global documentary filmed by 40 filmmakers in 25 countries celebrating the world’s religious diversity and liturgies. This exceptional film demonstrates how most people on earth need faith. SACRED is directed by Academy Award winner Thomas Lennon with music by Juilliard composer Edward Bilous. SACRED embarks on a global journey of spirituality, tracing religious ritual at birth, adolescence, marriage, death and other key moments of human life. The film will be available to stream the following day at and on PBS apps.

Sacred has screened at numerous festivals across six continents, including DOC NYC, Frozen River Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Montclair Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, Spirit Film Festival, and Tokyo International Film Festival. It was also shown at the RiverRun International Film Festival, where it won the Special Jury Prize.

Sacred is a WLIW LLC production for WNET in co-production with Japan’s WOWOW. Thomas Lennon is director and producer. Jessica Wolfson is co-producer. Julie Anderson and William F. Baker are executive producers. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge. Maeve O’Boyle is supervising editor. Nick August-Perna and Maeve O’Boyle are editors. Music is by Edward Bilous.

Head to the website for more information!

Over 900 Gifts Distributed Through St. Leo’s Wish Tree Project

STAMFORD- After many weeks of collecting donations, packaging presents, and volunteering after Mass, the parishioners of St. Leo Parish delivered over 900 Christmas gifts, thousands of toiletries, and almost one hundred grocery cards to families in need.

75 volunteers and the entire St. Leo’s Staff supported the program, which supports Laurel House, Headstart/Childcare Learning Centers, Domestic Violence, Villa of Stamford, Roscco, New Covenant Center, and Birthright.

The efforts were part of the parish’s annual Wish Tree initiative, which has always been a tremendous success and a parish tradition in the month of December. Fr. Grosso, pastor of St. Leo Parish, was very encouraged by the event, sharing that the “Wish Tree” is growing- there were more gifts and toiletries donated this year, a true testament to the giving spirit of the community and of the hard work of those who volunteered.

To learn more, please visit the St. Leo Parish website.

Bishop Promulgates New Liturgical Norms

BRIDGEPORT— Bishop Frank Caggiano has promulgated the new liturgical norms of the Diocese of Bridgeport, effective Sunday, December 2nd. Though they have been officially promulgated, the Norms will not go into effect until January 1, 2019. Formation for current ministers will begin December 3, 2018.

The norms, or rules, governing liturgical and sacramental practices in the Diocese of Bridgeport, will be revised over the next four years.

By definition, norms are an authoritative standard. Liturgical norms regulate how the public worship of the Church is to be carried out. In the case of the Holy Eucharist, these norms ensure that the celebration of Mass in our Diocese is in conformity with the universal liturgical law of the Church.

As such, the norms of the Diocese of Bridgeport are based on the teaching and guidance of Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium and the entire prayer history of the Church, the Bride of Christ. More than two dozen clergy, lay leaders, and theologians worked to develop these norms over the course of a year.

“When we concluded the diocesan synod, one of the major initiatives which I confirmed was the need to revise the diocesan sacramental guidelines,” Bishop Caggiano said on October 1. “The sacramental guidelines are really the depository of all the norms and guidelines that allow us to pray effectively and reverently as a Church.”

The norms were last promulgated in 1983 under Bishop Walter Curtis.

“Lay participation in the liturgy is an essential component,” the bishop added. “These norms are meant to enhance, and, in some cases, regularize how these ministries are undertaken.”

Click here to see the Revised Norms.

Immaculate High School’s Field Hockey and Cross Country Teams Win State Titles

DANBURY—The Immaculate High School Mustangs had a tremendous Fall season, including winning the State titles for the Field Hockey and Girls and Boys Cross Country teams. Seven out of the eight Fall athletic teams qualified for State Tournaments, and the season produced three State championship wins, four State championship finalists, one Southwest Conference (SWC) Champion and two regular season Patriot Division winners. Immaculate was represented strongly in postseason play this season, creating a school record for the number of teams in a single season in the playoffs.

Field Hockey won the Class S State Championship. They defeated #1 seed Granby Memorial in a 3-0 shutout in the final game; this is the first time Field Hockey won the State title in school history. The girls entered the Class S Tournament as the #3 seed after finishing first in the SWC Patriot Division. After a tough loss to Pomperaug in the SWC Championship, the girls avenged their loss by capturing the State title. The team was lead by their All-State award winners Madison Halas ‘19 of Danbury, Lauren Oskam ‘20 of Ridgefield, Kristen Cirone ‘19 of Newtown and Celia Preveza ‘21 of Danbury. Celia, Madison, and Lauren also were awarded All-SWC honors as well. The Field Hockey team also had four All-Patriot Division award winners in Kristin Cirone, Molly Coyle ‘20 of Brookfield, Mackenzy Garden ‘19 of Danbury and Stephanie Faria ‘19 of New Fairfield. The team flourished under coaches Shannon Horosky and Matt Ariniello.

Girls Cross Country had an exceptional season finishing first in the Patriot Division and the SWC Conference Championship, winning the Class SS State Championship, becoming the State Open runner-up and finishing third at the New England Championship meet. They had six All-SWC runners, three making First Team All-SWC and three making Second Team All-SWC. The three First Team runners are Taylor Mascetta ‘19 of Danbury, Ailene Doherty ‘21 of Danbury and Kaitlyn Segreti ‘21 of Danbury and the three Second Team runners are Angela Saidman ‘19 of Bethel, Natalie Dudas ‘19 of Redding and Christina Carboni ‘19 of Danbury. Taylor, Ailene, Kaitlyn and Angela were also named CIAC All-State athletes. Angela Saidman ’19 received All-New England honors for girls cross country for the third year. All-New England honors those who finish in the top-20 at the season-culminating event.

Boys Cross Country were Class SS State Champions, a first in school history. The team was lead by All-SWC award winner Drew Mitchell ‘20 of Brookfield as well as Honorable Mention awardees Ryan McNerney ‘20 of Sandy Hook, Parker McKenzie ‘19 of Newtown and James Sullivan ‘20 of Redding. Drew Mitchell was also named a CIAC All-State athlete.

Coach Brian Hayes was awarded the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association’s Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year in the State of Connecticut.

Girls Soccer ended their fantastic season 12-3-1 with an appearance in the SWC and State Championship finals, where they were runner-ups in a hard-fought States game against Old Lyme by 2-1. The team did have a tournament win 4-0 against East Granby and defeated Coginchaug 3-0 in the semifinals. The Lady Mustangs have two All-State and All-SWC players in Kayla Mingachos ‘19 of Danbury and Avery Jarboe ‘19 of Danbury, along with three All-Patriot League players in Meryl McKenna ‘21 of Brookfield, Lauren Manning ‘22 of Bridgewater and Madison Bourque ‘22 of New Fairfield. The girls have a lot to be proud of after a great season, and Coach Nelson Mingachos will be back next year in hopes of reaching the State Finals again. Kayla Mingachos ’19 is also All-New England for girls soccer.  She was also named All-American (one of the best soccer players in the country).

Boys Soccer had a fantastic postseason run after a tough start for this year’s season. The Mustangs finished 7-8-1 and qualified for the State Tournament. The Mustangs (#23), for the first time in 20 years, won their way to the State Tournament quarterfinals by winning two road games against #10 Hale Ray 2-0 and #5 St. Paul 3-1. The team was lead by the core of All-State and All-SWC award winner Quinn Guth ‘20 of Brookfield, along with All-Patriot award winners captains Michael Basile ‘19 of Bethel, Ryan Fanella ‘19 of New Milford, and David Talarico ‘19 of Danbury. The boys did a great job representing Immaculate High School and carrying on the winning culture in Immaculate Athletics under the guidance of Coach Steven Carneiro.

After a losing record and missing out on the playoffs a year ago, Coach Monica Ortega and the Immaculate Volleyball Team turned the program around, qualifying for the SWC and State tournament for the first time in school history. The team finished 10-10, and also had a great State Tournament run advancing all the way to the quarterfinals, including wins against  Morgan (3-2) in the first rounds of States and then St. Paul in five sets. The team was led by All-Patriot award winners Gabrielle Rynne ‘20 of Danbury and Alissa Brugnatelli ‘20 of Brewster. The team also was awarded the SWC Sportsmanship Award for the fourth time in five years.

Girls Swim (a co-op with Bethel High School) also had a great season this year. The following team members competed at the State Class L Trials Championship meet: 200 Medley Relay team of Cheyanne James ‘19 of Southbury, Kristen LeFebvre ’19 of Ridgefield, Lauren Petta ’20 of Brookfield and Arianna Petta ‘22 of Brookfield, who placed 14th; Cheyanne James for the 50-Freestyle who placed 22nd and qualified for the finals, and Arianna Petta in the 100 Butterfly; Lauren Petta for the 100 Breastroke; Arianna Petta, Maya Velez ‘20 of Danbury, Kristen LeFebvre and Aislin Blair ‘19 of Danbury for the 200 Freestyle and placed 16th; and Aislin Blair, Kristen LeFebvre, Cheyanne James and Lauren Petta for the 400 Freestyle Relay and placed 17th.

Besides Cheyanne James, all three relays qualified for Class L State Finals, where, Cheyanne James placed 21st in the 100 butterfly and the 200 Medley Relay team of Devin McGovern ‘21 of Brookfield, Cheyanne James, Lauren Petta and Arianna Petta placed 11th. Also, the 200 yard Freestyle Relay team of Aislin Blair, Kristen Lefebvre, Arianna Petta and Devin McGovern placed 16th, and the 400 yard freestyle Relay Team of Devin McGovern, Aislin Blair, Cheyanne James and Lauren Petta placed 17th.

Congratulations to the swim team, and to Lauren Petta who broke the team and Immaculate records for the 100 Breastroke, Farrah Volpintesta (B’20) who won the Class L Diving Championship and who is the new team record holder for points scored in diving and Devin McGovern who was awarded with All-Conference Honorable Mention for her efforts this season.

ATI Football, a co-op with Abbott Tech, had a strong year finishing 7-3 and just missing out on a State Tournament bid, finishing 9th in Class M. The team finished the season beating O’Brien 36-14 on Senior Day and defeating MCW United 48-6 for their Thanksgiving game. The team was lead on offense by captain Matt Christe ‘19 of Brookfield, who lead the team in touchdowns with 17 on the season. Defensively, Tommy Fahey ‘21 of Danbury finished in the top three in the State in interceptions with 10.

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 allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others.  Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

St. Rose School Advanced Math Club Wins Silver Level Award

NEWTOWN—St. Rose School’s Advanced Math Club has been awarded the Silver Level Award for the 9th consecutive year by the National Math Club and the MATHCOUNTS. This level award is given for the submission of problem-solving work a club does over the first three months of the school year.

The Advanced Math Club will also compete for the Gold Level Award. Work is already underway for the Gold Level Project which will be completed by April 2019.

More than 300 Catholic and public middle schools across the country compete for these two level awards. The students have received Silver Level certificates and the school will receive the Silver Level Banner and have St. Rose School name listed on the MATHCOUNTS website:

The Advanced Math club is made up of 6th, 7th and 8th graders and is led by St. Rose teacher Miss Elaine Smith.

Preparing for the Coming of Christ

NORWALK— Low notes of chanting reverberated through the beautifully ornate St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk for a Sunday evening “Lessons and Carols,”  as a prayerful and reverent way to welcome in the Season of Advent.

On this First Sunday of Advent, December 2, over 100 people including children and families gathered together to enjoy the evening filled with the sounds of Advent. Seminarians processed in to Veni, Veni Emmanuel and sang hymns such as Savior of the Nations, Come; Comfort, Comfort Ye My People and Lo, He comes with Clouds Descending. 

The seminarians of St. John Fisher in Stamford, accompanied by Father Paul Check, rector and Father John Connaughton, director of vocations,  joined in Advent song with David Hughes, director of music and Samuel Schmitt, organist and choirmaster of the Cathedral Parish, Bridgeport.

The Festival of Lessons and Carols is a service of Scripture and song that dates to the late 19th century. In this service, the faithful listen to nine Scripture lessons which recount the Fall, the promise of a Messiah, the Incarnation, and the Great Commission to preach the Good News. Each lesson is followed by a carol or other song that reflects on the lesson’s message and a brief prayer.

Seminarians of the Diocese of Bridgeport came forward to present a reading pertaining to the Season of Advent and the coming of Christ, followed by an Advent hymn centered on the subject of the reading.

Readings included the angel Gabriel salutes the Blessed Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), John the Baptist appears in the wilderness, proclaiming the baptism of repentance for sins(Matthew 3:1-12) and many others.

One reading, The Season of Advent from St. Charles Borromeo, explained the importance and holiness of the Season of Advent in the following way: “The Church asks us to understand that Christ, who came once in the flesh, is prepared to come again. When we remove all obstacles to his presence he will come, at any hour and moment, to dwell spiritually in our hearts, bringing with him the riches of his grace. In her concern for our salvation, our loving mother the Church uses this holy season to teach us through hymns, canticles and other forms of expression, of voice or ritual, used by the Holy Spirit. She shows us how grateful we should be for so great a blessing, and how to gain its benefit: our hearts should be as much prepared for the coming of Christ as if he were still to come into this world.”

St. John Fisher Seminary is an initiative of the Diocese of Bridgeport to prepare college-aged men and young adults for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood.  Founded in 1989 by Most Rev. Edward M. Egan, the third bishop of Bridgeport, the St. John Fisher Seminary program exists to provide young men with a place in which they can come to a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus as they discern whether He is calling them to His priesthood.

For more information, please contact Fr. John Connaughton, vocation director by phone at: 203.322.5331 or by email at:

Father Carducci D’Amico, 83

BRIDGEPORT—Reverend Carducci D’Amico, born on November 1, 1935, returned to his Heavenly Father on Friday, November 23, 2018 in Cercemaggiore, in the province of Campobasso. Italy.

“Many in the Bridgeport area fondly remember Fr. D’Amico for his energy, vision and commitment to the renewal of St. Margaret Shrine,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father D’Amico and the consolation of his family.”

Fr. D’Amico served at St. Raphael/St. Margaret Shrine from 1977 to 2006, becoming pastor in 1984. It was his vision to begin the St. Anthony Feast at the Shrine in 1978. Many parishioners remember that he used his own talents as a carpenter and mason to begin the restoration of the original chapel and ground of the Shrine.

In 1973, Fr. D’Amico was welcomed into the Diocese of Bridgeport as assistant to the late Msgr. David Bannon, pastor of St. Peter Church in Bridgeport. He also served as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Stamford.

“As your pastor, I have tried to devote all of my energies to the service of St. Raphael/St. Margaret parish. I have been given a precious heritage and the inspiring example of many holy priests, sisters and laity. Encouraged by their untiring zeal and generous commitment, I have tried in my own way to build a community of faith within our church,” Fr. D’Amico wrote on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee as a priest in March, 1989.

He entered the Seminary of the Somascan Order in Corbetta, Milano at the age of thirteen. There he completed his secondary school studies and in 1954 professed vows in the Order of St. Jerome Emiliani. Fr. D’Amico obtained a degree in philosophy and went on to attend the School of Theology at Saint Anselm University on the Aventino Hill in Rome. On March 14, 1964, he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Giuseppe Ferretto in the Basilica of Saint Alessio.

Fr. D’Amico retired on March 12, 2009 and returned to Italy, where he resided in his last years.

Fr. Giandomenico Flora will celebrate a Memorial Mass for Father Carducci S. D’Amico at St. Margaret Shrine, 2523 Park Avenue, Bridgeport on Saturday, December 1, 2018 at 5:30 pm. All are welcome to attend the Memorial Mass.

Adoption builds families

|   By Ellen McGinness
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BRIDGEPORT—For 102 years, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) has provided services for expectant parents and adoptive families. Over the last century the program’s core focus has remained the same: to help those who choose to build their family through adoption, and to help the expectant mothers as well.

Family Directions offers a broad spectrum of services in the pregnancy counseling and adoption area. For example, if an expectant mother who is considering adoption has concerns about being able to parent effectively or being capable of affording the cost of raising a child, the Family Directions staff helps her feel supported and not alone. Whatever the mother’s choice is—keeping the baby or going the adoption route—they are there to help her. In the circumstance where she keeps the baby, the agency provides counseling and guidance for as long as the mother needs it and also assists her in obtaining as many supportive services as possible. If however, she decides on an adoption plan, a coordinator is by her side to make sure she understands all of the legal and emotional elements of her decision.

For the families who are adopting, Family Directions helps them prepare to welcome the child into their home and supports them during the entire process. “When you are adopting a child, there is some anxiety because you are dealing with the unknown,” explained Chris, who is an adoptive parent along with his wife Louise. “You wonder if you are going to be capable of this responsibility, which of course biological parents do too. But the difference is, you do not know exactly when you will be taking your child home because you have to wait for the agency to tell you that they have found a match for your family. For biological parents, there is a known due date so that uncertainty is eliminated. Catholic Charities was great at putting our minds at ease while simultaneously guiding us every step of the way.”

Chris and Louise now have five children, four of whom were adopted through Catholic Charities. Although there were many agencies to choose from, the couple chose CCFC for a few reasons. As Catholics, they were naturally attracted to the agency. They were also incredibly impressed by CCFC’s absolute commitment to the well-being of everyone involved: the child, the expectant mother and the adoptive family. Lastly, because CCFC is a nonprofit, they knew the agency had no ulterior motive that could have been driven by financial gain.

“We are extremely proud to offer services that center on adoption,” said Al Barber, the president of Catholic Charities. “Our staff truly cares about everyone involved and keeps in touch with them long after the adoption process is completed.”

For Chris and Louise, the four experiences of taking the leap into adoption with Catholic Charities by their side was nothing short of incredible. As Chris summarized, “It’s like winning the Powerball…but four times over.”

CCFC is licensed by the Department of Children and Families as a child-placing agency and is COA Accredited, with full Hague Accreditation.

(For more information, contact Amy Zajac the Director of Family Directions at or 203.416.1336.)

The Face of Prayer visits schools

WESTPORT—On Sunday, November 18, Emma Ryder, coordinator of The Face of Prayer, visited the sixth and seventh-grade religious education classes at the Church of the Assumption in Westport. The week’s lesson was focused on fear, anxiety and stress. Using resources from, Ryder developed a brief reflective lesson about how stress and anxiety influence many parts of students’ lives and has an impact on their relationship with Jesus. The students identified tests, quizzes, homework and people in their lives as triggers of stress and anxiety and commented on how they forget to pray when they feel these emotions.

After a brief discussion, the students viewed two question and answer videos from the site. “How can I use my faith to cope with stress?” and “What is the best prayer for when I am feeling defeated?” both answered by Fr. Sam Kachuba from St. Pius X. Each of the videos had a reflection question for the students to discuss with one another about how their faith can help them through these difficult moments in school, at home or with friends. After reading one of the additional resources embedded in the video, the students were able to think about ways they can cope with stress a little more.

Following the lesson, students had the opportunity to ask their own questions on video in exchange for a Face of Prayer t-shirt. Their questions ranged from, “How can God help us improve time management?” and “How can we reach Jesus and God in times of pain?” to “How do prehistoric people and animals play a role in our religion?” Their questions have been sent out to catechists around the country to be answered within the next few months, and will then be available at

“Emma shared how the Face of Prayer is sending out a text of a daily prayer intention that they can pray as a community. As a modern-day parent who is not overly enamored with the invention of the mobile phone, I have to say that this is when I actually see the phone being put to good use. God works in mysterious ways,” shared Rose Neas, a sixth-grade catechist. “By relating to our students in such an engaging way, empowering them to ask questions, filling them with the wisdom of elders and uniting them by prayer, our students are being encouraged and supported in their walk of faith,” said Neas.

To have The Face of Prayer visit your classroom or youth group, contact Emma Ryder at

Goal of marriage: Identify yours and always move toward it

CONNECTICUT—It should come as no surprise to any married or engaged couples reading this, but we’ll say it anyway: Preparing for marriage is hard work.

It’s exhilarating to imagine a new life with your best friend, but the milestones en route, such as planning a wedding, figuring out finances and negotiating the holidays, can be stressful and all-consuming.

Though it is important to be physically and emotionally prepared for all of these changes, the most important preparation for marriage is the spiritual—looking toward the sacrament itself.

When we prayed together over how best to prepare for the sacrament of matrimony, we asked a dear friend who is currently a transitional deacon to facilitate that preparation. His was a master class, but what was most critical was the point from which he began: He asked us to identify what our goal is in marriage.

Before he started with the various components of the day, our friend asked us to talk about what our “goal” was. As two very Type A personalities, we were sold. As two devout Catholics, there was no question what the goal was: to accompany each other in becoming who God made us to be—our most joyful, faithful, holy selves.

When we argue or struggle in our marriage—and we will—our life preserver is to stop and remind each other of the goal. Is whatever this moment is moving us toward the goal or further away? If where we are doesn’t move us toward the goal, we need to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are behaving.

Bringing out the best in each other isn’t always easy. It sometimes involves some growing pains.

It involves taking constructive criticism from each other about every aspect of ourselves, be it our work or how we relate to people. It involves pushing each other outside of our comfort zones.

It involves having a significant other that will listen to you vent, maybe even cry about a certain obstacle, and immediately ask, “Have you talked to God about that yet?”

Sometimes it even involves telling your significant other that he or she is being a jerk and is need of a course correction. (Something both of us have had to do!)

Recently, the two of us were at a wedding where the homilist exhorted the couple to “bring out the worst in each other.” Just as Jesus drew out demons in his ministry to free people from what had possessed them, a life-giving relationship draws out all of your nastiest qualities to free you to be the best, holiest, most authentic version of yourself.

Hit me with your best shot: Give me the worst of what you are so I can help you be the best you can be. The lesson of our marriage preparation was reaffirmed (proof it is of the divine!).

That’s not to say we are always telling each other where we come up short; that would be exhausting and not particularly productive. On the contrary, we are deliberate in our praise, affirmation and consolation of one another, and the bulk of our communications falls into those categories.

But sometimes, one of us needs a push. How can we help each other become the version of ourselves that God created us to be if all we do is tell each other how great we are?

“Remembering the goal” involves telling everyone you meet about how wonderful your significant other is, even when he or she doesn’t deserve it. It involves being a partner that yours can rely on to be there whenever needed.

It involves challenging your significant other when he or she needs to be challenged. It involves tears, smiles, anger, laughs and prayer. And sometimes, it involves telling your significant other he or she is being a jerk—bringing out the best, and the worst, in each other.

John Grosso is director of digital media for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a communications consultant. Nicole M. Perone is archdiocesan director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut. They are engaged to be married in April 2019. They are guest columnists for Catholic News Service.

Lessons and Carols this Sunday

NORWALK—The seminarians of St. John Fisher Seminary cordially invite you to their service of Advent Lessons & Carols on Sunday, December 2, 3 pm at Saint Mary Church, 669 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06850.

Bring your family & friends to prepare in your hearts a home for Our Lord this Christmas! This simple & beautiful service, in which readings from sacred scripture alternate with sung meditations, illuminates a season of joyful expectation. Come hear the prophecies and chants of Advent, and join in singing favorite hymns and carols of the season.

The hourlong service is without charge and open to the public. A festive reception will follow.

St. John Fisher Seminary is an initiative of the Diocese of Bridgeport to prepare college-aged men and young adults for entrance into major seminary and eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood.  Founded in 1989 by Most Rev. Edward M. Egan, the third Bishop of Bridgeport, the St. John Fisher Seminary program exists to provide young men with a place in which they can come to a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus as they discern whether He is calling them to His priesthood.

For more information, please contact Fr. John Connaughton, vocation director by phone at: 203.322.5331 or by email at:

St. Patrick’s Youth Group Services Dorothy Day Hospitality House

REDDING—Now in its fourth year, the St. Patrick’s Youth Group has completed 40 missions.

The group began in 2015 with 15 members and has grown to 36 “Youthies” that are in grades 9-12.

The focus of the group has been serving those in need around the community and beyond which include everything from visiting with senior citizens at Meadow Ridge, cleaning up schoolyards in Norwalk, stuffing Christmas stocking for soldiers serving overseas, working in food banks and homeless shelters, to painting a 102 year old residents home in Easton as part of the HomeFront Project.

There are eight seniors who will all work alongside the new Youth Group Coordinators, Jeanine Herman and Gosia Tedawes. There are many more mission planned for this year as the group continues on its path of helping those in need.

 For more information call 203-664-1387.

Bishop provides update on Accountability Report

My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

In my letter of September 7, 2018, I announced the urgent need for administrative action with regards to the current crisis in the Church. Several initiatives have already begun and additional initiatives are planned. I am pleased to take this opportunity to report on these efforts.


The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion

Each week, beginning in mid-October and continuing until the first Sunday of Advent, The Leadership Institute has published a series of articles that have been distributed at all parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport as we await Bishop Caggiano’s promulgation of the Revised Liturgical Norms.

An intro to each article and the links to each in English and Spanish can be found below. The article below marks our final Catechesis piece on the Revised Liturgical Norms. Click here to learn more about the Norms.

The Eucharistic celebration is the source and summit of our faith. We are called to become what we receive and that should change everything: how we act, how we speak to one another, and how we live our lives. This week, read about those faithful individuals who assist the ordinary minister of the Eucharist in extraordinary ways.

The Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion
For Catholics, the Eucharist is the most important sacrament and the center of faith itself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls the Eucharist “the source and summit of Christian life” (1324) and “the sum and summary of our faith” (1327). All other works of the Church spring from it:

“The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (CCC, 1324).

Continue reading our fifth Catechesis Article here.

Fairfield University to Host Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

FAIRFIELD—The most wonderful time of the year is here and Fairfield University will add to the merriment with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, December 6 at 6:15 p.m. outside the Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius Loyola. The event is free and open to the public.

Historically a student event, the University is welcoming the greater Fairfield community to help spread the Stag cheer far and wide. In addition to the tree lighting, Lucas, Santa, and Mrs. Claus will be joining the fun for pictures, University singing groups, The Bensonians and Sweet Harmony, will perform their songs of the season, and hot chocolate and cookies will be available to warm spirits.

Bring your family and friends and join Fairfield’s mascot Lucas the Stag, Santa, and Mrs. Claus for the tree lighting festivities!

Additionally, the community is invited to attend Fairfield’s Men’s Basketball vs. Oakland game in Alumni Hall. The first 100 attendees will receive Santa hats. Tickets for the game are available at

Fairfield University is a modern, Jesuit Catholic university rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S. and across the globe are pursuing degrees in the University’s five schools. Fairfield embraces a liberal humanistic approach to education, encouraging critical thinking, cultivating free and open inquiry, and fostering ethical and religious values. The University is located on a stunning 200-acre campus on the scenic Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

SHU Receives Lilly Grant for Catholic Conference

FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University will host a collaborative regional conference on the Catholic intellectual tradition for universities in April 2020 through a grant from the Lilly Fellows Program in Humanities and the Arts.

The Lilly Fellows Program seeks to renew and enhance the connections between Christianity and the academic vocation at church-related colleges and universities. The program awarded the grant to SHU’s Department of Catholic Studies to host the conference.

The conference will take place at SHU April 16-18, 2020, in partnership with Seton Hall University of South Orange, N.J. “The Catholic Intellectual Tradition: Challenges and Opportunities for the Catholic University in the 21st Century” aims to explore how the Catholic intellectual tradition can inform all sectors of a university and provide an opportunity for Catholic university representatives to come together and determine how the Catholic intellectual tradition can be enacted and implemented on their campuses.

Catholic colleges and universities face challenges such as growing secularism and vocationalism among students, said Michelle Loris, associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Catholic Studies Department chair. An increasing number of students identify as “nones” regarding religious affiliation. Confronted with these challenges and more, Catholic institutions are dealing with the question of how to maintain a robust and distinct Catholic identity to prepare students intellectually, spiritually, religiously and socially for the contemporary world. Colleges are trying to meet these challenges by affirming their institution’s engagement in the Catholic intellectual tradition, Loris said.

“When we developed the idea for this project, we were delighted to invite our colleagues at Seton Hall to join us because of their commitment to the Catholic intellectual tradition,” Loris said. “Because of SHU’s longtime commitment to engagement with the Catholic intellectual tradition, we believe the power of this tradition can transform Catholic higher education today, and we are eager to invite our colleagues—faculty, administrators and students—from regional

Catholic colleges and universities to participate in this conference. We can all join in conversation and share ideas and best practices about the ongoing development and transmission of the Catholic intellectual tradition throughout Catholic institutions of higher learning.”

The conference will include guest speakers, panel and roundtable discussions, workshops and prayer sessions. It is open to faculty, administrators, student-life personnel, students and campus teams who address the challenges and opportunities for integrating the Catholic intellectual tradition at their colleges or universities.

Loris said the conference organizers intend to initiate lively, dynamic and wide-ranging conversations that can begin with the conference and continue at home institutions.

Loris, Fr. Anthony Ciorra, June-Anne Greeley, Daniel Rober and Brent Little from SHU, and Nancy Enright and Fr. Richard Liddy from Seton Hall, will work on planning the conference.

About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers more than 80 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus, which is located about an hour from Manhattan and 2.5 hours from Boston. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland. More than 8,500 students attend the University’s eight colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business; Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, yet at the same time develops students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives and professions and in their communities. A spirit of service, entrepreneurship and social justice is the essence of who we are and can be seen inside and outside the classroom as students learn how to make a difference far beyond Fairfield. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 384 Colleges–2019 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” andBest 267 Business Schools–2018 Edition. It also placed SHU on its lists for “Happiest Students” and “Most Engaged in Community Service,” each of which comprises only 20 U.S. schools. Sacred Heart has a Division I athletics program.

A spiritual journey to the Catholic faith

BRIDGEPORT—Fifty-five years ago on a lazy Saturday afternoon, Debbie Moye’s neighbor started her on a journey that changed her life forever and led her down a new spiritual path.

As journeys go, it was a short one — a simple stroll down the streets of Bridgeport, from her home on Wheeler Avenue, down Main Street and up North Avenue … to St. Patrick’s Church.

But as a spiritual journey, it was a profound one that eventually led Debbie to the Catholic faith.

“I was only 12 and our neighbor asked me to go to church with her while she went to confession,” Debbie recalled. “I guess it was the Holy Spirit that touched my soul so deeply that afternoon. We walked into the lower level of St. Patrick’s, and there was a feeling that overwhelmed me — a feeling of peace. I can still remember the fragrance of the burning candles and the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I never forgot that experience. It always stayed in my heart.”

It was an entirely new experience for Debbie, who regularly attended services with her godmother at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, while on Saturday she went with her grandmother to the Seventh Day Adventist church, where she sang in the choir.

“It was the first time I had ever been in a Catholic Church,” she said, “And I realize now that God was leading me there.”

Forty years later, she entered into full communion with the Catholic Church at St. Theresa’s in Trumbull, and she believes that every step of the way God was directing her.

Debbie was born in Bridgeport in 1952. She attended Shelton School and Central High School, where she was a cheerleader and named the best female athlete in her class.

After graduating, she enrolled in an institute to learn hair dressing and began her first career as a beautician, working at Lane’s Hair Stylists at the Trumbull mall for four years. She had always wanted to become a nurse, but shortly after she began studies at Housatonic Community College, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the autumn of 1983, so she dropped out to help care for him until he died a year later.

From 1981 to 1995, she worked at Bridgeport Hospital as an escort and would transport patients around the hospital. In December 1990, she was voted employee of the month in recognition of the compassionate care she showed the patients, especially seniors. Although she never went into nursing, she believes her job let her show care and love to many people when they were the most vulnerable.

She, her sister and two brothers grew up on the lower north end of Bridgeport. She was baptized in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport and was raised in a faith-filled family. Her maternal grandmother was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who made sure her grandchildren went to church regularly. Her maternal grandfather was Catholic, but he didn’t attend Mass.

“I was surrounded by faith,” she says. Her mother was a Seventh Day Adventist and her father was a Methodist.

“When I was born, my mom decided her friends would be great godparents, and they were,” Debbie said. “My godmother Maud was a gorgeous holy woman who always took us to church.”

In 1985, Debbie met Leroy Moye, who was a Catholic and worked at Action for Bridgeport Community Development Inc. A year later, they got married and shortly after she became pregnant and gave birth to her son Ian.

When it came time for Ian to enter kindergarten, she wanted to enroll him at St. Theresa School in Trumbull, and the late Monsignor Louis DeProfio advised them to baptize him in the Catholic faith.

“I realized it was also time for me to enter this beautiful Church which Christ started,” she said. On April 19, 2003, she received the Eucharist and Confirmation and became a Catholic.

“It was my birthday,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Talk about God’s Providence.”

She is enormously grateful for the people she met at St. Theresa’s who led her forward in her faith.

“I was so enamored by everyone at St. Theresa’s,” she said. “My brothers and sisters at that parish are phenomenal. The dedication and the love they have for Christ is just amazing, along with their generosity. My life has never been the same. They were role models for me, and I love them all.”

Their son Ian graduated from St. Theresa’s and went to Notre Dame High School, where he was president of the Student Council and captain of the track team. He got a degree in motor sports management from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina and lives in Charlotte and has a job doing public relations for a NASCAR race team.

“We all grew up in the racing world,” Debbie said. “Ian’s grandfather was a mechanic and drag racer.”

Today Debbie is eager to share her faith with others, and since 2015 she has been active in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. “RCIA is one of the most incredible ministries the Church has because you get to see men and women follow their journey of faith into the Church,” she says.

She and others share their stories about what brought them to the Catholic Church.

“There are no words to describe it,” she says. “It is just pure joy.”

Eventually, all her siblings, except one brother, converted to Catholicism.

Her spiritual life is one of daily prayer and regular attendance at Mass, and even though her role as caregiver prevents her from going to daily Mass, she watches it every day on EWTN and prays the Rosary.

“If you came to my apartment, you would think you were in a religious store because it’s filled with statues and candles,” she said. Every day when she goes to the mailbox, she receives Mass cards from different religious orders, and one of her joys is having Masses offered for other people and praying for them when they have a birthday or are sick.

Her greatest joy as a Catholic is the Eucharist and the realization that she is receiving Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

“There is no other gift that can compare,” she says. “The Eucharist brings us salvation; it brings us closer to Him. At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when the priest consecrates the host, I believe angels and saints are with us, all around the altar. It’s such a wonderful joy that it brings me to my knees.”

By Joe Pisani