It is with great joy that I would like to announce that our parishes will be able to resume public worship inside our church buildings beginning the weekend of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (June 13th and 14th). In those parishes that are ready to follow our established norms, the celebration of weekday Masses, Funeral Masses and Nuptial Weddings within our Churches may also resume after the weekend of June 13th and June 14th.
As you know, we began the outdoor celebration of public Mass in the diocese on May 21, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. I am pleased to report that this first phase of re-opening has gone very well with a growing number of parishes now offering outside Mass both seated and in parking lots.
These Masses have been offered in a manner that health officials consider the safest ways in which to congregate by practicing social distancing, and the same policies will be in effect as we begin to celebrate Mass within our Churches buildings. While the challenges are considerable when congregating in an indoor location, we are confident that by following public health recommendations, we can come together for Mass in a manner that is as safe or safer than in other public gatherings.
I recognize that the last few months have been a most difficult time for all of us. I am grateful for your patience and prayers during this unprecedented moment in our history. I very much appreciate the great sorrow and loss felt by many who have longed to return to Mass. We will also need to live with continuing uncertainties about the course of the pandemic and its full impact on our society. However, I believe that it is also the right time to move forward in hope and faith, while taking all necessary precautions and safeguards to protect life in our community as we resume public worship within our Churches.
In order to do so, we will observe a few fundamental principles. First, I will continue the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for all those who are vulnerable or concerned about their health or the health of loved ones. For this reason, I encourage all parishes to continue to live stream the celebration of Mass, while public worship slowly resumes. In addition, for those who choose to come to Mass in our Church buildings, we will maintain strict social distancing of at least six feet, frequent sanitization of common areas, the use of hand sanitizers and face masks for all in attendance, and the continuation of many of the previously published liturgical norms issued for the celebration of outdoor Masses.
One issue of supreme importance is the permissible seating capacity of every Church building. Each Church’s seating capacity must be determined by following strict social distancing requirements. This means that the seating capacity in every Church will vary depending upon its size and configuration. To do otherwise would be to potentially put one’s neighbor into harm’s way—a danger that we must avoid in order to remain faithful to our fundamental Catholic belief in the sanctity of every human life.
A complete list of the extensive guidelines recommended to pastors and parishes regarding this next phase of planning will be posted on our diocesan website at: www.bridgeportdiocese.org on Monday, June 1, 2020.
In order to accommodate as many parishioners as possible to the celebration of Sunday Mass, parishes will also be permitted to continue to offer Masses outdoors and simulcast a Mass that is celebrated in the Church to other locations (either indoor or outdoor), provided that all appropriate guidelines are adhered to in these auxiliary locations.
As we take this next step with great anticipation, let us remember that our common sacrifice has had one prime motive: to follow the mandate of the Lord of Life to protect, defend, and keep safe every human life. We best honor that commitment to life and those who have lost their lives in the pandemic by ensuring the safety of our neighbors.
To be certain we face many challenges as a Church and a society in the coming months, but as we gather around the Lord’s table together, we can take assurance that the Eucharist will sustain us.
I pray that the Lord Jesus will bless you and your families and that even in the midst of this crisis you find time to enjoy the summer.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport
VATICAN CITY—Pope Francis has approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, clearing the way for his beatification.
While the Vatican announced May 27 that Pope Francis had signed the decree, it did not announce a date for the beatification ceremony.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, previously scheduled beatification Masses have been postponed.
For beatification, the Vatican requires proof of a miracle attributed to the candidate’s intercession, unless the candidate was martyred for his or her faith.
A statement from the Knights of Columbus said, “The miracle recognized as coming through Father McGivney’s intercession involved an unborn child in the United States who in 2015 was healed in utero of a life-threatening condition after prayers by his family to Father McGivney.”
“A date will soon be set for the beatification Mass, which will take place in Connecticut,” the statement said.
Meeting with the board of directors of the Knights of Columbus in early February, the statement noted, Pope Francis said the organization has been faithful “to the vision of your founder, Venerable Michael McGivney, who was inspired by the principles of Christian charity and fraternity to assist those most in need.”
“Father McGivney has inspired generations of Catholic men to roll up their sleeves and put their faith into action,” said Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson. “He was decades ahead of his time in giving the laity an important role within the church. Today, his spirit continues to shape the extraordinary charitable work of Knights as they continue to serve those on the margins of society as he served widows and orphans in the 1880s.”
For canonization—the declaration that the candidate is a saint—a miracle must take place after the beatification ceremony; it is seen as God’s final seal of approval on the church’s proclamation that the candidate is in heaven with God.
Father McGivney was born August 12, 1852, the eldest of 13 children born to Patrick and Mary Lynch McGivney in Waterbury, Connecticut. Emigrating from separate towns in Ireland’s County Cavan, the couple met and married in the United States. Only seven of their children lived past childhood.
Young Michael attended school in Waterbury’s working-class neighborhood, but he left school at 13 to work in the spoon-making department of a brass factory.
At 16, he left the factory to begin seminary studies at the French-run College of St. Hyacinthe in Quebec. He also studied at Our Lady of Angels Seminary, attached to Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York, and at the Jesuit-run St. Mary’s College in Montreal.
He went home to Waterbury when his father died in 1873 and stayed there for a time out of concern for his family and because he lacked funds. At the request of Hartford’s bishop, he enrolled in St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, where he completed his priestly studies.
In 1877, he was ordained in Baltimore by Archbishop James Gibbons for the then-Diocese of Hartford. A few days after his ordination, he said his first Mass in the presence of his widowed mother at Immaculate Conception Church in Waterbury.
Father McGivney served as an assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in New Haven, 1877-1884. He founded the Knights of Columbus with a small group of Catholic laymen, in order to strengthen religious faith and to help families overwhelmed by the illness or death of their breadwinner.
In 1884, he was named pastor of St. Thomas Church in Thomaston, a factory town about 10 miles from Waterbury. He fell ill during an influenza epidemic and died August 14, 1890, probably from complications of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
NEW HAVEN—For the first time ever and to celebrate the 127th anniversary of the Knights of Columbus CT State Council, Catholic men from Connecticut will be able to join the Order as online members for $1*.
It’s only for the first 127 men to join and no later than June 15th.
The K of C was founded in 1882 by Venerable Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest, in New Haven, Connecticut. The organization was formed to provide charitable outreach and care for the financial well-being of Catholic families, focusing on the protection of widows and orphans, and on strengthening the faith of its members. It has grown to include almost two million members worldwide.
With around 2 million members worldwide, The Knights of Columbus stands as the strong right arm of the Church and challenges members to grow in their faith through programs, fraternity and vital resources such as our award-winning magazine, Columbia, and many other exclusive member communications.
As Catholic men, we are called to do more. The Knights of Columbus can help you answer that call. Your membership connects you with opportunities to make an impact in your community and gives you access to resources to help you grow deeper in faith and stay informed about the issues Catholics care about. You’ll also have exclusive access insurance and financial planning products to help you protect your family.
“Gain over 23,000 CT Brothers for $1 and put your Faith into Action, we need you to assist those in most need during these challenging time,” CT State Deputy Gary McKeone.
In 2018 the over 23,000 members of the Connecticut Knights of Columbus donated over $1 million dollars to various local charities while volunteering XXXXXX hours of community service. Now more than ever, with the current pandemic, there is a need for more Catholic men to serve in our communities and parishes.
TRUMBULL—St. Joseph High School, Southern Connecticut’s premier college preparatory school, is proud to announce that Mari Andrzejewski and Katherine Pikulik are this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian respectively.
Top scholars are never a matter of a great grade point average,” remarked Dr. William Fitzgerald, Head of School. “Character, social responsibility, and leadership are just as essential in individuals whom St. Joseph High School celebrates as the best of the best. And so the faculty and administration are very proud to put forward this year’s Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Mari has been a leader throughout her four years at St. Joes. A scientist with a strong gift for human relations, our Valedictorian will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in Nursing. Katherine, our Salutatorian has a laser beam on her future: “Wall Street, via New York University.” Both are dynamic, confident individuals intent on making a difference. They are a wonderful reflection of the Class of 2020.”
Mari Andrzejewski has attained the highest academic record among her class and, if permitted by the State, will deliver the Valedictorian’s Farewell Address at the close of Commencement on Saturday, July 11. Mari resides in Trumbull. Mari is President of the Student Council and Writing Resource Center, a member of the National Honor Society as well as the Math, English, and Spanish Honor Societies. In addition, she is a Harvard Book Award Recipient, a Governor’s Scholar Semifinalist, National Hispanic Scholars, President’s Scholar and Service award winner, and the 2019 Barnum Festival Queen. During her time at St. Joes, Mari has also co-founded the school’s non-profit, student-run, coffee shop, the Cup o’ Joe Café.
“We are thrilled for Mari and Katherine,” said Mrs. Nancy DiBuono, Principal. “St. Joes is a better place because of Mari and her involvement as a school leader. She is a high achiever destined to become a great leader. She is compassionate, dedicated and has a heart of gold. Katherine is an intelligent and hardworking young woman who never accepts anything but her best. Her commitment to her academic studies is admirable. They represent the best of the very best of St. Joseph High School and we could not be more pleased or proud.”
Katherine Pikulik, Salutatorian, has earned the second highest academic average in his class and also resides in Trumbull. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is a member of SJ’s Girls Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams. In addition, Katherine is on the Presidential Honor Roll and a National Merit Scholar. In the fall, she plans to attend New York University as a Corporate Finance major.
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.
TRUMBULL—The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena will host another in a series of contact-free drive-through food drives to support area food pantries. This food drive is timed specifically to meet the increased demand for services always present during summer, together with emergency needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The drive-through food drive will take place in the parking lot of the church on Saturday, May 16, from 9 am until 12 noon. All donations of food will be delivered directly to the Trumbull Food Pantry, as well as the following organizations in inner-city Bridgeport: Blessed Sacrament Parish, Saint Charles Borromeo Parish, Saint Mary’s Parish, The Convent of Mary Immaculate, The Thomas Merton Center, The Missionaries of Charity. Demand for services at area organizations has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 crisis began. Social distancing guidelines will be followed at all times to protect the health of our donors and volunteers.
Previous events sponsored by St. Catherine’s have been very successful. To date, the parish has delivered more than 150 linear feet of food and more than $7,000 in cash to area food banks. Father Skip of Blessed Sacrament Parish reflects, “We all know that we should try to keep our social distance, but the clients of our food pantry simply cannot resist the temptation to linger after collecting their groceries. For a brief moment, everything looks and sounds normal. From within the safety of our parish house, I hear only laughter and normal conversation. There is joy in being able to provide food for the hungry. God bless you and thank you for that brief moment of joy!”
The food banks’ greatest needs include: soap, toilet tissue, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, pasta, pasta sauce, canned pasta (ex: Chef Boyardee), rice, beans, oil, coffee, sugar, tuna fish, mac & cheese, peanut butter, canned fruit, canned soups, bread, granola bars, energy bars, pop tarts, apple sauce, small cereal boxes, Gatorade, bottled water, juice boxes, etc. Additionally, the Convent of Mary Immaculate cares for very young children, and is in need of baby food, diapers and formula. (Please no corn, green beans, gravy or stuffing.)
Here’s how it will work: Before leaving home, place food donations in bags in your trunk. Pull up to the front of the Family Center, where food will be collected. No need to leave your car! Open your trunk from the inside of your car. (If your car is not equipped with a means to open your trunk from inside the car, kindly step outside the car to open your trunk.) Volunteers wearing masks and gloves and maintaining social distancing will remove the bag(s) of food donations.
You may also offer a monetary donation for this purpose. In this case, the Social Justice and Charitable Outreach Committee will use all financial donations to buy food which will be divided equally among the three food banks. Please make any checks for this purpose payable to St. Catherine of Siena, and write FOOD BANKS in the memo line.
The drive-through food drive is organized by St. Catherine’s Social Justice and Charitable Outreach team, led by Salvatore Spadaccino. Other initiatives that the Social Justice & Charitable Outreach Team has worked on include: toiletry drive, school backpack drive, Thanksgiving food drive, annual Parish giving tree, pro-life baby shower and more.
(For more information on the Social Justice and Charitable Outreach ministry at St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, contact Salvatore Spadaccino, coordinator for Social Justice and Charitable Outreach, at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
REDDING – The St. Patrick Church parking lot, filled with 50 chairs, was a welcome sight to congregants attending the first outdoor mass at the parish.
“Welcome! It’s so good to see all of you,” Rev. Joseph Cervero M.Div, exuberantly greeted parishioners at the beginning of mass to which they responded in kind with a round of applause.
The mass is one of many being held throughout the Bridgeport Diocese to offer Catholics an opportunity to receive the Eucharist.
Parishioners were appreciative of the opportunity to attend mass in-person instead of the alternative of watching a live-stream of it in their homes, which most have been doing since March.
“I’m grateful to come back to church,” said Diane Riccelli, one of the many parishioners attending the outdoor mass. “Things that you took for granted before you really appreciate now.”
The altar for the outdoor mass, which was situated in front of the two-car garage at the rectory with a statue of Mary flanked by potted plants, was the original altar from the 1879 church that is currently undergoing renovations. “It represents the presence of our parish from the very beginning,” Father Cervero told the congregation.
Father Cervero said prayer is the answer to fear and uncertainty, “When we are feeling uncertain or anxious go to God in prayer.”
Prayers were specifically offered for all those affected by the Coronavirus that they may find comfort and healing.
“We needed that,” Al Garavito said as he and his young family were leaving mass.
“It’s time to come to church to see something positive,” his wife Danielle, added. She and her husband are both paramedics and they said the community church service was a respite from their daily work lives.
The chairs at the service were spaced six feet apart to adhere to social distancing, although families could cluster the chairs to sit closer together during the service.
“It was very nice to be able to participate in mass,” Danielle Garavito said. “It’s still important to come together as a town.”
The brilliant morning sun and calm breezes punctuated the service as the sounds of chirping birds accompanied the musical ministry.
“It was so good to see them (the parishioners),” Father Cervero said, adding that many people told him they were overjoyed to be able to receive the Eucharist. “Together as a community, is the best way to get through all of this. Let us return to prayer always; on this journey we are never alone.”
FAIRFIELD—Fairfield University student volunteers celebrated the 50-day milestone of their community outreach project last week by announcing the donation of their 1,000th piece of custom-designed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). More than halfway to their GoFundMe page fundraising goal, they hope to continue production through the summer.
Although the spring semester has ended — and two of the student volunteers are now officially Stag alumni — the 3D-printed face shield project at Fairfield University shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, things are so busy that another engineering student has joined the effort, Tom Nguyen ’21.
For the foreseeable future, Nguyen, along with nursing major Caroline Smith ’21 and engineers Evan Fair ’22, Lilliana Delmonico ’20, and Andrew (Drew) Jobson ’20 have “essentially converted the School of Engineering’s labs into a production manufacturing floor,” according to Shahrokh Etemad, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department.
While Smith continues to work remotely from home for now, the others can be found in the Bannow Science Center, producing, sterilizing, packaging, and shipping their custom-designed PPE to organizations and health care facilities — primarily throughout the tri-state region and Massachusetts, although they just received a request from California. At press time, the group reports that they have donated 1,521 face shields to 53 organizations. To date, the majority of deliveries have gone to hospitals, nursing homes, and eye doctors.
But as communities begin to slowly re-open in phases, new orders for PPE are coming in from other businesses and community members. The team recently fulfilled a request from the Diocese of Bridgeport for 100 face shields, in anticipation of the Church’s plan to resume the celebration of in-person Masses, the distribution of the Eucharist, and visits to the infirm. They’ve also sent shipments to fire departments, dental offices, independent home health care aides, the Boys and Girls Club, an elementary school, and even Fairfield’s own Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies.
Dr. Etemad credits the ongoing support of the Bannow-Larson Foundation and the Earl W. & Hildagunda A. Brinkman Private Charitable Foundation for helping to provide the Fairfield volunteers with “state-of-the-art labs that train our students and equip them to help the society.” With the addition of three new 3D-printers — bringing the total number to 11, round-the clock face shield production rates have effectively doubled since the first weeks of the project, and the team is looking at possibly expanding their offerings to include 3D-printed ventilator parts and other health-related essentials.
The students remain awed by the support their initiative has received. “We want to thank everyone who has been supportive of our project,” said Smith. “I cannot thank Fairfield University enough for the support, and we are all grateful for this opportunity to make a difference in our community while remaining true to our Jesuit identity and our mission of service to humanity.”
In addition to money raised through their GoFundMe page, Smith said that donations of equipment and supplies have been “tremendously helpful.” A local company, InLine Plastics, has begun an ongoing donation of clear plastic sheets for shield material, with 600 sheets donated so far and more on the way. Fairfield Prep’s Science Department has loaned the team a pair of UV (ultraviolet) chambers with biocidal lamps, to ensure that all components of the face shields are free of biological contaminates prior to shipping.
Smith noted that now that they’ve established successful processes, the Fairfield team would love to expand their reach by helping anyone with a 3D printer — at home, school, or work — to start their own PPE project. “We are in the process of potentially partnering with other resources within Connecticut,” she said.
“One of the things I realized throughout this project,” added Delmonico, “is that it is a very accurate representation of the engineering process. From the research and design, to manufacturing and packaging, to promotions and marketing, we have really done it all.”
FAIRFIELD—Ali Famiglietti discovered spiritual direction during her senior year at Fairfield University in Connecticut. She needed course credit to fulfill her religious studies requirement, so she enrolled in “Students’ Ten-Week Ignatian Experience,” offered by the Murphy Center for Ignation Spirituality. The semester-long course provided an overview of the Spiritual Exercises and included spiritual direction.
Six years later, Famiglietti has resumed spiritual direction at the Murphy Center. She’s now a graduate student at Fairfield, studying for a master’s degree in secondary education to teach Italian. Famiglietti has tried to explain spiritual direction to her friends — she describes it as a “spiritual therapy” — but she finds that her peers usually don’t get it. In the midst of tumult caused by COVID-19, though, Famiglietti says she’s especially grateful to have this spiritual foundation, and to be able to continue spiritual direction virtually.
“Covid felt like everything was torn asunder,” Famiglietti says. “Spiritual direction has given me structure and a way to evaluate what I’m really feeling. Just knowing that and cultivating that sense of self-awareness makes me feel like the world is not going to fall apart every second.”
Separate from campus ministry, the center offers programming that invites the students, faculty and staff at Fairfield into a deeper understanding of Ignatian spirituality. They offer retreats, diocesan programs and spiritual direction for 200 to 300 people at any given time, including 50 to 75 students. The center is currently working with Bridgeport Hospital to respond to the pandemic by offering spiritual direction and spiritual care to health care professionals virtually and free of charge.
In this time of COVID-19, the offerings have expanded even further. While the center’s leadership long wanted to offer digital programming, the shelter-in-place order spurred them to finally start.
“The closing down of programs within the diocese and on campus led us to do something we knew we were needing to do for a long time — that is, to offer programs in digital forms,” Jesuit Fr. Gerry Blaszczak, Fairfield’s vice president of mission and ministry, told NCR.
Blaszczak worked with Marcy Dolan Haley, assistant director of the Murphy Center, to construct an eight-week Ignatian Pilgrimage Virtual Retreat. Originally planned to be a diocesan program, the virtual retreat opened instead to the wider public: From March 24 through May 12, participants met on Zoom for one hour each week on Tuesday afternoons. Only Haley and one priest were present in the physical building of the Murphy Center to respect social distancing rules.
The format of the retreat was straightforward: They opened with prayer, a Jesuit offered a 30-minute teaching on an element of Ignatian spirituality, and then Haley led a 10-minute prayer practice. Topics included contemplation, love of God, freedom and attachment, and magis, a Jesuit concept of doing more for Christ and others. Prayer experiences covered suscipe, an Ignatian formulation of radical self-giving, and other contemplative practices such as centering prayer, imagining prayer, and lectio divina, a way to reflect on the Scriptures.
Participants attended with their devices muted and their cameras off until the end when they had the option to unmute their devices and share with the larger group.
Attendees flooded in — 150 people registered, and around 75 devices (with couples behind some of them) logged on each week from Connecticut, California, Florida and even Italy and Ireland.
“Not least now in the pandemic, people are searching for an immediate, direct experience of God’s presence,” said Blaszczak. “The hunger is immense. The response that we have had affirms the importance of paying attention to this deep spiritual hunger. We don’t claim to have esoteric knowledge. We don’t have a magic key. But our programs focus on the reality that God is already present in and acting in people’s lives.”
For Lyn Brignoli of Greenwich, Connecticut, the virtual retreat has been a space of equal parts community and spiritual nourishment. At 75, Brignoli lives alone; her adult children and grandchildren live with their families out of state. Aside from an aide who comes to help her run errands, texts from her friends in Ghana, and FaceTime chats with her grandchildren, Brignoli is largely in solitude.
Most of the time, she doesn’t mind. She’s a writer by nature, and she considers herself a contemplative. However, when she received the invitation to the retreat, she immediately subscribed even though she had never been to a program at the Murphy Center before.
“It was a knee-jerk response, I didn’t have to think about it,” Brignoli said.
Brignoli misses her church on Sunday mornings, filled with people and colored with beams of light streaming through the stained glass windows. As she attended the eight sessions of the retreat, she felt herself transported from her home.
“When you connect virtually, there are limitless possibilities,” said Brignoli. “It takes me beyond just my little neighborhood here. Now I’m in Fairfield!”
Although Brignoli is a convert to Catholicism and only vaguely knew about St. Ignatius and the Spiritual Exercises, she said that she found the “very deep and very exquisite” retreat to be a not-too-technical introduction.
“The whole experience was one of feeling very connected,” Brignoli added. “We were all feeling something very deep together.”
William Deigan, also 75, found the retreat to be a meaningful experience of delving deeper into his own spirituality. Deigan and his wife, who live in Fairfield, also attended all eight sessions. Before COVID-19, the pair attended weekly Mass at Fairfield University’s Egan Chapel.
Deigan first learned about the Murphy Center from pamphlets in the back of the chapel, but he hadn’t participated in any programs before the retreat.
“The thing that made it very relevant was the theme of the presence of God, that God is very present with us particularly in this time [of the pandemic],” Deigan said. “God is present everywhere; he’s present within us, around us, in individuals, and in nature. In that presence is the presence of love.”
For Deigan, being more aware of this presence meant acknowledging others in the grocery store, extending grace to those who seem to be in a rush, and appreciating nature around him while he’s on morning runs in a nearby park.
The university’s study abroad office is housed in the David J. Dolan House, the same building as the Murphy Center, but Maddux wasn’t able to participate in programming that was held there in-person. When she saw that the Ignatian retreat was offered online, she thrilled at the opportunity to attend.
“I can actually do that,” she said. “It’s on Zoom!”
“That was very helpful given the repercussions of the pandemic,” Deigan added. “When you think about living in the present moment, you value each day.”
For Joanne Maddux, program director of the Fairfield University Florence study abroad program, the retreat launched at just the right time. The first wave of COVID-19 had just hit in Italy where she has lived since 1991. She was experiencing family issues. And she had been yearning to deepen her faith for the past few years.
Maddux has been employed by Fairfield University since 1997, and she has felt very connected to Fairfield University’s Connecticut community during her tenure there.
“It felt very much like an invitation, which made me feel very comfortable,” Maddux said. “It wasn’t necessarily sitting down to doctrine. It was a very good balance between moments of prayer and reading and brief explanations. I found it very inclusive.”
The first installment of the Ignatian Pilgrimage Virtual Retreat ended on May 12, and Haley initiated a second Ignatian retreat with new content. Its first session May 19 had Jesuit Fr. Tom Fitzpatrick offering a Zoom presentation on sexuality and prayer. This current retreat pilgrimage lasts through June 30. (People can sign up for one or all remaining sessions here.)
Moreover, the Murphy Center has ambitions beyond the Tuesday afternoon series. Haley dreams of bringing the Ignatian Pilgrimage Virtual Retreat to people in assisted living facilities and rehabilitation centers.
“Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to provide this to people who are not able to leave their rooms, and yet desire to have a deeper connection with others and with God,” Haley said. “That’s a real opportunity for us. This is something that we see that really works.”
As Haley wrote in an email to participants, “We began this virtual adventure not knowing if or how it would work but we knew God was calling us to be creative and reach out.” Eight weeks later, with high attendance and rave reviews, Haley feels that the program was successful.
“We are a ministry that thrives on being in person with each other, and this has been an opportunity for us to see if God could break through isolation and see if God could meet us in our own homes,” Haley said. “We discovered that God transcends physical place and time.”
For anyone who’s interested in joining from anywhere in the world, Haley says that the virtual door of the Murphy Center is open.
“I hope people realize that you’re not alone out there,” Haley said. “We’ll find you. We’ll get you connected.”
NORWALK — At the end of Sunday’s 11 a.m. outdoor Mass at St. Matthew Church, Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski reached out to the many parishioners who were watching by live-streaming and could not join the 50 people who had gathered on the church lawn with their chairs.
“For those of you at home, who are watching this Mass streamed live — and we’re grateful to God for your presence with us, which is in the thousands streaming live — if you want to come to the church and receive the Eucharist today at 12:15, I will give you Communion.”
Many accepted his offer. It was a simple service. They drove up, and he gave them Communion, reverently, with no conversation. He wanted them to have the opportunity to receive the Eucharist on Memorial Day Weekend, especially since the Saturday 4:30 car Mass had been cancelled because of rain.
He encouraged them after receiving the Eucharist to pull up on the church property or drive a short distance to St. John’s Cemetery to say prayers of thanksgiving.
He told his parishioners, “I am grateful to God for the opportunity for us to have Mass with you, for you to worship and receive Communion.”
And the faithful were equally grateful, especially to receive the Eucharist, which they had not done since March 14, when the coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings were instituted.
Father Sunil Pereira, parochial vicar, was the main celebrant at the 11 a.m. outdoor chair Mass, which was concelebrated with Monsignor Orlowski, pastor and dean.
In his homily Father Pereira said, “Growing up as a little kid, I always had to introduce myself as the son of someone.” He lived in a close community where everyone was connected in some way.
“We identify by our relationships to each other,” he said. “We are all interconnected or related some way or the other.”
Father said that even when he goes grocery shopping at Shop Rite and sees someone from the parish, they immediately connect as being members of the family of St. Matthew Church.
“We are connected, interlinked some way or another… even though we live in a world where we do not have so much interaction in person,” he said.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus tries to explain his relationship with the Father, when he says, “The Father and I are one.” It is there that he reveals himself as the Son of the Father in the Triune God.
At the same time, Father Pereira said, “Jesus also wants each of us to be related, to be connected to him….If everyone is my brother and sister, then I have an obligation to the other person. The person sitting next to me is no stranger.”
Father said that we can glorify God through the good things we do for others.
“During this time of pandemic, we can see so many beautiful examples of kindness generosity and charity,” he said, pointing to the charitable works he has witnessed by parishioners of St. Matthew, which glorify God.
He told the story of a man who offered to have business cards printed for St. Mother Teresa, but she did not want her name or the name of her community on the card. What she requested were these words: “The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.
“When we reach out in love and kindness, we do service to humanity and share God’s love with others,” Father Pereira said. “We are called to glorify God by our service and our acts of kindness.”
On Ascension Thursday, which marked the beginning of public Masses, Monsignor told the faithful, who were sitting in their cars in the church parking lot and listening on St. Matthew Radio, WSTM 103.3 FM: “It is a GREAT day — a BEAUTIFUL day — as Phase One of our reopening has begun….The first time you have the opportunity to receive the Body of Christ — there’s so much to be thankful for on this Feast of the Ascension. God is so good to us on this beautiful day, under a blue sky, where you and I gather as a family of faith to worship the one true God and to understand that we are not alone. We thank God for each other because we are a family of faith: the people of St. Matthew, called to follow the Lord, not only in our prayer, but in our care and concern for each other. Thanks be to God. How wonderful it is to see you! We look forward to seeing you again soon. In the meantime, stay healthy. Stay well.”
FAIRFIELD — Parishioners at Our Lady of the Assumption gathered Sunday in their cars for a drive-in Mass to honor the “brave men and women who have given their lives in the cause of freedom, along with heroes in the invisible war against coronavirus COVID-19.”
“Our service today recognizes the servicemen and women who have proudly served our nation and answered the call to arms to defend and protect us in wars spanning our country’s history,” Father Peter Cipriani said in his remarks. “Globally in 2020, answering the call was again repeated. Essential workers in healthcare and related fields came forward to assist and save us, risking their own lives in the process.”
More than 30 cars were neatly arranged in the church parking lot as Father Cipriani and Deacon Robert McLaughlin mounted a small stage to a portable altar, situated at the back of the church between two trees. Behind them was a small tabernacle and above them a crucifix hung from the stonework of the church.
The entrance hymn, “America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee),” was broadcast from inside the church to the sound system outside as the American flag and the American Legion flag fluttered in the breeze. On one side of the altar was a statue of St. Michael the Archangel and on the other, Our Lady of Fatima.
“Although continually troubled by this disease, we have become more acutely aware of our need for one another and certainly our need for God,” Father Cipriani told the faithful, reminding them that “As excited as you may be being here to receive Communion, don’t forget there’s nobody who is more excited than Jesus to be able to have you receive him again.”
The Mass was celebrated under a cloudless blue sky. At Communion, Father and Deacon walked among the parked cars, as parishioners wearing masks stood in front of them, waiting to receive the Eucharist. Several knelt on the pavement in prayer. Many expressed their gratitude and joy to be able to receive the Body of Christ again after several months when restrictions on public gatherings prevented them from attending Mass.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Father and Deacon, led by a Knights of Columbus honor guard, processed to the front of the church, along with representatives of American Legion Post 143, to lay a wreath at the foot of a cross flanked by American flags.
Tom Quinn, a Vietnam era veteran and commander of Post 143 and member of the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame, talked about the significance of the memorial Mass and said: “This is for all the comrades we left behind — 58,000 in Vietnam alone. We’re here to pay honor to all the dead veterans and to the frontline workers under attack during the coronavirus pandemic. This is no different than any war.” He was joined by his wife Grace, the mother of six sons, his son Jim and his grandsons Charlie, and Henry, an altar server at Assumption.
In his homily, Father Cipriani talked about the significance and power of names, especially the Holy Name of Jesus.
“When a baby is born and the couple speaks their child’s name out loud and in person for the first time, it is more than a word borne on their lips,” he said. “That name, that spoken name is like a magic spell that brings fortune and health. That name will echo forever in their souls, adding love to love there.”
Adam named all the animals in the garden, not because he was their master, but because naming them implied a responsibility.
“The naming indicates a being responsible for the one named,” Father said. “It is a responsibility that implies caring, providing for, protecting, defending, teaching and sacrificing for, as parents try to do. And this, too, is God’s attitude toward us.”
“When I think of the significance of names, I invariably think about sports,” Father said, referencing the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” at the U.S. Winter Olympics.
“To this day, no one can quite pinpoint how a roster of 20 guys right out of college, all from different areas, all with different stories and backgrounds, defeated the world’s Number One hockey team at Lake Placid with men almost twice the experience of the U.S. players, and twice as strong, who had been playing together for many years,” Father said. “The answer is quite simple: Those 20 hockey players made a decision that the sum was more important than the parts. They put the team before the individual player….Being part of a team is something greater than anything you could achieve or accomplish on your own.”
He recalled that coach Herb Brooks scolded his team, who up to that point had been self-serving players: “When you pull on that jersey, the name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back.” The players, in turn, made the decision to play for their country rather than play for their individual selves.
“Some names when spoken are of the greatest significance,” Father said. “More than a person’s name, the name Jesus Christ is also a function or exercise of power, the greatest in fact — the power to save because that is what the name Jesus means, ‘God saves.’” Quoting St. Paul, he said, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
He urged parishioners to “Keep ‘Christ’ in ‘Christian’ by keeping Christ in our lives, our hearts and in our homes.”
He said, “When receiving the Holy Eucharist, we literally keep Christ within us by way of Holy Communion. More significant than our last name, our first name, our confirmation name is the name ‘Christian,’ which implies we are responsible for contributing to the success of something, or rather someone, greater than ourselves — the Body of Christ.”
Being part of Team Christian, Team Church and Team Christ will lead us to the greatest success story in all human history, which is Redemption, he said.
In an interview before the Mass, Father said, “There is no greater connection a Catholic has to God and other Catholics than the Eucharist and having this suspension in place made people feel a disconnect, but at the same time it also challenged us to think outside the box and figure out ways to remain connected to Christ.” At Assumption, the church was open every day for private prayer, and there was live-streaming of Masses, rosaries and prayer services.
“On Ascension Thursday, the opportunity to distribute Holy Communion again to the people was tremendous, and there was such a joy, such a relief,” Father said. “It was a beautiful day, and everything seemed to be right as rain in the world. It was almost like a graduation. We made it, we’ve arrived at this point. Everything went very smoothly and people were so grateful. At the end of Mass, I stood by the exit as they were leaving, honking their horns and saying, ‘Thank you, thank you. This was great.’”
Father also expressed his gratitude to those who have assisted in preparing the outdoor Masses, including facilities manager Josh Orosz, his mother Irene and brother Sal, along with Jim Guzzi, the sound system expert.
Irene Orosz, a parishioner 25 years who was helping set up and direct traffic on Sunday, said, “When they first closed the church, it broke my heart.” Looking up at the blue sky, she said, “Father must know somebody upstairs because the weather has been great. I’m so glad we’re back. It’s nice to see people gather again to worship God. You can see the joy on their faces when they pull up. We are so blessed to have Father Peter.”
Her older son Josh, who with his brother graduated from Assumption School, has been responsible for implementing some of the worship ideas that Father conceived, such as Eucharistic adoration on the garage roof.
“It’s been fun to get him set up, and we’ve had a good turnout,” he said. “But it makes you wonder if everything will go back to normal. I just hope everyone will be a little kinder to one another after this is over.”
His brother Sal Orosz, who assisted in setting up the altar and directing traffic is discerning a vocation to the priesthood. A recent graduate of St. Joseph High School, he plans to enter St. John Fisher Seminary at the end of the summer.
“I really loved St. Joe’s and found a family there. It’s kind of bittersweet to leave it behind,” he said. He was pleased to see the church getting back to normal and said, “On Ascension Thursday, I saw one family receive the Eucharist, and they knelt down and were weeping. It was beautiful. Words fall short when you try to describe it.”
Thompson Okumodi, a parishioner for 20 years, who was directing traffic, said, “This is a way to help us start to get back to normal. This time has been a wake-up call for people to realize there is a God and that there is a hidden enemy we are fighting. I’m so glad people are here and that they are coming out again.”
He praised Father Cipriani and Assumption School and said that his son Michael, who graduated from Assumption, went on to Fairfield Prep and is now a sophomore at Rochester Institute of Technology, studying computer engineering.
Jeff Thompson, Grand Knight of Our Lady of Assumption Council 11077, helped with traffic control and said he was eager to get back into the church and return to his routine.
“I usually go daily Mass,” he said. “I’m a crossing guard, so I go to 7:30 Mass and I can be out at my crossing at 8 a.m. I’m really looking forward to doing that again.”
BRIDGEPORT— “A Christian is a woman or a man who recognizes the sovereignty of God in his or her life and has a readiness to love without counting the cost,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter.
During the Mass, live-streamed from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop reflected on the Gospel of John (17: 1-11), “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”
The bishop began his homily by asking “How do you know if a person is Christian or not ?
He said that he found himself musing over that question earlier this year while waiting in the Trumbull Mall for his niece and her children who were shopping.
The Bishop, who confessed that he was not much a shopper, said he decided to people watch while his family members shopped, because they had lured him to the mall with the promise of dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
“It was a question out of the blue that haunted me,” he said as he noted that Christians throughout the world “do not have a distinguishing mark. We don’t speak a common language, have a distinctive dress or customs. We come from every race and language on earth.
The bishop said he found an answer to his question in the thoughts of an ancient writer who pointed out something “that helps you and I understand Jesus.”
“You and I as believers are called to be in the world but not of the world. That which separates us from the world is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who allows us to live as God desires us to, to love as God wants us to– and that is all the difference.”
However, the task is “not to love the way we want to love, or the world wants us to love, but way God intends us to love in his image—his way,” he said.
He added that Christian love is grounded in the awareness of “the presence of sin, and that there is a law greater than our own making,”
The bishop said that Christians must take over the Lord’s mission “to be his lovers in the world and to establish the Kingdom he began,” by clothing and feeding the poor, visiting the sick and imprisoned and through ordinary acts “being able to be a person of genuine sacrifice, mercy, kindness, patience and forgiveness.”
“ A Christian is in the world to be the light in darkness, the hope when there is despair, to be love when the world wants us to be something else.,” he said.
Following Mass the bishop thanked all those who had watched the live-stream and noted that this weekend marks the beginning of outdoor Masses in the diocese.
“As you know, we began phase one of reopening our Churches. Mass outdoors is the first step, but please God a second phase of re-opening when we’re able to come back into Church building will happen soon,” said the bishop, who added that he hopes to share more details on Pentecost Sunday next week.
“Let us pray that we do it reverently and keep all God people safe as we gradually reopen our community of worship,” he said.
DANBURY—Immaculate High School’s Virtual Summer Enrichment Program gives all middle and high school students an opportunity to learn and grow over the summer. It will also provide extra instructional time for students during this unique period.
Classes are offered to students entering Grades 7 – 8 and those entering grades 9-12. You do not have to be an Immaculate High School student to take these courses.
Upperclassmen classes include in Introduction to Advanced Logical Reasoning in Geometry, Fundamentals of Algebra, Reading, Writing & Language: Strategies for the SAT and College Prep Essay. Other courses include Math Readiness, Intro to Biological Science and Summer Reading and Grammar Review.
As our Diocese continues its second phase planning to reopen our church buildings for the public celebration of Mass, it may be helpful to recall the prime reason why the Diocese mandated that such public celebrations be temporarily suspended. Given all the misinformation that exists in the media, we must never forget that the decision was rooted in a commitment to remain faithful to a central tenet of our Catholic faith.
The grave reason that motivated the suspension of public Mass was our commitment to the central Catholic belief in the sanctity of every human life and our common moral obligation to protect human life. When it became clear that the passing of the COVID-19 virus often occurs by asymptomatic persons sharing regular human contact, time was needed to understand how such infections occur, the best ways to avoid passing the contagion, all the while maintaining as much of the public practice of the faith as was prudent and still protecting human life- especially the elderly and sick in our midst. In the last eight weeks, we have made much progress in this regard, allowing us to begin the resumption of public worship in a prudent and gradual manner.
More specifically, the decision was never based on any debate about whether our Catholic faith and its practice is “essential”. For anyone who believes, this issue is not debatable. The practice of our faith is at the heart of who we are. The Eucharist sustains our daily life and temporarily to suspend its public celebration could only be justified by a grave, moral cause. Recognizing the great pain that was caused by the suspension, our churches have remained open for private prayer, Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Penance. To be clear, the practice of our Catholic faith is essential and necessary for our personal salvation as revealed by our Savior and Redeemer.
The good news is that the celebration of public Mass has begun in our Diocese outdoors, in a manner that every health official considers the safest venue in which to congregate, following social distancing rules. While this is a first step forward, we are all anxious to be able to resume the public celebration of Masses in our churches as well. To this end, we will soon make a public announcement about how and when we can reopen our church buildings
I am grateful for your patience, prayers, and understanding during these difficult months. I very much understand and appreciate the great sorrow and loss felt by many. However, my friends, let us remember that our common sacrifice had one prime motive: to follow the mandate of the Lord of Life to protect, defend, and keep safe every human life.
For if we failed to protect human life during this pandemic, how can we ever hope to convert our society to end the culture of death and to recognize and protect every human life?
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.
BRIDGEPORT—The Reverend Stephen J. Balint passed away on May 16, 2020. He was 81 years of age.
A prayer service will be held at Saint Ann Parish in Bridgeport on Tuesday, May 26th at 11:00 AM led by Monsignor William J. Scheyd, P.A. Interment will follow immediately at Saint Michael’s Cemetery in Stratford.
Stephen Joseph Balint was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on December 21, 1938, son of Stephen Joseph Balint and Helen I. (Varga) Balint. He attended Saint Stephen Parochial School in Bridgeport and Fairfield College Preparatory School. He began his priestly formation at Saint Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut and then continued on to Our Lady of Angels in Albany, New York. He was ordained to the Priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis at Saint Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport on May 22, 1965.
Father Balint served as Assistant at Saint Joseph Parish in Danbury from 1965–1967, and Saint Ambrose Parish in Bridgeport from 1967–1970. In 1970 he remained at Saint Ambrose Parish with the new title of Associate Pastor of the Team Ministry. The Team Ministry was an experiment new to the Diocese at that time. Father Balint continued in that position until 1971 when he became Coordinator of Catholic Boy Scout Activities in the Norwalk-Ridgefield area.
From 1968-1971 Father Balint was the Council Chaplain for the Pomperaug Council B.S.A. and through his many years of service to the Connecticut Yankee Council in the B.S.A. went on to receive a number of honors and awards. He retired from the Diocese of Bridgeport on January 15, 2014.
A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at a future date with Bishop Frank J. Caggiano as the principal celebrant. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Balint.
STRATFORD — After weeks of being separated from the Eucharist, parishioners from St. James Church came in their cars to a “drive-in” Mass on the Feast of the Ascension, which Father Peter J. Adamski celebrated on the roof of the sacristy, 18 feet off the ground at an altar borrowed from a mausoleum at Gate of Heaven Cemetery.
It was the first public Mass for the parish since March 15 when the coronavirus restrictions began. As Father stepped to the altar, situated in front of a window with an image of the Holy Spirit, he raised his arms in exultation and proclaimed, “Praise God!”
To get to the altar, he and Deacon Joe Koletar ascended and descended on a scissor lift at the side of the church, or as Father described it, “I ascended on the Ascension.”
When the liturgy began, they looked out at a parking lot of 50 cars. Drivers had turned their radios to WSJR (91.5 FM), “Radio Free St. James — the Home of the Holy Spirit” and could hear members of the music ministry singing the entrance hymn.
Above the celebrants was a cloudless blue sky. The altar linens fluttered in the gentle breeze, and Father held the pages of the Roman Missal in place with clips. A news crew from NBC taped the Mass, while pedestrians paused to watch. Across the street, two young girls were seated on chairs and observed the celebration with their father.
In his homily, Father said, “The work of salvation is not done until everyone has an opportunity to be saved…Like the disciples, we are awaiting the Lord’s return in glory, but we also know that in ascending to heaven, he is not just sitting up there on his hands, seated at the right hand of the Father. He and the Father are preparing to send the Holy Spirit to the Church…. Christ’s mission did not end with his Ascension, but rather the Apostles’ mission, and hence our mission as adopted sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, begins with Pentecost and continues to this day.”
Father also adjured the faithful to rejoice in the blessings they have received.
“I know some of you may find it a little difficult to rejoice during this pandemic, but if you stop and truly reflect on these past days and open your hearts and minds to those grace-filled moments we have all experienced as a result of this COVID-19 scourge, you will find things to rejoice in….If you don’t feel you’ve received any special blessings this Lent and Easter, it may be that you are not looking hard enough.”
Then, Father, a former corporate executive and CEO, urged his parishioners to “pray to the Man in Charge like you have never prayed before.”
“Usually when you have a problem that involves customer service, there are layers and layers of intermediaries running interference for the man in charge,” he said. “Every call is screened to see if it can be resolved by someone lower down on the ‘food chain’ of responsibility.”
He said that many companies hope people won’t even try to contact a human being and urge callers to “read the instructions” or “search the knowledge base” while they struggle with a phone system that is “a seemingly endless maze.”
“With our Lord, you have the Man in Charge entirely at your disposal, 24/7, with an infinite attention span because He is God,” Father said. “He is in complete unity with the Father, so there’s no risk of interference whatsoever. The only catch is that you must listen. You may not get the answer you want, but you know it is always the right answer.”
At Communion, parishioners wearing masks came forth from their cars, one at a time, directed by the volunteer ushers, and walked across the parking lot while maintaining the appropriate social distance. Father and Deacon were wearing clear plastic face shields and distributing Communion.
They paused six feet away as Father said, “Body of Christ” and then they responded, “Amen,” and releasing one side of the mask, took the Eucharist in their hands and stepped aside and put it in their mouths.
At the conclusion of Mass, Father stood at the edge of the roof, and said, “Oh my friends, God bless you all! My heart is full right now, seeing you out of your homes being physically with me on this Ascension Thursday.”
Drivers honked their horns in appreciation, and Father responded, “Praise be to Jesus Christ!” Responses of “Now and forever!” could be heard from the cars.
“My friends, this has been an arduous journey from the middle of March, and here we are on May 21 being able to gather for the first time together and receive physically the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.”
“This isn’t over yet, and we are far from out of the woods,” he said. “We need to continue to pray fervently so that scientists and medical researchers can come up with a vaccine that will save us and the world.”
He thanked them for their continued support during the crisis and said, “Know that I love you all deeply, and I pray for each of you every day. I so look forward to the day when this will be behind us. We’ll be back in that church shoulder-to-shoulder, filling that church, God willing. We’ll throw open the doors, lift up the windows and let the breath of the Holy Spirit flow amongst us, between us and in us.”
Commenting on the celebration, Deacon Koletar said, “It’s a perfect day for Ascension Thursday. Father is trying to appeal to the masses, you could say. We really miss our parishioners. Live-streaming Mass in an empty church is just not the same, and it was heartbreaking at Easter.
Father Adamski said, “What a grace-filled day. My heart was pounding at the beginning of that service just looking out at that parking lot full of cars, knowing there were souls in those cars who have been yearning to be present as a community and to be able to receive the Holy Eucharist. It was palpable for me and I was so nervous making sure I had a good grip on Jesus as I held him up because at our rehearsals this week, there were 30 mph wind gusts up there. The paten I had the host in had Saran Wrap on top so there was no chance of a gust of wind coming along and having Jesus go flying.”
He also expressed his appreciation to those who provided music for the Mass, John J. Masi Jr., organist and director of the Music Ministry, along with cantors Kate Gloss and Dante DiFederico.
Jim Travers, a volunteer usher who has been a parishioner since 1988, said, “Father Peter is brand new, and he has been phenomenal. He and Deacon Joe have been keeping the boat afloat these past few months. This Mass was amazing. We all had a room with a view. I was so hungry for the Eucharist, and that is what I was looking forward to the most.”
Elaine Sansonetti happened upon the Mass and decided to stay. She was visiting the church to drop off items for the food pantry. “I wasn’t going to be coming today,” she said. “But then I said, ‘I’m here anyway, and I’d rather be here in person.’ I am so thankful to Father Peter for what he does.”
Madeline Anderson, a lifelong parishioner, said, “This is amazing. I never thought we could do anything like this. I give Father Peter a lot of credit for keeping the parish going these past few months. This is a wonderful parish, and I’m so glad I belong to it.”
Debbie Griffin, who was baptized at St. James and a lifelong parishioner, said, “I am a devout Catholic. I watch Mass on TV, but it is nothing like being here in person. This was just wonderful.”