What Father Tolton might say about racial injustices

CHICAGO—Father Augustus Tolton, the first identified Black priest ordained for the United States, would likely be disappointed by what he sees going on in the United States today, said Father David Jones, pastor of St. Benedict the African Parish in Chicago.

“I think ‘disappointed’ is a key word. I think people can understand that and it helps to tie into the frustration that Black people are feeling and always experiencing.” Father Jones said.

The Archdiocese of Chicago opened Father Tolton’s cause for canonization in 2010, and Pope Francis declared him “venerable” in June 2019, after a theological commission has unanimously recognized his “virtuous and heroic life.” Two steps of the process remain—beatification and canonization. In general each step requires confirmation of a miracle attributed to the sainthood candidate’s intercession.

As the first Black priest ordained for the United States, Father Tolton struggled against rampant racism in the years following the Civil War but was known for bringing people of all races together. For that, he was persecuted by his brother priests and people in the white community of Quincy, Illinois.

The priest, also known as Augustine, was born into slavery in 1854 and died in 1897 at age 43. He was denied access to seminaries in the United States after repeated requests, so he pursued his education in Rome at what is now the Pontifical Urbaniana University.

In many ways, the unity Father Tolton worked for is still out of reach in the church and society, Father Jones told the Chicago Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

“We sit in churches on Sundays and we’re OK with how segregated we are in church,” he said. “That shouldn’t be. We shouldn’t be OK.”

The priest pointed out some basic steps that could be done to address this problem, starting with liturgical music.

“You know we have very little in our Catholic resource of liturgical music for pastoral purposes that comes from African American composers. So, we always, from this part of the world, have to go the Protestant community to get music and fit it into a Catholic liturgy,” Father Jones said, before adding: “We can do better than that.”

Father Tolton’s example of welcoming people of all races to Mass also makes sense to Father Jones, who acknowledges the church still has work to do in this area.

He said even now “there are still lots of (Black) folks who are Catholic who tell you the stories about what was said to them when they tried to go to Mass at a certain parish.”

Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph N. Perry, postulator of Father Tolton’s canonization cause, believes Father Tolton can be an example for people during this time of racial division.

“In him, I think we see a priest-pioneer of reconciliation,” Bishop Perry said. “We hope that he looks down upon us and sees this as a wounded country from his place amongst the saints and angels. I think this is where we can plead for mercy and holy assistance from him in this time of racial crisis.”

The bishop also said the saint is an example for what it means to be a Catholic.

“He really had a love for the Catholic Church. He believed that the Catholic Church had the means, really, to unite people of every race and give everybody the dignity that’s due everyone,” he said. “His own pastoral practice drew men and women of whatever skin tone together under one roof and that’s what got him into trouble down in Quincy.”

Bishop Perry said one area where the church could effect change is “spatial racism,” which relegates poor people of color to living in certain neighborhoods.

“Chicago is known to be one of the most segregated cities in the country. We’re playing this racial hopscotch all the time, where as soon as Blacks or Hispanics move in, whites move out. And it never stops,” he said. “Are we saying enough in our pulpits about it? Are we saying enough in our religious education programs with young people?”

The law says people have to work and live together equally, but at the end of the day everyone goes home to their racially segregated neighborhoods, he said.

“Even our Sunday worship is divided,” he said. “This whole experience of single-racial parishes we should understand is really kind of abnormal. They don’t echo the Pentecost event, which started the church to begin with.”

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and they were able to preach in the various languages of people gathered in Jerusalem, people who looked different from one another. They were all united around Christ.

“You’d think for all of our education, our own social awareness and for all of the ease of communications that we have, that some of these boundaries and borders between us and amongst us would have been erased,” Bishop Perry said. “But it seems to have stirred more fear of people toward one another, unfortunately.”

Valerie Jennings, an archdiocesan parish vitality coordinator, said she has experienced that fear all of her life as a Black woman in Chicago.

She spoke of a recent encounter with a white woman while she and her husband were walking their dog in the largely white affluent suburb where she lives. Jennings was a safe distance away from the woman but when the woman saw her and her dog, the woman yelled at her to keep her dog away and shouted: “You people, what are you doing here?”

It’s an encounter that still puzzles and troubles her. Jennings also talked of experiences attending Mass at white parishes as the only Black person in the congregation.

“You try to say good morning and they just give you this look. I don’t know what they are thinking. It’s very unwelcoming,” she said. “I can see how these single-race parishes came to be because white people didn’t want us around them. When I think of what happened to Father Tolton in Quincy, they did not want him anywhere around them. He was basically chased away.”

Jennings said Father Tolton would be wondering why more hasn’t been done to embrace people of all races since his time.

“We have an opportunity right now to change the narrative and the experience of Father Tolton,” she said, adding: “I see more universality in the marches going on right now than I see on Sunday morning.”

She also thinks the priest on the path to sainthood might also see the positive aspect of the peaceful protests for racial justice. “I’m hoping that Father Tolton is clapping his hands and jumping for joy saying, ‘See my people and not just Black people—but see my people.'”

By Joyce Duriga  I  Catholic News Service


Father Paul F. Merry, 73

DANBURY—Reverend Paul F. Merry passed away on the morning of July 15, 2020. He was 73 years of age.

“Father Merry is fondly remembered by many across the diocese as a kind and humble man and a true servant priest who worked tirelessly and gave of himself sacrificially in his ministry to others. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Father Merry and for the consolation of his family,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Most recently Father Merry had served as Chaplin of Saint John Paul II Center for Health Care, Danbury, and In-Residence Priest at St. Peter Church in Danbury.

Paul Francis Merry was born in Stamford, Connecticut, on December 20, 1946, son of Francis and Mary (Tierney) Merry. He was baptized January 12, 1947, at St. Cecilia Church in Stamford, CT.

He attended St. Mary Grammar School, Stamford and St. Basil Preparatory School, also in Stamford.

Father Merry began his priestly formation at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield CT, continued at St. John Seminary and completed his theological studies at the North American College in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend James A. Hickey at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City on December 17, 1971.

He first served as Parochial Vicar of St. James Church in Stratford (1972-1976). In June 1976, he was appointed as the Priest Chaplain to Sacred Heart University. During this time, he resided at St. Andrew Church in Bridgeport and St. Stephen Church in Trumbull. From 1982 to 1985, he served as pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Chiclayo, Peru.

Returning to the diocese in 1985, Father Merry was assigned as parochial vicar at St. Mary Church in Bridgeport. He was named pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport in 1989. Since 2007, Father Merry has served as the chaplain at Pope John Paul II Care and Rehab Center, residing at St. Peter in Danbury.

Throughout his years of priestly ministry in the Diocese, Father Merry also served on the Presbyteral Council, as Auditor Notary for the Marriage Tribunal, the Diocesan Advisor to the English Language Cursillos.

Father Merry’s body will be received at St. Peter Church, Danbury on Monday, July 20 at 3:30 pm for a private prayer service for the family and will lie in repose from 4 pm until 7 pm

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, July 21 at 11 am, and Father Michael Boccaccio will be the homilist.

Survey reveals how pandemic has shaken parish life

CLEVELAND—Nearly every bishop responding to a survey said the coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected the celebration of the sacraments and rites and sacramental preparation programs in their dioceses.

Confirmations, first Communions, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and other sacramental preparation were the ministries most often cited by the bishops as being affected, according to the survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In addition, six out of 10 bishops said that since March when restrictions on ministry and Mass attendance were put in place, the morale of priests, lay ecclesial ministers, deacons and chancery staff has been at least somewhat affected, according to the findings released July 9.

Titled “Ministry in the Midst of Pandemic,” the survey asked bishops about six areas of concern that have arisen in dioceses since the pandemic caused public Masses to be suspended and the celebration of sacraments to be restricted or postponed.

The questions focused on the pandemic’s effect on dioceses; special pastoral provisions issued by dioceses; financial concerns raised by the pandemic; actions to address a diocese’s financial health; the pandemic effect’s on parish assessments; and diocesan technological assistance to schools and parishes.

CARA staff members mailed the survey to bishops in 177 archdioceses and dioceses and 20 eparchies May 18 and followed up with a mailing June 8 to those who did not respond. Overall, 116 bishops, 59%, had responded by the release of the report. About 60% of diocesan bishops responded and about 50% of eparchial bishops responded, the report’s authors said.

CARA officials said the results of the survey were likely affected by whether a bishop responded while his diocese or eparchy was in total lockdown or as restrictions began to be lifted.

When it came to specific sacraments, 99% of bishops said confirmation had been very much or somewhat affected; 99% said that about first Communion; 92%, about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process; and 94%, about other sacramental preparation programs.

Similar numbers of respondents said the celebration of marriages (98%), baptisms (91%) and funerals (93%) also had been at least somewhat affected.

In addition, the survey found the morale of church staff members has been very much or somewhat affected. Sixty percent of bishops said their morale had been affected. Higher numbers of respondents said the morale of lay ecclesial ministers (71%), priests (68%), chancery staff (67%) and deacons (62%) had been affected.

Meanwhile, 54% of bishops said the ability of Catholic Charities to serve people in need had been impacted as well.

Jonathan Wiggins, director of parish surveys at CARA, told Catholic News Service the survey offers an early look at how the pandemic is affecting church life.

“What really strikes me is that this is so much a work in progress because parishes are not back up to any kind of normalcy in terms of Mass attendance, sacraments, giving or anything that would characterize regular Catholic life,” Wiggins said.

“This is just a couple months in and we don’t know what the long-term effects will be on dioceses and parishes,” he added.

A similar survey of parish pastors by CARA researchers is underway, Wiggins added.

The survey of bishops offered them the opportunity to provide brief written answers to questions about pastoral provisions they may have implemented, such as the dispensation to attend weekly Mass, instructions on the celebration of the sacraments such as baptism and marriage, and directives to comply with state and local government orders.

Those responses were not quantified in the CARA report. But it included comments from bishops describing the steps they took as the pandemic led to massive church, school and business lockdowns in March and then eased in May and June.

Some bishops said they offered updates as often as weekly with regard to liturgies, finances, how parishioners can contribute to their parish during closures, and how parishes could reopen for public Masses and reception of the sacraments.

Responding bishops said they instructed parishes to follow state guidelines when public Masses resumed and stressed the importance of practicing social distancing and celebrating Mass in open spaces such as parking lots.

Regarding finances, bishops said they were concerned that the loss of income from Sunday collections would have a devastating impact on parishes. They also said they worried about the effect of increased unemployment on parishioners and the impact on family life.

With the revenue losses, some bishops said that parish and diocesan staffs may have to be reduced.

To help parishes manage finances, dioceses have offered assistance in a variety of ways.

Ninety-five percent of bishops said their diocese had helped parishes apply for federal or state assistance programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. Other steps taken by dioceses include encouraging parishioners to consider electronic giving for parish collections (87%); closing Catholic elementary schools (20%) or high schools (14%); laying off diocesan staff (17%); furloughing diocesan staff (16%); eliminating diocesan programs (15%); closing parishes (3%).

Another concern bishops expressed focused on whether people will return to Sunday Mass after a long absence. They said without the return of parishioners, the financial outlook for church entities was grim.

Bishops said they expect their diocese to realize long-term economic consequences, especially if annual collections to support various ministries are not taken. One bishop wrote that “we might have to let employees go. Won’t be able to carry out the vision of the new evangelization and catechesis including faith formation programs.”

The financial solvency of Catholic schools also was on the minds of bishops. Some respondents said they feared that high unemployment would result in parents who could no longer be able to afford school tuition, causing enrollment to drop and leading to school closings.

Such closings already are occurring, according to the National Catholic Educational Association, with more than 100 schools having announced they have closed since the end of the academic year in the spring.

A significant majority of dioceses also stepped up to offer technological assistance to help parishes livestream Mass and to enable schools to transition to online learning in a short timeframe.

Six in 10 bishops, 62%, said their diocese was very much involved in helping parishes with Masses online while another 22% said they were somewhat involved. Ten percent said they helped a little and 6% said they did not help.

Schools received plenty of support in their transition to online learning as 79% of bishops responded that their dioceses helped very much. Only 12% helped somewhat, 4% a little and 5% not at all.

Technology also allowed bishops to remain in contact with their diocesan staffs as they arranged virtual meetings and shared communication online. One bishop said he recorded videos of support for hospital workers and another video for laypeople on the delay in receiving of sacraments.

by Dennis Sadowski  I  Catholic News Service

Band of Religious Sisters Evangelize through music during pandemic

NEW YORK—In 2014, seven nuns from the Servants of the Plan of God formed a band called “Siervas,” and have been using their musical talents as a tool for service and evangelization.

Representing the countries of Chile, Japan, Peru, China and Costa Rica, the sisters won’t let the coronavirus pandemic put a damper on their spirits or their instruments. They’ve spread their message of faith, joy and hope, despite social distancing. During the quarantine period, they recorded different “coronavirus versions” of some of their most popular songs.

“Well, we’ve been composing new songs during this time,” said Sister Paula Soto, who plays the drums. “We’re also working on a new musical project. We’re waiting for God to provide everything so we can return to giving concerts. We especially can’t wait to share with people, which is what really makes us happy.”

Click here to listen

Pope sends respirator to Brazilian hospital

VATICAN CITY—Brazilian Bishop Vital Corbellini of Maraba expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis after receiving a much-needed respirator and temperature gauge for a hospital treating indigenous patients with COVID-19.

The diocese said the respirator, delivered to the Campanha de Maraba Hospital July 12 by the apostolic nunciature in Brazil, was one of four sent by the pope to Brazil, which has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

“We thank the pope and the nuncio with all our hearts. We hope these supplies will help many people to save their lives,” Bishop Corbellini said in a video posted July 13 on the diocesan website.

The supplies, he said in a statement released by the diocese, are greatly needed at the hospital, which has a separate wing that treats indigenous men, women and children.

“We know the affection that Pope Francis has for the Amazon, especially because—in this pandemic — the indigenous peoples are the most vulnerable,” he said.

In an interview with Vatican News July 13, Bishop Corbellini said the donation “was a beautiful charitable action of Pope Francis through the apostolic nunciature.”

“We ask that it be used especially for the indigenous peoples because they are the most in need,” he said.

According to Worldometer, a statistical site monitoring the pandemic, as of July 15, there were an estimated 1.9 million people infected by COVID-19 in Brazil, resulting in the deaths of more than 74,000 people.

Despite the vulnerability indigenous communities face amid the pandemic, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a law July 8 that would have provided them with supplies and hospital beds.

However, following a petition filed with the Brazilian Supreme Court by an indigenous rights group, a judge ruled that the government “must adopt a series of measures to contain the contagion and mortality of COVID-19 among the indigenous population.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service


Fairfield Concerned Citizens to Hold 15th Social Distancing Food Drive for COVID-19 Recovery

FAIRFIELD—A group of Fairfield concerned citizens who started weekly community food drives in March will hold their 15th food drive on Saturday, July 18 from 10 am to noon in front of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, 1583 Post Rd in downtown Fairfield.

Fairfield residents Helene Daly, Heather Dubrosky and Alexis Harrison started the weekly community food drives in response to the overwhelming demand that local food pantries and agencies were beginning to experience following COVID-19. Operation Hope is now serving 35% more families which is expected throughout the summer and into the fall. Even with many individuals beginning to return to work and with businesses reopening, families and individuals throughout Fairfield are still experiencing hardships and new financial circumstances.

“Vulnerable members of our community who were most affected by COVID-19 continue to face challenges and needs including providing food and meals to their families,” said Harrison. “Fairfield continues to rise to the challenge of helping others which has been humbling to witness, and it inspires us to keep moving forward with our food drives.”

Items that will be collected this week include cash donations, grocery gift cards, shelf-stable milk, canned vegetables (green beans, peas, corn & carrots), canned tomatoes (diced, crushed, sauce, 14oz cans preferable), canned chili & stew, crackers, pasta side dishes, cleaning products, Lysol spray, Paper towels, Ramen noodles packets, dried potatoes, macaroni and cheese, condiments (ketchup, mustard, mayo, salad dressing), pasta sauce, canned fruit, jelly and stuffing.

(To donate to Operation Hope online, go to:

St. Joseph H.S. Holds Blessing and Conferral of Diplomas Ceremony

TRUMBULL—St. Joseph High School, Connecticut’s largest Catholic college preparatory school, conferred diplomas upon 213 students on Saturday, July 11, 2020. The Class of 2020 achieved a 100% college acceptance rate, with 99% going on to four-year schools, and earned for themselves over 25 million dollars in scholarships and tuition assistance.

The Blessing and Conferral of Diplomas was held at Dalling Field on the school’s campus. Parents were confined to their cars, while the graduates were socially distanced in masks on the lower field, in conformance with the CDC and State of Connecticut guidelines. During the ceremony, pre-recorded videos from Ms. Vicki A. Tesoro, First Selectman of the Town of Trumbull and Mr. Christopher Wilson, Chairman of the Board of St. Joseph High School, offered their congratulations and best wishes to the Class of 2020.

Salutatorian, Katherine Pikulik, (New York University) opened the ceremonies with warm words of encouragement and Valedictorian, Mari Andrzejewski, (University of Pennsylvania) sent off her peers, challenging them to face the future with courage and resolve.

“When we say that we can come home to Joe, we mean it,” remarked Mari Andrzejewski. “We have a family. We carry on. And our class, especially, will be united in a way like never before. I hope that we can all find a silver lining in this very unique experience.”

“Your graduation is not like any other. But then the Class of 2020 is unlike any other,” remarked recently retired Head of School, Dr. William Fitzgerald during his speech. “Ironically, in February, we were talking about how to get the iPhones out of your hands. Today, we are looking to you—the social media generation—to understand what continuous learning is all about. This spring has showed us, that in many ways, this is already your world and we are just catching up.”

Master of Ceremonies, Principal Nancy DiBuono, added that, “We couldn’t be prouder of our students, especially given the circumstance with which they had to contend. Their hard work and commitment has reaped amazing recognition. This class will lead well beyond 2020.”

“It was a blessing for the St. Joes Class of 2020 to be able to reunite in faith and fellowship on this beautiful summer morning,” added Mr. David Klein, the school’s current Head of School.

St. Joseph High School is an independent, co-ed, Catholic college preparatory school that enrolls over 800 young women and men. It is situated on 57 landscaped acres in the Town of Trumbull, and recently added a Wetlands and Nature Boardwalk, a brand new Health & Wellness Center, and this fall, a complete renovation of the legendary Vito Montelli Court and Gymnasium. It is a school committed to Growing into Great every day.

For additional photos of St. Joseph High School’s ceremony, visit

Seeds of Spiritual Healing

BRIDGEPORT—Summer is a good time for followers of Christ to look in the mirror, examine their conscience and assess the state of their spirituality, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his homily during the Mass for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop said that hearing the parable of the “sower and the seed” (Matthew 13: 1-23) when summer gardens are at their height should lead us to ask if we are receptive to the seed planted by God in our own lives.

“In His grace and power, He seeks a place in your life and mine —in the seed bed of your heart, mind, and will. He wishes for us to be healed, to be set free, and to be sent on a journey to everlasting glory.”

The bishop said that the gospel written for an agrarian society equally challenges us to ask the question, “What part of your life or seedbed of mind and heart has not yet fully received the gift of the Lord Jesus?”

Discussing the pitfalls that prevent spiritual seed from growing and bearing fruit in our lives, the bishop said that in the gospel the seed that spills on the path and is eaten by birds is a reminder that we must prepare ourselves to receive the word by “spending time in the presence of the Lord through scripture and prayer.”

“Do we truly understand what a gift it is, and what it promises us? How many times in neglect and laziness have we not spent time in the presence of Christ, so he can be our teacher?”

The seed falling on rocky ground, which is initially received with joy but doesn’t take, is an analogy of the human heart, the bishop said.

Many of us accept the Lord joyfully when things are going good, but “when suffering and tribulation come, when our hearts are broken, troubled and disappointed, we turn away. Yet that’s the time we need to walk further with the Lord…because his spirit and his life can bring healing,” he said.

The seed that falls upon thorns represents our worldly anxieties and desires that often “choke the seed so it cannot bear fruit.”

Those who would follow the Lord need to persevere and to not be lured by possessions, fame, and power, or other things that don’t last, the bishop said.

“They are not important. Only Christ lasts. Yet how many times have we chosen not to make Christ the centerpiece of our life?” he asked.

The bishop concluded his homily by noting that none of us is fully prepared to receive the Lord.

“We all need conversion and change. That’s why we come to the Eucharist. Let us never forget in the tumult and distraction of modern life that the Word has come to us to heal and to bring us home to eternal life.”

Before giving his final blessing the bishop said that he prayed for all the faithful of the diocese and their families, and asked them to pray for him in his ministry as together we “traverse the unknown world of the pandemic.”

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

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.

Bishop announces “Conversation on Race” webinar series

BRIDGEPORT– As the first step in the diocesan response to root out the sin of racism and bigotry wherever it may be found, the diocesan Leadership Institute will sponsor a weekly webinar, starting on Thursday July 30th at 1:00 PM and again at 7:00 PM.

The webinar is designed to inform those who attend about the sin of racism and the Church’s teaching regarding it; the many forms that racism and bigotry can take; its history in our society; and the personal, economic and social consequences that racism has had on the lives of generations of people.

“Without proper knowledge, effective and thoughtful action is not possible. For this reason, I invite all to join in these “Conversations on Race” as we begin to respond in faith to this most important issue,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

Online registration is available at

Download the printable flyer

Diocese Releases Schools Re-Opening Plan

BRIDGEPORT– Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport, issued the Re-Opening Plan to parents, students, faculty on Thursday July 9.

“As we look toward the 2020 – 2021 school year, we face obvious challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Re-Opening document contains some of the guidelines that we will follow so that, working together, we can meet those challenges,” said Dr. Cheeseman.

“As we wait with great anticipation to see how this pandemic will play itself out over the next few months, we are left with many unanswered questions. What is abundantly clear, however, is that our students need to return to the classroom in the fall.“

The theme of the plan is “We Face it together,” and the document focuses on faith, Academic, Community, and Empowerment. It covers a wide range of topics related to returning to school including the use of face coverings, physical distancing, sudden closures if necessary, temporary home instruction, and resources for students, parents, faculty and staff.

In addition to the printed plan, which can be downloaded online, the Superintendent also sent a video message to parents and members of the school community.

“We appreciate your patience as we worked diligently to finalize this document. These guidelines were created with every student, parent, faculty and staff member in mind. It is expected that these guidelines will need to adjust as time goes by and conditions change,” he said, of the 14-page document.

Dr. Cheeseman said the plan recognizes the need for students to attend school in-person to the degree that health conditions allow.

“As such, we have developed plans to increase the safety of everyone in our schools by changing how we use our space and implementing new practices that allow for personalized learning during times of pandemic,” he said.

Every Catholic school within the diocese has considered the new guidelines and will be expected to implement them based on feasibility, limitations of their setting, and student and teacher needs, he said.

In May, we created a preschool and a k-12 task force group of school and diocesan teachers and leaders who, informed by parent and teacher focus groups and interviews, have created a plan to ensure that our schools are prepared to welcome students back in the fall.

The task force had as its primary focus the safe return of students to a full five-day schedule of in-person instruction, while also planning for the possibility of having to make a fluid transition to a more robust distance learning plan. Additionally, the groups worked on the creation of a hybrid model for students who either can not immediately return to school in the fall or who may have to learn at home temporarily at some point in the year.

Dr. Cheeseman said the schools office will modify as necessary and as it is updated, the new version will be posted on the schools website.

Diocese names new Chief Development Officer

BRIDGEPORT—Joseph Gallagher of Armonk, New York, has been named chief development officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The appointment was made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, effective June 8, 2020.

Gallagher will be responsible for major gifts and planned giving programs and coordinating development and advancement efforts in the Diocese of Bridgeport including the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) and the completion of the We Stand With Christ capital campaign.

“Joseph Gallagher brings extensive experience in development and marketing in both the corporate and non-profit sectors along with an understanding of the role of faith in our society, especially when it is put into action to serve others,” said Bishop Caggiano. “We welcome his seasoned leadership as the diocese moves forward in its work of renewal and evangelization.”

The diocese is currently in the redemption phase of its successful $75 million capital campaign, which has funded the development of major Foundations in Faith, Education and Charity to address long-term needs. It also manages the Annual Catholic Appeal, which funds the major programs and ministries provided by the diocese each year.

“The faithful of the diocese have shown extraordinary generosity and a willingness to invest in the mission of the Church and in the future of our young people,” said Bishop Caggiano. “The stewardship of our resources requires the ability to develop an overall development plan and communications strategy that will advance all giving opportunities, and we believe Joseph Gallagher will provide direction and innovation as we go forward.”

Joseph Gallagher comes to the diocese from Manhattan College, where he has served as major gifts officer/advancement and as member of the capital campaign team since 2017.

Prior to joining the development field, Gallagher worked in the media business for thirty years in sales and marketing positions. Among his previous positions, he served as senior vice president of sales strategy & planning for Disney’s ABC Family Cable Network.

In the past he served as vice president, national sales for NBC Sports Regional Networks for NBC UNIVERSAL, where he managed national sales for eight sports networks. He also worked as General Manager of Ad Sales REELZCHANNEL, New York.

Gallagher made the transition from marketing to development in the not for profit sector in 2015, when he was named director of philanthropy for Carver Foundation. The Norwalk-based foundation raises revenue to operate after-school programs for more than a thousand students in unique partnership with the Norwalk Public Schools.

A native of Crestwood, N.Y., where he and his family were members of Annunciation Parish, he attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School of Communications and is completing work on a master’s of science, Manhattan College, School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Among his volunteer commitments he has been elected to Board of Fire Commissioners, North Castle Fire District Number 2, a post he has held since 2017. He has served on the board of the Easter Soccer Foundation in Greenwich and as a member of the development committee of Archbishop Stepinac High School. He also coaches youth sports, soccer and basketball and has run the New York Marathon twice.

Joseph Gallagher and his wife Julie have been married for thirty-three years and have four adult children. They are active members of St. Patrick’s Parish in Armonk, where he has been involved in development efforts for the parish and helped run the Teen Life group for ten years.

The Diocese of Bridgeport is comprised of 78 parishes located in cities and towns throughout Fairfield County. It includes 410,000 Catholics and serves people of all faiths through its schools, charities, and pastoral care programs.

(For information on its development programs and giving opportunities, visit

Trinity Catholic High School Graduates 84 Students

STAMFORD—Trinity Catholic High School in Stamford will hold its 60th graduation ceremony on Thursday, July 16 at 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm on the school’s front parking lot under a tent. The school is holding two ceremonies in order to comply with the governor’s directive that in-person graduation crowd sizes cannot exceed 150 people.

This 60th graduation ceremony will be historic since it is Trinity’s final graduation. Trinity Catholic opened its doors in 1958 as Stamford Catholic High School and the first graduating class was in 1960. In the fall of 1991, Stamford Catholic merged with Central Catholic and St. Mary’s becoming Trinity Catholic High School. The Class of 2020 will be Trinity’s last graduating class.

The Class of 2020 is comprised of 84 graduates, representing Stamford and its surrounding towns, as well as international students from China.

The Valedictorian of the class is Fiona Willette from Stamford. The Salutatorian is Margaret Carlon, also from Stamford.

The exact amount of college scholarships and grants received by the class will be announced at the graduation ceremony.

The media is invited to attend the graduation ceremonies. Please arrange in advance with Jen Hanley at or Betsy Mercede at 203.322.3401 x106

The forgotten value of suffering

I’ve never been a person who could endure suffering without complaining. Even a little suffering. I wish I could learn from saints like Padre Pio, who lived with the stigmata for 50 years, or Therese of Lisieux, who died at 24 from tuberculosis after terrible suffering.

Or the 14-year-old martyr St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, who defied the Mexican military with the cry of “Viva Christo Rey!” as they led him to his death. Or St. Josephine Bakhita, a religious sister who had been kidnapped from Sudan at 7 years old and was sold into slavery. I look at their lives and realize that kind of strength could only come from Christ.

We’ll all suffer in this life. No one is exempt. It’s part of the human experience, a result of original sin and living in an imperfect world. Suffering leads some people to anger and others to despair. Suffering leads many to atheism, and a privileged few to a deeper understanding of Christ’s Passion.

Suffering is a mystery we’ll never fully grasp in this life; however, it’s a spiritual certainty that our suffering offered to God can do miraculous things. I first encountered that idea a long time ago, not in my college theology classes but in my fourth-grade catechism lessons with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Shelton.

“Offer your suffering to Jesus, and he’ll do amazing things with it,” Sister told us young Catholics. “If you scrape your knee, offer it up. If you have a stomach ache, offer it up,” she said. It may sound juvenile, but Sister taught us that our little sufferings when united with Christ’s Passion would do wonderful things for people who needed help. Years later, I realize she was right.

Back then, I wasn’t sure what the “amazing things” could possibly be, and even now I sometimes wonder, although I’m certain I’ll find out in the next life and never regret offering up my pains, sorrows and trials. I’ll probably wish I’d done more for Jesus.

That doesn’t mean I welcome suffering. I dread it, especially when the pain has been excruciating, like that case of shingles or those kidney stones. My first words weren’t “I offer it up,” but rather a desperate plea something like, “Get rid of this pain PLEASE because I can’t take it!”

The coronavirus pandemic has been a time of suffering for many people, who faced illness, anxiety, loneliness, abandonment, or dying without their loved ones.

You don’t have to look far to see the face of suffering in the world. One of my friends spends the day in pain and he’s not even sure of the cause. Another cares for a child with cancer. Another is carrying the cross of addiction. Another is living with someone else’s addiction. Another is a caregiver for a spouse with chronic illness. Another lost her job and is facing eviction.

My mother did her share of suffering. She had cancer and eventually developed Alzheimer’s. What set her apart was she never complained. I’m convinced her suffering helped bring down a lot graces for family members and friends who might otherwise never have known Christ.

When I look at the picture of the Little Flower on my bureau and recall her short life, I ask for only a fraction of the strength she had. That strength, of course, came from Jesus, who though divine took the form of a man and shared our suffering … and embraced it so we could have eternal life.

Our only hope lies in Christ. Sometimes he shares his cross with us, and sometimes we share our cross with him. Years after Sister told us about the redemptive value of suffering, I read St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, in which he said, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church…”

Such a curious concept, such a wonderful concept that another person’s conversion or salvation can be made possible through our willingness to carry a cross.

There’s only one place to go when your life is afflicted with pain, emotional or physical. Sit in front of the tabernacle. Words aren’t even necessary. Jesus understands everything. And always remember to turn to Our Lady of Sorrows, who endured suffering in a way we never will and who is always there to comfort us.

Ad hoc committee against racism holds first virtual meeting

BRIDGEPORT—On a late June afternoon, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano gathered virtually with the diocesan appointed ad hoc committee against racism for their first meeting.

This committee was established as a response to the call for change in our communities. The committee includes clergy and religious, as well as lay men and women who will develop a strategic vision and practical steps for the diocesan response to sin of racism.

“I am very grateful for your willingness to come together to address this particular moment of opportunity and grace in our midst,” said the bishop. “It is an opportunity to take a tragedy and make it a real opportunity for long-term change.”

Committee members expressed their optimism about the work that could be done. “It is my hope that the diocese will be a more just place—a place that welcomes everyone and allows opportunity to everyone, especially to come and know the Lord,” the bishop said.

The bishop began by updating the group that Foundations in Faith has secured upwards of $40,000 for any initiatives that may come out of the committee. Bishop Caggiano also announced that he has been appointed to the USCCB’s ad hoc committee against racism, which would make for a good opportunity to share resources and ideas amongst the groups.

It was discussed that The Leadership Institute will host several webinars this summer to advance the conversation about racism, cultural diversity and how simply by listening to one another, we can begin to affect change.

The webinars, which will feature experts from the field of academia and ministry, will begin on July 30, and continue every Thursday at 1 pm until September 3.

Topics include:

  • Race and the Catholic Church
  • Race and Catholic Social Teaching
  • How to have a conversation about race
  • Beyond Black: Race and Multiculturalism
  • Growing in Awareness and Knowledge
  • Teaching Peace

A preliminary video will be introduced featuring Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima and episcopal vicar for the Apostolate of African American Catholics. The webinars will be recorded and archived for the benefit of everyone throughout the diocese.

For complete details on the webinars and to register, please visit The Leadership Institute’s website at

The committee discussed how these webinars could be a great opportunity to drive interest to different apostolates, such as the Apostolate of African American Catholics, that some may not know much about.
The hope is that these webinars will provide opportunities for those of other languages to have similar conversations in their own language.

Committee members expressed their desire to create interfaith dialogue and ecumenism within our communities.

“We need to find ways that communities that exemplify our diversity are being heard—how do we find a vehicle that allows us to create unity?” a committee member questioned.

Another goal of the committee is to invite youth to have a role in the and to make sure principals and schools are equipped with the resources they need.

“We have an opportunity to bring people to ever-more conversion,” said the bishop.

Committee members discussed the great diversity within our diocese and the importance that all communities feel represented. “A mile in this diocese can be like 1,000 miles, to see how communities can sit side-by-side and not even interact,” the bishop said.

“We need to examine honestly and thoughtfully the institutions – how we operate, how we spend our money so that the institution itself changes,” he said.

“At the end of the day racism is a life issue,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership institute and facilitator of the ad hoc committee. “We need to look at it as part of the whole of Catholic social teaching.”

USCCB Chairmen Welcome Supreme Court Decision

WASHINGTON—The Little Sisters of the Poor recently went to the Supreme Court of the United States again to defend their community against attempts to force Catholic religious to cooperate with immoral activities, and again, the Supreme Court has recognized their right to religious freedom. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled in favor of the Little Sisters.

Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee for Religious Liberty, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, have issued a statement addressing the case:

“This is a saga that did not need to occur. Contraception is not health care, and the government should never have mandated that employers provide it in the first place. Yet even after it had, there were multiple opportunities for government officials to do the right thing and exempt conscientious objectors. Time after time, administrators and attorneys refused to respect the rights of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Catholic faith they exemplify, to operate in accordance with the truth about sex and the human person. Even after the federal government expanded religious exemptions to the HHS contraceptive mandate, Pennsylvania and other states chose to continue this attack on conscience.

“The Little Sisters of the Poor is an international congregation that is committed to building a culture of life. They care for the elderly poor. They uphold human dignity. They follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. The government has no right to force a religious order to cooperate with evil. We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision. We hope it brings a close to this episode of government discrimination against people of faith. Yet, considering the efforts we have seen to force compliance with this mandate, we must continue to be vigilant for religious freedom.”

The USCCB filed amicus curiae briefs supporting these religious institutions. The briefs can be found here: