Two views on statues

Attacks on statues seen as ‘signs of society in need of healing’

WASHINGTON—A wave of recent attacks on Catholic statues around the country and fires at two churches prompted the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees to decry “the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion.”

“Whether those who committed these acts were troubled individuals crying out for help or agents of hate seeking to intimidate, the attacks are signs of a society in need of healing,” said Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City in a joint statement late July 22.

“In those incidents where human actions are clear, the motives still are not. As we strain to understand the destruction of these holy symbols of selfless love and devotion, we pray for any who have caused it, and we remain vigilant against more of it,” they said.

Archbishop Wenski is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Coakley is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

Among incidents the two prelates pointed out were the beheading of a statue of Christ at a Catholic church in the Miami Archdiocese, the defacing of a statue of Mary outside a Catholic school in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. They also highlighted two church fires, one that severely damaged the interior of a church in the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, and one that gutted a 230-year-old mission church in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

“Our nation finds itself in an extraordinary hour of cultural conflict,” Archbishops Wenski and Coakley said. “The path forward must be through the compassion and understanding practiced and taught by Jesus and his holy Mother.

“Let us contemplate, rather than destroy, images of these examples of God’s love,” they said. “Following the example of Our Lord, we respond to confusion with understanding and to hatred with love.”

In recent weeks, angry mobs have toppled statues of figures such as St. Junipero Serra, a Franciscan priest from Spain who founded several missions in California. Statues of historical figures, like Christopher Columbus, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Frederick Douglass, also have been knocked down and heavily damaged.

In the Miami Archdiocese, the beheaded statue of Christ was found July 15 at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Southwest Miami-Dade. The statue also was knocked from its pedestal.

“The statue, located outside the church, was on private and sacred property,” said Mary Ross Agosta, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Miami. She told the local Fox News affiliate Archbishop Wenski requested investigators consider the vandalism “a hate crime.”

The Department of Homeland Security is among the agencies investigating the case.

In a statement, parish officials said: “It is too soon to arrive to any conclusion, but we have seen other churches vandalized around the country. We totally ‘condemn’ this action. We invite our community to pray for peace.”

In the Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colorado, an unidentified person used red paint to deface a statue of Mary in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Colorado Springs July 15.

“It does look like a graffiti tag more than anything else,” Father David Price, the cathedral’s rector, told local reporters. “I’m not sure there was any sense or meaning behind it.”

In the Diocese of Knoxville, Tennessee, Father Manuel Perez, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Chattanooga, found a statue of Mary on the parish grounds knocked over and beheaded. News reports said the 5-foot-tall statue was worth $2,000. The missing head has not been found.

As in Florida, the Department of Homeland Security is looking into the incident, which occurred over the July 11-12 weekend, as a possible hate crime.

“Anytime something like this happens it is disappointing and concerning,” said Diocese of Knoxville diocesan spokesman Jim Wogan in a statement. “We don’t know if this was the targeted desecration of a sacred statue, or some kind of misguided prank, but it hurts.

“For whatever reason we are living in a very chaotic time and anger seems to be the default setting for people,” he added. “Our bishop has asked that we live by the example set in the Gospel of Matthew, to treat others as we ourselves would want to be treated.”

Knoxville Bishop Richard F. Stika tweeted about the incident July 13, saying “what a strange time” we live in. “Over the weekend, an outdoor statue of the Blessed Mother was beheaded at St. Stephen Parish in Chattanooga. This is occurring at various spots throughout the United States.”

A statue of Mary was found defaced July 10 on the grounds of Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in the Brooklyn Diocese.

Father James Kuroly, Cathedral Prep’s rector and president, called the incident “an act of hatred.”

“Obviously, this tragedy saddens us deeply,” he said in a statement, “but it also renews our hope and faith in the Lord as he has shown his goodness in the many people who have already reached out to us.” He urged prayers “for those who committed this act of vandalism and hatred toward Our Lady and the church.”

Police in Boston were likewise investigating a fire that damaged a statue of Mary outside St. Peter Church the evening of July 11. News reports said flowers in Mary’s hands were set on fire, causing damage from her arms up to her face.

Fire also claimed much of two Catholic churches, one in Florida and one in California.

In the Orlando Diocese, a man crashed his van through the doors of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Ocala early in the morning July 11. Once inside, he set the interior of the church ablaze. There were no injuries reported.

Police later apprehended the suspect who had fled the scene, identified as Anthony Steven Shields, 24, who was charged with several felonies, including attempted second-degree murder, arson to a structure and felony fleeing or attempting to elude.

In Los Angeles, a fire ravaged the church at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel in the predawn hours of July 11. Investigators have not yet determined what started the blaze that gutted the 230-year-old church.

Detroit Catholic

Franciscans grapple with colonial legacy of Junípero Serra

SAN FRANCISCO—On Juneteenth this year, people in the San Francisco Bay Area took to the streets to mark the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in Texas learned they were free. That evening, protestors toppled a 30-foot bronze statue of St. Junípero Serra at the Golden Gate Park, splattering it with red paint. Similar incidents later occurred in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

These actions in California have ushered in a new reckoning for the Franciscans.

Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan priest, is credited with bringing Christianity to California and starting the first nine of 21 Spanish missions in the state. But his critics consider him to be one of California’s earliest colonizers under whose watch Native Americans were beaten and brutalized.

A product of his time

For Franciscans in the United States, Serra is an important figure. They acknowledge his massive contribution to the church and are yet mindful of his complicated legacy and history.

“For me, he is somebody who should be admired for his persistence, his dedication, his faith and his great love for people. On the other hand, he was a person of his time and place — he had his blind spots,” said Franciscan Fr. Daniel Dwyer, associate professor of history at Siena College in Loudonville, New York.

To understand Serra, he said, is to take into context his times. “His heroes were people like other missionaries who’ve gone to other parts of the world, and I don’t think he or anybody in his circle, you might say, really understood enough to respect non-European peoples,” said Dwyer.

Franciscan Fr. Dan Horan, theologian and professor at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, identifies with Serra, in part because Serra himself was a university professor. But he is aware that cultural assumptions of Serra’s time are different from the current age.

“I think it’s fair to those particularly steeped in the history of the Americas, the church and the various waves of colonization, to be straightforward about the role of the missions, the role of the church and, to some extent, the role of Junípero Serra in creating a context that was not always good and healthy and supportive for the Native peoples of the land,” said Horan.

Serra has been the subject of controversy over the treatment of Indigenous peoples. Critics say that under the watchful eye of Serra, called the “founding father of California,” Native Americans were pressed into forced labor, mistreated and infected with diseases they had no resistance to. Those who were brought into the missions were not allowed to leave, and if they tried to flee, were severely beaten.

When Pope Francis canonized Serra during his 2015 visit to the United States, he faced criticism from Native American groups who said Serra was undeserving of sainthood.

In an open letter to Francis, leaders of the Pechanga Band of the Luiseño Indians wrote that Serra’s missions “killed between 9,000 to 13,500 of our ancestors,” which “triggered a collapse of our Indigenous societal structure and way of life and set into motion the atrocities and hardships that our people endured for nearly two centuries.”

Franciscan historians point out that during the time of Serra, the Catholic Church and Spanish crown were intertwined with one another, often making it difficult to differentiate between the two.

Franciscan Fr. William “Jud” Weiksnar, of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, said that Serra was a product of the “Doctrine of Discovery,” which provided church sanction for European Catholic colonizers, and to judge his actions based on current beliefs would be inaccurate.

“In the midst of a culture that was all about exploiting the land and exploiting the people, he had, at risk to himself, taken stands against that. Was he operating under a 21st-century mentality? Of course, not! He was a complicated, fascinating, flawed but holy person,” said Weiksnar.

Franciscan Father Jack Clark Robinson, provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said that the papal encyclical, Sublimis Deus, by Pope Paul III in 1537, forbid the enslavement of Indigenous peoples, and the punishment was excommunication.

“But the Spanish king parked outside the Vatican, till Pope Paul revised the document and removed the penalty,” said Robinson.

Robinson agreed with protestors calling for the church to look at its problematic past. “There are many things that the church did that did not live up to the ideals of the Gospel. But it wasn’t because of the lack of trying. The church was connected with the empire. … It’s my personal belief that anytime the church and state get in bed together, the Gospel suffers,” said Robinson.

Supporters of Serra look upon him as a vocal advocate for Native Americans. Historians say that Serra went to Mexico many times to defend the Native population from the atrocities of Spanish soldiers. He was paternal toward the Indigenous people and is seen as someone who heroically embraced the idea of spreading the Gospel to the New World when he was well into his 50s. Serra’s missions became the basis of modern California, say historians.

“But he has become a very convenient symbol of all the evils of colonization, imperial expansionism and the evils of racism,” said Robinson.

Franciscan Father David Gaa, the provincial minister of the Franciscan Province of Saint Barbara based in Oakland, California, said the toppling and removal of Serra’s statues is a “reevaluation of history and reality.”

“He [Serra] has become the personification of all that was bad about the mission system—the decimation of the Native people by diseases, the encounter of the culture. The mission system lasted for around 65 years, and for some, Serra is the embodiment of all of that. So when talking about removing the statues from public lands, I don’t think it has much to do with Serra,” said Gaa.

With Serra, the particular challenge for the church is how to grapple with his humanity. Horan points out that most modern day saints made mistakes and were imperfect, including as recently as Pope John Paul II, who was canonized quickly, in 2014, after his 2005 death.

“How do we reconcile the fact that late in his papacy, he denied the reality of the sexual abuse crisis? He was very involved with the promotion and quite possibly, the cover up of some very senior officials, including religious order founders, that he favored,” said Horan.

Horan suggested that people move away from the magical thinking around saints and look at them more like Christian men and women who struggled to live the Gospel, despite their imperfections and mistakes.

Robinson said that the study of history should always be a “conversation.” One needs to take it further and not be “bound by it.”

“The positive thing that I see in this moment is that we’re listening to the voices of the oppressed. We’re listening for the voices of those whose lives were oppressed by the forces of colonialism and imperialism,” he said.

Statue placement

Across California, officials are debating the removal of Serra statues from public land. Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez warned that all public statues of Serra should be removed or relocated to protect them from vandalism and desecration, while some Indigenous activists view the statues of Serra in public places as a “celebration of our genocide,” reported USA Today.

The California Catholic Conference of Bishops defended Serra, saying he made sacrifices to protect the Indigenous people from the Spanish conquerors.

Gaa said the Franciscans understand how a statue of Serra in a public place can be offensive to “people of goodwill.”

According to Dwyer, unless the statues are a “magnificent work of art,” they can be replaced. “It’s not the end of the world.”

The question to ask, said Weiksnar, is why was the statue erected? “The Confederate statues that were erected through much of the South was a way to intimidate African Americans well after the Civil War. So I’d be interested in the same question with Serra—why was that erected? And once we answer that question, I think we could answer should the statue stay up? Where should it go?” he said.

Horan feels drawn towards recognizing the greater symbolic value of the statues of Serra. “I don’t think public statues are necessary, particularly in a civic place, that bring such pain and symbolize the unaddressed history that the church hasn’t fully grappled with in society,” he said.

All Franciscans who spoke to NCR see no problem with the removal of Serra’s statues from public places, because there’s still a place for Serra in the canon of saints.

“I recognize the good done by Serra, from my Catholic faith perspective. But I also appreciate where we are as a nation trying to deal with difficult historical questions,” said Gaa.

Gaa said he’s not in favor of a “triumphal or romantic perspective of the church of the past,” instead preferring larger dialogue between the church and protestors to address the problematic history.

“The big problem I have with these statues of Serra that might be in front of city halls, is, what is the message we’re trying to convey? What do these monuments represent?” he said.

“My main reality is that I would like the Franciscans to be part of the healing process, and not a barrier. And in that way, if the statues are a barrier to dialogue and conversation publicly, I have no problem with them being moved,” said Gaa.

Sarah Salvadore is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is

by Sarah Salvadore  I  National Catholic Reporter

Emergency COVID-19 Funding for K-8 Tuition Assistance

BRIDGEPORT—The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting virtually every area of life for so many. In response, an anonymous donor to Foundations in Education has provided funding for COVID-19 Emergency Tuition Assistance for elementary school families in the Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic Schools who are suffering from the negative economic impact of the pandemic.

This incredibly prescient and generous gift is a welcomed and much needed addition to Foundations in Education, which has already awarded over $2.3 million from the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund in tuition assistance for the coming school year.

Foundations in Education is now accepting applications to the COVID-19 Emergency Tuition Assistance Fund. Families of K-8 students who have experienced loss of job, loss of income, COVID related medical costs, or other unanticipated financial hardship resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to apply.

“This gift is truly an answer to our prayers. Many of our families applied for assistance before the pandemic even hit. Imagine the elevated need resulting from the economic consequences facing our families because of business closures and the necessary state shut down. We pray that this assistance is enough to help ease the burden for our families and help keep their children in school,” commented Holly Doherty-Lemoine, Executive Director of Foundations in Education.

Within the first week of announcing the fund, Foundations in Education received over 100 applications for tuition relief assistance.

“Things are moving fast, but we want to be able to respond quickly so our families can make their decision to keep their children in our Catholic Schools, which we believe will provide students the stability, support and guidance they need to navigate these unprecedented times,” Holly further commented.

Applications to the COVID-19 Emergency Tuition Assistance Fund will be accepted until all funds are awarded. Details about the program and how to apply may be found on the Foundations in Education website:

Individuals or organizations interested in donating to this fund may do so on the Foundations in Education website at, or by contacting Megan Quinn, Assistant Director of Development at 203.416.1671.

Saint Catherine of Siena Celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

TRUMBULL—The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena (220 Shelton Road, Trumbull) will celebrate The Solemnity of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, August 15, 2020. The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, the bodily taking up of Mary, the mother of Jesus, into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

Mass for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary will be celebrated on Saturday, August 15, at 8 am and 10 am, with music. There will be no Vigil Mass.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, seat reservations are required for Mass. There is no charge for seat reservations to attend Mass. The reservation portal opens on Tuesday, August 11, at 10 am. The link to register is on the Parish Website at

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

Saint Catherine of Siena Celebrates the Transfiguration of the Lord with a Eucharistic Procession

TRUMBULL—The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena (220 Shelton Road, Trumbull) will celebrate The Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord on Thursday, August 6, 2020, with Mass at 5:30 pm, immediately followed by a Eucharistic Procession through the streets of Nichols to the NIA gazebo.

In a beautiful and time-honored tradition, this Eucharistic Procession will be a moment of grace and joy for our community, which is most especially needed in this time of global pandemic. Father Joseph Marcello, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church said, “We live in such a visual culture. So a procession, with its candles, incense, and servers—with Our Lord in the monstrance, and many of our parishioners and friends of all ages taking part—this helps to emphasize that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.” The procession with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will immediately follow the 5:30 pm Mass on Thursday, August 6. It will last about 30 minutes and will conclude with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church. Everyone is welcome.

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord celebrates the revelation of Christ’s divine glory and shows the perfection of life in Heaven. After revealing to His disciples that He would be put to death in Jerusalem, Christ led Saints Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor in Galilee where, by becoming radiantly transformed, He manifests His divinity to them and to us.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, seat reservations are required for Mass. There is no charge for seat reservations to attend Mass. The reservation portal opens on Tuesday, August 4, at 10 am. The link to register is on the Parish Website at

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

Voter Survey Disclaimer

The Diocese of Bridgeport has been made aware that people in our parishes have begun receiving an email entitled “Catholic Vote Survey,” and “Catholic Opinion Research Survey.”

It is important to note that the diocese has not endorsed the survey nor is it affiliated in any way with the organization that is promoting it.

The Diocese of Bridgeport does not sell, share or distribute the personal information of parishioners and the faithful to any group, institute or other concern.


Strategic National Grant to put Laudato Si’ in Action

WASHINGTON—The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has approved a strategic national grant totaling $500,000 to the Direct Action & Research Training Center (DART) to empower poor and low-income persons in the southeastern U.S. to overcome the impacts and address the root causes of climate change over the next five years. The bishops of the CCHD subcommittee approved the grant during their virtual meeting on June 9.

The five-year project, “Caring for Creation, Caring for Community” will enable DART to engage local organizations in campaigns to identify the local impact of environmental changes on their community, empower low-income and minority communities to address the negative impact of environmental changes, and raise the profile of how these environmental changes hurt poor and marginalized communities the most.

Bishop David G. O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles and chairman of the CCHD subcommittee said, “As CCHD marks it’s 50th Anniversary this year, we are pleased to support this strategic national effort to put Laudato Si’ in action. The adverse effects of climate change devastate poor communities around the country and with this project, CCHD and DART will seek to live out the call of Pope Francis to respond to ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.’”

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, who has worked in close collaboration with DART for over 30 years on issues such as lack of affordable housing, transportation, juvenile justice reform and violence reduction in the Archdiocese of Miami, said in support of the project, “The DART proposal “Caring for Creation, Caring for Community” is a needed organizing effort to better engage people from low-moderate income communities in identifying and addressing the impacts of climate change in local communities.”

The Strategic National Grant Program was established by the U.S. bishops as part of CCHD’s Review and Renewal to address urgent regional or national needs, issues, or priorities impacting low-income communities. These grants are intended for organizations working to promote justice or economic development on a significantly larger scale than the community-based organizations that typically receive support from the CCHD. Additional information about the programs and work of CCHD is available online at

Priest’s love of math, baseball helps him develop new stat measures

WASHINGTON—WAR, what is it good for?

For Edwin Starr, the answer was “absolutely nothin'”—although “somethin'” might be a better answer, since he had a No. 1 hit with the tune in 1970.

But for Dominican Father Humbert Kilanowski, he’s got a different answer, because he’s asking a different question.

Father Kilanowski, a mathematics professor at Providence College in Rhode Island, has been a baseball stats guy since his freshman year in high school, when he was a student manager of his school’s baseball team. “I played up to eighth grade, but I wasn’t any good,” he confessed.

Back then, he remembered, the new big-deal stats were WHIP and OPS. For the uninitiated, WHIP stands for walks plus hits per inning pitched, a measure of a pitcher’s ability to keep runners off base. OPS stands for on-base percentage plus slugging percentage; the former gauges how often a player gets on base per plate appearance, and the latter calculates how many bases the batter collects per at-bat.

Ordained in 2018, Father Kilanowski not only teaches, but helps out with campus ministry and with a Dominican Third Order group in Rhode Island. He also learned, to his delight, the order has a house on Cape Cod, which gave him a chance to see about a dozen games last year in the Cape Cod League.

The league is one of several “collegiate” leagues around the United States where college ballplayers who think they have a chance in pro ball spend a couple of months in the summer to sharpen their skills. It also gives hitters experience with wood bats; virtually all school and amateur baseball today is played with less expensive and longer-lasting aluminum bats.

Which brings us to WAR, which stands for Wins Above Replacement. In the big leagues, its computations are meant to judge a player’s skill over that of his replacement—typically a minor leaguer who would need to be called up to take his spot on the roster.

But WAR wouldn’t work right in the amateur ranks. For one thing, they haven’t even played in the minors, let alone have a chance to get called up to the majors.

With Cape Cod League statisticians supplying him the 2019 season’s data, Father Kilanowski made some modifications to account for the level of skill and the shorter season, among other things. His results were published in in early July in the Baseball Research Journal, the annual publication of the Society for American Baseball Research.

His results? Outfielder Nick Gonzales emerged with a cWAR—the lowercase “c” stands for “Cape”—of 3.17, head and shoulders above the next-best player’s cWAR of 1.97.

Father Kilanowski said scouts had wondered whether the gaudy college stats of Gonzales, who played at New Mexico State, were aided by a lower level of competition, aluminum bats or the thinner air in Las Cruces, elevation 3,900 feet above sea level.

But his Cape Cod League performance sealed the deal. “He was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, seventh overall,” Father Kilanowski said.

Father Kilanowski grew up in Darien, Connecticut, a suburb of New York City, and he and his family were “big fans” of the New York Yankees. “Working in (Boston) Red Sox Nation, I call it my lifelong penance,” he said.

Just as he was a latecomer to the world of sabermetrics—the development of analytic measures to quantify baseball performance—Father Kilanowski was, in his own words, a “late vocation.”

“I was always Catholic, born and raised in the church,” he said. He was in his parish youth group in high school, and went to the Newman Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, “but I was just going through the motions in college.” He even remembers a priest telling him on a retreat he should think about the priesthood, “but I didn’t want to consider the possibility.”

Father Kilanowski said he was “well into graduate school” before he heard the call. He had a friend joining the Catholic Church at that time, and “he knows more about the faith than I do. What am I doing wrong?”

He started going to Mass daily at a Dominican parish in Columbus, Ohio, and that’s when “it made sense,” Father Kilanowski said in a July 16 phone interview with Catholic News Service. He admired the order’s “strong academic apostolate, strong community life.”

He was prepared to tweak his cWAR computations for the 2020 season, but the coronavirus pandemic scuttled the Cape Cod League this year. Father Kilanowski might have been in Baltimore at the time of the CNS interview, but SABR’s annual convention there was postponed a year due to the pandemic. But he is looking forward to the major leagues’ truncated 2020 season, which starts July 23.

He’s made plans to meet up soon with Father Gabriel Costa, a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, who teaches math and statistics at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and has written several sabermetric papers.

“I’m not even the only priest in my own chapter of SABR,” said Father Kilanowski of his Rhode Island group. Father Gerry Beirne, a retired priest of the Providence Diocese, celebrates Mass for Catholics at the SABR convention when he goes, and runs the trivia contests at the statewide chapter’s own meetings.

Humbert is Father Kilanowski’s religious name. Born Philip, the combination of his birth and religious names comes close to that of Philip Humber—and the priest completes the thought—”who pitched a perfect game” for the Chicago White Sox in 2012.

By Mark Pattison   I   Catholic News Service


Second Annual Albertus Magnus College Scholarship Golf Classic A Great Success

NEW HAVEN—Albertus Magnus College is pleased to announce that its second annual Golf Classic to benefit the Silver Horn Scholarship Fund was held on July 20 at the New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut. Adhering to State guidelines to promote the health and safety of participants, the outing attracted 100 golfers representing Albertus alumni and benefactors and businesses throughout the state.

The Silver Horn Scholarship Fund was established in 2018 with the inauguration of Albertus President, Dr. Marc M. Camille. Silver Horn Scholarships provide essential financial support to enrolled Albertus students who face unexpected financial hardship, assisting them with staying on track to earn their Albertus degrees. In its first two years of existence, the Albertus Golf Classic has raised more than $150,000 in support of essential scholarship support for students. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downfall, fundraising initiatives to support students in need have become increasingly important.

Area businesses and organizations stepped-up to support this great cause including Title Sponsor Yale-New Haven Health System.

“We are grateful to the businesses, individuals, and volunteers who supported this event so that we can continue to help transform lives, especially in these unprecedented times,” said Albertus Vice President of Advancement, Mary Young ’91. “Community support and engagement are essential in preparing our students, our graduates to be effective, values-driven critical thinkers and solution seekers as part of their lifelong civic engagement and success.”

For more information, please go to and

Pope makes surprise visit to summer camp for kids

VATICAN CITY—When Zoe, 10, showed up late for summer camp at the Vatican, she did not expect to see Pope Francis there.

“I froze because it was a surprise and I had never seen him before. I liked him a lot. I was very happy and I said ‘hello,'” she told Vatican News.

Zoe was one of about 100 children of Vatican employees attending a summer camp for the month of July.

The children start the day with breakfast in the Paul VI audience hall and, at 9 am July 20, Pope Francis made a surprise visit, walking there alone from his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Salesian Father Franco Fontana, a chaplain at the Vatican overseeing the program, said he had just left to make photocopies when someone told him the pope was heading to the audience hall.

The priest had a car, “so I got there before the pope” to be able to welcome him, he told Vatican News.

“The kids were so stunned they stayed completely silent,” he added.

The pope greeted the children, who were finishing their breakfast, and asked them how they spent their day and if they were happy.

Father Fontana said he was struck by the way the children interacted with the pope, sensing his openness, “simplicity and paternal nature.”

Pope Francis wanted the summer program to support employees with families given the ongoing restrictions and fewer organized summer activities available during the global pandemic.

The summer program, organized by the Salesians and a private association, “Tutti in una Festa,” offered the children activities such as swimming, tennis, basketball, games and walks in the Vatican Gardens, while respecting Italian government protocols and recommendations for preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The pope also greeted each of the 22 camp counselors and posed for a group photo with everyone, before he walked back to his residence.

By Carol Glatz  I  Catholic News Service

St. Peter’s Youth come together to worship and give back

DANBURY—Even during this difficult time, teens at St. Peter Church in Danbury have found ways to safely come together for worship and to give back to their community.

Teens who are a part of St. Peter’s school leadership program (CREW) have been volunteering on Thursdays to help make sandwiches for Dorothy Day House, and on Sundays to help with registration for next year’s classes.

“Even in a pandemic, we can all still lend a helping hand!” says Mike Falbo, director of youth ministry at St. Peter Church.

Every other week, some of St. Peter’s high school and middle school teens participate in a private Mass just for them. Twenty teens are allowed to be present, and some are involved in the liturgy as lectors and ushers.

“A special thank you to the parents for putting their trust in the Lord and bringing their children back to the church, allowing the teens to receive Christ present in the Eucharist. As well as a special thank you to Father Mecca for taking time out of his Sunday to be with us!” Falbo says.

St. Catherine/St. Agnes holds Neighbor-to-Neighbor Food Drive

RIVERSIDE—Due to the huge and growing need, the Social Justice Committee of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes is continuing to help Neighbor to Neighbor by collecting food and other living essentials in a no contact format.

Until further notice, there will be a car or SUV with an open trunk in the parking lot across from St. Catherine’s church on Tuesdays from 9- 11 am. Please drop your bagged grocery donations in the trunk, and we will take them to Neighbor to Neighbor.

Last week, the committee delivered five trunks and back seats full of much-needed items.

Neighbor to Neighbor delivers to 700 households each week.

Food items needed: Peanut Butter and Jelly, Oatmeal Canned Meats (Chicken, Chili, Vienna Sausages, Chef Boyardi Ravioli) Tuna, Canned Fruit Black or red kidney beans (dried or canned), Cereal, Rice, Soup Non-Food Items Needed (which cannot be purchased with food stamps): Brown paper grocery bags, toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, sanitary products, cleaning products, etc.

(For more information visit

We are Called to Lead Authentic Lives

BRIDGEPORT—The Gospel of Matthew challenges us to avoid the great sin of bad example by leading authentic lives, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his homily for the 16 Sunday in Ordinary time.

“Consider in your life and in mine the times when we’ve excused our own bad behavior because of the behavior of the people around us,” the bishop said in his online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel.

“Unfortunately we live in a time when many of us are told that our words don’t matter and our actions can be easily excused because everybody else is doing the same thing,” he said.

The bishop reflected on the parable of wheat and weeds, (Matthew 13:24-43), “Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

He began his homily by noting that the gospel provides “a spiritual lesson” that can help the Church better reach out to young people and encourage all believers to be their best selves.

Noting that he recently participated in a national working group with other bishops and Catholic lay leaders to discuss the results of a three-year conversation with youth and young adults across the country, the bishop said the study found that young people want the Church to listen to them, hear their concerns and bring them into leadership.

He expected those concerns to be brought forward; however, he said what really stayed him was that the youth defined an “authenticity gap” between what the Church teaches and how many of its leaders and laity act.

“Young people are crying out to those around them to live as authentic wheat, so they can distinguish between wheat and weeds,” the bishop said, adding that the young are well aware of the hypocrisy in our churches, families and neighborhoods when we fail to live up to the gospel.

“In their remarks it was echoed and re-echoed how discouraged young people become when a leader does not live our faith, when leadership says one thing and does another. You and I are keenly aware of the failings of leadership in the Church, the harm it has done—and the need for those in leadership now to rebuild that trust with God’s people,” he said.

As people of faith we must work to become “wheat in the midst of weeds” in this world and in doing so help others to lead good lives and find salvation, he said.

“We are called to live an authentic life for our own sake and for the salvation of those around us,” the bishop said, adding that our own sinful behavior becomes an impediment to others finding the path to holiness.

The Bishop said he often finds himself turning off the news and saying, “My God, what kind of world is this.”

He acknowledged that none of us as individuals can change the world, but we can make better decisions and set an example for those around us by not making excuses for ourselves about “the big and little things we do.”

“It is not easy to live an authentic life. There are thousands of challenges of head and heart, but we want to do it or we wouldn’t be here at this liturgy.”

In brief remarks before the final blessing bishop said that people throughout the diocese are now joining together online to say the Rosary twice a week, and that young people are leading the Rosary one evening in every week. He urged all to join in and accompany the young people in an act of spiritual solidarity and affirmation.

To join the bishop and others in the weekly Sunday Rosary, please visit (If you do not have access to a computer but still wish to join, please call 301.715.8592, 845.737.3993, or 312.626.6799, and enter this ID number when prompted: 853 2949 3207 If you call in a few minutes early, you should hear some music until we begin.)

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

Fr. Bernardo Rodriguez, 66

DANBURY– Reverend Bernardo Rodriguez passed away on July 16, 2020. He was 66 years of age.

“Through his work as a hospital chaplain, his service in prison ministry, and his ministry to migrant workers, Father Bernardo reached out in a special way to those who were suffering, and he brought the healing of Christ to all he served. Please pray for the repose of his soul and for the consolation of his family,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Father Bernardo Rodriguez was born in Lleida, Catalonia, Spain, on April 28, 1954. His parents were Eulogio Rodriguez and Patrocinio Chicano. He is survived by a sister, Manoli Rodriguez and a nephew, Josue Martinez Rodriguez.

Father Rodriguez studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical University of Saint Pacian, Barcelona where he received the degree of Master in Pastoral Ministry. He was ordained to the priesthood by the Most Reverend Ramon Malla Call in Lleida, Spain on October 11, 1980.

After his ordination, he first served as Parochial Vicar of Nuestra Senora de! Puig. In 1981, he began work in prison ministry for the first time, serving as the chaplain at the federal jail in Lleida, Spain. In 1986, he continued that work at the National Jail in Panama City, Panama.

Father Rodriguez came to the United States in 1987 where he began work as parochial vicar at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bridgeport. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1989. In 1991, he was transferred to Our Lady of Montserrat in Stamford, serving first as parochial vicar, then as parochial administrator, and lastly as pastor beginning in 1993. He served in that position until 1997. Father Rodriguez then spent a year in ministry to migrant workers in Orange County NY.

He returned to the diocese in 1999 to begin work as Catholic chaplain to Bridgeport Hospital, residing at St. Patrick Church in Bridgeport. Returning to prison ministry in 2001, Father Rodriguez worked in Prison Chaplaincy and Seaport Ministry at Bridgeport Correctional Facility and Garner Prison. His most recent assignment was as Assistant Chaplain at Danbury Hospital and part-time Parochial Vicar of St. Peter Parish in Danbury.

Father Rodriguez’s body will be received at St. Peter Church, Danbury on Wednesday, July 22 at 3:00 p.m. and will lie in repose from 4:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Bishop Caggiano will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Thursday, July 23 at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be private.

Condolences can be sent to Father Rodriguez’s sister, Manoli Rodriguez, care of The Catholic Center, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport CT 06606.

Walking with Purpose Launches “Blaze Belong”

GREENWICH—Walking with Purpose announces BLAZE Belong, a program for middle-school girls to help them counter the lies they face about their worth and beauty with truths found in Scripture. Led by a parent, teacher or other adult, the program appeals to seventh and eighth-grade girls through fun activities and take-home gifts that reinforce a different truth from the Bible in each of the 20 lessons.

BLAZE Belong is a companion course to BLAZE Masterpiece, which was introduced by Walking with Purpose in August of 2018. Since then, BLAZE Masterpiece and Belong have been adopted at hundreds of Catholic parishes and schools throughout the U.S. Dozens of home-based study groups are being organized as well.

Requests from BLAZE Masterpiece leaders for additional instructional materials led to the development of BLAZE Belong. According to Julie Ricciardi, CEO of Walking with Purpose, “When groups finished Masterpiece, they didn’t want the journey to end, so we developed Belong, allowing girls to continue to learn from Scripture and grow closer to God in a unique, loving and engaging way.”

To run a BLAZE Belong program, a leader will need a BLAZE Belong Leader’s Guide as well as one BLAZE Belong Kit for each seventh or eighth-grade girl participant, which can be purchased at​. The BLAZE ministry name was inspired by St. Catherine of Siena who said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Research shows that BLAZE is working to transform the next generation. A 2020 survey of over 150 girls who participated in BLAZE groups throughout the U.S. shows that 86% feel closer to God, and 91% feel better equipped to challenge the lies of our culture after participating in BLAZE.

For over a decade, Walking with Purpose has been publishing Catholic Bible studies for women. Last year alone, over 40,000 women participated in a WWP Bible study, either through a parish-based program or independently.

Says Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Founder and Chief Purpose Officer of Walking with Purpose, “What BLAZE Masterpiece and Belong teach girls is critical at this time in their lives. Tween girls are constantly impacted with negative messaging, especially on social media. But through BLAZE, girls can hear Christ telling them how loved and beautiful they really are.”

Walking with Purpose is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut. Our mission is to help every Catholic woman and girl in America to open her heart to Jesus Christ. Learn more at ​​.

Christ statue beheaded in Catholic statue attacks

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The recent series of attacks on church buildings and property continued Tuesday night, as a statue of Christ was toppled and beheaded at a Miami parish and a statue of Mary was daubed with red paint in Colorado Springs.

Recent weeks have seen a rolling series of acts of vandalism and destruction at Catholic churches across the United States, including arsons, decapitations, and graffiti. But while some of the incidents have been caught on camera, in most cases the perpetrators, and their motivations have yet to be identified.

In response to the most recent attack, the Archbishop of Miami told police that the desecration of the statue of Christ should be treated as an act of hatred for the Church and faith.

“Late Tuesday night, July 14th or early Wednesday morning, July 15th, the statue of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd was desecrated; the head of Jesus was separated from its body,” Mary Ross Agosta, communications director for the Archdiocese of Miami, told CNA.

“The statue was located outside its namesake church, the Archdiocese of Miami’s Good Shepherd Catholic Church, in Southwest Miami-Dade County. The police were notified and Archbishop Thomas Wenski is asking this investigation be treated as a hate crime,” she added.

On Wednesday morning, the statue was discovered knocked over and missing his head. Father Edvaldo DaSilva, the parochial vicar at Good Shepherd Church, told local media that he did not believe the damage could be accidental, as the pedestal’s screws had been tampered with.

“They had some powerful hands to remove it,” Father DaSilva told WSVN of Miami. “Seeing what is happening in our country, I presume [it was deliberate], but we don’t have 100% assurance.”

Father DaSilva said that he is praying for whoever desecrated the statue.

“As a Christian community, we pray for those that have done this, that the Lord may forgive them and grant them the gift of conversion,” he said.

Surveillance cameras from the parish are being examined to see if they caught the vandalism on tape.

The area around the statute’s former pedestal now features a sign put up by parishioners reading “GOD wins over evil.”

Also overnight on Tuesday, a statue of the Blessed Virgin at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Colorado Springs was tagged with red paint in an act of vandalism. The vandal or vandals colored the statue’s cross, and also appeared to paint the statue’s toenails.

Father David Price, rector at the cathedral, told local media that the damage “looks more like a graffiti tag than anything else,” and added that the vandal wrote the word “redrum” on the base of the statue.

“Redrum,” which is “murder” backwards, is a reference to the 1977 Stephen King novel “The Shining.”

Father Price said that the statue had been vandalized before, and was cleaned off by the city.

The incidents Tuesday follow a weekend of similar acts.

In Tennessee, a statue of the Blessed Mother was decapitated in the early hours of Saturday morning, while, in Boston, a statue of Mary was set on fire, and in Brooklyn, a statue of her was tagged with the word “IDOL” in black spray paint.

On the same weekend, a parish in Ocala, Florida and a 249-year-old California mission founded by St. Junipero Serra were burned in fires. A man has been charged with arson in the Florida fire, and the California fire is being investigated as a case of arson.

In recent weeks, Catholic religious statues in California, Missouri, and other places have been toppled or vandalized by protestors including several of St. Juniperio Serra.

While some attacks on statues, most notably in California, have been committed in public by large groups with clear political affiliations, the perpetrators of other acts, including those against the images of the Virgin Mary and Christ, have not been identified.

By Christine Rousselle