BRIDGEPORT—When Father Skip Karcsinski looks back on the challenges Blessed Sacrament Church confronted during the COVID lockdown, he says they would have been insurmountable if his parish did not receive a grant from Foundations in Faith to overhaul its technology and communications systems.
So many problems that had been endurable before quickly reached crisis proportions with the pandemic, or as Father Skip puts it, “COVID changed everything.”
The parish phone system was completely outdated and couldn’t receive or leave messages. A former employee, now deceased, who had worked at the church 18 years ago had recorded the prompts … and nothing had changed in almost 20 years.
Because the outdated parish technology was linked together, Blessed Sacrament needed a complete overhaul of the phones, alarm system, office computers, software, Internet, doorbells, security system and cameras…not to mention the website. In addition, the pandemic made it necessary to live-stream services and conduct religious education classes online with Zoom. The list was a long one, and the project took nine months.
“That’s how bad our situation was,” he recalls. “They asked me, ‘How can you possibly function like this?’ You see, we are a very hands-on parish, and our people prefer to visit in person rather than use the phone. We functioned well enough until COVID. This grant changed everything. It was providential and allowed us to continue to serve our people during very difficult circumstances.”
Blessed Sacrament is the first church in the Diocese of Bridgeport to receive the Francis Xavier Technology & Communication Enhancement Grant for missionary parishes, from Foundations in Faith, which is supported by the We Stand With Christ Campaign.
Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith, said: “This was a huge success for us. The Blessed Sacrament team dug deep and embraced technology and all the learning and changes that go along with a significant upgrade. They were willing to step out of their comfort zone and the results speak for themselves.”
Weldon said that because of the pandemic, pastors had to shift gears quickly and embrace a lot of new technology that would let them connect with their parishioners and bring Mass into their homes. Those who had never before filled out an online form suddenly found themselves live-streaming Mass to hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
“Our parishes with financial burdens—our missionary parishes—did not have the technology they needed to do this,” she said. “And Joe Sindelar, vice chairman of Foundations in Faith and the board advocate of the St. Francis Xavier Fund, recognized the importance of getting Mass live-streamed everywhere in the diocese.”
The project was undertaken by Liz Tamarkin and her company Newfound Consulting LLC, which assessed the scope of the upgrade and implemented the changes with the parish team.
“Each grant application begins with an in-depth interview to get to know the parish community, how they like to communicate, and understand where the parish is currently with their technology infrastructure and use,” Tamarkin said. “I have been amazed at how these pastors push forward with things like phone systems that haven’t worked in years, staff members without computers, or a church with a broken sound system. The SFX Fund allows these burdens to be lifted and makes it easier for the pastors and their administrative team to serve their community.”
Father Skip said everything that interfered with the life of the parish because of COVID was greatly remedied by the grant and the new technology.
“We even had a couple of Zoom retreats, which have been great fun, and the children are still receiving religious education online, which is overseen by Karen Soares-Robinson our director of religious education,” he said.
And while the children adapted quickly to the technological changes, Father Skip concedes that he and his staff “needed a lot of tutoring and mentoring and some personnel help, which the grant provided.”
The parish was also able to bring on a retired educator, Natalie Foust, to work with ParishSOFT, a church management software that interfaces with the diocese.
“We are coming along, and we needed a lot of patience,” he says, “so we’re very grateful to Liz and her team.”
Father Skip, who has been a priest 42 years and pastor for nine, said he is especially grateful for the grant from Foundations in Faith and the patience of the people who completed the work over a period of nine months.
“They were troopers,” he said. “It was more involved and complicated than they anticipated.”
“I compliment the SFX committee on looking at a full approach to helping these parishes move forward, which includes training and support,” Tamarkin said. “They understand that putting new hardware in place will only benefit the parish if the pastor and staff understand how to integrate it into their daily use. They also understand that ongoing training and support allows the parish team to grow in their use of the technology. I’ve really enjoyed seeing eyes light up when a team member learns how much time their new skills are going to save them or how to collaborate with their team to work together.”
And what about that antiquated phone system?
Tamarkin said that the new phone system allows people to call at any time and get the information they need from the auto-attendant on everything from Mass and Confession times to cancelations and parish events, in both English and Spanish. They can also leave messages for the parish staff, which is especially important when office hours are limited.
Tamarkin and her team have now begun work at St. George Church in Bridgeport, which will be followed by St. Mary of Stamford Parish.
The St. Francis Xavier grants are available to “missionary parishes,” which Weldon defined as those that are vibrant in their communities with strong pastoral and lay leadership, and excellent ministries and outreach. They are in urban environments and dealing with socioeconomic burdens.
“We are in constant contact with our missionary parishes about their needs,” Weldon said. “When they express a need that falls under technology and communications, the program is explained to them. This is so important because every pastor and every parish deserves to have the same quality and ability to connect with parishioners and share the good news about the work they are doing.”
Weldon urges anyone who would like to donate or support the St. Francis Xavier Technology & Communication Grants or other initiatives of Foundations in Faith to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Lidio da Silva. He and his wife, Marie, have three children, including one-year-old twins. The da Silva family are farmers who grow maize and beans in Timor Leste, which has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Asia. The lack of dietary diversity is one of the causes of this. To fight malnutrition, Catholic Relief Services offers a nutrition program in the country. Like any parent, Lidio and Marie want their children to have a healthy start to life. After attending the program, they changed what they eat as a family. In addition to eating what they grow, they now buy meat and fish once a month. When they have a little extra money, they purchase carrots, eggs, cassava, and pumpkin leaf from the market.
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.
TRUMBULL—The Diocese of Bridgeport is reaching out to the families who had a loved one die of COVID-19 last year to let them know they can receive up to $9000 for related funeral expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We see this as an opportunity to reach out to the families of the 1600 people we buried last year to inform them,” said Dean Gestal, the Director of Catholic Cemeteries. “We can identify 350 we know died of COVID, and there are obviously many more who will be able to recoup some money for funeral expenses and burials.”
In addition, a letter will go out from Bishop Frank J. Caggiano for pastors to read and publish in their parish bulletins, announcing the FEMA program.
Gestal’s office is also sending letters to the 1600 families that buried a loved one in the Catholic cemeteries during 2020 to explain the requirements to obtain the financial assistance.
He said the Catholic Cemeteries Office of the Diocese of Bridgeport is available to assist with any burial information required to file for this assistance, as well as discuss and plan for future needs. (For more information, visit: bridgeportdiocese.org/fema or call the Catholic Cemeteries office at 203.416.1494 or email email@example.com.)
The new FEMA program provides up to $9,000 for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred between January 20, 2020 and December 31, 2020.
You must meet the following conditions to be eligible:
The death must have occurred in the United States, including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
The death certificate must indicate the death was attributed to COVID-19.
The applicant must be a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or qualified alien who incurred funeral expenses after Jan. 20, 2020. (There is no requirement for the deceased person to have been a U.S. citizen, noncitizen national or qualified alien).
FEMA will reimburse families up to $9,000 for COVID-related funeral and burial costs; however, different factors will determine who is eligible to receive the full amount or a portion of the funds.
Before applications open up in April, FEMA recommends those who may be eligible gather the following documentation:
An official death certificate that attributes the death directly or indirectly to COVID-19 and shows that the death occurred in the U.S., including the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. (You can obtain one by contacting the State Vital Records Office or vital records office where the death occurred. Sometimes a cemetery, funeral home, or a third-party provider can also request this information).
Documents that detail funeral expenses, such as receipts, cemetery contract, funeral home contract, etc. They must include the applicant’s name, the deceased person’s name, the amount of funeral expenses, and the dates the funeral expenses were incurred.
Proof of funds received from other sources specifically for use toward funeral costs. FEMA will not duplicate benefits received from burial or funeral insurance, financial assistance received from voluntary agencies, government agencies or other sources.
FAIRFIELD—From St. Francis to Dorothy Day, Robert Ellsberg’s many books on “saints, prophets, and witnesses” for our time—as well as his acclaimed daily “Blessed Among Us” column for Give Us This Day—have helped expand the conception of holiness and the meaning of saints.
In his virtuallecture at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 7, “Walking With the Saints: My Writing Life,” Ellsberg will reflect on his life and work as a “saint-watcher,” how this came to shape his own vocation and spiritual discipline, and what he hopes it might achieve.
Robert Ellsberg is the long-time editor-in-chief and publisher of Orbis Books. He holds a master’s degree in theology from Harvard Divinity School. In the late 1970s he worked with Dorothy Day in New York City, serving as managing editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper. Since then he has edited Day’s selected writings, letters, and diaries, and now serves on the commission preparing her cause for canonization.
Ellsberg is the author of seven books on saints, including All Saints, Blessed Among All Women, The Saints’ Guide to Happiness, Blessed Among Us (based on his daily reflections for Give Us This Day), and most recently A Living Gospel: Reading God’s Story in Holy Lives. In addition, he has edited the writings of Pope Francis, Flannery O’Connor, Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, Charles de Foucauld, and many others.
Presented by the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, the 14th Annual Commonweal Lecture will be livestreamed as a free webinar at 7:30 on Wednesday, April 7, and is open to the public. Register to attend at fairfield.edu/cs.
The Knights of Columbus St Matthew Council 14360’s favorite week of the year is Holy Week. Since the council started in 2007, they have assisted Msgr. Walter Orlowski with preparing the parish for Holy Week and the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ–the most solemn time of the Church Year. Last year due to the beginning of the pandemic, the parish was not open for in-person Masses so it was nice to welcome everyone home for the holiest week of the year.
“As Knights we are the Church’s right arm; it is our responsibility to ensure we do all we can to help our Parish Priests, Staff and Fellow parishioners as they journey to the parish on such a Holy Week. In some cases, this also marked the return to a bit of normalcy as the pandemic has altered people’s plan to attend weekly Mass,” said Council Grand Knight Anthony Armentano.
The Council really stepped up at the start of the pandemic, not only helping with the re-opening of the parish after being closed to in person Masses but conducting food drives, donating winter coats for those in need, sending food to the frontlines of the pandemic as well as helping repair and beautify Catholic Schools in the area.
“I love my Brother Knights. This group of men truly loves to assist our parish and those in need. They truly love to put their faith into Action, “said District Deputy and Past Grand Knight George Ribellino.
In a year already affected by a global pandemic, the parish also experienced a great loss When St Matthew Pastor Msgr. Walter Orlowski who had taken ill during the early stages of the pandemic sadly passed away in December just a few days before Christmas. Parochial Vicar Father Sunil Pereira, who had assumed the leadership role in parish during Msgr’s illness and eventual passing, sought out the Knights and the council stepped up to assist him with ushering the Masses and assisting with various projects around the parish.
“Father Sunil is a great priest and did such a phenomenal job keeping our parish running seamlessly and we wanted to help our Brother Knight to help make his job easier. St Matthew Parish is so blessed to have Father Sunil,” said Ribellino
During Holy Week, the council cleaned the church, set up signs promoting Easter Masses, led the Outdoor Stations of Cross on Good Friday, changed the banners from Spring to Easter around the campus, cleaned and painted all of the outside statues, helped prepare for triduum services and supplied ushers and readers for the Holy Week Masses.
“In the most important time of our liturgical year and in the midst of such uncertainty, my Brothers did what they do best-serve their Parish, Community and our Priests with unceasing energy. It was such a beautiful and inspiring Holy Week in every aspect including and especially the opportunity to attend services together in public–an option not available at this time last year. Truly-a Happy Easter,” Armentano reflected as the last Easter Mass had ended.
The goals of the Knights of Columbus Council at Saint Matthew Church in Norwalk are to perform acts of charity. Providing those in need with a range of support from financial to tactical help in dealing with a wide variety of challenges. Council members work together to foster the founding principles of our order; Charity, Unity, Fraternity & Patriotism. Our goal as a council is to continue to identify specific needs in our community and muster support and help to alleviate these challenges and hardships to the best of our abilities and resources. For more information, please go to www.saintmatthewknights.com. To join the Knights of Columbus, go to kofc.org/joinus. Free first year membership; use promo code MCGIVNEY2020.
I requested time to talk with Diocese of Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano without really knowing what I wanted to talk about.
The second Easter during a global pandemic is enough of a reason.
Without questions, I had no expectations. Sometimes, that’s the best place to find answers.
“Oh my gosh, what a year it has been. It has been, in a way, almost a parable of Christian faith,” he says, picking up a cue from my invitation to contextualize Easter and the pandemic.
“The suffering was all around us, the promise of new life was being offered, but you didn’t quite see it,” continues Caggiano, who lives in Stamford. “Now we’re beginning to see it. It’s almost like a Holy Saturday experience. The suffering is done. But the resurrection is not quite in front of us. And it’s a very difficult position to be in for many people. But Easter gives us a promise that life will come. And this Easter we are in a much different place than last Easter.”
Suffering, doubt, renewal. The meaning of each has intensified over the past 12 months.
Our conversation feels like the partner bookend to one we had a little more than a year ago, in the early chapters of this epic. At that time, Caggiano was contemplating how to address gatherings as well as rituals such as Holy Communion.
The ensuing pages have hardly been light reading, but Caggiano’s voice has relaxed considerably from its grim tones of March 2020. His trademark energy never seemed to waver, so while it comes as a revelation when he mentions we are chatting on his birthday, I’m hardly surprised that he seizes this new stage of life with passion.
“I’m officially a senior citizen today! Sixty-two years old!” declares Caggiano, who was born on Easter Sunday, 1959. “And I say to myself, one of the gifts God has given me is good health.”
I’ve never known anyone to be this enthusiastic upon achieving senior status. A pandemic and time are hardly slowing Caggiano, who continues to launch initiatives in the diocese.
His observations about navigating the church through this “menace” (his word) mirror those of many Fairfield County executives. When your business is people, it’s difficult to be isolated.
But this newly minted senior citizen has learned to recognize the potentials of tending to parishioners virtually.
“Think of the services online. Who would have thought (he frequently speaks in italic) of that as a regular means of worshiping?”
Priests often hear from older parishioners who struggle to sway younger family members to join them at church. But Caggiano says he is encouraged by data suggesting almost every new person who was offered web links to services opened them.
He is also candid about the experience of meeting donors at fundraisers. While a traditional one might draw some 70 people, he has come to appreciate the value of conversing virtually with 20 people at a time. Rather than create distance, it has been a more intimate experience, while inviting instant feedback he says has been “extremely relevant.”
While schools are anxious to return to the old normal, the church is poised to move forward with a hybrid model. Caggiano appears thunderstruck at the notion that the coronavirus has delivered him fresh ways to communicate with followers. He concedes that the Catholic Church’s struggles can cause a feeling of inevitability that “things can never change for the better.”
COVID, of all things, has shaken that mindset. He sees a potential turning point.
“So, all of this suffering will have some grace, some good for the larger community, and I’m excited to do that.”
It’s not just about technology and doing business differently. At one point, I attempt some Journalism 101 misdirection to lure Caggiano back to his high school years at Regis on East 84th Street. He counters with Jesuit pedagogy and suddenly I’m back in Catholic school as he says things such as “We’ve reduced truth to fact. Truth is much richer than fact.”
The pandemic, he reasons, inspired the kind of soulful reactions that can lead the flock back to church.
“Because everybody had to address the basic questions of life, right?”
“Who am I?”
“Why am I here?”
“Where am I going?”
Caggiano laughs. Then he offers what can only be a prayer that events in painful chapters of the last year will inspire a revival of dignified discourse.
“Can we dare to hope we can have dialogue again?” Caggiano posits, whispering “dialogue” as though the word and concept might otherwise become further splintered.
I try again to lure him to the past, asking what his beloved mother would have made him for dinner on a childhood birthday in Brooklyn, New York.
As he grew older, he favored (and still does) Italian Wedding Soup. As a boy, it would have been ravioli, manicotti or lasagna, because they all contain ricotta cheese. He pronounces “manicotti” and “ricotta” precisely as an Italian kid raised on Van Sicklen Street in the 1960s should.
Then we look to the future. I invite him to share an Easter message with readers.
“It’s just one of encouragement,” Caggiano replies. “For people to persevere. We see signs of hope, but we should not be foolish.”
Suffering, doubt, renewal. The third cannot be realized without enduring the first two.
John Breunig is editorial page editor of the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/johnbreunig
Despite the chilly wind and even a few flurries, over 30 people gathered outside the Planned Parenthood facility at Commerce Park in Bridgeport to pray “A Way of the Cross for Abortion Victims” on Good Friday morning. Organizers led the group in a decade of the rosary as cars sped down Main Street, many tooting their horns in support.
To commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and rededicate themselves to the fight against abortion, these members of the Pro-Life Action League recited a special narrative of the 14 Stations. Holding detailed images of the Passion of Christ, individuals were assigned to read the scripture for each station and a brief prayer, followed by a pro-life reflection.
“It seems fitting that we solemnize Jesus’ suffering and death in connection with the pro-life ministry He has entrusted to us,” said organizer Tina Kelly who coordinated the event with Lenore Opalak, the team leader of 40 Days for Life.
BRIDGEPORT — After the long darkness of the pandemic, people are questioning the meaning of their lives and looking for answers, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said at the Easter Vigil Mass celebrated at St. Augustine Cathedral.
“They are asking, ‘Why am I here? Where am I going? And what does all of this life really mean?’” he said. “And behold, the answer which they seek is the one who has risen from the dead, the one who has broken the chains of sin and death, the one who gives every human heart its mission and destiny — Christ, the light that will never be extinguished.”
During his homily at the Easter Vigil, Bishop Caggiano called upon the faithful to be heroic witnesses to the light and not be afraid to preach the Gospel in a world that is often hostile to it.
He said that at times we can block the light of Christ “with our complacency, our familiarity, the fact that perhaps at times in our lives we become lukewarm or make peace with the world around us, when in fact we are called to be heroic in our witness to the light, to not fear the consequences of preaching this light of Christ to a world that sometimes does not want to hear it, does not want to see it, does not want to see it in you and me.”
Bishop Caggiano said that many people who are searching, hoping and looking for Christ, especially after the darkness of the pandemic, will find him in those who give faithful witness to the Gospel.
“He will come to them through you and me, and the light we shine in our hearts,” he said. “Let us show the world out there what it means to follow in the footsteps of the crucified and risen Savior.”
The Easter Vigil, which is the greatest liturgy of the year, the “mother of all vigils,” as St. Augustine said, began with the Liturgy of Light. The cathedral was in darkness while outside a holy fire was lit called the Lucernarium and blessed by Bishop Caggiano. The new Paschal candle was then lit, representing Christ, the light of the world. The priest led a procession into the dark church and stopped three times, proclaiming, “Christ, our Light!” as the candles of the congregation were lit from the Easter candle.
After the Easter candle arrived in the sanctuary, a Redemptoris Mater seminarian sang the ancient “Easter Proclamation,” also known as the Exsultet from the Latin “rejoice.”
This was followed by the Liturgy of the Word — seven readings from Genesis through Exodus and the Prophets to the New Testament, which were read in English and Spanish and chronicled God’s unfolding plan of salvation. Between the readings, psalms were chanted.
Since earliest times at the Easter Vigil, catechumens received the Sacraments of Initiation. Bishop Caggiano announced, “Tonight, Daniel, our brother, will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord.”
After the blessing of the baptismal water, the young man received his sacraments and later was the first person to receive Holy Communion.
The entire congregation renewed their baptismal promises and received a blessing from Bishop Caggiano with the newly blessed baptismal water.
The Easter Vigil culminated with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Caggiano reflected on his early mornings at his former residence in Trumbull, where he would begin his day with a cup of coffee and sit on the sofa in his sitting room, “enjoying a perfect view of the cemetery that abuts the property and the rising of the sun every morning.”
“It was in days like these in the beginning of spring that I had the great privilege to look upon those first rays of light that pierced the darkness, a light that steadily grew in power, color and beauty,” he recalled. “That light gave strength to my spirit and many times joy to my heart to prepare for what the day would bring. You and I, my friends, have come here tonight to celebrate a different type of dawn — a light that is more brilliant than a thousand suns. For it is the light of the one Son that is eternal.”
“For this is the sacred night that you and I have our spirits renewed, our hearts emboldened by a light that has pierced away the darkness of sin and death,” he said. “Your sins and my sins, your death and my death. For this is the night of our victory in Jesus Christ, a light that will never be extinguished, a light that brings hope and glory to all God’s children.”
The light of Christ comes to us in our baptism, he said, when we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ by grace, which enlightens our minds by the gift of the Holy Spirit, giving us the gifts of faith, hope and love, along with the promise of everlasting life. It makes us adopted daughters and sons of God and members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
“We celebrate that great gift, perhaps the greatest of all gifts given us, this night when the darkness finally failed and the light conquered forever,” he said.
Recalling his early mornings at sunrise in Trumbull, Bishop Caggiano said the first light of dawn was blocked by a row of evergreen trees that were planted to separate the residences from the cemetery, and the sunlight “needed to fight its way to be seen through the branches until it rose high enough that the trees could no longer block it, to shine pure, unencumbered and clear for the eye to see.”
“Many a day I thought how beautiful it would be if those trees were not blocking it, if the light could be seen from its very beginning,” he recalled. “I wonder about that in your life and mine, for do we believe that the light has conquered darkness in Jesus Christ? Yes, we do believe it. We are here to celebrate it. But I must ask you, my friends, how often do you and I block the shining of that light in our lives like those trees do in Trumbull?”
Bishop Caggiano said that now, more than ever, we need to trim away whatever is in our lives that blocks the light of Christ.
“My friends, as we leave this church, let us resolve to take all that is withered, all that is dead in our lives, all that blocks us from being true witnesses of the light in the world and cast it aside and burn it away so that the light can shine brightly.”
At the conclusion, he said it was a great blessing to celebrate the Easter Vigil of the Lord together, and the congregation applauded.
“It is, please, Heavenly Father, a sign of hope for what is to come for us in the months ahead.”
BETHEL – Hundreds gathered in the pre-dawn chill of Easter morning to celebrate the Risen Lord at a sunrise Mass at Blue Jay Orchards, hosted by St. Mary Parish in Bethel.
“I love to watch the sunrise come up during mass,” said Vicki Wish, who attended the service with her family. “It’s a great way to start the day.”
Wish and hundreds of others felt the same way as cars arrived in the early morning hour with headlights piercing the darkness. Lanterns lit the path to the outside altar as footsteps crunched gravel on the way to set up chairs in a field illuminated in moonlight.
“We have a very good crowd here this morning, despite the pandemic,” said St. Mary Pastor Father Corey Piccinino, as he welcomed the congregation, who respected social distancing protocols and wore masks during the outdoor service.
Many people came prepared for the early morning mass with chairs and blankets to keep warm. Easter bonnets were replaced with more practical knit hats and gloves. Some people wore knit hats with lights to help them navigate the darkness others used the light from their cell phone.
The occasional birds chirping were interrupted only by the joyous greetings of “Good Morning,” and “Happy Easter” as people passed each other on their way to sit down.
During the homily, Father Piccinino told a story of how Jesus paid for our sins with His life and related how Mary Magdalene was the first to see the Risen Lord.
“She couldn’t wait until the sun came up and neither could we,” he said to the gathered faithful, some of whom were huddled under blankets.
But the chilly temperature could never deter the hopeful.
“There’s nothing like seeing this beautiful sky, this beautiful sunrise,” said Karin Deshan, gesturing to the pink and lavender hues peeking over the horizon. “If you can’t be at the real tomb, this is an incredible experience.”
“We arrived in the darkness here and we are leaving in the light with Jesus in our hearts,” said Deshan, who is a member of the choir and a parishioner of St. Mary’s for more than three decades.
Father Piccinino encouraged by attendance to the early morning mass, said to the departing crowd, “I hope to see you all in church next week.”
NEW FAIRFIELD – Dozens of people gathered at St. Edward the Confessor Parish to receive a Blessing of the Food on the eve of the celebration of Easter.
“For 40 days we have been preparing by works of charity, fasting and self-sacrifice, in preparation for the great feast of the Resurrection,” said Father Robert Wolfe. “This Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection is a time when all things are made new. Let us pray that the Lord will bless these Easter foods so that we may celebrate with hearts renewed on this feast of our salvation.”
Dozens of baskets of food were laid at the foot of the altar in the parish hall. The altar was adorned with Easter Lilies surrounded by a variety of white, pink and yellow flowers. It is a Slavic tradition, where baskets containing a sampling of Easter foods are brought to church to be blessed on Holy Saturday.
Father Wolfe blessed the Easter baskets that were filled with bread, eggs, meat and other food items. Many of the baskets were adorned with embroidered white linens, sprigs of boxwood, the typical Easter evergreen and ribbons, woven through basket handles. There was even a whimsical touch of a child, who attached a stuffed animal to one of the baskets.
“Our Lenten fasting is a reminder of our hunger and thirst for holiness, which is satisfied only by Christ who feeds and nourishes us by His Word and sacraments,” said Father Wolfe. “When we gather at our first meal of Easter may this food be a sign for us of that heavenly banquet to which the Lord calls us.”
The blessing of food on the eve of Easter is a very meaningful tradition for many in the parish.
“It’s a tradition I grew up with,” said Ella Palac, a parishioner of St. Edward the Confessor for 17 years. “Once you bless the foods, the Easter tradition begins. It’s something to look forward to after Lent.”
Father Wolfe prayed over the Easter Bread that symbolizes Christ the Living Bread to feed us on our journey through life, the Easter Cheese to teach us that Christians should have moderation in all things, the Easter Ham, Kielbasa and meats as a symbol of sacrificial animals of the Old Testament and Easter Eggs as a symbol of new life, abundance, and prosperity.
After praying over them, Father Wolfe sprinkled Holy Water over the parishioners and the baskets of food.
“This was my grandpa’s tradition because he was Slovak,” said Jennifer Marra, who attended the afternoon blessing with her family. “It makes us feel like he is with us and it makes us feel closer to him.”
At the conclusion of the blessing, Father Wolfe was thankful for the gift of homemade cheese and Kielbasa.
“May all of these foods,” Father Wolfe said,” remind us of the goodness of creation and the abundant blessings God has given to us.”
Vatican City, Apr 3, 2021 / 02:00 pm MT (CNA).- At the Vatican’s Easter Vigil Mass, Pope Francis said that Jesus’ love is without limits and always provides the grace to begin anew.
Pope Francis lights a candle at the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 3, 2021. Credit: Vatican Media/CNA.
The pope said in his homily on April 3 that “it is always possible to begin anew because there is always a new life that God can awaken in us in spite of all our failures.”
He continued: “From the rubble of our hearts, God can create a work of art; from the ruined remnants of our humanity, God can prepare a new history. He never ceases to go ahead of us: in the cross of suffering, desolation and death, and in the glory of a life that rises again, a history that changes, a hope that is reborn.”
“Jesus, the Risen Lord, loves us without limits and is there at every moment of our lives,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Easter Vigil, which takes place on Holy Saturday night, “is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities and it is to be unique in every single Church,” according to the Roman Missal.
Pope Francis offered the Vigil Mass at the basilica’s Altar of the Chair with about 200 people present.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, is normally packed for the Easter Vigil. This year’s Easter Triduum liturgies were once again scaled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The preparation of the Paschal candle was omitted and no baptisms took place at the vigil, only a renewal of baptismal promises.
The liturgy began in darkness with the blessing of the new fire. The pope and concelebrating cardinals then processed through the dark church carrying lit candles to signify the light of Christ coming to dispel the darkness.
“If on this night you are experiencing an hour of darkness, a day that has not yet dawned, a light dimmed, or a dream shattered, go open your heart with amazement to the message of Easter: ‘Do not be afraid, he has risen! He awaits you in Galilee,’” Pope Francis said in his homily.
“Your expectations will not remain unfulfilled, your tears will be dried, your fears will be replaced by hope. For the Lord always goes ahead of you, he always walks before you. And, with him, life always begins anew.”
During the liturgy, a cantor sang the Exsultet Easter Proclamation, which tells the story of salvation from the creation, the testing and fall of Adam, the liberation of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and culminates in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and leads us to salvation.
The basilica was lit up gradually until it was fully illuminated at the Gloria, when the bells of St. Peter’s tolled.
In his homily, the pope asked people to reflect on the angel’s message to Mary Magdalene and the others who went to anoint Jesus’ body, but found an empty tomb, as described in the Gospel of Mark:
“Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.”
Pope Francis said: “Let us go to Galilee, where the Risen Lord has gone ahead of us. Yet what does it mean ‘to go to Galilee?’”
The pope then explained that “going to Galilee” can mean setting out on new paths, beginning anew, and going out to the peripheries.
“Galilee was an outpost: the people living in that diverse and disparate region were those farthest from the ritual purity of Jerusalem. Yet that is where Jesus began his mission. There he brought his message to those struggling to live from day to day … the excluded, the vulnerable and the poor,” he said.
“There he brought the face and presence of God, who tirelessly seeks out those who are discouraged or lost, who goes to the very peripheries of existence, since in his eyes no one is least, no one is excluded.”
Pope Francis said that he thinks many people today view the Catholic faith as a thing of the past or “lovely childhood memories” that no longer influence their daily lives.
“God cannot be filed away among our childhood memories, but is alive and filled with surprises. Risen from the dead, Jesus never ceases to amaze us,” he said.
Pope Francis continued: “Jesus is not outdated. He is alive here and now. He walks beside you each day, in every situation you are experiencing, in every trial you have to endure, in your deepest hopes and dreams. … Even if you feel that all is lost, please, let yourself be open to amazement at the newness Jesus brings: He will surely surprise you.”
HARTFORD – Members of numerous faith communities will hold a “Freedom to Live” candlelight rally Wednesday April 7th starting at 6:00 p.m. at the Minuteman Park, adjacent to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.
The rally, which is open to the public, will feature speakers on various issues concerning the attacks on free speech, religious freedom, and the freedom to live. The event is sponsored by the Connecticut Catholic Public Affairs Conference (CCPAC) and the Family Institute of Connecticut (FIC).
“This is a critical moment when people who treasure life take a stand against the culture of death,” said Christopher Healy, Executive Director of the CCPAC. “We hope our elected leaders hear the truth that life is not something to be legislated away.”
Speakers will be addressing opposition to Aid in Dying House Bill 6425 – which allows those who are given an arbitrary prognosis the ability to receive deadly drugs to take their lives – and Senate Bill 835 – An Act Concerning Pregnancy Care Centers – which allows the state to effectively close its operations.
“Doctors should not prescribe suicide as a treatment and the legislature should not grant legal immunity to people who help you kill yourself,” said Peter Wolfgang, Executive Director of FIC. “Nor should it legislate viewpoint discrimination against pregnancy centers.”
Those who attend are asked to wear masks and follow social distancing during the duration of the rally.
For Immediate Release
Contact: Chris Healy (860) 966-8468
Peter Wolfgang (860) 548-0066
April 2, 2021
NORWALK — An in-person stations of the cross service returned to St. Matthew Church on Friday, about a year after Easter celebrations were held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Parishioners of St. Matthew Catholic Church proceed with their annual outdoor stations of the cross in recogntion of Good Friday, April 2, 2021, in Norwalk, Conn.
This year, the church’s Good Friday celebrations were held both in-person and virtually, according to the church’s website. An outdoor stations of the cross was held at noon at the church’s grotto despite the 30-degree weather, a liturgy with communion was held indoors at 3 p.m. and an indoor stations of the cross at 7 p.m.
Reservations are still required for all Masses and services at St. Matthew. Congregants are asked not to sing and are required to wear masks at all times.
Additionally, the church is still operating at limited capacity. All 150 seats for Friday afternoon’s liturgy were booked, as well as all indoor Easter Sunday masses.
St. Matthew administration anticipates the weekend’s services will be well-attended despite the restrictions, the church’s administrative assistant Mare Yannetti said.
“Social distancing will be in effect and mask-wearing, but people are very excited and things are looking up,” Yannetti said.
BRIDGEPORT—”The world calls love by many names, many faces, many forms, but that love is not what brings us here,” Bishop Caggiano said on Good Friday, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion.
“It’s the love of the Savior who teaches us that love is an act of the will for the good of another even to the point of emptying ourselves completely for that good. That is what He did today,” the bishop said in a live-streamed liturgy from St Augustine Cathedral.
“On this day that we call ‘Good’ for your salvation and mine, we come here to gaze upon the crucified Christ and to re-learn what the face of love really means. For the one who was sinless took it upon himself the many sins of the entire world and he bore then in atonement– he who was the free and sinless victim.”
The bishop said that God loves us in a way that the world cannot image with a love “that does not seek self-gratification or self-fulfillment, a love that is pure gift and can conquer death itself,” even if we are not worthy of it.
More than 150 attended the 3 pm service in person, wearing masks and seated in pews marked for socially distanced worship. The liturgy began when the bishop, deacons and seminarians processed in and lay prostrate on the marble floor in front of the main altar.
Transitional Deacon Guy Dormevil of Norwalk read the passion account from the Gospel of John, led the prayer of the faithful, and also held the Cross before the altar as the faithful came forward to venerate it.
Cathedral parishioners of all ages—some carrying young children in their arms and others elderly and supported by a cane—genuflected before the Cross and blessed themselves in somber silence. Most were wearing heavy coats on a day that had turned suddenly cold and wintry.
After venerating the cross, the faithful processed down the center aisle a second time to receive Holy Communion.
In his homily the bishop said by dying for us, Christ willed our good unto eternal life, and he asks us to live our own discipleship focused on the “only love that ultimately brings life and glory.”
“You and I cannot live that love without his help. And when we come tomorrow night to this space shrouded in darkness and see an empty tomb, we will have what we need,” he said, anticipating the Easter Vigil.
Bishop Caggiano said we gather on Good Friday “to remind ourselves not only what love really is, but who love really is.”
“We live in a world that wants us to believe that love has other faces. It was true in Jesus’s time as well as it is in our own,” he said urging the faithful to reject worldly forms of love and to see to love the way Christ did.
The bishop said if you consider the faces of those who surrounded Jesus during his passion, you would see a “grasping, greedy love” for thirty pieces of silver, a love of self-preservation as seen when Peter and the apostles fled for their own safety and security, and a bystander love like those at the foot of the cross who were mildly interested but wouldn’t act to save another.
“I ask you, What did you and I come to see here today? We came to looks upon a crucified savior, we came to look upon the face of love. Let us not forget that face when the world points us to love the way it wants,” he said.
“The world’s way will leave us on calvary. The Lord’s way will lead us to eternal life.”