Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

We must prune away our sins and certainties to grow in Christ

BRIDGEPORT— The image of pruning a vine is key to understanding our essential lifetime task as disciples of Christ, Bishop Caggiano said during his online Mass on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Reflecting on the parable of the vineyard owner and ungrateful tenants from the Gospel of Matthew (21:33-43) the bishop said that the same God who plants us in his soil and nourishes us also requires that we undergo pruning “in order to bear lasting fruit.”

The bishop cautioned that while most of us understand the need to remove sin from our lives, we are often unaware of the need for another deeper level of pruning that “goes to the core and is more difficult to endure.”

“We must prune away opinions, ego, agendas—things we may make out to be good but that also make the vineyard wild and won’t produce fruit as we are designed to do in Christ.”

“Dying to ourselves so that Christ can live in us and shine through us to the world is a lifetime project of grace and spirit that requires fortitude and perseverance from you and me,” he said.

This radical pruning is possible because Lord give us his teachings and even his forgiveness if we ask, the bishop said.

He began his homily by noting that Fall was his favorite season as a boy, not simply because of the beautiful foliage but also because it was a time of family ritual.

At home in Brooklyn, he and his mother prepared and filled 250 bottles of tomato sauce, while his father made wine for the coming year and pruned the grapevines in late October.

However, the image that really stayed with him was the backyard vineyard of a boyhood friend and how radically the boy’s father pruned the vines.

The bishop said he was struck by the seasonal ritual and “the excessive, even savage pruning” that left only the stem and a few branches.

“All the rest was cut away leaving a boy to wonder if he went too far, if the vine was dead.”

Noting that Sunday was also the Feast of his patron, St. Francis of Assisi, Bishop Caggiano said that St. Francis joyfully underwent radical pruning in order to find more fulness in the life of Christ.

Describing St. Francis as the man “ who perhaps next to Paul had the greatest impact on the life of the Church since the Ascension of our Lord into heaven,” the bishop said Francis was born into a life of pleasure and privilege as the son of a wealthy merchant.

“Yet he renounced all he had and allowed himself to be pruned of everything, even his clothing so that he could stand naked before the Lord.”

The spiritual journey of St. Francis has captured the imagination of religious people across the world and he has become a symbol of one who was “voluntarily and joyfully pruned by the Lord,” he said.

“While it may seem that Francis had nothing left, the truth is he had everything,” the bishop said. “What was left was not a shell but a shining example. Francis’s ego had given way to Christ who is master of all things, even death itself.”

The bishop said we all struggle at times and think that we can’t give everything up, but it will come back to us one hundred fold because we will become the vineyard that bears fruit.

“The spiritual challenge for you and me is to place ourselves at the feet of the Master who has come to prune us and give us life.”

At the end of Mass Bishop Caggiano invited all people throughout the diocese to join in the Sunday Family Rosary at 7:30 pm. He said the Rosary “is designed to gather families together, strengthen their faith, and offer their intentions together throughout our diocese and beyond.”

For more information on the Sunday Family Rosary, visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

John Paul II “Youth in Action Grants 2021”

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Faith has announced it is accepting applications for the second year of its popular St. John Paul II “Youth in Action Grants.”

“We have expanded our reach based upon the tremendous success of the first-year projects and the enthusiasm of young people throughout our Diocese,” said Kelly Weldon, Director of Foundations in Faith.

“Project ideas are by youth and for youth to enhance their Catholic faith Formation experiences,” said Weldon, “We invite Catholic youth and young adults to apply for this innovative opportunity to deepen their faith and share the Good News with others.”

Weldon said project design should incorporate two or three elements including Evangelization, Collaboration, and Justice and Equity initiatives to dismantle discrimination.

  • The 2021 Grant Application is now live. All applications must be submitted online and by November 13th, 2020.
  • The grants are open to young Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport representing: 1) Catholic High Schools 2) Parish high school Youth Groups and 3) Young Adult (ages 20-35) Catholic Youth Groups working with Diocesan Priest or a sponsoring Parish
  • Each project can apply for up to $5000 in funding.
  • The projects that receive grant funding will run from January-December 2021

Youth in Action Application

Youth in Action Budget template

View Only—Youth in Action Application (Applications must be submitted online. No hard copy or print outs of the “view only application” will be accepted)

A dedicated group of volunteers on the Foundations in Faith Grant Committee will review grant requests and make recommendations for funding to the Board of Trustees in early December.

Please contact Kelly Weldon for further information.

Day of Prayer for the Cause of Life and Peace in our Country

TRUMBULL—A full Day of Prayer for the Cause of Life and for Peace in our Country will be held on Wednesday, October 7, from 8 am to 7 pm at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull.

The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for Adoration immediately following morning Mass and will remain so until 7 pm. The church will be open throughout the day, and everyone is welcome to drop in for prayer and reflection.

“It is no secret that our country and our community continue to face very serious challenges with public health, community peace, and personal safety. Yet, even in these unusual and difficult circumstances, we are reminded that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that He alone will guide us through,” said Father Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish..

Father Marcello said that “prayer is our best tool to help us through any challenging period,” and that during the course of the day he will lead devotions every hour on the hour.

Additionally, the parish will livestream the entire day on our Parish Website (www.stcathtrumbull.com) so people can join from the safety of their own home, at their convenience.

Click here to view the flyer.

Virtual Rosary: Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will host a virtual rosary event on October 7, the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB has called for this moment of prayer with the intention of uniting Catholics across the country at this time when there is much unrest and uncertainty.

Archbishop Gomez has invited several bishops, representing the various geographical regions of the United States, to pray a part of the rosary and it will premiere on the USCCB’s YouTube channel and Facebook page on Wednesday, October 7 at 3 pm ET (12 pm PT).

The faithful are encouraged to join in this prayerful moment of unity for our country, to seek healing and to ask Our Lady, on her feast, to pray for us and help lead us to Jesus, and encouraged to share where they are praying from, to post a photo of their rosary, and to leave a prayer intention for our country. The USCCB will be using the hashtag #RosaryForAmerica on its social media.

USCCB article

Foundations in Education 2020 Gala Cancelled

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education, a non-profit organization established to support Catholic education in Fairfield County, was forced to cancel its 2020 gala due to the COVID pandemic and the potential risk. The Board of Trustees with the Development Committee’s urging determined it best to forgo the event in order to ensure the safety of honorees, committee, staff, volunteers and guests.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined 2020 as a year like no other,” said Foundations in Education Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine. “Life’s experience has taught us to buckle down, take the necessary action, and do what needs to be done to survive the challenge before us.”

The challenge before Foundations now is to secure additional funds that were budgeted to be raised at the gala. The annual gala is Foundations in Education’s premier fundraising event.

Last year the gala raised over $1 million, which allowed Bishop’s Scholarship Fund to award 1,456 students tuition assistance so they may experience a transformational education based on Christian values and character formation at Catholic elementary schools throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport. Foundations also funded grants to educators for innovative and leadership initiatives within Diocesan Catholic schools which foster creative instruction and support faculty and administrative leadership.

This year, in light of the pandemic, several donors and sponsors who had already committed their support to the gala converted their gifts to straight contributions. Many more stepped forward to “raise the paddle” from home and gave to our Leaders of Tomorrow campaign, where gifts support a scholarship for a student at a full, half, or quarter tuition. Additional support to help fill the gap is welcome. Please contact Foundations in Education by phone at 203.416.1671 or make a donation online at www.foundationsineducation.org.

Foundations will return to the annual gala on Thursday, May 6, 2021, honoring Lynn and Francis X. Mara of the New York Football Giants, Inc. and Dr. Julia M. McNamara, President Emerita Albertus Magnus College.

Please save the date and join us May 6, 2021 for the Foundations in Education Gala as we celebrate a night of academic excellence, faith formation and enrollment in Catholic Schools.

For more information on the gala, or to make a contribution today, please contact Megan Quinn at 203.416.1671 or mquinn@foundationsineducation.org.

“Dorothy Day: A Saint For Our Time” Program at Wisdom House Retreat & Conference Center in Litchfield October 3

LITCHFIELD—On Saturday, October 3, 2020, Wisdom House Retreat and Conference Center at 229 East Litchfield Road in Litchfield will present a program on Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Presented by Robert Ellsberg, the revered author of “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” and “All The Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day”, and will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The cost of the program is $60 which will include lunch.

Program presenter Robert Ellsberg, editor in chief and publisher of Orbis Books, the publishing arm of Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers. In addition to his books on Dorothy Day, he is the prolific author of numerous books on Catholic Faith, including “Blessed Among Us: Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses”; “Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets and Witnesses”; “The Franciscan Saints”; and “All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses”.

Co-sponsored by Fairfield University’s Center for Catholic Studies, the October 3rdprogram will offer insights into the ambitions, accomplishments and devotions of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), one of the nation’s most influential nonviolent speakers for the rights of workers.

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and anarchist who, after a bohemian youth, became a Catholic Christian without abandoning her social and anarchist activism. She described the process of her conversion in her autobiography, “The Long Loneliness”. Today she is perhaps the best-known political radical in the American Catholic Church, and is currently under consideration for sainthood.

An active journalist, Day described her social activism in her writings. In 1917 she was imprisoned as a member of suffragist Alice Paul’s nonviolent Silent Sentinels.  In the 1930s, she worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker Movement, a pacifist movement that combines direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent direct action on their behalf. She practiced civil disobedience, which led to additional arrests in 1955, 1957, and in 1973 at the age of seventy-five.

As part of the Catholic Worker Movement, Day co-founded the “Catholic Worker” newspaper in 1933, and served as its editor from 1933 until her death in 1980. In this newspaper, she advocated the Catholic economic theory of distributism, which she considered a third way between capitalism and socialism. Pope Benedict XVI used her conversion story as an example of how to “journey towards faith… in a secularized environment.” Pope Francis included her in a list of four exemplary Americans who “built a better future”, yet for much of her life Day was considered a fairly marginal figure, if not viewed with outright suspicion.

The October 3rd program will be offered in four sessions. The morning sessions will introduce Dorothy Day and her accomplishments and the story of her conversion. These sessions will include a showing of the documentary, “Revolution of the Heart: The Dorothy Day Story”, which features an interview with Robert Ellsberg. The afternoon sessions will explore the social program of The Catholic Worker Movement: Works of Mercy, Social Justice, and Peace and focus on Day’s spirituality and reflections on the question of sainthood.

Wisdom House Executive Director Deborah Kelly commented, “We are honored to co-present this program because Dorothy Day is being widely publicly heralded and celebrated for the enormity of her offerings to the rights of social justice for Catholic workers in the past that is still a need today. She was an exemplary ‘true force of reason’ in unreasonable circumstances.”

Face masks, social distancing protocols, and registration for this event will be required. To register, call Wisdom House at 860.567.3163, or visit www.wisdomhouse.org.

VAC Interview: Erin Neil, Diocese of Bridgeport

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Do you have a family? Where did you go to school?

I grew up in Fairfield CT and I currently live in Litchfield County with my husband Philip and daughter, Maeve. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Clinical Psychology from Xavier University and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from Southern CT State University with a specialization in Clinical Mental Health and Substance Abuse. I am a licensed clinical social worker in the State of CT.

How long have you been a VAC? What drew you to this work?

I was hired by Bishop William E. Lori in 2003 as the founding director of the Safe Environment program and in 2008, I began serving in the capacity as Victim Assistance Coordinator in addition to the Director position. Prior to working with the Diocese, I worked in various counseling positions with adults and children who were diagnosed with cognitive and psychiatric disabilities. I was employed as a social worker with St. Christopher Ottilie in Sea Cliff, N.Y., and assisted children who had disabilities and were removed from their homes and placed in this care facility due to sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect by a family member. I was deeply impacted by the children’s incredible stories of trauma and survival. It became clear to me that there were not enough social workers trained in the field of child sexual abuse prevention and victim advocacy.

Have you seen any changes of attitudes in the Church towards abuse survivors during your time working as a VAC?

Yes, absolutely in both the Safe Environment Program and in our Victim Assistance Ministry. In 2003 we implemented VIRTUS awareness training on child sexual abuse prevention and people were angry and did not understand why it would take years for a victim to come forward. There was little awareness about the lifelong impact that abuse has on a person. There has been great progress since 2003 and over 130,000 adults and children have taken these trainings in our diocese. The most common feedback now is deep gratitude and a desire to get this training to programs everywhere.

In 2013, our victim assistance ministry was renewed under Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s leadership. He began meeting with survivors as soon as he arrived in Bridgeport and we organized a listening session for survivors and one for family members. Bishop Caggiano also held open meetings for anyone in our diocese who would like to discuss the sexual abuse crisis and our diocesan response. We met with survivors individually and in groups on a regular basis and a special group formed called the Committee for Healing. It includes Survivors of Sexual Abuse as Minors by Priests, Bishop Caggiano and I, Michael Tintrup, L.C.S.W., Victim Assistance Counselor with Catholic Charities and two family members of victims. We have had priests on our committee who have been survivors and a survivor who entered the seminary. We plan opportunities for outreach and healing and we speak at various groups within our diocese including the Presbyterate, School Principals, the Deaconate, Directors of Religious Education and survivors speak at VIRTUS training. The survivors and their families play a critical role in everything we do in our Safe Environment office, including helping us to update our policies and procedures.

Our group participates in radio talk shows, newspaper and TV interviews, and videos which are available on our diocesan website. We planned a prayer service at Fairfield University and three annual Masses for Survivors together with Bishop Caggiano. One survivor from our group participated in the Human Library experience at Fairfield University where students could reserve a time to speak with her as part of their learning experience. Members from our group are open to speaking with anyone if they believe it will help bring awareness and healing, or if it will help someone personally. We meet quarterly with the Bishop at the Catholic Center or his residence and now by zoom during Covid 19 as we plan for a January 20, 2021 Virtual Prayer Service.

What personal quality do you think helps you to be a good VAC?

I consider it a privilege and a ministry and I listen for as long as a person needs. Every person’s journey towards healing is unique and everyone’s time frame is different. Survivors often share that they felt no one would believe them or they blame themselves. It is important for every VAC to assure the person calling from the very beginning that they are doing the right thing by coming forward. I recognize that it may have taken years for that person years to make the call and they have placed so much trust in me at that very moment. I take this very seriously.

How do you take care of your own mental health while doing this work? Where do you find support?

My faith in God, the support of my family, our Bishop, the survivors from our group and my amazing co-workers at the Catholic Center are all supports in my life. I don’t know how any person could do this work without each one of these in place, I also love animals and live on a small farm with hens, turkeys, sheep, goats and rabbits. I spin the wool that we shear from our sheep although I am not a great knitter. My husband grew up on a dairy farm in Ireland and so I often rely on his expertise on animal care, mending fences and barns. It is something that we do together as a family.

What is a question that you wish people would ask you about your work, or about the work of the Church to help survivors today?

I wish more people would ask how they can become involved in the education and prevention work of the diocese. We can all take steps to help our Church heal by taking a class and helping out with child safety in a school or parish. There are so many positive initiatives that are happening in every diocese. I know in my heart that the Catholic Church is becoming one the safest places in our community for children and while we still have work to do, there is so much good news to share.

By The Catholic Project

Sr. Colleen Gibson SSJ Headlines 20th Annual Anne Drummey O’Callaghan Lecture

The Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University has invited Class of 2009 valedictorian Sister Colleen Gibson, SSJ, to lecture on the theme of “Showing Up: The Radical Work of Commitment in Uncertain Times.”

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (September 28, 2020)— On Wednesday, October 7, 2020 at 5 p.m. the 20th Annual Anne Drummey O’Callaghan Lecture on Women in the Church will be delivered as a Zoom webinar by Fairfield University alumna Sr. Colleen Gibson ’09, SSJ. This virtual event is free and open to the public via registration at fairfield.edu/cs.

A Sister of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia, Sr. Gibson currently serves as coordinator of services at the Sisters of Saint Joseph (SSJ) Neighborhood Center in Camden, New Jersey. Her lecture, “Showing Up: The Radical Work of Commitment in Uncertain Times” marks the 20th in an annual series that honors the legacy of Anne Drummey O’Callaghan, a catechist, youth minister, advocate for the intellectually disabled, and director of religious education for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

In her presentation, Sr. Gibson will share her ideas on how, in an age of instability and uncertainty, the call to commitment rings out as a radical invitation to witness to the Gospel call of discipleship. Exploring the purpose and promise of commitment, she will consider the hard work of showing up, the lived reality of women in the church, and the transformative power that “being present” can have on our lives, our world, and our church.

Author of the blog Wandering in Wonder, Sr. Gibson has been published in Commonweal and America, and is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, National Catholic Reporter, and the Global Sisters Report website. Her firm belief that each person’s story has the ability to reveal God’s presence in the world directs her efforts to bring people into dialogue with their own personal experiences, the stories of others, and the grace of God at work in the world. Sr. Gibson’s gifts as a speaker and retreat director invite participants to explore issues of call, spirituality, and culture from a distinctly Ignatian perspective.

Prior to her work at the SSJ Neighborhood Center, Sr. Colleen served as a campus minister at Chestnut Hill College. She has also worked in community development, social services, and pastoral ministry, and she is a proud Fairfield Class of 2009 alumna who majored in American studies and religious studies. In addition to being her class’s valedictorian, Sr. Gibson was also captain of the Stags women’s rugby team.

Sr. Colleen Gibson’s lecture, “Showing Up: The Radical Work of Commitment in Uncertain Times” is free and open to the public. It will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. via Zoom webinar. To register to attend, please visit the Center for Catholic Studies webpage at fairfield.edu/cs.

Vol. 52 #16

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.

We Must Dig Deeper to Get at the Roots of our Sinfulness

BRIDGEPORT—Digging deeper into the roots of our own sinfulness can be the beginning of transforming our lives, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in the homily for his online Mass on the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

The Bishop reflected on the gospel account (Matthew 21:28-32) of the two sons who resist their father’s request that they work in the vineyard. One son initially refuses but later changes his mind and does as he is asked. The other son quickly says “Yes Sir,” but does not go.

The passage concludes with Jesus saying, “When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

The bishop said at its deepest level the gospel challenges us to “work toward a conversion of heart and mind” that begins with coming to terms with our sinful behavior.

“We are called to literally change our minds or to turn our face–those are ways to describe the challenge of conversion in our life. The Lord asks us to lay aside our sinfulness so we can walk in his commands and do his work in service,” the bishop said.

Bishop Caggiano said one area of trepidation he felt as a young priest was the responsibility of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He prayed that he would be equal to the task of bringing God’s mercy to those who were deeply troubled and burdened by their sins.

He overcame his concerns when he “came to realize that it’s not really me who is essential here. It’s the Lord’s mercy. Every priest is a channel of that mercy and the Holy Spirit gives us the words we need to help with the healing.”

He also realized as a young priest that most of us confess the same sins over and over—usually not big sins, but issues we struggle with that harm others and interfere with our ability to experience the fulness of God’s love.

“How do we take the challenge seriously and turn our mind and heart away from sins that seemingly always crop up?” he asked.

Using the image of the garden, the bishop said that when we walk by a garden and admire the flowers, we don’t think about its underground roots that give them life. We may also become exasperated by the weeds in our own garden.

“Sometimes to see the flower, you have to dig the weeds, and if you don’t get the weeds up by the roots, they will continue to grow,” he said, noting that the lesson nature can provide us is obvious.

“If you find yourself seeking forgiveness for the same sins, it’s time to look for the roots and at what is manifestly our sin that prevents us from turning our face and mind more and more to Jesus.”

Staying on the surface of our motivations is not good enough, said the bishop who added that it is important to spend time in deep reflection and honest examination of conscience with a spiritual guide who can help us.

By digging deeper and with the grace of God, we can understand “the root that powers sin in our lives” and become more aware of the reasons for our negative behavior.

“You and I need to spend time in the garden of our life and get our hands dirty and dig, and examine our own thoughts– your heart and mine– and seek to understand the desires that motivate us to act the way we do,” he said.

“We will have a life not filled with weeds, but with beautiful flowers—flowers that give glory to God and allow us to love our neighbor and grant us joy and peace in this life, and in life everlasting,” he said.

In brief remarks before the final blessing, the bishop invited all to watch the two-minute 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) video and thanked those who contributed online after last week’s Mass. He asked all in our diocese to give as generously as possible help to meet human need so those affected by the pandemic.

To donate to this year’s ACA, visit: https://www.givecentral.org/appeals-form-registration

FIE Invites Educators to Apply for Grants

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Education is pleased to announce that applications to the Innovation and Leadership Grants Program opened September 15, 2020.

The grants program promotes excellence in Catholic education by supporting teachers’ creative projects and professional development. Grants funded through this program are for transformative initiatives that may benefit multiple grade levels and have a long-term impact on student learning.

Now in its 4th year, this competitive program was the first of its kind in the diocese to offer innovation and leadership grants to teachers and administrators.

To date, Foundations in Education has funded 71 transformative grants totaling $367,500.

Educators within the Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools are encouraged to submit grant proposals from September 15-October 31, 2020.

A grants committee carefully reviews each proposal and submits recommendations to Foundations’ Board of Trustees for approval. The committee is led by Dr. Julie McNamara, President Emerita of Albertus Magnus College and Foundations’ Board member.

“It was heartening to see the unintended, but very positive consequences of several of our grants this past year was aiding students and teachers in the transition to remote learning,” shared Foundations in Education Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine. “All Saints, for example reported their students were able to transition to distance learning rather smoothly, thanks to their grant,” Holly added.

Craig Pucci ‘s Innovation Grant last year allowed 8th graders at Catholic Academy of Stamford to take two new Computer Science classes: 1) Computer Science for Innovators and 2) Makers and App Creators. Students learned how to build apps for use in portable devices and program physical computing devices that address authentic real world activities and problems.

“Fortunately, both of these classes continued while we engaged in distance learning with little modification,” shared Pucci. “Students were able to continue to work through various programming activities and tested them using online emulators.”

“We anticipate applications will look different this year,” commented Committee Chair Dr. Julie McNamara. “With the fluidity of our current environment, the actual experiences of remote teaching last spring and the flexibility and creativity needed to deliver lessons across platforms, we believe teachers will have some very creative ideas born from their new experience,” she added. “We are eager to see the innovative and inspiring ideas they present for this round of grants.”

Foundations in Education is an independent 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 extra-curricular programs, fostering opportunities for the professional development of school leaders and providing tuition assistance to families in need. To find out more, visit www.foundationsineducation.org

Phase III state guidelines for church capacity 

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has approved expanded capacity in all diocesan churches consistent with new state guidelines announced by Governor Ned Lamont.

On September 24, the governor announced that as the State of Connecticut begins Phase III of its re-opening plan, churches can increase attendance to 50% capacity with a cap of 200 people effective October 8.

Bishop Caggiano discussed the changes with pastors and priests prior to the announcement  at Wednesday’s presbyteral assembly and has issued the following guidelines as churches expand their capacity:

  1. Only every other pew can be used for seating.
  2. 6 feet of distance must be maintained between individuals or family units within a pew.
  3. Masks must be worn.

The guidelines indicate that if a person refuses to wear a mask, he or she should be asked to leave the church unless they can provide medical proof of a medical condition that prohibits them from wearing a mask.

The diocesan guidelines acknowledge that given the above protocols for seating and social distancing, it may not be possible for each parish to reach 50% of church capacity with a cap of 200.

According to the guidelines, if the positivity rate within a particular town or city exceeds 5%, then the pastor should reduce capacity to 100 people per Mass.

(For updates and complete Coronavirus health and safety protocols, visit:  www.bridgeportdiocese.org/coronavirus/home.)

Novena Begins Tomorrow

BRIDGEPORT—The Divine Mercy Summit will be hosting the largest Divine Mercy event ever with people joining from around the globe.

Speaking at the event will be renowned experts on various topics surrounding the devotion to Divine Mercy, as well as many special guests (including Father Larry Richards).

Guest speakers are joining from places like Poland, Lithuania, Mexico, The United States, Ireland, Canada, Austria, and even all the way from Brazil and Lebanon!

The event is free for all who register and goes from October 3-5, 2020.

Register at www.DivineMercySummit.com to participate.

U.S. bishops say ‘enough’ on federal executions

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Just hours before the sixth federal execution took place this year, and two days before the next one was scheduled, two U.S. bishops’ committee chairmen called on the government to end this practice.

“We say to President Trump and Attorney General Barr: Enough. Stop these executions,” said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, in a statement issued late Sept. 22.

“In the last 60 years, before the Trump administration restarted federal executions, there were only four federal executions. Since July, there have been five, which is already more federal executions than were carried out in any year in the last century,” the bishops said.

They said the Catholic Church “must give concrete help to victims of violence” and “encourage the rehabilitation and restoration of those who commit violence.” They noted that “accountability and legitimate punishment are a part of this process” and emphasized that “responsibility for harm is necessary if healing is to occur and can be instrumental in protecting society.”

“Executions are completely unnecessary and unacceptable, as Popes St. John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis have all articulated,” they added.

The bishops’ statement was issued the day before Barr, a Catholic, was scheduled to receive the Christifideles Laici Award, named for St. John Paul II’s postsynodal exhortation, at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. The award is given by the independent Catholic organization in “honor and gratitude for fidelity to the church, exemplary selfless and steadfast service in the Lord’s vineyard.”

The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests, Catholic Mobilizing Network and the Santa Fe Archdiocese’s Office of Social Justice and Respect Life spoke out against Barr receiving this honor, emphasizing that in his role as attorney general, he directed the federal government in July 2019 to resume the execution of prisoners on federal death row.

The Catholic Mobilizing Network, which works to end use of the death penalty and promotes criminal justice reform and restorative justice, relaunched its petition against federal executions in early September, emphasizing that Barr was being honored “despite promoting actions contrary to Catholic teaching.”

And a Sept. 23 statement by the group’s executive director, Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, further denounced Barr’s award, especially for its presentation in between two federal executions, saying it “could mislead the public to believe the Catholic Church somehow condones the death penalty. This is categorically false.”

She also said that under Barr’s leadership, the Department of Justice has “carried out more executions in 2020 than in any other comparable time in the past 70 years. Nothing about this is pro-life.”

The Catholic Mobilizing Network led a virtual prayer vigil Sept. 22, hours before the federal execution of 50-year-old William Emmett LeCroy, who was charged with the 2001 murder of a Georgia nurse.

They were to lead another virtual prayer vigil Sept. 24 before the scheduled execution of Christopher Vialva, a 40-year-old from Texas who was convicted of kidnapping and killing an Iowa couple in 1999. Vialva will be the first Black man to be executed since the federal executions resumed this year after a 17-year hiatus.

In prison, Vialva became a Messianic Jew and in recent years he has regularly ministered to fellow inmates, according to a report on WFIU public radio in Indiana.

LeCroy received a lethal injection Sept. 22 at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. Nearby was his spiritual adviser, Sister Barbara Battista, a Sister of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods.

Sister Battista told local radio station WTWO in Indianapolis that during the execution, members of her order were planning to join death penalty protesters nearby. “We are attempting to send a clear message that says: ‘No we need to stop this. No more death penalty, no more extrajudicial killing, stop police killing, stop mass incarceration,’” she said.

At the Sept. 22 virtual prayer service, a statement written by Atlanta Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer was read aloud to the 215 online participants. It said: “The death penalty goes against the church’s pro-life teaching rooted in the inherent dignity of every human person. It jeopardizes innocent lives since the justice system has wrongfully convicted innocent people.”

He also said “a convict who is killed never has an opportunity to repent or seek reconciliation with those he or she may have hurt. We must always leave open the door for redemption and rehabilitation.”

The archbishop prayed for LeCroy’s victim, Joann Lee Tiesler, and for her family. He also prayed for LeCroy “because he is a child of God” whose life has worth and dignity.

He also prayed for government employees involved in carrying out the death penalty and that “our judicial and political system may find a way to end the death penalty, so as to achieve a measure of justice that does not involve the violence of execution of a fellow human being.”

By Carol Zimmermann | Catholic News Service