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Permanent Diaconate Survey Highlights Work

WASHINGTON-The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations has shared the results of the annual survey on the permanent diaconate. A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 2019-2020, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) and provides an illustration of the state of the permanent diaconate in the United States, including the number of those ordained and retired in the past year, percentages of those involved in various Church ministries, and other demographic information.

Bishop James F. Checchio of Metuchen, chairman of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations expressed his gratitude for the ministry of permanent deacons in the Church. “Permanent deacons provide an invaluable service to the universal Church. Through their leadership in parish and pastoral ministry, proclamation and preaching of the Gospel, and involvement in corporal and spiritual works of mercy, deacons imitate Christ the Servant by bringing the presence of Jesus to those who are often the most vulnerable in our society.”

With contact information provided by the National Association of Diaconate Directors and CARA’s Catholic Ministry Formation database, CARA contacted the 187 dioceses and eparchies in the United States with an active Office of the Permanent Diaconate. Of this total, 129 responded to the survey for an overall response rate of 69%. Of that total, 71% of responses were from Latin Catholic dioceses and 36% were from Eastern Catholic eparchies. Some of the major findings of the report based on the responding dioceses and eparchies are:

  • The dioceses with the largest number of permanent deacons: Chicago (764), Galveston-Houston (478), and New York (355). Adjusting for Catholic population size, Latin Rite dioceses with the lowest ratio of Catholic per permanent deacon include: Lexington (481 Catholics to every deacon), Bismarck (690 Catholics per deacon), Rapid City (704 Catholics per deacon), Duluth (708 Catholics per deacon), and Jefferson City (733 Catholics per deacon).
  • The 123 Latin Rite dioceses that responded to the survey report a total of 13,810 permanent deacons, both active and non-active. The four eparchies that responded reported a total of 57 permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include the dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are as many as 19,833 permanent deacons in the United States today.
  • Latin Rite dioceses report having 9,935 permanent deacons active in ministry. The four eparchies report 50 active permanent deacons. Extrapolating to include dioceses and eparchies that did not respond to the survey, it can be estimated that there are 14,287 deacons active in ministry in the United States today, or about 72% of all permanent deacons.
  • During the 2019 calendar year, 383 new permanent deacons were ordained. At the same time, 334 deacons retired from active ministry and another 289 deacons died. As is the case with priests in the United States, there are not enough new permanent deacons being ordained to make up for the numbers who are retiring from active ministry or dying each year.
  • Ninety-five percent of active permanent deacons are at least 50 years old. About a fifth (20%) are in their 50s, four in ten (41%) are in their 60s, and two-fifths (41%) are 70 or older.
  • Three-quarters of active deacons (76%) are non-Hispanic whites. Seventeen percent are Hispanic or Latino. Three percent are African American and 4% are Asian or Pacific Islander.
  • Among permanent deacons who are financially compensated for ministry:

    • 26% are serving in a “parish ministerial position” other than in pastoral care of a parish (Canon 517.2), such as religious education or youth ministry.
    • One in eight are entrusted with the pastoral care of one or more parishes (Canon 3 517§2) (13%) or work in parish non-ministerial positions such as administration, business, or finance (12%).
    • One in nine works in prison ministry (11%), in a diocesan non-ministerial position (e.g., administration, business, finance) (11%), and in diocesan ministerial position (e.g., religious education, youth ministry) (9%).
    • Fewer work in hospital ministry (8%), parochial education (e.g., school teacher, educational administration) (7%), and works in ministry in a social services agency (e.g., Catholic Charities) (4%).

The entire CARA report can be accessed at:

Published originally

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In my spiritual reading, I came across the following passage written by Saint John Henry Newman which speaks eloquently of what each of us must consider if we wish to evangelize the world around us:

“He who does one little deed of obedience, whether he denies himself some comfort or forgives an enemy, evinces more true faith than could be shown by the most fluent religious conversation or the most intimate knowledge of Scripture. Yet how many are there who sit still with folded hands, dreaming, thinking they have done everything, when they merely have had these good thoughts which will save no one.”

Given all the challenges that we face, it is time to unfold our hands and commit ourselves to living our faith in action that will speak far louder than any homily, presentation, workshop or video.

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

Parishioner makes music of “We Stand with Christ”

TRUMBULL—When Anna Bendiksen was a teenager growing up in Rochester, her dream was to be an opera singer, so she began formal voice training, along with her studies in Russian. As she tells the story, her voice instructor discreetly suggested she stick with Russian.

She did and eventually earned degrees from Bryn Mawr College and Yale University in Slavic languages and literature. “God had another plan,” she says. And while his plan may not have included a career in opera, it did include music … music that would give him glory.

Anna, who grew up singing and playing the piano, is a writer, poet, and author of hymn texts. A convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, she is a member of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull. Since she was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the 2019 Easter Vigil, she has written several dozen hymns set to traditional melodies. One of her most recent is titled “We Stand With Christ,” in recognition of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s capital campaign.

“I was just taken with the phrase, ‘We stand with Christ,’ and it sounded to me like the title of a song,” she said. “Then, it occurred to me that it would fit a tune in the public domain, the old Welsh tune ‘Ar Hyd y Nos,’ or ‘All Through the Night.’ So I sat down and wrote it. Thank goodness for music writing software.” She later gave the hymn to We Stand With Christ campaign of the diocese.

“We are incredibly grateful to Anna for offering her hymn and reflection about our campaign. It highlights our central theme of standing with our neighbors,” Robert O’Brien, capital campaign director said. “We Stand With Christ is more than just a capital campaign. It’s been an opportunity to personally reflect on our roles as the hands and feet of Christ in our communities.”

Patricia Hansen, director of development operations, said, “We are encouraging parishes still running the campaign to play Anna’s hymn at Mass or at any future campaign receptions.”

[To hear Anna Bendiksen singing “We Stand With Christ,” click here]

Anna’s creativity blossomed when she entered the RCIA program. “I think what happened is that as a musician and Anglican, I needed to make sense of my experience coming into the Catholic Church,” she said. “The music at St. Catherine’s is lovely, and I wanted to add my own voice to the world of Catholic music.”

In a short time, she has achieved that goal. A member of the parish choir, she has written several hymns that she shared with Dr. William H. Atwood, Director of Music and Coordinator of Liturgical Ministries, and they have been used during church worship. The sung prayer, “Hear, Holy Mother,” set to the tune of “Christe Sanctorum,” asks for Our Lady’s intercession in ending the coronavirus pandemic. She is especially appreciative to Dr. Atwood and pastor, Fr. Joseph Marcello, for their support.

Since she began writing texts for hymns, she has compiled a notebook of more than two dozen compositions. The beauty of the faith has been a catalyst for her creative work, and she hopes her compositions express the joy she feels.

“To me, it is all about joy,” she said. “We are an Easter people and our song is ‘Alleluia.’ But we are also a Christmas people and our song is ‘Peace on Earth, good will to all.’ I want to bring Christmas to the lives of other people, and peace is not really peace if it is not combined with God’s justice.”

She doesn’t write the music to her compositions because by her own admission, “I am a horrible composer.” Instead, she borrows music from traditional sources, which she finds in her collection of hymnals.

“With certain hymns I loved, it seemed the music was happier than the words or vice versa,” she said. “They seemed mismatched, so I would write lyrics that fit them better. For example, ‘Cross of Jesus, Cross of Sorrow’ sounded more like a Christmas carol when I sang it, so I wrote lyrics for it as a Christmas carol and gave it to my goddaughter as a present one year.”

She believes the skill of writing hymns can be taught and has offered to conduct a workshop for diocesan groups or people interested in learning the basic principles of the art.

Anna, who lives in Fairfield with her husband Aage and son Johan, recently submitted her hymn, “O, Queen of Sorrows, Weeping Rose,” to a music publisher. The piece, she says, “is about Our Lady’s sorrows, about where we are and where we should be.”

A published poet, Anna has also written humorous and satirical songs based on well-known melodies. Her son Johan plays trombone in the Norwalk Youth Symphony Brass Ensemble and when she offered to write a funny song for the group, he suggested using the melody of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Later, at a holiday party for the ensemble, she performed her rendition of the “Battle Hymn of the Norwalk Youth Symphony Brass Ensemble.”

In the folder that contains her hymns, Anna keeps a copy of a 1999 “Letter to Artists” by St. John Paul II, which has inspired her writing. It says in part: “In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable.”

Nestled among her creations, she also keeps “The Prayer of a Christian Writer,” which she wrote, and before starting a new project, she always remembers to pray it:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Incarnate Word,
I do not ask for influence, riches or fame.
I ask to be a vessel of Your grace,
to love as Your Sacred Heart loves,
and to be known by You, my truest friend.
Help me to proclaim Your truth courageously,
Your goodness kindly,
and Your beauty selflessly,
that bearing with cheer the taunts of the world,
I might serve as witness
to Your life, death and resurrection.

And what about Anna’s first love of opera? Even though she may not be singing in the Metropolitan Opera production of “Don Giovanni,” she is diligently at work on a Christmas libretto for the holiday season.

St. Rose of Lima 8th grade graduation!

NEWTOWN—St. Rose School’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony took place on Friday, June 26 in the school parking lot. Mr. Gjoka, principal, Mrs. Petrillo, eighth-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Bokuniewicz, dean of student life and Msgr. Bob, pastor, along with the class parents, worked very hard to make the celebration possible despite these different times.

Chairs were arranged alphabetically for every student and their parents. The ceremony was limited to parents and siblings only to adhere to safety measures. Every student and guest wore a mask. The church organist piped an opening song, “Here I Am Lord” through the speakers and closed it out with “Pomp and Circumstance.”  Msgr. Bob began the ceremony with a prayer and Gospel reading. He also offered words of wisdom and encouraged the students to use their 2020 vision to make the world a better place. Mr. G, Mrs. Petrillo and Mrs. B all spoke at various times.  Mr. G called each student to receive his/her diploma which Msgr. Bob presented to them. The President of Student Council Thomas Phelan, and the President of National Junior Honor Society Evie Komninakas, each gave engaging, insightful speeches. At the end of the ceremony the students processed, alphabetically, to their lawn signs that were set up on the grass in front of the school. They stood beside their sign and at the count of three tossed their caps into the air. Then, according to safety rules, each family returned to their cars.

The sun was shining and it was a lovely ceremony—certainly different from years past but all the more memorable because of it.  Family and friends were very happy to tune into Facebook Live—there was even family from Portugal watching.  So everyone was together in spirit!

There are 24 graduates, all going off to a variety of high schools including Newtown High School, Immaculate High School, St. Joseph High School, Canterbury, Fairfield Prep, Hopkins School and The Gunnery. Several of the students received merit scholarships based on their entrance test scores.

About St. Rose

St. Rose of Lima Catholic School is a Christ-centered community committed to academic excellence in an atmosphere that nurtures the spiritual, intellectual, emotional, physical and moral development of each child.

The dedicated staff partners with families to prepare students to be responsible leaders in a global society by fostering integrity, service and respect. By creating a sense of family where all are welcome, St. Rose School encourages each child to develop his/her gifts and to become Christ’s compassionate heart and hands in the world. Their learning community is centered on four core values. These are: respect, integrity, academic excellence and service.

The community’s spirituality is fostered through close connection with St. Rose of Lima Church. Students attend weekly Mass and we are blessed by the continual presence of Monsignor Robert Weiss and the other parish priests.

(For more information on St. Rose of Lima school, visit their website at:


Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy conducts 2020 commencement exercises

WILTON—On Friday evening, June 12, 2020, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy held commencement exercises for its graduating eighth-grade class. Featured commencement speakers were Clara and Gerry Davis, parents of a graduating student and Stanley Steele, school principal. The event included a Mass celebrated in the church parking lot and homily offered by Our Lady of Fatima Church pastor, Father Reginald Norman.

OLFCA proudly announces the members of the Class of 2020: Veronica Bosco, Connor Bowron, Lauren Davis, Rico de Guzman, Mary Kate Doyle, Allison Edouard, Ava Fleming, Michael Meenan, Sofia Pace, Fabrizio Perez, Ava Robinson, James Scimeca, Chelsea St. Cloud, Rick Wang and Alex Wong. 

During the celebration, annual scholarships and awards were presented as follows:

  • Eugene Rooney Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
  • School Board Scholarship Awards: Sofia Pace and Lauren Davis
  • Speer Performing Arts Award: Chelsea St. Cloud
  • The Phillip Lauria Jr. Memorial Award: Alex Wong

The graduates will attend the following high schools in the fall (listed alphabetically): Fairfield College Preparatory School, Immaculate High School-Danbury, Lauralton Hall-Milford, New Canaan High School, Norwalk High School, Notre Dame High School-Fairfield, Saint Joseph High School-Trumbull and Wilton High School.

Signs highlighting each graduating student have been placed in front of the school along Danbury Road.

The school is also celebrating the successful completion of a recent fundraising initiative to make up for a COVID-19-related budget shortfall. Members of the OLFCA community created a poignant video thanking their many supporters; the vide can be seen on the school’s website or on Youtube:

After achieving a balanced budget for 2020-2021, the school has now shifted to expanding enrollment, which has been hindered by the pandemic.

Principal Stanley Steel reported multiple new enrollments just in the last several days, with room for 28 new students to enroll for the fall while remaining COVID-compliant.

School officials recently announced their plans for the return-to-school in the fall, with a COVID-compliant, full-time, five-day, in-person school week. Principal Steele said, “Our school is well positioned for these unusual times. We offer a “Personalized Approach to Learning” with small classrooms and instruction based on individual student needs.”

He added, “We are small enough to be flexible, whether that is on a distance platform or in person.”

Photo caption: Pictured with graduates are Geri Galasso, Middle School Mathematics Teacher (far left); Reverend Reginald Norman, Our Lady of Fatima Church Pastor (center front) and Stanley Steele, Principal (center back).

Photo used with permission: Hector Panchas Photography

About Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy

Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Academy is co-educational, National Blue Ribbon School offering a Pre-Kindergarten 3 through Grade 8 education model. The Academy’s Personalized Approach to Learning blends classroom and small group instruction with technology to provide learning that is fluid and flexible based on the ability of the student. Multi-age, child-centered classrooms offer continuous learning. OLFCA’s faith-based environment nurtures the whole child and emphasizes strong moral values and respect for self and others.

Registration for 2020-2021 is ongoing. Virtual tours and other information are available on the school’s website, The Academy is located at 225 Danbury Road, Wilton CT 06897. For more information, contact Principal Stanley Steele at

Parish projects meet critical needs

GEORGETOWN—We Stand With Christ is making much needed parish projects possible, and for Father David Leopold, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Georgetown, that means a new roof. Not one but three.

Worshipping in a church that is almost 140 years old certainly has its historic appeal, but it also presents challenges when it comes to maintenance.

“Our focus was mainly on one critical need that we had for at least a year at Sacred Heart,” said Father Leopold. “The shingles on the roof of the church building were starting to deteriorate, and we had to do something.”

Water was leaking into the hallway that led downstairs, where there are offices, and Father feared that if the problem was left untreated, the interior walls of the church would be damaged. When roofers came to look at the job, they discovered there were already four layers of shingles on the roof, which had to be removed.

The work on the church and two other buildings—the parish hall and religious education center along with a garage—was completed last November over the Thanksgiving weekend. During that time, Masses were held in the hall.

Father Leopold is especially grateful to his parishioners for their pledges to the We Stand With Christ campaign, which made the work possible. “I really appreciated what they did,” he said. “I know that everybody has his or her financial strains, and I was very thankful for their participation.”

“It is kind of a mundane project, but a critical project for us because you don’t want to have a roof leaking, and the proceeds we received from We Stand With Christ enabled us to do the job before it got worse,” he said. “Now, it looks perfect.”

St. Timothy Chapel in Greenwich celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, and throughout its history, it has been a favorite place to worship for people in northern Greenwich and visitors who come across the border from New York State. Part of the St. Michael the Archangel Parish, it was recently renovated with funds made possible through We Stand With Christ.

Father Ian Jeremiah, pastor, said the parish’s main concern was ensuring that the chapel was handicapped accessible because there are many elderly parishioners who need assistance.

“Instead of building a long ramp, we raised the gradient of the ground to make it incline into the church entrance,” Father Jeremiah said. In addition, they created a new gathering space outside that was farther away from the traffic. They also built a handicapped bathroom and installed new flooring and applied a fresh coat of paint and did some landscaping this spring. Now, the parish is looking forward to the day when restrictions on public gatherings are lifted, and Bishop Frank J. Caggiano can come to rededicate the chapel.

In addition to the chapel project, a major renovation of St. Michael the Archangel in Greenwich began two weeks earlier than scheduled once public Masses were suspended. The project is expected to take nine months to complete, and parishioners are looking forward to celebrating Christmas in the renovated church. During the construction period, when public Masses resume, the parish will worship in the cafeteria of Greenwich Catholic School.

“We want to recapture space in the church,” Father Jeremiah said. “We need a lot more gathering space so the vestibule will be extended.” In addition, there will be more conference rooms for church ministries and renovations to Guinan Hall, new pews and flooring, along with a new HVac system, a new driveway and more garden space around the church.

The additional space for meeting rooms is needed because of the new young families joining the parish and a parish effort to revitalize the youth ministries.

“Even amidst these challenging times, good things are happening,” Father Jeremiah told his parishioners in an update on the project. “Please pray for the success of our rebuilding and the safety of everyone involved in the construction.”

St. Michael surpassed its goal in the capital campaign, and Father praised his parishioners for their generosity. “I was gratefully and pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We have generous parishioners, so I thank our good Lord and the bishop for his guidance.”

By Joe Pisani

Donation drive benefits Dorothy Day House

RIDGEFIELD—Recently, Lukas Dapkus, a young adult parishioner of St. Mary’s in Ridgefield was inspired to collect much-needed items for those who depend on the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury.

In addition to feeding the hungry, hospitality shelters such as Dorothy Day House provide personal hygiene supplies to those in need. Following the Coronavirus outbreak, the Dorothy Day House was forced to close and the nearly 100 people per day that depend on the Dorothy Day House experienced shortages of hygiene supplies.

On Saturday, June 27, Lukas and St. Mary’s in Ridgefield held a donation drop-off to collect much needed items to benefit the Dorothy Day Hospitality House.

From 10 am to noon, cars came through the St. Mary School parking lot with donations such as travel size shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and soap, disposable toothbrushes and razors.

The donation drive was a great success!

The Dorothy Day Hospitality House has been feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless in the Danbury CT area since 1982 and is based on the Houses of Hospitality founded by Dorothy Day during the Great Depression. Dorothy Day Hospitality House serves 60-80 hot meals each afternoon and provides shelter to 16 people each night. The house is located on 11 Spring Street in Danbury.

(For more information visit:

Discussion on film 13th

WHAT: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, department of Catholic studies and Center for Catholic Studies present “Heart Challenges Hate – A Discussion Series: Wrestling with the Legacy of America’s ‘Original Sin.’” For this discussion, viewers are asked to watch the documentary “13th.” Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, watch her full-scale exploration of the history of racial inequality and mass incarceration in the United States, and how African-Americans went “from slave to criminal in one amendment.” Stream the full-length feature free on YouTube and tune in for the discussion on Wednesday, July 1.



  • Michelle Loris­­—Associate dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, chair of the Catholic studies department

Featured panelists:

  • Bill Harris, Director of SHU Community Theatre
  • Julie Lawrence, Executive director for Diversity and Inclusion
  • Sally Ross, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts
  • William Yousman, Associate professor, School of Communication, Media & the Arts        

WHERE:  Free and open to the public. Join the discussion on YouTube. 

WHEN: Wednesday, July 1, at 7 p.m.

SPONSOR: Sacred Heart University’s College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Catholic Studies, Center for Catholic Studies

PRESS: Media coverage is welcomed. Please contact Deb Noack at 203-396-8483 or for further information.

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. Sacred Heart also has satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland and offers online programs. More than 9,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 385 Colleges–2020 Edition, “Best in the Northeast” and Best 252 Business Schools–2019 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliated radio station, WSHU, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theater.

Immaculate High School appoints two to Leadership Positions

DANBURY—Immaculate High School announced that Denise Suarez of Bethel and Jeannie Demko of Danbury will assume new leadership roles at the Catholic college-preparatory school beginning July 1, 2020.

Denise Suarez has been appointed to be the Director of Admissions. Suarez is a 1987 graduate of Immaculate, and has served as the Director of Alumni Relations since 2013. In that position she developed and continuously expanded Immaculate’s alumni program to reach and engage its ever growing base of over 7,000 alumni, including members of her own family.

“After thoroughly enjoying my work with our incredible alumni community over the last seven years, I look forward to serving my alma mater in this new role. I am excited to build upon the great work of our Admissions department as I look to welcome the next generation of Immaculate students as Director of Admissions,” she said. “I can say without hesitation that the academic continuity, development of compassionate leaders and vibrancy of the Immaculate community have remained steadfast during these challenging times. There has never been a better time to consider Immaculate and I look forward to sharing the mission, values and outcomes of an Immaculate education with prospective families,” Suarez added.

Jeannie Demko will serve as the school’s Director of Alumni Relations. A 1988 graduate of Immaculate High School, Demko returned to Immaculate as Event Coordinator in 2018. In that role she helped plan, organize and run special events including the annual Golf Outing, Spring Gala and Scholarship Breakfast.

“Working at Immaculate for the past two years has been an absolute joy. In my new role as Director of Alumni Relations, I will have the privilege and honor to work directly with our amazing network of alumni. Thanks to the leadership of Denise Suarez, our efforts in this area have never been stronger,” Demko said. “I am inspired and energized to continue creating pathways for alumni participation that advance the goals of IHS. As an alumna, parent of an alumnus and current parent I am passionate about the mission of Immaculate and have seen firsthand how alumni relations help benefit our students and contribute to their growth,” she noted.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School also allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, service to others and personal goals. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s school system.

Gratitude is Fundamental to our Lives

BRIDGEPORT— Discipleship and following in the footsteps of the Lord require a deep sense of gratitude for our blessings and also a willingness to give them all away, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily for Mass on the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Practicing spiritual detachment is one of the most difficult things in life, but it frees us to truly love others, he said in his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel.

After reading the Gospel of Matthew, (10: 37-42), 39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” the bishop offered a personal and poetic reflection on spiritual detachment.

He said one of the most profound experiences he had while serving as Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn was participating a spiritual exercise known as the “Five Suitcases,” in which a person is challenged to place all of his or her blessings in five suitcases and then unpack them one by one in an effort to detach themselves from the things of the world.
The bishop noted that in the gospel, Jesus challenges his listeners to be prepared to let go of all they love, “even the most basic, natural relationships with mothers and fathers.”

“There is much we all cling to, but Jesus becomes even more blunt that we must be prepared to give up everything even our own desire for self-preservation so that we can walk with Him.”

“Discipleship is about becoming detached from that which is around us so that we become more attached to the Lord,” he said.
Two qualities are necessary to fully follow in the footsteps of the Lord, “a deep sense of gratitude in the recognition of our many blessings and the willingness to give them away,” he said.

“Gratitude is fundamental to our lives. That is what we do here on the altar in the Holy sacrifice of the Mass—we give thanks” he said.

“On Calvary, Christ extended his hands to embrace us and let go of everything else except love of the Father, and he is our savior and redeemer,” he said, adding that the deeper reason for detachment is to learn that “Love is self-giving,” opening our clenched hands to give ourselves to others.

“He has taught us what it is to love and not cling to anything, and in his graciousness, he gives it all back to us but in its proper places so that it doesn’t command all of our attention, and we are ready to give it away if love demands it.”

As we are emptied of ourselves in following Christ, we are also “Filled with gift of Holy Spirit, so that we can love world, our neighbor, our enemy and all we meet in the mind and heart of Christ,” he said.

The bishop concluded by suggesting that those who watched the Mass begin their own spiritual exercise of sitting and listing all of the many blessings in their lives, and “thanking God for every line on your list. ”

“Thank God for all the ways he has helped us, picked us up, forgiven us, shaken the dust off us, embraced us, and walked with us to the next day, the next chapter in the newness of life.”

In brief comments after the final blessing, the bishop said there was much good news this weekend as all parishes throughout the diocese have resumed Mass inside Church, and he invited people to return as soon as possible to receive the Eucharist in person. He also asked prayers for all who are ill and that the virus will “leave our midst so that we may return to the worship we desire and the community we form together.”

To join in the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, live-streamed weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

Her faith led him to the Church

When he was a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Thom Field had a feeling one afternoon that he was being “called,” being called to the ministry and not to a career in engineering.

He came from a devout Protestant family in Greenwich and had a strong education in the faith. His Sunday school teacher at Second Congregational Church was Claude Kirchner, a celebrity of children’s TV in the 1950s, and as a teenager his youth minister at the First Presbyterian Church was Bud Collyer, host of “Beat the Clock” and “To Tell the Truth.”

“They were both devout men,” Thom recalls. “Collyer was able to go beyond the religious and could understand teenagers’ lives and advise us on important things.”

Although there were many spiritual influences in his life, the one that stands out the most was his high school classmate Anita Caporale, the woman he later married who led him to the Catholic faith.

Today, Thom Field is an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston and president of the Serra Club of Bridgeport, a group committed to supporting seminarians and encouraging vocations to the religious life.

“During my upbringing, I was truly a Christian, but I didn’t have a lot of exposure to other faiths,” he recalled. “A couple of my classmates were Jewish, but I didn’t understand faiths outside of Christianity. When I got to college, I had the feeling that someone was calling to me, and I started to entertain the idea of becoming a Protestant minister and struggled with that for the better part of my freshman year.”

He walked the path to the Church many years, and throughout that time, he had Anita as an example of what it means to be a Catholic committed to Christ. They first met in the choir during sophomore year and had math and science classes together.

“We never dated in high school although we knew each other from the chorus,” Thom said. “I always thought she was beautiful, but I was pretty shy and never asked her out.”“I thought he was a terrific person and a good guy,” Anita recalled. “I sat in the first row, and Thom would walk in every day and say, ‘Hi, beautiful!’”

However, when she invited him to her 16th birthday party in her senior year, he spent the entire evening talking with another girl. Then, Thom went off to Rensselaer, and Anita went to the University of Connecticut, where she majored in chemistry and French with a pre-med focus. Later, she switched to physical medicine.

In 1967, they reconnected and Anita began writing to Thom after he joined the Navy.

At the Naval electronic school, he graduated first in the class and was recognized for heroism in 1970 while he was with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal as part of an anti-submarine helicopter squadron that rescued a man who had fallen overboard. Along with his other crew members, he received the Sikorsky ‘S’ pin, which was pinned on them by Igor Sikorsky himself.

“We continued to date and then fell in love,” Anita recalled. “I was so sure this was it. We loved each other, but he was leaving for an eight-month tour.”

During that time, Anita planned their wedding, and Thom bought a ring to surprise her. When he returned in July 1970, her parents set up a Christmas tree to observe Christmas in July. Among her gifts was a pair of shoes. She reached into a shoe that didn’t fit and pulled out the ring. They were married October 17, 1970 at St. Roch Church in Greenwich.

“I think the most important thing for us is that we never felt coming into marriage from different religions was a stumbling block,” Anita said. “The unifying force was we both believed in Christ. Christ was a great unifying force. His father was a very devout Presbyterian, and his mother and aunt would even come to the Catholic church with us.”

“I had no problem with that because I was learning more and more about the Catholic faith, and I came to the realization that I was becoming more faithful than I was as a Protestant,” Thom said. “I learned about the Sacraments and the saints, and it was a deeper faith than I had…but I didn’t convert.” And Anita never pressured him.

In June 1971, his tour ended, and in March of the next year, they moved to Connecticut, where their son Christopher was born. Thom began studying accounting at the University of Bridgeport and he was hired by Price Waterhouse even before graduation.

The job took them to Paris for several years. Then, they moved back to the United States and settled in Weston. They began attending St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Although Thom was a regular fixture in church, he never converted to Catholicism.

One day in 1994, he was asked to become an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist.

“By that time, I had been going to Mass with Anita for over 20 years and people presumed I was Catholic,” he said.

He looked at Anita and asked, “What am I going to do? I’m not Catholic.”

“Thom, you’re on your own on this one,” she told him.

That evening he joined the RCIA program. Today, after 25 years as a Catholic, he is forever grateful to Ralph Palumbo for pushing him in that direction by asking him to be an extraordinary minister.

At the Easter Vigil Mass in 1995, he received the Eucharist and Confirmation and was accepted into the Catholic Church. It was one of most memorable occasions in his life.

“I was nervous,” he recalled. “Everybody was surprised and smiling. Once the ceremony was over, Monsignor Grieco asked everyone to applaud.”

He assumed many responsibilities in the parish, and several years ago, he and Anita, who are both members of Serra, began teaching RCIA classes. As a project for the parish, they also create calendars for Advent and Lent, which have daily scriptural readings.

Anita, who after a career in physical therapy went on to study to become a gerontologist, has been a lay Franciscan for 20 years and belongs to the St. Mary of the Angels fraternity that meets at the Convent of Sr. Birgitta in Darien on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Looking back on his faith journey, Thom says, “Anita inspired me. She never applied pressure. We raised our children in the Catholic faith, and her dedication to that faith truly encouraged me to continue to attend Mass and become part of the Church. If I had been married to a less faithful Catholic woman, I might never have converted.”

The appreciation is reciprocal. Anita says, “He is such an amazing Christian.” She tells the story of when she was at a low point in her faith and considered leaving the Church. “My faith was at an ebb, but he would not let me deny the Church and he brought me along.”

Their journey together has not been without tragedy. Two years ago, their daughter, Amanda, died of a heart disorder at 41, leaving behind her husband Heath and 6-year-old son Gunner.

Amanda was always a joyful and upbeat person, Anita said. When she lived in New Jersey, Amanda had a clown ministry and was known as “Sunshine.”

On Mother’s Day 2018, she gave Anita a plaque that said, “With God all things are possible,” and Anita gave her a mother’s locket.

“I always wanted one of these,” she told her mother, adding, “Mom, if anything ever happens to me, please make sure Gunner gets everything I want for him.” Anita promised her they would do that. Two weeks later, she passed away.

And they kept that promise. Today, their young grandson lives with Thom and Anita and goes to church with them every Sunday.

By Joe Pisani

New Directory for Catechesis

WASHINGTON—The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has released a new Directory for Catechesis.

As the Preface explains, “The criterion that prompted the reflection on and production of this Directory finds its basis in the words of Pope Francis: ‘we have rediscovered the fundamental role of the first announcement or kerygma, which needs to be the center of all evangelizing activity and all efforts at Church renewal…. All Christian formation consists of entering more deeply into the kerygma, which is reflected in and constantly illumines, the work of catechesis, thereby enabling us to understand more fully the significance of every subject which the latter treats. It is the message capable of responding to the desire for the infinite which abides in every human heart’.”

Bishop Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, welcomed the new text: “We are excited to have a fresh and focused tool to enhance our evangelization efforts in catechesis. The new Directory highlights the centrality of the Church’s mission of bringing the world to an authentic encounter with Christ, an encounter that inspires and propels people as witnesses for the faith. In an age marked by tremendous social and cultural challenges, as well as ever-expanding digital tools which have often left the field of catechesis behind, the timing of this updated resource is providential.”

The Second Vatican Council originally inspired a Directory for Catechesis to ensure that the Church’s catechetical efforts might be vibrant, informed, faithful, and attuned to the needs of the times. First released in 1971 and then updated in 1997, this latest edition considers both the opportunities and the challenges which the Church faces in an ever more global and secular society. The new Directory builds upon the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the ongoing work of the new evangelization—particularly as called for in Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium . . . (The Joy of the Gospel). With a vision that brings the content of these beautiful resources alive in the context of contemporary society, the Directory invites the Christian faithful to be courageous witnesses of Jesus Christ in the family, in the workplace, and in the wider community.

Bishop Barron observed that, “The Directory’s call for a ‘kerygmatic catechesis’ affirms the Conference’s recent focus on the importance of living as missionary disciples. The authentic proclamation of the Gospel leads to the conversion of hearts and minds, which cannot help but manifest that ‘missionary impulse capable of transforming everything’ with the healing power of the Holy Spirit (EG 27).”

Original article from the USCCB.

Helping patients find God in a health crisis

BRIDGEPORT—The seed of Tim Bolton’s vocation was planted shortly after his daughter Kaitlin was born with a chromosomal abnormality in 1993. “My youngest daughter taught me,” he says.

At the time, he and his wife Mary Ellen were members of St. James Church in Stratford, where they were embraced by the faith community, who brought them meals, prayed rosaries and held a benefit for them when the insurance company refused to pay for Kaitlin’s final surgery.

“It was an unbelievable gathering of people, prayer, love and faith,” he recalls. “I really saw what a Christian community is like. My vocation to the permanent diaconate was born that day and evolved over the next ten years. And Fr. Tom Lynch cultivated that call.”

Today, Deacon Tim Bolton, who left his family business after the Recession, extends that same compassion, care, prayer and presence to others in his assignment at Hartford HealthCare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, where he is Manager of the Pastoral Care Department.

“A hospital is a container for everything from the beginning of life to the end of life and everything in between that is imaginable or unimaginable,” he says. “It is an amazing environment to be part of and see people offering themselves in the service of others. As a chaplain, you get to observe everything through the lens of faith. We see more than other clinical disciplines do because we participate across the spectrum. We see patients receiving a diagnosis, going through treatments, at the start of life and at the end of life with prayers of commendation at their bedside.”

Very often, he says, family members see themselves at the foot of the cross, like the Blessed Mother and St. John, with no power to influence the outcome. They are present to their loved one and recognize, some for the first time, the possibility of the Resurrection.

“We have this opportunity to be with families and frame for them through the lens of faith their part in the Passion and see their loved one as a unique reflection of the image of Christ, a reflection of the image the world has never seen before,” he said.

When Deacon Bolton was ordained in 2006, he was originally assigned to St. James Church but was later given permission to do his ministry full-time at St. Vincent’s, where he began working in 2011.

The challenges his family has confronted helped him understand God’s plan and recognize the needs of others facing a medical crisis.

“It is really the grace of God,” he said. “We have lived through a lot and also experienced great love, unlike any family has ever experienced from the community.”

Mary Ellen, who is principal at Jane Ryan School in Trumbull, has gone through three bouts of cancer over the past 20 years.

“I saw the need for people to have someone to talk to while she was in the hospital,” he recalled. “And I learned about the clinical surrounding when Kaitlin went for treatment….I know what it is like in the newborn intensive care when a doctor says to a family, ‘We need to do an MRI on the baby’s brain lesions.’ I know what it is like, and I can be in that place with them.”

Deacon Bolton calls himself “a trench guy” and says a fundamental part of his ministry is to accompany people. “I identify with the mystery of accompaniment and presence to help people feel comfortable and meet them where they are, while trying to have a healthy humility,” he said.

He tells the story of a woman dying of cancer, who asked if she and her husband could renew their wedding vows. Several months before she passed away, they were joined by their family members and friends at the vineyard where she worked. In the barn, with her gown on, she and husband renewed their vows. Deacon Bolton later went to her home, where she was receiving Hospice care, and did the prayers of commendation while her family and friends were present.

“I really feel privileged to do the work I do,” he said, “It is a privilege to accompany people at moments in their lives when they let you in. In those encounters, you can let them know they are not alone.”

Deacon Bolton manages the Pastoral Care Department at St. Vincent’s under the direction of Bill Hoey, Vice President of Mission.

“Pastoral care has been an integral part of how we provide care at St. Vincent’s since we were founded by the Daughters of Charity, and we have been blessed with some of the most gifted chaplains imaginable,” Hoey said.

There are lay and priest chaplains. The priests celebrate Mass, administer the Sacrament of the Sick, hear confessions and sometimes do a crisis baptism. They provide spiritual support to all patients, even those who are not Catholic, Hoey said.

“They are not just here to bring the Eucharist to a Catholic patient,” he said. “They provide a full array of chaplain services and will offer support to a Jehovah Witness or a Muslim or a member of the Jewish faith, or even a person of no faith.”

The department has full- and part-time chaplains, along with volunteer pastoral care assistants and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. The chaplains include priests, deacons, rabbis and representatives of different faiths.

“We talk about reverent holistic care, and the chaplains ensure that we are attending to the spiritual needs of the patient,” Hoey said.

Very often when a patient receives a life-altering diagnosis, it raises the question of “Where is God in all this?” A medical crisis, he says, provides an opportunity for people to re-examine their lives and their relationship with God.

“We all get so busy in our day-to-day lives that those may not be questions we ask,” Hoey said. “But if you get a blocked artery or renal disease, it can provoke a crisis as well as the receptivity to take a look at spiritual issues—and what better person to help you than a well-trained chaplain?”

“Many patients are very receptive to them because it is a different component of care,” Hoey said. “Just as important as medical treatment is the question of ‘Am I right with God?’ Having a trained, empathetic, compassionate chaplain fulfills the goal of reverent holistic care. They are right there near your hospital bed. It brings the Church to the people.”

USCCB addresses Indian reservation poverty

“We have no hope; it will always be like this.”  Lakota Sioux resident of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation South Dakota.

There are 7 million American Indians in the U.S., one-fourth living and dying on reservations under conditions rivaling third world countries. Most are Christian, many are Catholic. They are the poorest of all American ethnic groups with the highest rate of poverty.

Pine Ridge, the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, is the home of the Lakota Sioux and is a microcosm of the worst of problems existing on some reservations, and one of the two poorest counties in the nation.

Here, the Oglala Lakota struggle on meager government subsistence. Men have a life expectancy of fewer than 44 years, 97% live below the poverty line, unemployment is greater than 80%, and the median annual income less than $3,500. Many of the substandard homes need repair and lack clean water and sewage, 40% lack electricity or propane, addictions affect 9 in 10 families. Diseases—tuberculosis, diabetes, cancer, are 800% higher than the national average, so too for suicide—many of the youth do not reach the age of 25.  A typical grocery store is smaller than a gas station convenience store, primarily stocked with processed food, no fresh produce.

The abysmal state of education is among the worst in the nation. Built in 1958, and like many reservation schools, Wounded Knee elementary school facility in Manderson is in desperate need of repair and needs replacement. Lacking basic supplies, fresh food is in short supply, asbestos underlies the flooring and hangs on the pipes, lead-based paint still exists, and there are serious fire code violations.

The root cause of the economic situation is tied to the land, much of it held in trust and controlled by the government.  As such, the American Indians have become the most regulated people on earth.  Homeownership here isn’t possible.  Most only have the right to occupy the land.  Since they do not own their homes, they have little incentive or the money to repair them—nor any collateral to start a business.

How did it get this bad?

We must first go back to the Doctrine of Discovery first appeared in Spain, and then was adopted by the British, and then worked its way into the U.S. Constitution and federal legislation ever since.  When the “New World” was being discovered—the question was: who is to take possession of these newly discovered lands? 

In 1492, acting under the international laws of Western Christendom, Columbus was to “take possession” of the land for Spain.  These “laws” took shape from two papal bulls (1452 and 1493).  The intent was to recognize and defend any Spanish claim and that Spain was to bring the people of the new land to Christianity and prevent enemies of Christ to lay any claims, at a time when Islam was spreading across Europe.

The controversial 1452 bull, Dum diversas was written before Columbus or any knowledge of a new world or the existence of any indigenous people.  Popes Nicolas and Alexander I did not intend that they should be mistreated or lose their land.   Pope Paul III in 1537 (in Sublimes Dues) clarified that … Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be enslaved, deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ. Catholic social teachings have since repeated this stance. Over time the driving force of the Doctrine of Discovery was money and has had dire consequences as it has unfolded in U.S. Indian law that includes three related Supreme Court cases under Chief Justice John Marshall (1810, 1823 and 1835).

Loss of Sovereignty, Loss of the land

In 1887, after the dissolution of the treaties, the General Allotment Act in 1887 provided the means to take millions of reservation acres guaranteed to Indians and marked the beginning of misguided paternalism by the federal government toward Indian people that continues today. Additional losses resulted from the Burke Act (1906) and the Reorganization Act (1934) and amendments to the Land Consolidation Act. Lands not fully owned by individuals were placed into a “trust” system wherein the government has final authority over the land and its use. The fractionated patchwork of land remaining with its restrictions is a major obstacle to housing and business development.  Since, there has been a continuing erosion of Native powers to govern and manage their lands and resources.

The legal framework as it exists today is not only inconsistent with the Constitution, but also with basic human rights having adverse consequences for the Indian and their ability to correct the social and economic injustices.   Toward self-sufficiencytribal members and their governments are trying to piece together their homelands through purchases, gifts and the return of government-held land. The continuance of tribes as sovereign nations, their individual cultures and language is at stake when the land base is diminished.

What can the Church do?

 “We have no hope. It will always be like this.” No hope leads to despair, and despair leads to many of the social issues such as suicide and the widespread substance abuse. We must restore their hope that things will improve.

The reservation poverty issue touches the core of Catholic social teachings, as we find on the battlefields of pro-life and religious freedom. Responding to this social disparity is part of our Catholic identity and requires effective social justice advocacy. Public awareness is crucial and the Catholic news media can play a major role.

While credit has to be given to organizations such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Catholic Home Missions, etc., charitable donations are just a band-aid on the problem.  A long-term solution requires major reforms at the Federal level and begins with the Church’s presence on Capitol Hill, supporting the tribes and pro-Indian legislation. It must become a national priority with all Americans engaged to solve it.

Toward this end, the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American affairs is now actively meeting with Native American leaders to listen to their concerns.   They have issued the “Two Rivers” Report (on the USCCB Website) providing useful statistical data and the initial steps the Church will take to deal with this crisis.    Besides citing the gifts the Catholic Native American communities have given us, it discusses the Church’s role in evangelization, the need to strengthen the schools, and to put pressure on Congress to reform Federal Indian laws governing reservations.  You are encouraged to review its content.

Let us all become involved; and this begins with prayer.

Prayer to Help Native Peoples

Lord Jesus Christ, Lord of compassion and strength, we ask for your guiding hand as we come together to assist our brothers and sisters who are struggling on Indian reservations throughout our great nation.  Help us to overcome the challenges we face in this most difficult undertaking. In the spirit of reform, open the minds and hearts of our government leaders so they may come together and devise a system that is fair and equitable to those Native Peoples who have suffered so long from many social injustices that have extinguished their hope. Assist us in our work. Allow us to be a beacon of light.  Give us your grace to reach out to the most vulnerable, create jobs and opportunities where they are most needed, to help families subsisting on meager government incomes, those in substandard housing and the dispossessed First Peoples of this land, so that we may achieve the needed changes inspired by the Gospel. We ask these in your name.  Amen

Rich May is from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. He has been actively working with the Lakota Sioux and the USCCB Subcommittee on Native American affairs.

Chairman Announces Religious Freedom Week

WASHINGTON— Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, the acting chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty has encouraged Catholics to pray and uphold religious liberty at home and abroad during Religious Freedom Week 2020. Commencing on June 22, the Feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, Religious Freedom Week runs through June 29, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. The theme chosen for this year is “For the Good of All.”

Archbishop Wenski stated:

“Religious freedom is under stress throughout the world. Even in our Western liberal democracies, discrimination against religion in general and Catholic Christianity, in particular, is growing — albeit in perhaps more sophisticated and less violent ways.

“Political analysts and human rights advocates do include religion on their agenda. But most emphasize ‘tolerance’ as if religion were only a source of conflict. Or, they speak about religion in terms of ‘individual choices,’ as if religion were merely the concern of an individual’s conviction and were devoid of any social consequences.

“Yet, just as freedom of speech depends not only on one’s right to say what’s on one’s mind but also on the existence of institutions like newspapers, universities, libraries, political parties and other associations that make up what we call ‘civil society,’ so too freedom of religion ‘for the good of all’ must also encompass protecting those institutions that nourish the individual’s free exercise of religion.

“The right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person. Religious freedom is the human right that guarantees all other rights — peace and creative living together will only be possible if freedom of religion is fully respected.”

Resources for Religious Freedom Week and other religious liberty resources may be found at and Social media posts will use the hashtag #ReligiousFreedomWeek.