Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

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St. Jude Parish lives Gospel message in appeal effort

MONROE—During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Annual Catholic Appeal responded to urgent needs throughout Fairfield County, from homelessness and hunger to mental health. With this year’s appeal, the Diocese of Bridgeport looks toward renewal and recovery with a vision of hope.

“As I look upon the past year, during a time of unexpected and historic crisis, I am deeply grateful for your generous response to the appeal, which brought the mercy of Christ to so many,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said. “This year’s goal is $8.1 million, 10 percent less than last year due to the success of the We Stand With Christ Capital Campaign, and will allow the diocese to maintain the immediate works of charity, formation in faith, education and catechesis, while the capital campaign sustains the long-term mission of the diocese.

The story of St. Jude Church is emblematic of the hope and generosity of Catholics throughout the diocese who contribute to the appeal, which funds essential ministries, programs and agencies that deliver pastoral care and human services where they are most needed.

In less than a month since the appeal began on February 27, St. Jude met its goal of $84,600, inspired by the leadership of Father Henry Hoffman, pastor, and his Annual Appeal team, who provided parishioners with an understanding of how important the campaign is in supporting programs, which no single parish can provide on its own.

Pamela S. Rittman, director of Development and Annual Catholic Appeal, said she is grateful to Father Hoffman and his team. “The value of a strong leadership team, who assists the pastor in the mission of the Church, provides an understanding of the Church in full circle. Our faith, the good works we do and how we make the Gospel known through our giving of time, talent and treasure are the gifts our Lord provides to each and every one to spread the Good News. Our Annual Catholic Appeal does that every day, whether it is providing faith formation, feeding the hungry or instructing children and adults in the faith.”

Father Hoffman began working on a plan in mid-February with Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, and Deacon Patrick Toole, episcopal delegate for administration. He later met personally with the parish’s biggest donors. Then, Gallagher launched the campaign at all the parish’s Masses at the end of the month. A comprehensive website was developed to explain the goals and benefits of the appeal.

Gallagher said: “I was honored to be invited by Father Hoffman to help kick off the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal. I was immediately struck by the strong leadership offered by him and the lay leaders at St. Jude. The diocese is very appreciative of how the parish of St. Jude actively and generously supports the vital ministries, including Catholic Charities, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, seminarian formation and care for our retired priests.”

Commenting on his strategy for the appeal, Father Hoffman said: “I made loads of personal one-on-one phone calls to parishioners during the first weeks of March and sent out video messages of me promoting the appeal to the 900 emails we have for our parishioners. I suspected that the more personal phone calls I made, the more successful we would be, and it worked! And I expect more to come in.”

His efforts were augmented by those of the other members of the parish ACA team­—Rich Lane, parish council president; Norma and Doug Bissell, co-chairs for the St. Jude appeal; and Deacons John Tuccio and David Flynn. The team launched the appeal in mid-February using the theme of Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The co-chairs spoke at every Mass on March 6 and 7, and their message was simple—“Many are in need, many who helped can’t help this year and may need help. We all need to help where we can.”

“Our message was delivered to everyone, including the children,” Norma and Doug Bissell said. “To our adults, we emphasized the online process, and for the children, a ‘PENNIES FROM HEAVEN’ bucket was placed in the lobby. The children were encouraged to donate loose change and to take a sticker, thus engaging them in helping others. It is wonderful to hear the clinking at the end of each Mass.”

Because it is important to let parishioners know how the appeal is doing, weekly progress announcements are made from the pulpit, and there is a tracking thermometer in the church lobby, which is updated weekly so that when parishioners enter, they can see how well they are doing.

“St. Jude Church is blessed to have wonderful parishioners who are sacrificing to help the ACA and their neighbors in need,” the Bissells said. “We are profoundly thankful to those parishioners who have taken us this far.”

The parish is exceeding the diocesan goal and plans to split the overage with its sister parish, Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport.

“As a parish, we derive a fulfilling sense of peace that comes from doing God’s work,” the Bissells said. “Our parishioners are generous with their time, money and desire to help others. We have had a long and lasting relationship with Blessed Sacrament. We work with our extended family at Blessed Sacrament to provide assistance when needed, strong hands to work on projects, friendship, a warm heart and smile as we work hand-in-hand.”

The team continues to reach out to parishioners who have not yet made a pledge, asking them to prayerfully consider giving. They say that 300 additional pledges of $15 per month for 10 months ($150 total) will carry them to more than $100,000 in pledges.

“We are acutely aware that parishioners’ financial circumstances vary greatly,” they said. “Father Henry always stresses that no pledge is too small, and a lot of parishioners, committing what they can, make a huge difference.”

Through the appeal goal of $84,600, the parish will help address the immediate needs of diocesan charitable works; schools will be strengthened; youth programs will be funded; and the needs of retired clergy, priests, seminarians, and deacons will be addressed, the Bissells said.

Charitable organizations such as Catholic Charities, whose resources have been heavily impacted this past year, will help address the needs of others by feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and caring for those struggling with developmental and physical issues.

The theme of the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal is “Arise,” and Bishop Caggiano says it is a statement of hope for renewal and recovery.

“The story of Lazarus continues to come to mind in my reflections,” he said. “The Lord’s words to Lazarus are ‘Untie him and let him go free,’ and that is precisely the invitation from the Lord to each of us—to arise from the darkness of this pandemic and to seek new life in him.”

To make a gift to this year’s appeal, please visit 2021ACABridgeport.com. You my text the word, APPEAL to 475.241.7849 or call 203.416.1470.  Please visit the website to view the 2021 Appeal video and learn more.  Thank you for your generosity.

CAPTION: (l-r) Rich Lane, parish council chair; Doug and Norma Bissell, ACA co-chairs; Father Henry Hoffman, pastor; Joe Gallagher, chief development officer, Diocese of Bridgeport.

Bringing Christ to the college campus

DANBURY—One Sunday when Henry Aquino was 22, he went to Mass in his hometown in Rhode Island and looked out at the congregation…and saw “a sea of gray hair.”

“There wasn’t one young person at all, and I asked myself, ‘Where’s my generation?’” he recalled. “Right then, the drive to do something radical was planted in my head.” His mission became clear. He wanted to bring young people to Christ. He prayed for the grace to be led in the right direction, and his prayer was answered.

Four years later, Henry is the Campus Minister at the Newman Center for Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, which is a Catholic campus ministry supported through the Annual Catholic Appeal of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Founded on Gospel values, the community lives its mission through prayer, study, socialization and outreach to the poor in the spirit of St. John Henry Newman, who understood the importance of the university in the development of students.

Henry works with Father Augustine Nguyen, chaplain, and Mariana Martins, office manager, at the Center, a three-story house owned by the diocese and located behind Litchfield and Newbury Hall.

“The three of us are driving the show, and there has been a lot of adjusting because of the spike in COVID-19 cases in Danbury, but we are slowly starting to get more and more students,” he said.

Among the challenges they face is lack of faith formation in young people, who are unfamiliar with the Church’s teachings. At the same time, those who adhere to the teachings often encounter adversity in a secular college environment and can feel isolated.

“When young people don’t have good faith formation, they will believe what the media, their friends or their professors say on issues like abortion and same-sex attraction,” Henry said. “The voices of the world are very loud and strong, so young people think, ‘If that’s what everyone is saying, I guess it’s true.’ And if they do speak up for their faith, they can lose their friends or feel isolated.”

Because of COVID-19, the semester got off to a slow start at the Center; however, it has been seeing up to 20 students in recent weeks.

“Those who are here really want to be here, and it’s awesome to walk with them and encourage them,” he said.

The Center routinely schedules game nights, Bible study, prayer groups, Eucharistic adoration, speakers and Newman dinners, which provide free home-cooked meals for students.

The Newman Club also sponsors food drives for the local food pantry and mission trips, although one recently planned to Honduras was cancelled because of COVID.

“Our goal is to bring young people to Christ and have them become lifelong Catholic disciples so that this is not something they experience just once,” he said.

Henry, who is pursuing a degree in business management through the University of Mary in Bismarck, ND, was invited to join the Center staff by Father Augustine, who knew him through his involvement with Focus Missionaries—the Fellowship of Catholic University Students—an organization that brings the Gospel to students through collegiate outreach. For five years, Henry served in FOCUS, and his last assignment was in Danbury, where he was the team director of three missionaries.

His parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico in the 1980s, have a strong Catholic faith, and he was active in youth ministry at St. Patrick Church in Providence. But when he came to Connecticut to study music and sound recording at the University of New Haven, he went through a bit of culture shock.

“It was a very lonesome year,” he recalls. “My parish had a great youth ministry, and then I went to a college where there weren’t any missionaries or a Newman experience. Looking back, it was one of the reasons I have for doing this. As campus minister, I can reach out to students who are feeling the same thing and let them know they have a place where they can experience their faith without feeling lonely or trapped.”

Father Augustine, who has been assigned to the center since 2019, says, “This is a spiritual house for Catholic students, but we also welcome different faiths. When they come here, they can study, pray and do Bible study. I want the house to be a friendly environment by offering Mass and prayer services.”

Father also is advisor to the Newman Club, which is part of the Western Connecticut’s student government association.

“To have a house like this is important because a lot of students are turning away from their faith,” he said. “Students who come here might feel uncomfortable going to confession and Mass at their home parish, but here we can communicate and talk with them. It’s a great opportunity to evangelize and bring them back to the faith. Some of them have not received the sacraments since they were confirmed, but now they’re returning. I feel the Holy Spirit is at work here.”

Through his efforts, the Center’s chapel has been expanded, allowing more students to attend Mass.

“I’ve fixed up the Newman Center so it looks more welcoming, like a home away from home,” Father said. “I have other projects I’d like to do, including new carpeting and repainting the inside. I also want to have more retreats and invite guest speakers to discuss issues important to teenagers and young adults.”

(Father Augustine says those who would like to contribute to the work of the Newman Center can send a donation to The Newman Center, 7 Eighth Avenue, Danbury, CT 06810.)

“It’s challenging to bring young people back to Mass and return to a life of faith,” he said. “But I trust myself to the Lord and let him use me as his instrument…and it’s working.”

Born in Vietnam, he came to the United States as a boy and after college, he had jobs as electrical technician and health technologist. One time when he was visiting his sisters, he met Father Christopher Walsh, then vocation director for the diocese, who invited him to St. John Fisher Seminary to discern his vocation. He was ordained in 2012.

Mariana Martins, a graduate of Western Connecticut, is office manager of the Center and past president of the Newman Club. She grew up in a devout Portuguese family but admits that she was lax in practicing her faith when she first got to college. The Focus Missionaries invited her to the Center, where she started attending Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. Eventually, she began a women’s Bible study group.

“I wanted to help women navigate the college experience in a way they could live out a Christian lifestyle,” she said. “Sometimes it’s really difficult to maintain your faith in a secular university, where a lot of the focus is on partying and doing things that are worldly.”

Church teachings often provoke debate on campus, particularly when they’re brought up in class among students who are not receptive to Catholic positions on social issues.

“They’re not really open to hearing what we have to say,” she said.

She and her friend have had to defend their Catholic faith several times.

“I was in a very liberal major so it could be difficult,” she said. “My friend in the social work department always stood up for what she believed in. If not us, who is going to do it? We have to speak out because it might be the only opportunity for students and faculty to hear our side.”

A frequent criticism involves the sex abuse crisis. One time when her classmates insisted the Church did nothing about the abuse, Mariana and her friend challenged them.

“We told them a lot is being done to make sure it doesn’t continue to happen,” she said. “We told them about the lists of abusers and the report the diocese released. We acknowledged it happened and said the victims have to be supported, but for them to say the Church did nothing is incorrect.”

She said the Center is vital for Catholic students in a secular university and essential to reach others who are misinformed about the faith.

“If we want young people to stay in the Church, we have to give them support,” she said. “I’m thankful for what the Center does and for the diocese’s help as well.”

Elizabeth Vas, the Newman Club President, is a junior psychology major, who spent her first year at Franciscan University of Steubenville. The third of four children, she comes from a devout Catholic family that is active in Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Danbury.

“Faith has always been part of my life, and going to public schools forced me to make the faith my own,” she said. “I had to make a conscious choice about whether I actually believed what the Church teaches.”

Catholics who practice their faith will inevitably confront challenges in a university setting, she says. That is why the Newman Center is so important.

“It’s a place where I can go and be surrounded by people who support me, especially if I’m having a rough day,” she said. “It’s not uncommon in the psychology field to have faith be taken out of the science. But I can go to the Newman Center and talk to someone, and they’ll understand. All I have to do is say, ‘My day is horrible and this happened,’ and they’ll talk to me for a few minutes and say, ‘Let’s go speak with Jesus and pray about it.’ Then, we’ll go into the chapel and sit in front of the tabernacle.” Jesus is always there for young disciples who aren’t afraid to stand up for him.

Elizabeth says if you’re not moving forward in your faith, you’ll go backward.

“College students are leaving the Church in big numbers, so to have the Newman Center, where we can go and have people pushing us forward in our faith, is the key to not losing it.”

Statement on Defeat of HB 6425 – Aid in Dying

By Christopher Healy
Executive Director – CT Catholic Conference

“All glory goes to God. People of faith came together and their voices were heard and we are most grateful to legislators who realized we must show more compassion and support for those who are in distress, and isolation rather than lead people away from hope and love.”

“This victory belongs to the thousands of people from all faiths who got involved because they believe life is sacred and God-given. We have more to do and must improve palliative and hospice care, educate families on pain management and increase resources for mental health services.”

U.S. Bishop Chairmen Statement on Verdict

WASHINGTON – Following the verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota today, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement.

The bishops’ full statement follows:

“Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. As we receive this result, we recall that God is the source of all justice, love, and mercy. The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred.

“The events following George Floyd’s death also highlighted the urgent need for racial healing and reconciliation. As we have seen so plainly this past year, social injustices still exist in our country, and the nation remains deeply divided on how to right those wrongs. We join our voices and prayers in support of Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and the entire Minnesota Catholic Conference which said today:

‘As a diverse community, the Catholic Church is committed to changing hearts and minds and to moving the conversation about race in this country beyond accusations and recriminations toward practical, nonviolent solutions to the everyday problems that are encountered in these communities.’

“Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines. Let us then join in the hard work of peacefully rebuilding what hatred and frustration has torn down. This is the true call of a disciple and the real work of restorative justice. Let us not lose the opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit falls like a flood on our land again, as at Pentecost, providing us with spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, as well as new ways to teach, preach, and model the Gospel message in how we treat each other.”

The USCCB’s Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism has prepared resources for prayer which may be found here; earlier this week, Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda and priests across the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis offered special Masses “For the Preservation of Peace and Justice.” Last summer, several bishop chairmen of USCCB committees and the president of the Conference issued statements regarding George Floyd’s death in addition to the individual statements by bishops from around the United States.


 

St. Catherine of Siena Dedicates a New Stained Glass Window

Trumbull- The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena (220 Shelton Road, Trumbull) announces the addition of a beautiful new stained-glass window in the church. The window, dedicated and blessed on March 19, also the Solemnity of St. Joseph, depicts five women and five men who have lived in more recent times, and have lived lives of heroic, exemplary faithfulness to God.

“Intentionally located just beside the baptismal font, the window serves to highlight the important truth that through the Sacrament of Baptism comes the vocation to holiness in all the various states of life in the Church: marriage, single life, priesthood, and consecrated life,” says Joseph A. Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena.

Reflecting on the fact that St. Catherine’s Church includes many images of Bishops from the early Church and the founders of Religious orders, Father Marcello continues: “Seeing only images of people who lived so long ago and in states of life far removed from our own might give us the mistaken impression that becoming a saint – actually becoming a saint! – is not really meant for you or me.  In this window, we see people who look a little more like us.”

The 10 Saints and Blesseds featured in the window are:

Saints Louis (1823-1894) and Zélie (1831-1877) Martin, the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, are depicted in the center of the window.  They are the first married couple in history to be canonized together.  Their liturgical feast day is July 12, their wedding anniversary.

Also depicted is Blessed Michael McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus and a Connecticut diocesan priest, whose two younger brothers were also priests, and pastors of the territory that contained what is now St. Catherine of Siena Parish.

Another is Mother – now Saint – Teresa of Calcutta.  People of every faith, and of none, instinctively recognized her thoroughgoing authenticity: hers was an intentional, lifelong response of heroic generosity to Jesus’ words: “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”  Mother Teresa, who saw the worst of human suffering and who experienced extended periods of interior darkness herself, never tired of saying, with a big smile: “Never let anything so fill you with sorrow that you forget the joy of Christ risen.”

Additionally:

  • Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: wife, mother, doctor
  • Saint André Bessette: Religious Brother
  • Blessed Chiara Luce Badano: young lay woman
  • Saint John Henry Newman: priest and theologian
  • Saint Josephine Bakhita: Religious Sister
  • Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: young lay man

The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena warmly welcomes anyone who is new to our area, anyone who is searching for the truth, or anyone who is looking for a spiritual home. We are joyfully and faithfully Roman Catholic in belief and practice – a community of faith, worship, service, and formation – and with open hearts we invite all our brothers and sisters into a living and saving friendship with the Lord Jesus Christ, in the communion of His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  We are conveniently located at 220 Shelton Road in the Nichols area of Trumbull. Information at www.StCathTrumbull.com.

FOCUS on Giving Your Life to the Lord

If you had told Tina Augustine that, in 2021, she would be living in Germany with her husband and two sons, serving as the Director of Philanthropy in Europe for FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), she would have told you that you are crazy. Yet, in looking back on her eight years serving with FOCUS, she says “dreams have come true that I didn’t even know I had.”

Tina grew up in CT and was raised in a “traditional Catholic family” who belonged to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown. “Neither of my parents are from CT, so we grew up away from our family,” she says. She and her family became connected with their community at St. Rose, where they made friendships. As Tina neared high school, she desired to get involved in the youth group at St. Rose. “These were such formative years for me as a teen,” she says. She attended Steubenville conferences (annual conferences for high school students organized by the Franciscan University of Steubenville) and made friendships that she still maintains today. “I had a really wonderful family and faith community, and I am filled with gratitude,” she says, in reflecting on the beginnings of her faith journey.

After high school, Tina attended college at the University of Connecticut (Storrs), where she studied Spanish Language Teacher Education. “When I got to college,” she says, “I realized that most people didn’t grow up with what I did. They didn’t have those amazing role models like I had in my youth group.” She experienced much suffering during her freshman year as she became adjusted to the stark difference between her rich high school experience and the seeming lack of faith on her college campus. “Nothing sparked me,” she says.

This was where FOCUS came in. In the fall of 2009, FOCUS missionaries arrived at UCONN’s campus. FOCUS is “a national outreach that meets college students where they are and invites them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith” (FOCUS Overview). They “send teams of missionaries (four on average) to college campuses and universities around the country to reach out to and meet college students, inviting them to examine the meaning and purpose of their lives” (FOCUS Overview). The missionaries are recent college graduates who are sent out to evangelize their peers for a two-year period on a college campus. They “host large group outreach events, lead weekly Bible studies, and offer one-on-one mentoring with student leaders” (FOCUS Overview). When the missionaries started at UCONN, Tina was “excited, but skeptical.” She wanted to get involved in what they were offering, but was reluctant to take the first step.

After studying abroad in Spain, Tina began asking questions about what she was called to do with her life, engaging in a period of self-discovery. It was then that she connected with the FOCUS missionaries and the community at the Catholic Center at UCONN. “I saw people who were giving their lives totally to the Lord,” she says. “The way they lived life was inspiring. You wanted to live like these people. The way they loved me, as a friend, was so freeing. There was something attractive about them and their lives.” It was this different kind of adult relationship that took Tina to the next level in her faith.

 After being introduced to the FOCUS missionaries, Tina joined a Bible study, where she came to know her faith more deeply on an intellectual level. They taught her how to pray, and she began to “live a rhythm of prayer,” which included daily Mass during her senior year. The years in which she earned her master’s degree were especially formative, she says. It was during that time that the Sandy Hook School shooting happened. “There was a lot of suffering in my family and in my community,” she says. Her fellow classmates, comprising a variety of faith backgrounds, remarked that Tina’s faith got her through a time that “most people would not be able to survive.” She realized that, through her years of formation in the faith, “God was preparing me for this time, and I did not know it.”

So powerful was Tina’s encounter with the FOCUS missionaries that she decided not to become a Spanish teacher after graduation: she decided to become a missionary, herself. She was sent to the University of Texas at Austin, where she served for three years. It was during that time that she dated and became engaged to her future husband, Mychal, who was serving as a missionary at another campus. The two discerned whether God was calling them to continue living as missionaries after they were married. During this discernment, FOCUS asked them if they would move to Austria to start the first international FOCUS team. With great excitement and zeal, the couple said “yes” to this invitation and moved to Austria, where they welcomed two sons, Ignacio and Hugo.  

“This opportunity was exactly what we were looking for,” says Tina. Although moving abroad was filled with uncertainty, she knew that “to go do the work of evangelization isn’t comfortable.” She says, “following God’s will isn’t always logical, and there can be peace in that. We have to be following where the peace of God is leading us.”

Tina is tremendously grateful for the impact of FOCUS on her, her family, and her vocation. She believes that the college years are a time of opportunity for young adults to step into their relationships with God and encounter Him more deeply. “There’s no other time where we’re that open to new things,” she says. “There’s a sense of ‘I’m growing up, and I’m choosing these things. What do I want to do with my life?’” Choosing to live a life of faith, Tina says, does not just have implications for that person alone. “It’s changing generations. It’s changing vocations,” she says. If a young person is well-formed in the faith, he/she will raise their children to come to know the Lord, as well. 

When asked what the “missing piece” was on college campuses in inspiring young adults to take ownership of their faith, Tina reflected on the importance of “seeing young people live Catholic lives.” It is these authentic witnesses that attracted her to more fully live out her faith, and she hopes that other young adults are blessed with similar opportunities. If such examples are not present for a young adult, Tina suggests praying for community, for examples “worthy of being modeled.” Searching out Newman Centers and young adult groups in the area can connect young adults who are yearning for something beyond what the college lifestyle can offer. “Start praying,” she says. Whether it’s the rosary, sitting in silence, or reading the Gospel for 5-10 minutes and listening for how God is speaking to you through that, go beyond ‘praying the prayers’ and form a life of prayer. Allow the Lord to step into your heart and life.”

One of the most important things that Catholic young adults need, Tina says, is “to feel that they belong.” Without being in community with others, they can “feel homeless.” Young adults need to know and be encouraged that there is a place for them within the Church. Engaging in small groups, Bible studies, and opportunities for friendship are some ways in which young adults can grow in their faith during a period of transition from college to their vocations and careers. If young adults have difficulty finding such a community, Tina says “we might have to be the ones to create it.” 

When it comes to evangelization—the universal call of all Catholics—Tina says, “When we’ve been given a gift, you have to share it.” The simplest way to do this is to love those around us. “We can all be evangelists where we are. Being an evangelist doesn’t mean you have to know everything,” she says. “Open your door and welcome people into your life.”

Lights, Camera, Action! Immaculate High School’s We Will Rock You!

DANBURY – Annual spring musicals are part of the Immaculate High School tradition. Due to Covid-19, the 2020 musical was unfortunately unable to go on, but director Matthew Farina was determined to make the 2021 show a reality. The planning process for this year’s production has been different than most years, as a virtual show was inevitable. When exploring possibilities for shows, Farina wanted an option that would come across screens as well as it would on a stage. “I wanted to weave the virtual production into the storyline of the show,” he said. This goal of having the storyline of the show make sense virtually eliminated traditional options such as Oklahoma, which takes place in a time where Zoom and virtual watching would be foreign concepts. Thus, Immaculate’s rendering of WE WILL ROCK YOU was born.

WE WILL ROCK YOU is told through the songs of the British rock band Queen and is set in the distant future where live music and free thought have been banned. A group of rock rebels, called Bohemians, fight against the globally corporate world to restore freedom and the rebirth of rock and roll.

The next challenge to tackle was how to produce this show in a way that would be interesting to the audience watching through a screen. Due to Covid-19 restrictions and safety protocols, having the whole cast together and live streaming the show from the school auditorium was out of the question. That is where the movie musical idea came to be. By filming one scene at a time, students are able to work in smaller groups and maintain social distance to keep each other safe. Scouting and filming at different locations around Immaculate and the Danbury community keep the show fresh and interesting to watch.

Farina says the new way of producing the show has allowed not only himself and producer Kathleen Czel to think outside the box, but the students as well. “It may never be like this again,” Farina said in regards to the movie musical format, and explained that they are taking advantage of the opportunity to be “creatively brave” and use different technology and computer effects to enhance the viewing experience.

WE WILL ROCK YOU will be livestreamed Friday, May 21 at 7:00 pm, Saturday, May 22 at 7:00 pm and Sunday, May 23 at 2:00 pm. Information regarding accessing the livestream, a full cast list and more can be found at www.immaculatehs.org/rock.

St. Joseph High School Announces 2021 Valedictorian and Salutatorian

TRUMBULL, CT—St Joseph High School, southern Connecticut’s premier college preparatory school, is proud to announce that Joseph Harrington and Helen Mahoney are this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian respectively.

Joseph Harrington has attained the highest academic record among his class and will deliver the Valedictorian’s Farewell Address at the close of Commencement on Saturday, June 5th. Joseph resides in Fairfield, CT and currently serves as President of the Writing Center, a Captain of the Boys Varsity Tennis Team, and member of the National Honor Society, Jazz Band, Coding Club, and Student Ambassadors. Joseph is also a Harvard Book Award recipient, Commended National Merit Scholar, and a member of Math, English, Spanish, and Music Honor Societies. Additionally, he has represented St Joes multiple times as a Western Region and All-State Euphonium instrumentalist. Joseph is heavily involved in scouting, having served as the Senior Patrol Leader of his troop, and as a Chapter Chief in scouting’s national honor society, the Order of the Arrow. Joe is currently wrapping up his Eagle Scout project and application and, in the fall, plans on attending The University of Notre Dame to study economics and political science.

St Joe’s Salutatorian, Helen Mahoney resides in Stamford, CT. She is President of the National Honor Society, and has led the initiative to make and deliver over 10,000 sandwiches to the New Covenant Center. She is a member of the Math, English, and Spanish Honor Societies. Helen is also a Yale Book Award recipient, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and a Bausch + Lomb Honorary Science Award recipient. During her time at St Joes, as a Presidential Scholar, Helen has been an active member of the Drama and Debate clubs, as well as President of the Online Writing Resource Center and Vice President of Student Ambassadors. She was also a starting defender on the 2017 Varsity Girls Soccer State Championship team. In the fall, Helen will attend The University of Notre Dame as a Glynn Family Honors Program Scholar, majoring in Mathematics.

“We are so proud of these two very talented students who embody all that is St Joes,” said Principal, Nancy DiBuono. “James is a leader through example and his strength of character is noticed by all. Helen is a talented student with a strong work ethic. She sets high standards for herself and is a leader both in and out of the classroom. We know they are both destined for greatness.”

 About St Joseph High School

St Joseph High School (SJHS) strives to be the premier college preparatory school in Southern Connecticut. The school provides a learning environment that embraces the Gospel values of the Roman Catholic faith and promotes a commitment to family and community. SJHS prepares young women and men to realize their potential, helps them to excel in higher education, and provides a foundation to guide them throughout their lives. St Joseph High School is a member of NCEA, NAIS, NEAS&C.  www.sjcadets.org

 

Peace slips our grasp, but the Lord hold fast in our lives

BRIDGEPORT – Peace may be elusive in our personal lives and society, but the gift of spiritual tranquility is available to us if we have trust in the Lord, Bishop Caggaino said at the online Mass for the Third Sunday of Easter.

In his homily from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop reflected on the Gospel of Luke in which the risen Jesus stands in the midst of the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.”

“In today’s gospel the Lord offers a gift to his disciples as he it offers to us, and it is a gift that human beings long for– Peace.”

The bishop said peace is a precious and divine gift, but also a very fragile and fleeting gift.

“Peace be with you seems to be far away in these turbulent and challenging times that divide us, and in the pandemic days we’re living,” he said.

Yet the Lord gives us peace for the taking, but we must learn how to receive it, he said.

Many define peace as an absence of war or turmoil, but that condition seems to be elusive because “men and women are quick to go into conflict among nations or in social media,” he said.

Others think of peace as tranquility where everything is in its proper place and all is well, but that too is short lived because we continue to face unexpected challenges such as the pandemic “which has upended our lives,” he said.

The Lord is offering something different, “a spiritual tranquility that is in the depth of our your heart and mine, a place where we can be at peace, at rest and tranquil in the knowledge that God is there with us in every moment of the day.”

The bishop said God loves us regardless of what we’ve done. Even when he seems distant to us, he never turns his back on us, “He is there loving us to the end.”

“Deep spiritual tranquility is a gift the Lord is willing to give us. For he and his Spirit is the one who dwells in our hearts, but we need to accept it.”

The bishop said that often we do not feel peaceful and we may be left in turmoil when our attempts to forgive, to offer peace and even perform acts of kindness are unappreciated or rejected by others.

“Allow me to ask the question, When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, for all of the pain, sacrifice and suffering he endured, how do you think he felt knowing that all of his pain and suffering were being scoffed at and mocked?”

The bishop said Jesus was serving a meal that much of humanity had contempt for, but he was sustained by knowing that “he died not only for our sake, but did it in obedience to the Father who loved him every moment of every day. It was that assurance that allowed him to give his life over to those who did not appreciate it and did not want it.”

Tranquility does not rest on the response of those who would receive the gift, but on the love of the Father who will never fail us, the bishop said.

If we look to others for validation, we may be happy to receive it, but it is best to remember to “keep our eyes fixed on the Lord who is always there to give us encouragement and strength,” he said.

“The Lord is offering us a peace only he can give us,” he said, a peace without conditions that no one can take away from us.

The bishop said in a world filled with so much strife and at a time when our acts of kindness, caring, and forgiveness are not always received well by our neighbors, “Only one can be with us and love us to the end, when he whispers to you and me, ‘Peace be with you.’”

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

How the West came to Encounter the East

In his latest series of illustrated presentations, Deacon Robert Henrey’s goal is to share his interest in Asian cultures, their histories, religious traditions and languages – an interest stimulated thanks to several years living and working in South East Asia and to ongoing opportunities for professional contacts, travel and study.

In this new ZOOM series Deacon Henrey of The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes describes the process whereby adventurers, traders and scholarly missionaries brought back home a growing awareness of the richness they had encountered. Each session is designed to stimulate discussion.

April 28 – Part One: Early Days – From Ancient World Traders and Mediaeval Adventures to the Age of Sail

May 12 – Part Two: India prior to the Arrival of the Portuguese

May 26 – Part Three: The Portuguese Century of Discovery

June 2 – Part Four: The Rise and Fall of the Mughals and how rival Europeans stepped into the void

Join us at 5:00 PM for these engaging events on this Zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/91648902276

The Fall Series will continue with the story of how the Portuguese made early inroads into both Japan and China thanks in large part to the remarkable achievements of Jesuit missionaries – with dramatically different and unforeseen outcomes. The presentations will also address how East and West gradually became aware of their each other’s cultures leading to our increasingly interconnected world.

Pontifical Council to explore holistic path to health

Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul. How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health is the title of an international event that brings together experts from many sectors to discuss the latest breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare, as well as the human implications and cultural impact of technological advances.

It is the fifth Conference on this theme, and takes place in a virtual format from 6 to 8 May 2021.

Jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the “Cura Foundation” – an organization of healthcare experts whose mission it is to improve human health and increase quality of life globally – the Conference includes a roundtable on “Bridging Science and Faith”, aimed at exploring the relationship of religion and spirituality to health and wellbeing, including the relationship between mind, body and soul.

The event will bring together physicians, scientists, ethicists, religious leaders, patient rights advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and commentators to discuss the status quo in medical research and technology, and how these are implemented at a global level.

One of the main perspectives of the event deals with the deeper meaning of human existence and seeks areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences.

Priests, pastoral health care workers and students from Pontifical and Catholic Universities worldwide are invited to take part in the Conference.

Detailed information can be found on the website of the Pontifical Council for Culture and at VaticanConference2021.org.

By Vatican News staff writer @ www.vaticannews.va

Ambassador Training Program in Spanish

BRIDGEPORT – Work has begun on offering the ambassador training program in Spanish. Father Gustavo Falla, Vicar for Hispanic Catholics, in collaboration with four other Spanish-speaking priests, is collaborating with Father Michael Novajosky to organize the program, with a proposed start at the beginning of May.

Registration materials will be distributed next Monday, April 19th. As was true for the English language track, pastors will be asked to nominate persons from his parish to attend the formation program. The registration process will be identical to that which was done in March.

The formation experience will begin with in-person orientation sessions, as was offered in English. For more information, contact your Pastor.

“Notas” acerca del Cuarto de Arriba #5

La Diócesis pronto inaugurará la sección en Español del programa de experiencia de formación para Embajadores. Se prevé que este programa se dará inicio a comienzos del mes de Mayo. Habrá más información disponible acerca de esto la próxima semana. Les solicitamos a todos aquellos interesados que contacten a su pastor para discutir su posible registro al programa.

St. Rose students travel the world

NEWTOWN—St. Rose School students recently traveled the world as they celebrated International Week. This is a long-time school tradition where every grade chooses and studies a country then shares their knowledge with fellow classes.

The week kicks off with an International Flag ceremony.  This year the ceremony was small, with 3 representatives from each class carrying flags, wearing country colors and garb and presenting key facts about the country.

Countries represented ranged from Italy to Ghana.  Students read articles, watched videos, created art work and made items such as rain sticks (Australia), Achi, a game played in Ghana, as well as Djemba drums (also Ghana).

In fact, fifth-graders also created folk tales that they will be sharing with students at a school in Ghana that St. Rose School supported through its recent Lenten Mission Drive.

First-graders studied the tastes, sights and events of Italy while second graders toured Mexico and made maracas. It was a marvelous learning adventure for all!

Click here to see a full video of the International Flag Ceremony!

SEEK21 at St. Pius X

FAIRFIELD—St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield was recently a host parish for SEEK21, a bi-annual conference that is hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). SEEK usually takes place at one designated location in the country and is open to college students who desire to learn more about themselves, their faith, and grow in their relationship with God. This year, due to the impact of COVID-19, the format of the conference looked a little differently. Universities, parishes and communities throughout the country were invited to serve as host sites for participants to attend the conference locally. All of the content, including keynote talks, impact session and sponsor information was available via an online platform. Registration for the conference was also opened to a wider age range, as high school students and adults were invited to attend. This year, over 27,000 people participated from around the world, making this year’s conference the largest yet.

At St. Pius X, 80 people participated in SEEK21. They were given the option to attend in-person at St. Pius X or virtually. Participants, based on their age group, were placed in small groups where were able to unpack and discuss the keynote presentations and their experiences over the weekend. COVID-19 protocols (i.e. mask-wearing, social distancing and availability of hand sanitizer) were adhered to, in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment.

On the first afternoon, participants were able to customize their conference schedules by “attending” various impact session talks on their own time, virtually. This allowed them to listen to talks that piqued their interest and reflect more deeply on their desires, struggles, and purpose. The evening in-person session included time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, with praise and worship music. This was part of SEEK21’s Worldwide Prayer Vigil, a time for all participants to gather together, albeit in different parts of the world, to spend time with the Lord and pray for themselves, their intentions and the world.

Paola Peña, director of Student Ministries at St. Pius X, was a FOCUS missionary prior to becoming a youth minister. She has attended SEEK every time it was offered throughout the last 10 years. Although the pandemic prevented her and others from attending the conference with thousands of people this year, Peña saw this as an opportunity to invite people from the parish to experience SEEK. “My desire was always, for years, to bring parishioners to SEEK and introduce them to FOCUS,” she said. “There was no way I could have brought 70+ people to SEEK because of time and financial constraints. This was a much more fruitful option!”

When asked what her hopes were for the people participating in SEEK, Peña said she “wanted them to think about their life and their purpose.” She wanted this conference to be part of a “mobilizing effort” that “moves people to step up in the Church.” One of the missions of FOCUS is to “raise up missionary disciples,” and in order to do that, Peña says, “they need opportunities of encounter.” She wanted this opportunity to “let people be aware of the hunger for Jesus in their life. They won’t know it unless it’s being offered in different ways,” she said.

For Tori Stapleton, a young adult participant, SEEK was an opportunity for her to ask questions about her faith and grow in her relationship with God. “As a ‘cradle Catholic,’” she said, “I had very little opportunity to question different aspects of my religion. It was always something I felt emotionally and intrinsically, but it’s important that I question and seek in order to deepen my relationship with God and more fully believe the things I claim to believe.” Stapleton was also able to reflect on her understanding of the role of the Church during the conference. She said “I’d always thought of religion as something personal, and while it still is, I’m beginning to think of it more as being a part of a community: ‘the Church.’”

Alex Miller, a teen participant, took much away from her experience. “Prior to the SEEK conference,” she said, “I felt like I had hit a plateau in my faith. I was going through the motions of prayer without really searching for God or wanting to pray. So, I hoped that the SEEK conference would get me out of my prayer slump, and it did!” Listening to the keynote talks was especially impactful for her, as she grew to understand more about herself and God. “I discovered the deeper meaning to the fact that God is all-loving and that He loves me. Although this is repeated endlessly in the Bible, it’s one thing to hear it, but another to feel it,” she said. Looking back on the weekend, she said that “participating in SEEK reminded me that God is here for me and He loves me!”

Transformative experiences like these are exactly what Peña hoped would happen for SEEK participants. “Individually, my hope for them was authentic conversions and transformed, Christ-centered life, and for each person to know that they’re not too far away from the Father to belong,” she said. As a community, she hopes that this conference inspires people “to step into their gifts and their calling—having vision and possession of that calling over their life, regardless of their state in life.” From there, she said, “they will be able to share it (the call) with others.”

By Michelle Onofrio

Bishop Caggiano talks Social Media

BRIDGEPORT—In his latest podcast on Veritas Radio (1350 AM), Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and host Steve Lee talk social media with John Grosso, director of digital media for the diocese of Bridgeport.

Are you trying to bring people back to Christ, or are you trying to be right? Why do we always default to our differences on social media? Why don’t we instead fall back on what we have in common as a family of believers? Do we understand that every single one of us will kneel before the Lord in judgment one day?

The bishop, John and Steve explore these and other questions and discuss the divisions and fighting we see on social media, particularly Catholic social media. If you frequent Catholic Twitter, you’ll want to be sure to list to this podcast:

“Let me be Frank” airs live at noon every Wednesday and is available online through the podcast. During the show, the bishop share his thoughts and also interviews guests who reflect on an important issue in the Church and society.

Click here to listen to the latest episode.