Celebration with Eucharistic Lord a Powerful Experience for Faithful

People of different races and cultures and backgrounds—but the same Catholic faith—came together on Saturday to celebrate Christ in their midst during a Mass of Thanksgiving that was so moving, many openly wept and shared stories about their personal relationships with Jesus.

Some recalled parents, priests and friends who planted the seed of faith in them, which in time flourished, and inspired them to share it with others.

The Mass at Fairfield University culminated the Eucharistic Pilgrimage that passed through the Diocese of Bridgeport for four days as part of the National Eucharistic Renewal. This celebration of unity on Saturday inaugurated a diocesan renewal that will be launched in the coming months.

Barbara Scioscia Reed, joined by her husband Bob, who is Jewish, belongs to St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport, but was unable to attend the Eucharistic Renewal events there, so she came to the Mass of Thanksgiving.

She shared memories of her faith journey and recalled her mother, Betty, whom she would drive to Mass at Holy Rosary Church with her friends who were all in their 90s. When that parish closed, they found St. Margaret Shrine, and Deacon Don Foust, the administrator, was welcoming to their group.

“I felt empty after my mother passed,” she said. But her new parish encouraged her to continue. The gathering of so many Catholics at the arena reminded her of the importance of an accepting community where you can practice your faith.

Steven Velardo of St. Lawrence in Huntington, who is the chair of the Young Adult Council, pointed to the importance of young Catholics being part of a community of believers at a time when the number of so-called “nones,” or those unaffiliated with an organized religion, has risen.

“It’s so important for Catholics, especially young Catholics, to feel a part of a faith community and have a space like this,” he said. “There are so many people here from so many different backgrounds, and it’s inspiring to see how the Holy Spirit is working among us. I believe this is the beginning of a spiritual renewal in Fairfield County.”

Ruth Mendoza, who came to the Mass with her husband Holnes, belongs to Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Danbury. She said she was honored to be invited to the celebration, adding, “This was a moment of blessing for me and my family. I am very grateful.”

The Mass and the Eucharistic Procession were very moving to Gina Fleming of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston. She recalled her mother Maria Grazia, who planted the seed of faith in her, but sadly passed away when her daughter was 6.

However, from that beginning a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus developed in her life.

“I am very devoted to the Sacred Heart,” she said. “I am here because I want to become closer to Jesus and make him known to others…Jesus is my brother, my friend, my everything, and I want everyone to know about him.”

Amelia Palomar of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Fairfield marveled at the diversity of the faithful who had gathered for the Mass and said it should offer us an example of the importance of unity.

“It is very important to remember your roots,” she said, “your culture and family and most of all God. There are so many people here, gathered under one roof, and it’s a moving and powerful experience that should remind us of the need to unite in the name of God.”

Celeste Vodola of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown also commented on the diversity of the Church and said, “It’s nice to see so many different cultures, and for me it has been a learning experience about the diocese.”

Michael Shea of Our Lady of Grace in Stratford praised Bishop Caggiano and called him a spiritual leader who helps points us to Christ. “I walked in with doubt,” he said, “but I’m leaving with hope and connectedness.”

Tuck Colangelo of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Stratford shared the good news that his pastor, Fr. Peter Towsley, had recently made him sacristan at the church, where he has been a parishioner for 42 years. Colangelo praised the many priests he has known who served there, especially Fr. Nick Pavia.

“Every priest has taught me something,” he said.

After receiving Communion, he looked at the thousands of faithful gathered in the arena and said, “Just to be a part of this is so powerful for me, just to listen to the bishop is so moving … Besides I need all the help I can get. And I’m getting it.”

Colleen Gilbertson, who serves as the Administrative Coordinator of the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality of Fairfield University, praised the bishop for all the support he has given their program and the university, and said, “What a gift to have him here with so many people of different ages and ethnic backgrounds coming together to celebrate the Eucharist.”

Fr. Adriano Biccheri, Priest Moderator of Our Lady of Good Counsel Chapel and Koinonia John the Baptist in Bridgeport, pointed to the importance of evangelizing after the experience of the Eucharistic Lord during the Mass of Thanksgiving.

“I think that this gave us a wonderful opportunity to come together, and now we must go out and preach the Gospel and evangelize.”