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Rev. Joseph F. Palacino, 93

TRUMBULL—Reverend Joseph F. Palacino, age 93, of Trumbull passed away peacefully on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 at Bridgeport Hospital.

Ordained at age 55, after serving his country as a veteran of two wars, working as a chemist and running owning his own market, Father Palacino is remembered for his kindness, compassion and willingness to accompany others on their journey of faith.

“Father Palacino had a long, remarkable and blessed life, and equally important he was a blessing to all those who knew him and were served by his gracious and loving ministry,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “We should all live so well, so long, so faithfully as Father Joe.”

Father Palacino is best remembered by many parishioners of St. Jerome Parish in Norwalk, where he served his final assignment. In a beautiful tribute to Father Paladino published in the December 26, 2020 parish bulletin, Father Dave Blanchfield, retired pastor of St. Jerome’s, fondly recalled Father Palacino’s courage, kindness and decency.

“Although when he came to us he was already 67, he stayed working as a full time priest for another 21 years. Our retirement age is 75, but Father Joe loved the people of St. Jerome so much that he stayed on until health issues at age 88 forced him to retire,” said Father David Blanchfield, who continues to live in residence at the parish.

“A turning point in his life was when he was drafted for the second of two wars. After already serving as a sailor during the last days of World War II, he was again drafted as a soldier in the Korean conflict. As part of God’s plan and because he was a practicing Catholic, he was assigned to guard the Catholic chaplain when he was giving what we then called ‘the last rites’ to soldiers on the battlefield. In those moments, he got to see both the power of the Sacraments as well as the difference a priest can make in people’s lives,” said Father Blanchfield.

Father Palacino was born in Bridgeport on June 14, 1927, a son of the late Luigi Palacino and Provvidenza (Allegra) Palacino. Father Palacino is survived by his loving sister, Mary Grace Corica, of Trumbull and a devoted brother, Frank Palacino and his wife Martha, of Ocala, Fla., as well as many loving nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews and great-great-nieces and nephews.

He was also predeceased by three brothers, Liborio, Salvatore and Angelo Palacino. Father Palacino was educated at Central High School in Bridgeport before serving honorably in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy. He later graduated from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. and was proud to be a 4th degree member of the Knights of Columbus, Assembly 100 of Norwalk for many years.

Throughout his life, Father Palacino had many occupations, including owner of Palacino’s Market and he was a chemist for nearly 20 years before he embraced his calling as a priest.

Father Palacino studied Theology at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corner, Wis., before being ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis at St. Augustine Cathedral, Bridgeport on December 4, 1982.

After his ordination, Father Palacino first served as parochial vicar of St. Joseph Church in Shelton. In 1987, he was transferred to St. Augustine Cathedral Parish. In 1994, Father Palacino moved to his last assignment, St. Jerome in Norwalk, where he continued to serve even after his retirement.

Father Palacino’s body was received at St. Jerome Church to lie in repose. Parishioners and friends observed social distance guidelines and greeted the family. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday, December 7, by Bishop Caggiano. Interment with military honors followed in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Trumbull.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jerome Church or Father Joe Appalachian Project Scholarship c/o Notre Dame High School, 220 Jefferson St., Fairfield, CT 06825.


Editor’s Note: Fairfield County Catholic regrets the inadvertent omission of Father Palacino’s obituary in the January issue of the paper. We are proud to remember this remarkable priest servant who brought the healing of Christ to so many people in the diocese.

Immaculate Students Win Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

DANBURY—Six Immaculate High School students had their work recognized and awarded at the annual Connecticut Regional Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards is the nation’s longest-running, most prestigious recognition program for creative teens. Teens in grades 7-12 can apply in 28 categories of art and writing, and submissions are judged regionally and nationally by panels of creative industry experts.

Regional Art Awards were presented to Brooke Squitieri ‘21 who received an honorable mention in the drawing and illustration category for her piece “Discriminating Digits”; Anna Kopec ‘23 who received a Silver Key in the drawing and illustration category for her piece “Tiger King”; and Olivia Esposito ‘23 who received an Honorable Mention in the design category for her piece “Trivia Tile Game”. Student artwork is juried by professional artists and university art faculty and is selected on merit for inclusion in a state-wide art exhibition that is traditionally held at the Hartford Art School. Beyond the honor of being selected for this high quality exhibit, students may be awarded Gold or Silver keys and Honorable Mention Awards in each of 18 media categories. Students whose art pieces were recognized in the 2021 Regional Art Awards will be honored at a virtual celebration with winners from other schools on February 26. A virtual gallery of all the entries can be viewed here.

In the Regional Writing Awards, Spencer Squitieri ‘21 with his essay “Finding the Words for Why,” Zachary Meyerson ‘21 with his essay “More In Common” and Caitlin Doherty ‘21 with her essay “Unspoken” all received Silver Keys in the personal essay & memoir category. Annually, over 1,500 students from across Connecticut submit entries vividly demonstrating their passion for the craft of writing. From this large pool of poetry, essays, stories, and drama, submissions in Poetry and Prose are awarded to be published or honored at each grade level. Students who were awarded for their pieces will be celebrated at a virtual celebration on March 7. View the full list of award recipients.


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 their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system. Immaculate is currently accepting freshman and transfer student applications. For more information on rolling admissions please visit immaculatehs.org/admissions.

Novena to St. Joseph set to help faithful prepare for consecration

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced a diocesan Novena to St. Joseph in preparation for the consecration of the Diocese of Bridgeport to St. Joseph on March 19.

“All are invited to participate in a special Novena to Saint Joseph that will seek his intercession upon our diocese during this celebratory year. I encourage all the faithful to participate in this diocesan-wide devotion to the Patron of the Universal Church during the Year to Saint Joseph,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The Novena will begin on Wednesday, March 10th and end on March 18th, and will take place at 7 pm every evening via Zoom and the Diocesan YouTube. People will be able to access the novena through the diocesan website and social media.

“I ask that all who are able join us in praying this Novena within the diocese as we ready ourselves to enter this period spiritual preparation to a much larger call to diocesan renewal,” the bishop said.

In order to help people to prepare for the consecration, the bishop said a special Novena to Saint Joseph has been crafted alongside that of the traditional Litany of Saint Joseph, which has been included among other prayers to St. Joseph enriched with a plenary indulgence.

The indulgence may be earned once a day subject to the usual conditions: sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, prayer for the intentions of the Pope, and a total detachment to all sin, including venial sin.

“The Novena has been written to engage various intercessory levels of Saint Joseph’s patronage upon our diocese, as we answer a call to the renewal of Christian life and prepare for a great evangelical outreach that will begin this Fall,” the bishop said.

The Novena begins with the Litany of St. Joseph and includes this prayer, “O God, who in your inexpressible providence were pleased to choose Saint Joseph as spouse of the most holy Mother of your Son, grant, we pray, that we, who revere him as our protector on earth, may be worthy of his heavenly intercession. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.”

In celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church, Pope Francis proclaimed a special “Year of Saint Joseph” with the release of his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”).

On March 19th, 7 pm, Bishop Caggiano will consecrate the Diocese of Bridgeport to the patronage of Saint Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, at a Pontifical Mass live-streamed from St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport. Pastors throughout the diocese will also celebrate Mass at the same time to link the diocese together in prayer and purpose.

The Diocesan celebration of St. Joseph will launch a the call to renewal announced by Bishop Caggiano in February 17 his pastoral exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”

St. Mark School celebrates Black History Month

STRATFORD—From classroom activities and research projects to creative videos and civil rights music, students at St. Mark School in Stratford are celebrating Black History Month and paying tribute to influential Black Americans throughout history.

The school has been recognizing Black American achievements and milestones that have shaped our nation by incorporating a variety of lessons in Science, English Language Arts, Music and Social Studies classes and through the school’s Social Emotional Learning program.

Second-graders are researching several distinguished historical figures such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Ruby Bridges and Frederick Douglass, and sharing their findings with classmates.

Second grade teacher Stacey Zenowich comments, “Black History Month aims to inspire lifelong learning about the history, voices and experiences of Black Americans. The lessons are a powerful education of our past, an opportunity to appreciate the contributions of the present, and a chance to build an even more hopeful future.”

Middle School lessons included learning about poets such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou and Amanda Gorman and watching films that portray obstacles of social injustices of racism and genderism.

English Language Arts teacher Danielle Veith shares, “I believe it is my responsibility to highlight stories and voices that have been previously overlooked or silenced and to uplift those who have been most marginalized by our society. I emphasize to my students that as a white woman, I will never truly have a full understanding of the experiences of people of color.”

According to Veith, she and her students will listen, learn and discuss these stories together, and challenge one another to both envision and carry out a better future than the histories we leave behind us.

Middle school science lessons included viewing the movie Hidden Figures, a story of three Black women scientists working at NASA in the early 1960’s who were instrumental in launching manned space flight.

Science teacher Lorie Boveroux remarks, “The film illustrates their triumph and shows how they used their God-given talents to better humanity and break down gender and racial barriers.”

Middle School students also learned about how music was influential in promoting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

Eighth-grader Olivia Szczerba shares, “Music has always been able to deliver powerful messages and show deep emotions, so the perfect time to sing would definitely be during a civil rights movement. Singing a song while protesting would be a way to come together with others, let go of anger and fear, as well as make a stand.”

“At St. Mark School, we want our students to see the value in diversity and the benefits of inclusion,” adds Principal Melissa Warner. “We aim to foster a genuine sense of empathy and compassion.”

According to Warner, the school-wide Social Emotional Learning program provides an additional avenue to highlight the school’s ongoing commitment to fostering dignity and respect for all people, in celebration of Black History Month.

Warner concludes, “In the words of Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”


 

Grosso chosen to participate in Vatican Social Media project

BRIDGEPORT—John Grosso, Director of Digital Media of the Diocese of Bridgeport, has been chosen by the Holy See’s Dicastery for Communications to be part of an international digital media program.

Grosso, a native of Stamford, was among sixteen individuals under age thirty-five from a dozen countries across the globe who were chosen to be part of the Vatican project. Since joining the diocese in 2015, he has innovated its social media program across multiple platforms and overseen the transition to live-streamed Masses and other digital initiatives during the pandemic crisis.

Recognizing the vital role of digital media, the dicastery announced “Faith Communication in the Digital World” and invited candidates to apply for the project with the opportunity to sharpen their digital media abilities and develop skills useful for work in Catholic organizations, institutions, congregations and in their local dioceses to better serve the mission of the Church.

“The diocese is very proud that John Grosso has earned this distinction and has been chosen to participate in the Vatican project,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “Through his efforts we have opened up new evangelization opportunities in the digital media, which will play an increasingly important role in the future of Church communications.”

Bishop Caggiano said that as the Catholic Church seeks to embrace new and effective ways of communication during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media and mobile applications have been utilized as key tools in communicating the Gospel message, particularly to youth and young adults.

Grosso said he was humbled to be selected for the project, and he believes that although social media can be a hostile and difficult environment, it gives the Church the ability to accompany others where they are in their life journey.

“I love the Church. I feel at home in the Church. But my whole life, I’ve watched many of my friends leave it, and I’ve been powerless to stop it. Here in my part of the United States, there is a crisis of trust in the Church, a crisis of belief in the Eucharist, and a crisis of relevancy.

When I hear Pope Francis say ‘go to the margins,’ I think of digital media. Digital media is a way to reach rich and poor, connect young and old, and help orient them towards Jesus and His Church.”

Grosso will join other young professionals in weekly virtual meetings, which include lectures by internationally renowned experts and individual coaching on specific topics related to digital communication and social media. The group will engage in individual and group work assignments throughout the project.

The 12-month program, launched digitally this month, also includes two week-long trips to Rome where the group will gather in person.

Under Grosso’s leadership, the diocese has been the architect of diocesan social media strategy with steadily growing Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Additionally, more than 50,000 people now receive the diocesan email newsletter, which includes videos from the Bishop and latest news updates. Grosso also created the “DOB Social” website to connect all parishes, schools and organizations to diocesan social media.

Based on his success in Bridgeport, he has been increasingly invited by dioceses across the United States via Zoom meetings and personal appearances to share his knowledge of social media and best practices.


Brief Bio: In addition to his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Boston College, John earned a Masters Degree in Corporate Communications and Public Relations at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. He graduated at the top of his class in August, 2017 with a 4.0 GPA.

Previously, he served as the diocesan coordinator for 2016 World Youth Day in which using social media he organized and formed a group of 240 people to Poland for ten days. John serves on the Advisory Board of two organizations close to his heart: the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Fairfield University, and Sister to Sister: All Africa Conference.

John recently married Nicole Perone on April 27th, 2019, in a Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank Caggiano. They are members of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, where they were married.

Texting prayers to help unite faithful during Lent

BRIDGEPORT— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is putting the power of social media to work during the Lenten season by asking area Catholics to pray together each day at 4 pm.

Those who participate will receive a daily text message, offering a specific intention and asking that they pray one Hail Mary, in communion with everyone else who is receiving the same text.

The daily text is part of the Bishop’s “Upper Room” initiative, a call to renewal of the diocese that began with the issuing of his pastoral exhortation, “Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord,” on Ash Wednesday, February 17.

The plan for renewal begins with a preparatory period of prayer and will move into a more active, public phase in the Fall. One of the major focuses of the initiative is to welcome people back as the pandemic subsides and also invites other who no longer practice the faith to come back to Church.

In a letter to priests, the bishop said a text message will be sent to all participants, inviting them to stop whatever they are doing and pray for a specific intention, followed by the recitation of one Hail Mary.

“This simple gesture unites thousands of people in prayer, while reminding us of the place that prayer should play in our ordinary lives.,” said Bishop Caggiano, who will issue spiritual challenges on a regular basis through the “Notes from the Upper Room” web page.

On Divine Mercy Sunday 2017, the Diocese first announced The Face of Prayer, an online prayer experience that brings together social media, text alerts, and the power of prayer. To date, over eight million prayer texts that have been shared by subscribers.

To join the “Face of Prayer” movement, simply text the word pray from your smartphone to 55778. You will automatically receive a response to confirm your subscription. Standard texting rates apply

Immaculate’s Brave Engineers Qualify for National/International Tournament

DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s Brave Engineers team participated in the Real World Design Challenge (RWDC), receiving second place in the State Finals. This incredible performance qualified the Brave Engineers for the RWDC National/International competition in April. The team will also have the opportunity to compete for merit awards at the National/International Competition.

The Brave Engineers, coached by Jeanine Antonios, includes members Mario Perez ‘22, Carolyn Jandura ‘22, Nikolas Badinelli ‘22, Meryl McKenna ‘21, Shaun McKenna ‘23 and Zifeng Zhan ’22.

The Real World Design Challenge is an annual competition that provides high school students, grades 9-12, the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. Each year, student teams are asked to address a challenge that confronts our nation’s leading industries. Students utilize professional engineering software to develop their solutions and also generate presentations that convincingly demonstrate the value of their solutions. The RWDC provides students with opportunities to apply the lessons of the classroom to the technical problems that are being faced in the workplace.

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 their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system. Immaculate is currently accepting freshman and transfer student applications. For more information on rolling admissions please visit immaculatehs.org/admissions.

Lent during a pandemic brings new practices

CONNECTICUT—The season of Lent, often seen as a time of sacrifice, of giving up something, may just feel like too much to ask after a year of isolation, mask-wearing, and losses of friends or family members.

The season between Ash Wednesday and Easter represents Jesus’ 40 days fasting in the desert before beginning his public ministry. But the tradition of self-denial and giving to others as a way of imitating Christ may just feel like too much right now, faith leaders say. Instead, those leaders say, Christians may need new ways to look at these 40 days and find new practices to deepen faith and give personal meaning to the season.

“I do think that Lent is a really great time for us to recognize that there really is … fatigue from sacrifice. We’ve given up hugs and we’ve given up visits to Grandma,” said Patrick Donovan, executive director of the Leadership Institute in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

“I think last year we were in such shock and we were in duck-and-cover mode. We experienced Lent and we didn’t realize it,” he said. In 2020, Ash Wednesday fell on Feb. 26, about two weeks before the country went into lockdown because of COVID-19.

After being afraid to go to the grocery store, learning to wear masks, living professional and social lives on Zoom, not being able to go to a movie or ballgame, “we’re just exhausted,” Donovan said.

“We are an impatient country … and we don’t like to sacrifice. We are a nation of excess, a people of excess,” he said. Lent is a time to pay attention to how faith is practiced, he said. The message can get lost if by giving up eating meat on Fridays but having shrimp instead.

Instead, Lent is about “eating simply and giving what you might have spent on dinner into the rice bowl for Catholic Relief Services, which is on the table,” he said.

Donovan said giving up something for Lent has actually brought his family spiritual gifts. Katie, 12, for instance, gave up watching YouTube, “which is huge for her,” he said. Their conversation was about “when you’re not doing YouTube, what are you going to be doing?” he said. “For Katie, it’s about filling it with something else, so she’s reading a book, she’s playing with the dog, she’s painting. … She’s not as distracted as she was.”

His 13-year-old son, Liam, shoveled a neighbor’s sidewalk, unasked, when it recently snowed. “He knew it was the right thing to do,” Donovan said. “I have to believe that the conversations we’re having at home about Lenten sacrifice motivated him to do that. It’s really a good time to really practice what we hope to be the rest of the year.”

Donovan’s Lenten practice has been aided by a new puppy, “getting up in the morning and spending 30, 40, 50 minutes outside in the cold in silence. … My Lenten practice right now is to keep that up but begin to fill it with prayer.”

“I think part of the challenge is this Lent is a call for innovation. We’ve got to get creative with our sacrifice,” using our time to do something like checking on a neighbor, he said.

The Rev. Mary Barnett, priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown, said the pandemic has been so hard on people that “sometimes we have a harder time feeling pleasure and finding some bit of that, and that too can be part of our relationship with God, and it’s not just giving things up.”

She suggested to “be good to yourself and really think about what’s good,” filling a need by spending time with a loved one.

“I feel like paying attention to the signals your body gives you rather than just your brain is really helpful,” Barnett said. “It’s important to listen to how sad we are and the losses we’ve had. It’s really hard.”

The Rev. Ryan Lerner, the chaplain at the St. Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University, said the pandemic has posed the question of “what does it mean to take up one’s cross … when the cross enters into our life in a way that we would not choose? … All of us have been asked to sacrifice or called to sacrifice in ways we never would have chosen or never would have imagined.”

But Lent gives us the opportunity of “letting go of those things that we sometimes cling to that clutter up our lives, to make room for God,” Lerner said.

Cultivating “a sacrificial spirit … frees us up. That is a positive thing,” Lerner said. “To be in dialogue with God, to recognize God’s presence in our lives and to give to others, whether it be our time, our attention, our prayers.”

Lerner and three others from St. Thomas More sprinkled ashes on people’s heads on Ash Wednesday. “The first real in-person thing we’ve done may be the only thing for the foreseeable future,” he said. Besides Yale students, faculty and staff, “we also had students from the University of New Haven and Southern who also came,” he said.

He said receiving ashes is more than just a tradition. “Go out with that ash on your forehead. How are you going to be ambassadors for Christ?” he said.

And he urges Christians to stay flexible and be present to opportunities to give to others. “It’s easy to be stuck to your calendar and your schedule,” he said.

Members of St. Thomas More also were given a Lenten kit including a booklet containing daily Scripture readings through Easter, a small jar of sand as a meditative tool, the Catholic Relief Services “rice bowl” for almsgiving and a copy of “Sacred Space for Lent 2021,” with daily prayers by the Irish Jesuits.

Aside from giving up something himself, which he doesn’t disclose, Lerner said he is praying throughout the day at the liturgically appointed times.

“As priests and religious, we make a promise to pray the liturgy of the hours. It’s very easy on a busy day to blast through it in the morning,” he said. “You’ve got to carve out a little bit of time during the day.”

The Rev. Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, said this Ash Wednesday “had the biggest turnout in anyone’s memory. … It was hundreds and hundreds, probably well into the thousands,” he said.

Marcello used Q-tips to mark a cross in ashes on each person’s forehead. “Several people told me with tears in their eyes that this was the first time they had been back in church since the pandemic began,” he said.

Lent has given people the opportunity of “returning to a ritual that has been a constant in their lives, connected with people on a very deep level,” Marcello said.

“I think that as the pandemic subsides, as people get their vaccines, a lot of people are waiting for a tipping point, a moment to come back, and Ash Wednesday is the perfect time for that,” he said. “As we reapproach the normal that was taken from us a year ago, very few things connect with folks as deeply as Mass, liturgy, worship and prayer.”

The parish has had several “drive-through food drives. We have had an unbelievably strong response to those,” Marcello said. “We’ve delivered truckloads upon truckloads” of food, dry goods, baby supplies and other items, he said. “I’m just really encouraged to see that our parishioners, a goodly number of them, have not turned in on themselves, isolated, [but] have really stepped up.” Non-members also have dropped off items at the church, he said.

To the Rev. Ximena Diaz-Varas, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Torrington, Lent is an opportunity to perform “acts of kindness, being that person of God for others. … What is that thing that is going to help them be aware of the presence of God, which is basically what Lent is about.”

While it is good to make a sacrifice, “Giving up chocolate with nothing behind it is not going to make us closer to God,” she said. But small acts of kindness, such as reaching out to someone who lives alone, “will help us to see God working in this time, even in this pandemic, even in winter with storm after storm,” she said.

“I also have found that people are just on edge and we need to be kind to one another, and we need to be graceful with one another,” Diaz-Varas said. “Sometimes we feel we need to do huge things, but it really begins with our own heart. … If we all start with our heart we can change the world.”

The Rev. Frederick “Jerry” Streets, pastor of Dixwell Avenue United Church of Christ in New Haven, said parishioners have talked about “what it was they wanted to do for Lent,” trying new approaches to Bible study and prayer.

“They pray regularly, but they’re going to try to pray in a different way.” For some, “that meant getting on their knees, which they haven’t done in a long time,” he said.

“There’s a broader interest that people have in nurturing their sense of their spiritual life in the midst of such grief and sorrow and vulnerability,” Streets said. “The Lenten season has a way of making it more acute because of the emphasis on repentance and transformation.”

Streets said maintaining connections among parishioners, even if online, has been critical. He said he had been reading about the 1918 flu pandemic and “one of the things that was happening was that local newspapers … were publishing weekly meditations and sermons and spiritual advice.”

Now, he said, in addition to the weekly services on YouTube, there is Bible study and a general meeting in which people can share their experiences and information. At a recent meeting, “people were giving information about their COVID experience,” Streets said. “They were sharing their experience about overcoming their anxiety about getting the shot and the side effects, if any … and those stories were very helpful to people.”

New Haven’s Mayor Justin Elicker and Health Director Maritza Bond have been online guests at the meetings as well, he said. “All of these are means of helping people to stay connected, but it’s also a means of getting resources to live their life.”

Written by Ed Standard, Originally posted in the New Haven Register

St. Mark Students Strive to be Models in Christ

STRATFORD—St. Mark School in Stratford is pleased to announce a new school-wide program that teaches students the value of moral character and that the positive impact of their actions do not go unnoticed.

The program, Models in Christ, recognizes students for demonstrating character traits based on the Catholic theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Teachers in kindergarten through grade 8 nominate students as Models in Christ based on how they exemplify the six pillars of character at St. Mark School: Respect, Kindness, Accountability, Citizenship, Perseverance and Trustworthiness.

Each month, two students per grade are chosen and presented with a commemorative gold cross pin.

The Models in Christ program was introduced to Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano at a recent school Mass ¬that he celebrated at St. Mark during Catholic Schools Week.

“What a tremendous program this is!” commented Bishop Frank. “Thank you students for your great example and your great conduct.”

School Counselor Jennifer Flynn created the program and believes its foundational skills embody the ideals of St. Mark School and instill a positive school climate and a culture of kindness.

Flynn shares, “Good character is not formed automatically; it is developed over time through a sustained process of teaching, example, learning and practice. With this program, students are intentionally taught good character traits to support their behaviors. As I tell my students, in a world where you can be anything, choose to be kind.”

School Principal Melissa Warner recognizes that while the primary responsibility for character development lies with parents and families, schools play an essential supportive role.

Warner adds, “As educators, we shape students’ ideas about what constitutes good behavior. We help them develop civic responsibility, healthy attitudes towards themselves and others, and a commitment to lifelong learning. We proactively instill in our students these important character traits that society values in its school graduates, community members and employees.”

According to Warner, the Models in Christ program is integrated into all elements of school life at St. Mark. Students discuss what each virtue looks like and how they can use that strength for the betterment of the school and the betterment of others. Morning prayer and school bulletin boards feature the virtue of the month and students are recognized when reflecting the virtue in their daily lives.

School Counselor Flynn praises the program for being a practical way for faculty and staff to model virtuous behavior and to help explicitly teach children to be the best versions of who they are.

St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school. St. Mark School opened its campus for in-person learning in September and continues to offer robust educational programs for students in Pre-K through Grade Eight, including those who choose to be enrolled in remote learning. For more information, visit www.stmarkschool.org or email contactus@stmarkschool.org.

Bishop to Rite of Election Candidates: ‘You are most welcome’

TRUMBULL— Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed 100 men and women as they progressed toward full communion with the Catholic Church at Sunday’s Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull.

“Today the Lord, through the Mystery of the Mystical Body, the Church, is going to elect you; that is, confirm the call you have received in the quiet of your heart; the call that was given to you by the Lord, Himself,” said the bishop during his homily.

The bishop assured the participants that he and all the members of the Church would be praying for them in the weeks ahead, as they continue their preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation. “You are most welcome,” the bishop said.

“There is a profound lesson to be contemplated,” explained Bishop Caggiano, reminding the participants that their journey in faith is one that all the faithful must continue throughout their lives.  “For the reality of the temptations in our lives are real. The tendency to fall into those temptations can be deadly, and so what is it that the Lord requires?”

The bishop explained the struggle that lies within all of us. “Temptation, my friends, is when we’re given a choice between doing what is good, right and moral, or to do what is disordered or evil or sinful.”

“That choice has power over us when it engages our hearts,” he said. “It is the desires of our heart that can at times get us in trouble.”

The bishop explained that we cannot find peace in our hearts from what the world wants us to consume—power, pleasure, possessions, privilege, prophet, and so many other things.

“To win over temptation is not simply knowing what’s right or wrong it is to contain, to train, to bring to conversion my heart and yours,” said the bishop.

“And you, my friends, election candidates, as you continue this journey you are going through, it is more than an invitation to simply know what the Church teaches, but it is also to train your heart…to allow these desires to lead you to the one desire that matters—the desire you have encountered already in your hearts.”

The bishop explained that in the Gospel reading of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, he was teaching us how to overcome temptations. The bishop assured that Jesus did not experience temptations as we do, because His heart is singular and pure, not divided as ours is.

The bishop posed the question: How can you and I look the devil in the face and walk away? He answered: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

“St. Augustine said one sentence that has been repeated and echoed for centuries,” the bishop said. “Our hearts are restless until they rest with thee, O God.”

This liturgical rite, traditionally held on the first Sunday of Lent, is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process. It closes the period of formation and marks the beginning of the period of final preparation for the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter.

To properly adhere to COVID-19 protocols, attendees were asked only to sit together if they were related or live together. Sponsors and godparents did not have to sit with the candidates and/or catechumens. Clergy and parish staff could sit wherever they please as well, following social-distancing guidelines.

After the homily, catechumens’ and candidates’ names were read aloud, as they were asked to stand with their godparents/sponsors and recite the responses provided.

All social-distancing and COVID-19 protocols were followed. The event was livestreamed at: www.sttheresatrumbull.org. 

(For more information regarding RCIA and adult formation, contact Dr. Patrick Donovan, executive director of The Leadership Institute at: pdonovan@diobpt.org.)

 

Parish Catechumens Candidates
St. Mary Parish, Bethel Meghan Dibella, Amy Crumb, Amanda Crumb Dempsey  Reese
St. Rose of Lima, Newtown Michael Digiovanni, Jesse Dudics, Joe Lacourse Seamus Conway, Daniel Pardovish
St. Thomas More Church, Darien Lisa Washburn
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Shelton Elida Cela Ree Torres
Sacred Heart of Jesus, Danbury Stephanie Viega, Fred Whipple
St. Aloysius, New Canaan Chastity Monoghan, Emily Zafonte, Trudi Widdrington-Davies, Nicholas Andrews Joseph Osburn, Hunter Smith, Hannah Kimmell, Kevin Shanley
St. Edward the Confessor, New Fairfield Hope Cosentino
St. Lawrence Church, Shelton Stephen Brighindi, Leslie Judd
Sacred Heart Parish (Westconn Newman Center) Devin Rivalsi, Mikayla Silkman, Holly Doyle Mikayla Silkman, Holly Doyle, Devin Rivalsi
Sacred Heart Church, Stamford Emily Lopez Remberto de Jesus Gomez, Brandon Perez, Juan Pinzon, Marcos Euceda, Juan Pinzon, Deysi Ramirez, Giselly Saenz, Melvin Orellana, Beverly Sarceno, Ludvin Menendez, Brenda Menendez, Steven Farez, Walther Arapa, Jairo Alarcon, Sandy Lopez Jr.
St. Charles Borromeo, Bridgeport Centauri Cotes, Mariah Cotes Bianca Diaz, Carlos Diaz, Aleah Loren Byas, Gracia R.Garhens Duvelson, James Anthony Galinda, Berta Ortiz, Aian Tomas, Maite Ramirez, Laysa Mekine Rodrigues Dutra, Fernanda Maria Delgado, Guilhermo Leandros dos Reis
St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel Cheryl McCormick
St. Joseph- St. Ladislaus
Jose Trinidad Aguirre
Carolina Rodriguez
Margarita Morel Martinez
Marvin Blanco Hidalgo
Libeth Mendez Hernandez
Hector Ayala
Lidia Argentina Morel
Jose Rigoberto Arevalo
Beni Tarazona
Jose Eduardo Vasquez
St. John, Darien Linda Lyons
St. Philip, Norwalk Hunter Finneran
Jon Anda
Dean Williams

Jeana Davila

St. Joseph Parish, Shelton Cole Twing
Cristal Ramos-DeMoya
Robert Reyes
St. Mary Parish, Stamford
Claudia Santizo
Leslie DeJesus
Kimberly Roig
Eugenio Victorino
Geullian Castellanos
Mateo Gallego
Milevie Ruiz
Ricardo Mejia
Kiara Chuquiang
Christian Discua
Eliana Sanchez
Michael Sanchez
St. Theresa Church, Trumbull Cedric Njila
Nicholas Zerella
Eujin Lee
Amber Deamico
St. Mark, Stratford Patricia Jean Baptiste
St. Matthew, Norwalk Anne Wilkins
Thomas Faye
Norberto Santiago, III
Natalia Toro-Santiago
Leidy Toro
Dawn Weiss
Liam Trudden
St. Peter Parish, Danbury Ana Jimenez and Hector Tomas

 

Sasha Nguyen, Alejandro Jimenez

Lent creates the space apart to tame our heart’s desires

BRIDGPEORT—“The mystery of sin is very much involved with the mystery of the heart,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in Mass for the First Sunday in Lent, which was live-streamed from the Catholic Center chapel.
After reading the Gospel of Mark (1:12-15) in which Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days, the bishop reflected on the nature of desire, sin and temptation.

He said that Jesus teaches us that we must walk into the desert “to tame our heart’s desires” and to free ourselves from attachments that ultimately enslave us, hurt others, and “continue to be the stumbling blocks to the freedom that is our destiny as the children of God.”

“It’s not easy to walk in the desert, but it brings freedom and life and gives us strength to overcome temptations in in your life and mine,” he said.

Bishop Caggiano began his homily by noting that the ancient view of wrong, which was discussed in the writings of St. Augustine, held that many people do things that are unethical because they don’t always know what is right and they choose “a mistaken good.”

“In the ancient world, sin was a failure of right thinking, a failure of the mind,” the bishop said, but the actions of a young boy helped Augustine to understand that sin was giving into the desires of the heart.

In his “Confessions,” Augustine relates the story of observing a young boy who was sitting on a wall and staring at a nearby apple tree with ripe and delicious fruit. As St. Augustine watches the boy sway back and forth on the wall, it become clear that the boy is deciding whether or not to take an apple from someone else’s yard. At some point, the boy leaps off, climbs the tree and eats the apple with a giant smile on his face.

The bishop said that Augustine understood then that sin was giving in to the heart’s desires and other temptations.

But “the Lord Jesus teaches us the way out by going to the desert,” where we can extricate ourselves from our passions and desires.

“The desert is a place we can take the desires that haunt us, enslave us, addict us and create a space that we can see them for what they really are,” he said. “When you go into the desert, possessions, privileges and pleasures are not there to be found.”

Jesus triumphed over Satan in the desert because he “did not have a divided heart. In his singular love for the Father he knew the false promises of things that attract my heart and yours,” the bishop said.

The bishop said we can all be tempted by our desire for privilege, power, pleasure or possessions because “we believe it will give us what we want , and make us whole and that we will find our heart’s peace in that.”

We sin when we allow the “desires of our heart” to determine the choice between good and evil, and that often leads us to choose poorly, the bishop said.

The Lenten season is an invitation to practice mortification, prayer and almsgiving to “tame the heart” and ask God’s guidance about what we should or shouldn’t do, he said.

“Mortification is to enter into the desert by denial of our desires, one choice at a time,” while almsgiving is not simply about giving to the poor but also “developing a grateful heart for the small, ordinary, beautiful blessings in our lives,“ he said, noting that we are all restless for things that cause us harm.

The bishop said that at the end of his life St. Augustine wrote a line in his “Confessions” that has been repeated innumerable times in the life of the Church, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O God.”

As we begin Lent, we are asked to go to the “boot camp of the heart and to train it to desire one thing above all others, to give ourselves totally and completely to the one who forgives us, loves us, set us free and brings us eternal life,” he said.

Before giving the final blessing, the bishop prayed that as we begin the journey of Lent that “it may lead us to true freedom of heart, and freedom from the temptations that afflict us, that we may come to Easter renewed and ready for new life.”

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/

Two ways to give this Lent

BRIDGEPORT—This year, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County will be running two faith in action campaigns concurrently during Lent—Catholic Charities annual Loaves and Fishes Campaign together with Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl program.

The Catholic Charities feeding programs provide food for the needy and most vulnerable members of the local community while the CRS Rice Bowl program supports members of the global family who are impoverished and endangered in the developing world.

“Due to COVID-19 we are doing things a bit differently this year,” said Mike Donoghue, director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

“Since the pandemic began, food insecurity is the biggest need amongst some of our most vulnerable families,” Donoghue said, explaining that their main programs, pre-pandemic were doing 4-500 meals a day; now they do 1,000-1,2000 meals a day. “Demand has definitely increased,” said Donoghue.

Donoghue explained that this year’s Loaves and Fishes Campaign will be foregoing the use of envelopes, to cut down on paper waste and make giving more stream-lined.

Instead, flyers will be available in parishes with information on how to give including online and a mailing address.

Catholic Charities Feeding Programs supported by Loaves and Fishes

New Covenant Center, Stamford

  • Open 365 days per year serving 3 meals each day
  • Soup Kitchen serves 600,000 meals per year to 3600+ men, women, and children
  • Food pantry serves 1000 families per month
  • 800+ volunteers help cook, stock shelves and serve clients
  • Also provides clients with Day Shelter, Job Skills and Life Coaching, Immigration Counseling, Showers, Barber Services, and a Computer Lab

Thomas Merton Center, Bridgeport

  • Provides breakfast, lunch, and day shelter 6 days per week
  • Soup Kitchen serves 100,000+ meals a year to 4000 individuals
  • Eat Smart Food Pantry provides 600 families with 10 days of groceries per month
  • 600+ volunteers help cook, stock shelves and serve clients
  • Other Services provided – Thrift store, Shower program, Cosmetic day, Computer resources, medical services and referrals, homeless outreach team, life skills

Morning Glory Breakfast Program, Bridgeport

  • Serves hot breakfast 365 days per year to 100+ individuals daily
  • Served 45,000 hot and nutritious meals in 2019
  • 400+ volunteers help cook and serve clients
  • Non-food pantry provides household staples to over 1000 families

Parish Leaders may order CRS Rice Bowl materials free of charge at www.crsricebowl.org. Please contact Father Michael Boccaccio at: frboccaccio@diobpt.org for further information or questions on the Rice Bowl program.

CRS’s Lenten Rice Bowl Helps Feed 150 Million

WINDSOR TERRACE — Madagascar is an island nation off the African continent’s east coast. But even though water surrounds it, this country is not immune from drought.

Families rely on small farms and gardens to grow their food, but harvests shrink in the dry years. Consequently, one in two children on the island is undernourished, according to Catholic Relief Services, which aims to change that.

CRS’s annual Lenten Rice Bowl program helps fund efforts that teach islanders how to help their soil retain more water. They also learn to rotate crops and other sustainable techniques.

“It’s what I call ‘best practices,’ ” said Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. “This is where, I think, CRS is making a profound difference. As Catholic Christians, we talk about protecting life; it starts in the womb, and it stays with us in every fabric of our natural lives. Well, this is part of that.”

According to CRS, donations to Rice Bowl help 159 million people in more than 100 countries.

This year, CRS Rice Bowl highlights its work in Madagascar, El Salvador, and Timor-Leste, a new nation founded in 2002 on the island of Timor, north of Australia.

For example, back in Madagascar, Valerie Aimee Raharisoa, 32, tends a garden on land her family has used for generations. Family members help each other manage their plots. The mother learned new methods to grow vegetables through Rice Bowl-funded programs, which gave her harvests a boost. In an interview shared by CRS, she expressed pride in how her garden helps her children avoid malnutrition.

“What makes me happy is when I go to my garden, and I see all the things that I’ve planted grow,” she said. “When I see flowers or the greens or when I see the first seeds sprouting, it’s like I’ve transferred a kind of power from my hands to the plants.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops created CRS in 1943 to be an agile humanitarian organization to help people in long-term crises, such as drought, and sudden emergencies like hurricanes or earthquakes. The USCCB has conducted the Rice Bowl project through CRS since 1977.

Bishop Caggiano is a native of Brooklyn and a former auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Brooklyn. He currently serves as chairman of the CRS board for the USCCB.

He said this year’s Rice Bowl carries added urgency because donations in 2020 fell 47 percent below previous years. The COVID-19 pandemic gets the blame, he said.

CRS records show the average total donations over the past five years were $11.5 million, with about $8.6 million for food programs worldwide and $2.9 million to help food ministries in the U.S. diocese. According to CRS’s preliminary estimates, 2020 yielded about $5.3 million.

“This year,” Bishop Caggiano said, “life is not back to normal, but the hope is people would still participate in the Rice Bowl project because it gives them the opportunity to help fund needs all over the world.”

As in years past, CRS provides materials on its website (crsricebowl.org) to help people of all ages use Rice Bowl activities to enhance their Lenten observances. Included is the opportunity to donate alms to help fund CRS food programs around the world.

“Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three disciplines to prepare for Easter, so it makes sense,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Father Charles Keeney guides Rice Bowl efforts for the Diocese of Brooklyn. He is director of the Propagation of the Faith for the diocese, which gives him a unique perspective on the annual Lenten program’s effectiveness.

“As far as I’m concerned, the two things really go hand-in-hand,” he said of building the faith and the CRS efforts. “Both help the Church with corporal or spiritual works of mercy. But the actual Rice Bowl program is major because it does help CRS, in particular, with food programs.”

Father Keeney said 75 percent of Rice Bowl proceeds fund food programs in about 100 countries outside the U.S. The other 25 percent goes to domestic efforts. Recently, Father Keeney sent $500 checks from Rice Bowl to 11 food ministries in the diocese.

And, Bishop Caggiano said, giving alms adheres to the Gospel verse Matthew 25:40 — “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

“The people in these countries are grateful for whatever CRS does,” the bishop said, “but they learn, and they pass it on to others, and that’s our Catholic faith doing that.

“The Lord has asked us to do it, and with his grace, it will have a profound impact.”

Father Keeney confirmed that most people helped by CRS are not Catholic, which concerns some people.

“Some complain, ‘You’re helping Muslims, or Hindus, or whoever,’ ” he said. “But we don’t help people because they are Catholic.

“We help people because we’re Catholic.”

Originally Posted in The Tablet

Nurses who care for the physical and spiritual

BRIDGEPORT—Nine years ago, Marilyn Faber joined her husband William on a trip to Swaziland and discovered a different perspective on healthcare. While she was there, she volunteered at the parish nurse program that had 50 retired nurses running clinics throughout the country.

She saw firsthand what can be done in communities that lack resources. The nurses would bring in doctors to do exams and equally important, they helped in the healing process by their simple presence, she said.
The experience proved inspirational for Faber, who is the Parish Nurse Coordinator at Hartford Healthcare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, which provides resources and assistance to 79 parishes and congregations throughout Fairfield County. The program has 225 participating nurses who are unpaid professionals, focused on what Faber calls, “the intentional care of the spirit.”

“I learned at lot in Swaziland,” she says. “I’m a holistic nurse and I learned what it means just to be you. As a nurse, you’re bringing yourself to the situation and a person who is ill. Making that connection, listening to their story and maybe using healing touch can be helpful to their healing process. And that is what the nurses did there. It taught me a lesson about the things they could do without money.”

Faith community nursing is a specialty within the American Nurses Association. There is a standard scope of practice that is followed by the unpaid professionals in the program, which exists at 42 parishes, including several in Stamford, St. Mark in Stratford, St. Aloysius in New Canaan, St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull and Holy Name of Jesus in Stratford, along with 37 Protestant churches. The program is ecumenical and available to all churches, congregations, mosques and synagogues in Fairfield County.

Bill Hoey, Vice President of Mission Integration at Hartford Healthcare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, said, “The Parish Nurse program is a crown jewel in our vast array of programs at St. Vincent’s. The program brings our faith-based services to the people most in need, it captures our mission, vision and values beautifully. For over 25 years, this program has educated, informed and encouraged people to be as healthy as possible. We are very proud of the fact that our programs are in congregations of many faith traditions and are provided at no cost to the church, synagogue, mosque or parish that hosts the program. I am blessed to work with colleagues like Marilyn who see their work as a vocation and strive on a daily basis to put faith into action.”

The role of the parish nurse is to offer guidance so people can navigate the healthcare process. They do educational programs, health screenings and referrals. St. Vincent’s helps the parishes start and maintain the program in their churches.

“When you are in your church and people know you are a nurse, they are often asking you questions,” Faber says. “People know the relationship the nurse may have with the pastor and you get to know them as a church person and then as a nurse, who can help you navigate a health situation. There is an intentional presence so that the nurse can attend to the whole person — body, mind and spirit — and have the opportunity to do that without time constraints of a hospital or clinical setting.”

The focus of the program is to maintain a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit, Faber says.

“The parish nurse serves as health educator, counselor, referral source and health promoter for her congregation,” Faber says. “Through basic services such as monthly blood pressure screenings, the nurse can provide valuable instruction and assistance to the congregation.”

As a result of these screenings, for example, many parishioners who might not be aware of existing problems can be referred to their personal physicians before a serious problem develops. The nurses also sponsor health fairs in their churches with information and activities for different age groups.

They take what she called a “wholistic” approach, which means caring for the whole person, including the spirit. What does that mean?

“Much of the interviewing we do is finding out how someone’s prayer life is,” Faber says. “How do you feel in your spirit? If you feel that God has left you, that could be a big piece of what is happening in your life.”

For example, when a person is ill, he or she can succumb to the belief that God has abandoned them. They may be praying to be healed and nothing is happening. As a result, they become despondent because they assume God is not listening.

Faber said, “St. Vincent’s offers each parish or congregation enrolled in the program a start-up stipend for materials and supplies, and provides orientation and continuing education programs for the parish nurses. It also facilitates professional collaboration between the parishes and services offered at the Medical Center and in the greater Bridgeport community.”

In her role as Parish Nurse Coordinator, Faber supports the parish nurses by providing them with health tips for their bulletins, updated health information and education, and guidelines on important issues, such as the safest practices for reopening churches during COVID pandemic.

An important part of her job at St. Vincent’s is her involvement in the Community Health Improvement initiative in which she works with colleagues from Bridgeport Hospital along with the greater Bridgeport area health departments and and other organizations to determine how to improve the health outcomes of the community.

“I work on the ‘Know Your Numbers’ campaign, which utilizes Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University nursing students to offer health screenings in local food pantries,” she said. This team effort helps the people of Bridgeport work together to improve community health.

As one of three parish nurse coordinators in the state, Faber collaborates with the Connecticut Nurses’ Association to offer guidance for the more than 500 parish nurses in some 200 parishes and congregations.

Her role at St. Vincent’s is oriented to community health with special attention to the underserved in the area. Among her responsibilities is overseeing the monthly food distribution done on site at St. Vincent’s.

Faber is also the parish nurse contact at her own church, Nichols United Methodist in Trumbull. Over the past 20 years she has taught CPR classes and weight-management programs, provided flu shot clinics, health fairs and Red Cross blood drives along with facilitating support groups for those who are grieving or suffering from chronic illness. She been part of the parish nursing program since its inception in 1989, when she was parish nurse at Huntington Congregational Church.

For more information about becoming a parish nurse or how St. Vincent’s can help your parish develop a program, contact the Parish Nurse Office at 203.576.5558 or email the office coordinator at Lauren.davidson@hhchealth.org.

 


For nurses, a tradition of service in parishes

The parish nurse program at St. Mark Church in Stratford is one of the oldest in the diocese, and in the vestibule of the church, there is a plaque honoring the nurses for their years of service. Led by Christine Pfeiffer, RNBS, the program has some 20 nurses and five volunteer recorders.

Explaining the different services the nurses offer, Pfeiffer said, “I have worked with our pastor, Father Birendra Soreng, during the return-to-church phase to explain the public health code and the Bishop’s directions. Our group also does blood pressures once a month in the church entrance. We staff all five Masses before and after services.”

On average, 60 parishioners have their blood pressure checked. Two nurses take the blood pressure and one volunteer, from the Ladies Guild or a student parishioner, records the medical information for the client.

“We also collect used medication every month and removed the labels and drop off the meds at the Stratford Police Station’s collection container,” she said. “We usually collect a good amount of used meds, which we feel is a contribution to the environment.”

In addition, the group has made presentations on nutrition and medications to the Ladies Guild and on use of wheelchairs and defibrillators to the Ushers Guild so they are prepared when EMTs arrive in an emergency situation.

Cheryl Basztura, RN has been a parish nurse at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull for 28 years. She and Judy Pyrch are co-coordinators of the program.

The first parish nurse, Mary Ellen Kovacs, is now director of pastor care and regularly visits hospitalized and home-bound parishioners.

“Over the years, we have held health fairs, flu shot clinics and information sessions for seniors, sometimes in conjunction with Nichols United Methodist Church,” Basztura said.

Blood pressure screenings were held every month before the COVID-19 restrictions were enacted. In addition, they make materials on wellness and disease prevention available to parishioners.

“I attend monthly parish nurse meetings at St. Vincent’s to keep abreast of current information on community agencies and other resources that parishioners can access,” she said. “And I enjoy spending one-on-one time with our clients.”

The regularly put notices in the church bulletin, and maintain a health-related bulletin board in the church hall, she said.

There are automated external defibrillators in the church and McClinch Center, and Basztura still recalls the Saturday afternoon when a parish nurse used one of them to save the life of a visitor.

Fifteen years ago Father Andrew Marcus of Holy Name of Jesus Church in Stratford asked Caren Silhavey, RN, BSN, MSN, CURNr, CNEr, to start a parish nurse program so she contacted Sister Mary Jean Tague, the first coodinator of the program at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Silhavey, who was co-coordinator with her cousin Marion Rader, RN, said, “We were fortunate that we started our program with six RNs, 2 LPNs and one EMT.”

They began having monthly blood pressure screenings before and after Mass. That practice continued until COVID-19 restrictions were begun earlier this year. However, during the pandemic, the nurses called parishioners with health issues to see how they were doing.

“Besides blood pressures, we often provided counseling on various health and family/social issues,” she said. “We participate in health fairs both at our church as well as other parishes. At special services, such as a healing Mass, the parish staff has asked us to be present. We participated in a blood pressure screening with student nurses at a food bank that was held at our church.”

Silhavey received a grant from the Michael Vincent Sage Dragonheart Foundation for an automated external defibrillator that is mounted in the church. Since training was cancelled because of the pandemic, she sent videos and instructions to the parish staff.

With the resumption of Mass at the church, Silhavey said, “I have attended Masses and monitored the correct technique for taking temperatures.”

Kimberly McNamara, RN began volunteering at the Parish Nurse Program at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan in 2007, assisting with the monthly blood pressure checks after Mass. She later took the training course with the encouragement of then pastor, Monsignor William Scheyd and Sr. Mary Jean Tague, St. Vincent’s first parish nurse coordinator.

Since that time, she has been involved with the St. Aloysius Parish Nurse Program, checking blood pressure and coordinating other parishioner/nurses who help with the ministry.

“The primary service this ministry offers at St. Aloysius is blood pressure checks and associated health counseling,” McNamara said. “Many people in the parish know their numbers and appreciate being able to have a nurse check their blood pressure on a regular basis. Hypertension is a risk factor that can be managed with proper medical care, medication compliance and lifestyle accommodations.”

What McNamara has enjoyed the most about her participation has been “the one-to-one interaction with fellow parishioners.”

“During these brief meetings, we have gotten to know one another and to share elements of our common faith,” she says. “I am honored to be a part of the Parish Nurse Ministry at St. A’s, and I am continually humbled by the faith, courage and wisdom I encounter in my fellow parishioners. The act of sitting down, and taking the time to have someone read you information about your own body is one that should not be minimized. It is a challenge for some people to stop their busy schedules to address blood pressure and other health indicators.”

She says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the Parish Nurse experience has been the rich faith in the community of nurses.

“Our monthly meetings are educational and social, thanks to Marilyn Faber’s dedication and leadership,” she said. “And I leave each meeting having heard a nugget of wisdom shared by a parish nurse colleague.”

Immaculate High School CyberPatriots Team Competes Nationally

DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s CyberPatriots team has been competing in the CyberPatriots XII National Tournament. There are three qualifying rounds in order to be considered for a spot in the National Finals, Immaculate placed fifth and first in the opening two rounds and finished the third round strong with a first-place win for the gold tier and third overall for the state of Connecticut.

Immaculate’s CyberPatriots team, coached by Dave Cirella, includes members Perry Gosh ‘21, Kolbe Mosher ‘21, Anish Nanda ‘22, Ethan Goodman ‘21, Aidan Doolabh ‘23, and Logan McAloon ‘21.

CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Education Program created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to inspire K-12 students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines critical to our nation’s future.

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 their spiritual development, personal moral commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system. Immaculate is currently accepting freshman and transfer student applications. For more information on rolling admissions please visit immaculatehs.org/admissions.