By Joe Pisani

TRUMBULL — Once a week at St. Joseph’s Center, chaplain Father Nicholas Pavia gets together with patients and friends for a different type of book club: to discuss bereavement.

Father Pavia, who says he’s been an avid reader since he was a child, believes this topic is important in our time, especially in a nursing home environment, where he is confronted with death and dying almost daily.

“People are hurting because they don’t know what to do with their grief,” he said. “And it’s important to have a ministry that will help them move along in their life because they can either be stuck in that grief or can have a new day.”

Father Pavia works with Carolyn Killian, Director of Bereavement for Catholic Cemeteries, who facilitates sessions of the nine-week New Day Program, designed to help those who have suffered a loss.

“We are blessed to have Father Nick develop this pilot bereavement book program,” Killian said. “He brings incredible dedication and compassion to his work with those who are grieving.”

“Over the years, I’ve had many book clubs, but this one is very special,” Father Pavia said. “Grief is a topic that we all can relate to, and I’ve known it in my own life.”

The club, which is a pilot program, meets in three-week intervals from 1 to 2 pm on Wednesday with the purpose of leading participants to an understanding of grief in their lives through the readings and the discussions, he says.

The first book they read was “Tears of God: Persevering in the Face of Great Sorrow or Catastrophe” by the late Father Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., best-selling author, psychologist and retreat master, who hosted a program on EWTN.

The book offers advice and hope to those enduring great sorrow and relates their personal experiences to the Catholic belief in God’s infinite goodness and mercy and Christ’s suffering and death on the cross.

Father Pavia, who has always been a fan of Father Groeschel’s writing, recalled that shortly after he was ordained, he met the Franciscan friar in New York City at the installation of the late Cardinal Edward Egan. Father Groeschel asked for a blessing from the newly ordained priest, but first offered him some advice.

“Son, I’m happy that you’re a priest,” he said, “But before you bless me, don’t do like so many others and go on and on and on. Just keep it simple.”

Father Pavia took the suggestion to heart.

“When I used to watch him on EWTN, I liked his Bronx attitude,” Father Pavia recalled. “He was very earthy, but knew exactly how to talk to people.”

The next author he is considering for the book club is Boston College philosophy professor Peter Kreeft. A convert to Catholicism, Kreeft has written more than 80 books on theology, Christian philosophy and apologetics.

Among Father’s favorites are Love Is Stronger Than Death and Making Sense Out of Suffering.

“His books are good, easy reads, and they’re books that let you take one sentence or one thought and use it to have a great discussion,” Father Pavia said. “A book is a vehicle for listening and sharing and discussion.”

In working with those who are grieving, listening is essential, says Father Pavia, who was recently appointed chaplain of the Bereavement Ministry of the diocese.

“When it comes time to listen, I ask the Lord, ‘Please shut my mouth so that I listen more than I speak,’” he said.

He also believes our faith can sustain us when we are grieving.

“We grieve, but we don’t grieve like the world because we have hope,” he says.

He speaks from experience. His father Nicholas died at 38, and he later suffered the loss of his sister and brother.

“Each step of the way, God has given me experience and tools to help me in my priesthood,” he said. “All my family life, we have known grief and death. I was only four when my father died and now I understand, especially after seeing the example of my mom, who is 94 and raised us six kids. Thank God I was born into a real human, messy family. That’s why sometimes I am effective with people because they see a real human being behind the collar.”

Father participated in the New Day Bereavement Program at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Greenwich to help him cope with the loss of his sister Andrea, who died in 2011 at 47, and his brother Thomas, who died six months later at 56, leaving behind three sons and a daughter.

Father is a trained facilitator in New Day and intends to offer the program at St. Joseph’s Center, a Genesis healthcare facility in Trumbull.

He said he agrees with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who says we have to accompany others in small groups on their faith journey.

Father Pavia is currently a priest in residence at St. Roch Parish in Greenwich, which allows him to be close to his 94-year-old mother in Stamford and care for her.

A native of Stamford, Father was one of six children born to Carmela (Chickie) and Nicholas Pavia. Before discerning his vocation to the priesthood, he held positions at Stamford Hospital and was active in Stamford politics. He served on the Stamford City Council and later as a State Representative in the Connecticut General Assembly.

He was ordained in 2000 by then-Bishop Edward Egan and was assigned parochial vicar at St. Stephen Parish in Trumbull, where he served from 2000 to 2007, followed by St. Joseph Parish in Shelton, from 2007 to 2014, and Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford, where he was pastor from 2014 to 2022.

For more information about the Bereavement Book Club or the Bereavement Ministry of Catholic Cemeteries, call Carolyn Killian at (203) 404-0023 or email

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christ was born to touch people’s hearts and show that love is the power that changes the course of history, Pope Francis said.

Pictured: Pope Francis celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters)

However, the faithful must ask themselves, “Do we want to stand at his side? Do we draw close to him? Do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortably ensconced in our own interests and concerns?” the pope asked in his homily Dec. 24 as part of the nighttime liturgy.

“We are called to be a church that worships a Jesus who is poor and that serves him in the poor,” the pope said, calling for a renewed commitment to charitable action and concrete change.

“The church supports and blesses efforts to change the structures of injustice and sets down but one condition: that social, economic and political change truly benefit the poor,” the pope said, quoting St. Oscar Romero.

The evening Mass, which is often referred to as “midnight Mass,” has not been celebrated at midnight at the Vatican since 2009. Pope Francis celebrated the “Christmas Mass at Night” at 7:30 p.m., as he did in 2020 and 2021.

The Christmas hymn, “Noel,” was sung during the procession, and the Mass began with the Christmas proclamation, or “kalenda,” of Jesus’ birth. The pope, who was seated to the right of the altar, watched as a cloth was lifted, revealing a statue of baby Jesus.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang loudly announcing the birth of Christ, and several children representing different cultures placed white flowers around the crib of baby Jesus.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the danger of a Christmas filled only with “decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has packaged the mystery we celebrate.”

“How do we rediscover the meaning of Christmas?” the pope asked. “We need to look to the manger.”

“In the manger of rejection and discomfort, God makes himself present.”

“He comes there because there we see the problem of our humanity: the indifference produced by the greedy rush to possess and consume,” he said.

It is there that people can discover Jesus’ closeness to humanity, his choice to be present in the poor and marginalized, and his demand for “a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not empty words and superficiality,” Pope Francis said.

The manger, as a feeding trough, can also symbolize a hunger for wealth and power, and people willing to consume “even their neighbors, their brothers and sisters,” he said.

“How many wars have we seen,” the pope asked, and how many places treat human dignity and freedom with contempt?

“This Christmas, too, as in the case of Jesus, a world ravenous for money, power and pleasure does not make room for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor and forgotten children,” especially those “devoured by war, poverty and injustice,” he said.

In Jesus, “every child is present. And we ourselves are invited to view life, politics and history through the eyes of children,” Pope Francis said.

With Jesus — born in a manger — he can become “our food,” feeding a hungry humanity “with his tender love,” he said. “He comes to touch our hearts and to tell us that love alone is the power that changes the course of history.”

On Christmas Eve, God is drawing near, the pope said. “From the manger, as food for your life, he tells you: ‘If you feel consumed by events, if you are devoured by a sense of guilt and inadequacy, if you hunger for justice, I, your God, am with you.’”

He said, “God was born in a manger so that you could be reborn in the very place where you thought you had hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin, from which Jesus does not want to save you. And he can. Christmas means that God is close to us: Let confidence be reborn!”

Jesus was born, lived and died in poverty, and he shows “where the true riches in life are to be found: not in money and power, but in relationships and persons,” he said.

“Let charity be reborn,” the pope said, and “may we not let this Christmas pass without doing something good” so that a little hope can be “born anew in those who feel hopeless.”

“Jesus is not satisfied with appearances” and good intentions, Pope Francis said.

Jesus wants concrete faith and the truth, he said. “He asks us to go to the bare reality of things, and to lay at the foot of the manger all our excuses, our justifications and our hypocrisies. Tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, he wants us to be clothed in love.”

By Carol Glatz @