Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

St. Catherine to hold hat, coat & sweater drive this weekend

TRUMBULL—The Social Justice and Charitable Outreach committee at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull will be hosting a hat, coat and sweater drive this weekend.

There are five ways to donate:

  1. Contact-free drive through: Sat., Oct 17, from 9 am-12 noon, & Sun., Oct 18, from 11 am-12 noon at the McClinch Family Center
  2. At All Masses: Oct 17 & 18
  3. At St. Catherine of Siena School: Fri., Oct 16 AM drop off & PM pick up at the McClinch Family Center
  4. Religious Education classes: Tue., Oct 13, Wed., Oct 14 & Sun., Oct 18 during Rel Ed Classes at the McClinch Family Center
  5. Financial contributions are also welcome!

Please join the parish in supporting their annual hat, coat and sweater drive that will provide warmth and clothing for families in need at Blessed Sacrament Church and Thomas Merton House in Bridgeport. The group are collecting hats, winter coats, sweaters, gloves and scarves for men, women and children. They request that all items be in new or good condition (please, no rips, stains or soiled items), in order to respect the dignity of those individuals who will be receiving gifts. All donations are appreciated! Please, no summer clothing. Thank you in advance for your generosity!

(For more information contact Salvatore Spadaccino, Coordinator for Social Justice and Charitable Outreach at Caritas@stcatherinetrumbull.com.)

This is the Church’s love in action

Bishop No Comments
My friends, as you know, I have the honor and privilege to serve as the chairman of the Catholic Relief Services board of directors.
 
I am so grateful for this vital work the Church does to assist the poor, both in the United States and overseas. I would like to share with you an example of recently shared with me.
 

Low-income people around the world don’t typically have access to traditional banks, making it difficult to get loans or save money. CRS works side by side with low-income communities to create savings groups using a holistic, microfinance approach that provides a safe place for families to save and borrow to increase their income. It truly makes a difference in people’s lives, like Remy. Her house in the Philippines would sometimes flood up to her waist when there were heavy rains, but after she got a loan through her local CRS savings group, she was able to start a small business selling coconuts. The money she earned allowed her to raise the floor of her house, so now she doesn’t have to worry about flooding. This is the Church’s love in action.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.

St. Theresa School embraces the classics and looks to the future

As the academic year gets underway, school communities have faced unexpected changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic that have challenged the way they educate their students. St. Theresa School in Trumbull, however, embraced not one but two significant changes this fall as it welcomed both a new principal and a new model of education.

Pamela Fallon, former director of education at St. Joseph Academy in Brookfield, replaced Salvatore Vittoria as principal in August, bringing with her a love for Catholic education and an excitement for this long-established school. While at St. Joseph, Fallon oversaw the day-to-day functions of the academy and implemented curriculum, all which prepared her well for a smooth transition to St. Theresa.

“My faith has called me to learn and to serve,” said Fallon, also a former teacher and assistant principal. “I teach with the lens of my Catholic faith and always want to share the ‘good news.’”

Fallon’s arrival at St. Theresa coincided with the school’s shift to a Catholic liberal model of education, a philosophy that places Jesus at the center of all learning, affecting not only what is taught but how. Such a model engages children in a love of knowledge and, like a traditional education, encourages them to discover the fundamentals of history, science, math, and English composition and grammar but on a deeper level for a stronger relationship with God. According to Father Brian Gannon, pastor of St. Theresa Church, this is achieved by recognizing that God is the purpose for everything we do.

“He is the order in biology, the magnificence in geography, the beauty in poetry,” said Father Gannon. “We are renovating educational opportunities for kids based on the strengths of our current structure and giving them the tools to integrate the body and the soul.”

“A child’s mind is so sharp,” he continued, “and we want to fill it with truth, beauty and goodness.” These building blocks of knowledge, said Father Gannon, are also the foundation of this classical model of education.

For Fallon, part of the draw of St. Theresa was this new philosophy. “I believe in this classical model. It integrates so much of what I stand for—connecting curricular areas as a coherent whole. There is a tremendous difference in this versus a traditional curriculum,” she said.

To assist St. Theresa in making this three-year transition, a curriculum director was hired to help guide the building of the curriculum and instructional practice and to provide ongoing support for teacher and families. In addition, the administration sought the expertise of Colleen Richards, director of school services at the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, who spent two days in August at the Trumbull school leading professional learning workshops for teachers and staff. Equating this model to the telling of a great story, Richards commented that students respond so well because they are engaged by history.

“We are restoring history—ancient, medieval, American and modern times,” she said. “We are renewing the mission in the church’s own tradition. Kids are happy because they study meaning and purpose, and that’s what feeds their souls.”

When first and second graders study ancient Greece and Rome, they have a greater understanding of the founding of American democracy in grade five. When third graders embark on a guided pilgrimage around the school through a modern day Canterbury Tales, they are learning social studies and religion in an integrated way.

“This whole self-engagement through the lens of faith further engages the story,” said Fallon, adding that new lesson plans, resources and tools recommended by Richards will be implemented in this inaugural year.

As the transition moves forward even in the midst of a pandemic, safety precautions remain in place at St. Theresa School, with masks, disinfectants, cohort groups and a remote learning academy for children who choose to study at home. Fallon believes, however, that even some of these measures will enhance the classical model. With “specials” such as music and art now occurring within the students’ homeroom classes, teachers can better incorporate them into the core curriculum. “It’s a benefit,” she said, “and everyone is on board.”

With a new principal and a new model of education complemented by the strong foundation of its Catholic faith, St. Theresa School has much “good news” to share.

Immaculate Senior Meryl McKenna named Commended Student in 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program

DANBURY— Immaculate High School Principal Wendy Neil announces that senior Meryl McKenna has been named a Commended Student in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. Meryl was one of only 34,000 students across the nation who received the Commended Student recognition for “exceptional academic promise.” Entry into this competition was gained through taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT). Semifinalists and Commended Students for the National Merit Scholarship Competition make up 50,000 of the more than 1.5 million students that took the 2019 PSAT/NMSQT.

School Principal Wendy Neil describes Meryl as a very kind, humble student who excels in all that she does in the classroom, on the field and when serving others. “We are extremely proud of Meryl and her accomplishments as an Immaculate student. Her academic mastery, hard work ethic and self-motivation is most deserving of this honor.” Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others. Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

St. Catherine/St. Agnes food drive continues

RIVERSIDE—Generous donations arrived today to the weekly Tuesday morning Neighbor-to-Neighbor Food and Essentials Drive at St. Catherine’s sponsored by the Social Justice Committee.

Donations filled three trunks and two back seats. Volunteers and staff sent out a heart-felt thank you to all who participated. The need continues!

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): toilet paper, toiletries, paper towels, sanitary products, cleaning products, etc. and brown paper grocery bags.

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.

(For more information visit www.stc-sta.org.)


 

Mother Cabrini Gets a New Statue in New York City

MANHATTAN — A new statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini now overlooks Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty and other New York City landmarks associated with immigrants, concluding a long effort by Catholics and others who objected to her exclusion by a city commission.

“We hope that people who visit this memorial will recognize that history should be repeated, that there was a care for the outcast and marginalized which Mother Cabrini understood, and we need that same care today,” Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said Oct. 12. “This is not just history, we want to make history with a new understanding of how we take care of people.”

Bishop DiMarzio had co-chaired the Mother Cabrini Memorial Commission, founded after a New York City program drew strong criticism last year for not accepting the most popular nominee, Mother Cabrini, as a subject for a new city-funded statue series intended to raise the profile of women and minorities.

In response, Bishop DiMarzio organized a fundraiser and advocacy effort to build a statue of the saint. In the 2019 New York City Columbus Day Parade, the bishop rode on a parade float with a statue of Mother Cabrini. When the parade finished, Gov. Cuomo said New York State would work with the Brooklyn diocese and the parade sponsor, the Columbus Citizens Foundation, to create a permanent memorial for the saint.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the founder of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and opened and operated many schools and orphanages in New York City. She was born in Italy in 1850, and emigrated to the U.S. in 1889. She was canonized in 1946, becoming the first naturalized American citizen to be declared a saint. She is venerated as the patron of immigrants.

The new Mother Cabrini statue was unveiled Monday, Columbus Day, in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City overlooking New York Harbor, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. It shows Mother Cabrini, a young boy and a young girl in a paper boat sailing on water. The nun holds a book in her hand, while the boy holds a suitcase and a wind instrument invented in Italy.

The statue was designed by Jill Burkee-Biagi and Giancarlo Biagi, sculptors based in New York City.

“Our goal was to create a statue that would represent the perseverance spirit of an extraordinary woman in realizing her childhood dream, the dream of helping people in need around the world,” said Burkee-Biagi, NBC New York reports.

“I am so happy that there were so many people who supported this effort and I am happy with the unique design which shows Mother Cabrini in motion and taking care of children,” Bishop DiMarzio said. “I know for the artists it was a work of passion, and this statue does her justice.”

Gov. Cuomo, who spoke at the unveiling ceremony, linked Cabrini’s life to contemporary troubles.

“Today the lesson of Mother Cabrini is even more vital because of the difficulties we are facing,” he said at the unveiling. “We all know these are challenging times, but as we also know in the book of life it is not what one does when the sun is shining that tests…but it is what one does in the fury of the storm.”

“Mother Cabrini only had two assets, but they were powerful assets,” he said. “She had her culture and she had her faith.”

John Leo Heyer II, a member of the Mother Cabrini Memorial Commission, said the statue “recognizes both her contributions as an Italian immigrant woman, as well as those of all Italian American and immigrant women.

“She is a shining symbol of what it means to care for the other person, the sick, the uneducated, the economically challenged and the stranger, always putting the needs of society’s most vulnerable above her own,” said Heyer.

“I hope that people will see this heroic statue, ask questions, learn about her outstanding life and work to imitate it as we all build New York’s future together,” he said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn has raised funds to build a Mother Cabrini monument in Brooklyn. Details about this monument will be announced later, the diocese said.

A Mother Cabrini statue became a point of controversy after Mayor Bill de Blasio commissioned a study into existing statues and monuments in the city, then set aside $10 million to craft new monuments better representative of the city’s ethnic and gender diversity.

Of the 150 statues in New York City at the time of the study, only five featured women. The city-run program She Built NYC received $5 million to build new monuments.

The She Built NYC program opened nominations to the public to help the commission decide on new statues.

Mother Cabrini was by far the popular favorite. She received 219 nominations, more than double the number received by the runner-up candidate, journalist and urban activist Jane Jacobs.

However, the selection committee, chaired by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray, decided not to choose Mother Cabrini for the statue series, drawing objections from admirers of the saint.

By Catholic News Agency

Catholic activists praise pope’s move

VATICAN CITY —The leaders of an international movement seeking to have the Catholic Church formally set aside its long-held teachings on just war theory are praising Pope Francis’ new encyclical Fratelli Tutti, which said it is “very difficult” to invoke the theory today because of the brutality of modern combat.

Former and current presidents of Pax Christi International, which has co-hosted two conferences with the Vatican over the past four years focused on helping the church move away from the just war tradition, say the pope’s document makes substantial progress toward their goal.

“I feel like what he was doing was moving the just war tradition further and further into the background, to put it on the shelf, where it belongs,” said Marie Dennis, who served as a co-president of Pax Christi from 2007 to 2019. “It was progress in a very real way.”

Dennis, who organized the 2016 and 2019 conferences in conjunction with the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, told NCR that she thinks Francis is laying the ground for the church to eventually remove all support for the just war theory.

Loreto Sr. Teresia Wamuyu Wachira, a current Pax Christi co-president, called the pope’s words in Fratelli Tutti “a shift to a new way of thinking.” Wachira, a Kenyan who attended both of the Vatican conferences, said the pontiff is saying simply that “war has failed.”

“For me, he’s not mincing his words,” said Wachira, a member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “He’s kind of inviting us to think different and to act differently.”

Others who took part in the Vatican events spoke even more bluntly.

“It is certainly a strong negative statement on the viability of the just war theory in our day and age,” said Terrence Rynne, a theologian who took part in both conferences and is also an NCR board member. “He throws it, to all intents and purposes, in the ash can.”

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy, who took part in the 2019 conference, noted that Francis gave a fairly lengthy reflection on issues of war in peace in Fratelli Tutti but never gave an instance where war might be justifiable.

“Given this reality, in tandem with the teachings of Pope Benedict, it is hard not to conclude that the church is abandoning the just war framework and seeking to construct a new moral framework that has not yet emerged,” McElroy told NCR.

“A comprehensive dedication to international norms and the power of nonviolence to achieve peace with justice will no doubt be central to this framework,” said the bishop.

Francis’ encyclical lays out the pope’s comprehensive vision for how the world should change after the coronavirus pandemic and was released Oct. 4.

The just war theory was first referred to by fourth-century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo and uses a series of criteria to evaluate whether use of violence can be considered morally justifiable.

In Fratelli Tutti, Francis says that nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and new technological combat systems “have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians.”

“We can no longer think of war as a solution, because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits,” states the pontiff. “In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war.’ ”

In a footnote to the above paragraph, the pontiff appears to go a bit further, stating that Augustine “forged a concept of ‘just war’ that we no longer uphold in our own day.”

Dennis and others said they were unsure how to interpret that footnote, as it could appear that Francis means that the church no longer supports use of the just war theory at all, or that the theory has just not been well applied to current conflicts.

Daniel Cosacchi, a religious studies professor at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, suggested that the footnote could be used by a future pope to further move the church away from the just war theory.

Cosacchi compared it to a footnote in Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which suggested that Catholics who have been divorced and remarried without obtaining annulments might be able to receive Communion in certain cases.

“It’s going to garner less attention, I’m aware of that,” said the theologian. “But just like the footnote in Amoris Laetitia can open the door to future teachings, I think that this footnote [in Fratelli Tutti] can open the door to future teachings, also, whether it be from Francis or his successors.”

Dennis suggested another way for how the church’s teaching on just war theory could change, pointing to the model of the church’s recent development of teaching on the death penalty.

In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II had said the death penalty could be necessary in “very rare” cases to protect society from a violent criminal. Francis updated that teaching in 2018, changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church to say that the death penalty was “inadmissible.”

“It just seems to me that it narrows it down farther and farther and farther, which is exactly what he did with the death penalty,” Dennis said of Francis’ approach. “I feel like that’s where he’s going with this.”

Wachira said she thought Pax Christi’s efforts to have the church change its teaching on just war theory were “bearing fruit” as part of a “continuous dialogue” with the Vatican.

“I believe that as we continue moving in this dialogue, we will continue building a better world,” said the Kenyan sister. “I would say this is not the last encyclical of this pope. And we are praying that he lives long to write more and to keep engaging, and advancing this particular way.”

Dennis offered a similar sentiment.

“We absolutely still hope that there will be additional magisterial teaching on nonviolence and just peace,” she said. “This is a beautiful encyclical. And we think another encyclical would be very appropriate, to build on this.”

by Joshua J. McElwee | National Catholic Reporter

Climbing the mountain of faith

BRIDGEPORT— The hard work of discipleship requires us to climb the mountain of faith, but the feast of eternal life awaits those who walk with Christ, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his online Mass for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his homily the bishop reflected on readings from – Isaiah ( 25: 6-10)6 “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines,” and on the Gospel of Matthew’s (22:1-14) parable about the King and the wedding guests, “Many are invited but few are chosen.”

The bishop said the two readings come together in the concept of a feast that follows a journey whether to a mountain top or as a wedding guest.

“There is a lesson to be learned that the Lord reminds us of today. The unprepared man was not ready to do what was necessary to enter the feast, to walk the mountain… And so that’s where the challenge lies for you and me. We are called to scale that mountain in discipleship with Christ as our companion.”

The bishop, who grew up in Brooklyn, said the first time he saw a mountain was as a little boy when his parents took him back to their ancestral Italian village on the foothills of the Apennines. He was overwhelmed by their power and majesty, and immediately wanted to climb them.

Describing mountains “as the place where heaven and earth meet,” the bishop said we all have mountains to climb in order to be faithful disciples of Jesus, and we will not falter if we turn to him for his power strength and grace.

“We too are asked to climb the mountain and its end will be feast He promises us because He entered first in His death and resurrection.”

The bishop said the hard work of discipleship involves many steps “first and foremost to become lifetime learners of our own faith” and to fully explore the teachings and rich tradition of the faith that Christ has given us through his Mystical Body.

The hard work also requires “fruitful prayer” and preparation for the sacraments, and the time to reflect after the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Likewise, scaling the mountain of faith calls us to acts of kindness, charity, accompaniment and works of justice.

“We must climb the mountain to root out racist attitudes and to fight against structures that allow people around the world to spend a day without food, water, a home or security,” the bishop said.

The Bishop concluded his homily by noting that it’s unlikely that he’ll will ever climb a mountain, but noted that “you and I have a far more important mountain to climb.”

“Ask yourself, What is the next step of the mountain you need to take and pray for the grace to take it, mindful of the feast that await us. The Lord is inviting us to the feast. He nourishes us with his word and sacraments along the way and promises us a place at the top of mountain in a feast that will never end.”

In brief remarks before the Final Blessing, the bishop asked people around the diocese to join in the weekly online Family Rosary and to take care of one another, particularly in a time of uncertainty.

“Let us re-double our efforts to reach out to our neighbors and friends in circumstances that may become more challenged as the virus spikes… Let us revolve not to leave anyone behind, so they know someone out there cares for them and has them in mind.”

For more information on the Sunday Family Rosary, visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

Bishop’s Online Mass: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.

Immaculate Offers Innovative Approaches to Unique School Year

DANBURY—The beginning of this school year may look different than those before it, but Immaculate High School, Danbury has taken the changes in stride, developing plans and strategies to navigate the new challenges. Through their cohort style learning approach, with half the student body in the classroom while the other half participates synchronously virtually using Microsoft Teams, students in both cohorts are receiving the same academic experience while also staying safe and healthy.

Student, faculty and staff safety and well-being have been the primary focus of all planning and reopening processes at Immaculate. With new protocols, such as signage throughout the school building to promote social distancing, wearing of masks by all in the building, three lunch waves instead of two, maintaining an average of 12 students in a classroom during each 55-minute session, Immaculate is doing their part to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Wednesdays are a deep cleaning day using UV and electrostatic cleaners at the school while all students learn virtually on a modified schedule that allows time for club meetings, counselor advisory sessions, other virtual programming such as health and wellness assemblies, and socially distanced PSAT, SAT and ACT testing. The Immaculate Reopening Task Force meets twice a week to track and assess implementation of their plans, sending updates regularly to the school community.

Parents have been noticing the efforts being made by Immaculate. “It is clear that a lot of time and work has been put into developing a plan to keep students and staff safe. I am very happy that safety is the number one priority, as it should be. Excellent work, everyone!”, says Lisa Pierce-Wirth, parent of Peter ‘21​.

Immaculate students are thankful to be able to grow and learn in a comfortable environment. “At Immaculate, I have grown academically and socially because of the comfort the school provides through the support and understanding of the faculty and the kindness of peers. Immaculate has also allowed me to grow in my faith and encourages me to practice it freely and openly. The teachers’ compassion and the students’ inclusivity has made Immaculate feel like a family. I have met some of my closest friends here, and have not only expanded academically, have been able to figure out who I am and who I want to become.” —Amanda ​Tureaud ‘​22.

Immaculate has adapted their annual fall admissions events to maintain personal safety. Open House, planned for October 18, will offer 30-minute tours by appointment only. The original six tour slots filled very quickly, so an additional four tours are being offered. For more information about scheduling a tour or learning more about Immaculate’s programs, please visit our website Immaculatehs.org/admissions or contact Denise Suarez, Director of Admissions at ​203.744.1510 x148.

‘Blessing of the Animals’ tradition continues

TRUMBULL—Last Sunday, October 4, was the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, merchants and ecology and the occasion of a beloved tradition at St. Catherine of Siena Parish.

Father Joseph Marcello, pastor of St. Catherine’s greeted dozens of the parish’s pets for a prayer and a special blessing.

Every kind of pet was accounted for—from a singing parakeet to an 100-pound turtle, who was a big hit with the crowd.

The beautiful October weather allowed parishioners and pets to gather safely outside.

The Parish of Saint Catherine of Siena warmly welcomes anyone who is new to the 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,” said Father Marcello.

St. Catherine of Siena Parish is located at 220 Shelton Road in the Nichols area of Trumbull.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

Sacred Heart opens new multicultural center

FAIRFIELD—Sacred Heart University’s new multicultural center celebrates diversity and provides an inclusive space for everyone in the SHU community.

The center officially opened in September with a small, socially-distanced, ribbon-cutting ceremony. Afterward, administrators and students marveled at the new space and admired artwork depicting various cultures and ethnicities. Located in the Main Academic Building, the center’s purpose is to bring people together.

“Thanks for showing your support and love,” said Robert Johnson ’16, ’17, director of the center and multicultural affairs. “This is a great step in the right direction.”

Johnson, a former SHU admissions counselor, is responsible for all inclusivity programs and services the center provides, including creation of an undergraduate mentor program. He said his primary objective is to establish the center as a place where underrepresented students can find a sense of belonging.

As an alumnus of color, Johnson said he remembers times when he didn’t feel like he belonged. Even though he was on the football team and in a fraternity, he wished there was somewhere he could go to share experiences with people like him, he said. “If underrepresented students have those feelings, I want to them to know that they can come here and they will be supported,” said Johnson.

President John J. Petillo said he believes the center’s mission of inclusivity will be carried out in all aspects of the University, especially student life. “I am confident of the role the multicultural center will have at Sacred Heart,” he said.

The center also will enable students, staff and faculty to make connections and learn about one another’s cultures and backgrounds. Johnson is working closely with campus organizations such as the Black Student Union and La Hispanidad. Leaders from both clubs were present at the ceremony and spoke about their excitement for the new center.

“My hope is to create a sustained change that will outlast us all,” Johnson told the audience. He encouraged the group to challenge themselves and confront their biases to help create that change.

Father Anthony Ciorra, vice president for mission integration, ministry and multicultural affairs, said the new center is place where all are welcome. “There are so many divisions in our country and in our world,” said Ciorra. “I don’t want to see divisions creep onto the University.”

After the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, guests continued to gaze at the art on the walls. Mary Treschitta, assistant professor and chair of the art and design program, was charged with designing the space. She believed the walls wrapped with impactful multicultural images of people from around the world should immerse its visitors. “That was my goal,” she said. “Before you walk inside the center, you are confronted with large colorful portraits, to really spark people’s interest. Then, as they walk in, the central mural really just strikes them.”

Treschitta carefully chose beautiful portraits of diverse individuals, which she assembled in a collage. Then she layered quotes from social justice warriors and leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., over the images.

The completed product is a technical feat, she said, as the installation was tricky to create. Visual Impact, a business in Danbury, owned by Bill McCann, that handles visual communication and installation, printed the images on large print-and-stick substrate. Then a skilled group of professionals applied the images to the walls and added the quotes. “The whole crew was excellent” and brought her vision to life, Treschitta said.

As people walk into the center, Treschitta said, the images pull them in. They can walk around the room, explore, engage and feel surrounded by multiculturalism, she said.

“I really loved this project and the final product,” she said. “We are truly all brothers and sisters on this Earth for a short time.”

To download an image, visit SHU’s Photoshelter archive.

Pope calls for politics to rediscover its vocation to work for common good

VATICAN CITY (CNS)—People who think politics is sinking to new lows may find comfort in knowing Pope Francis also is concerned about the debasement of what church teaching has described as a “lofty vocation.”

“Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and countercharges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation,” the pope wrote in his new encyclical.

The encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” was published Oct. 4 and urges Christians and all people of goodwill to recognize the equal dignity of all people and to work together to build a world where people love and care for one another as brothers and sisters.

Building that world, he insisted, requires “encounter and dialogue,” processes that allow people to speak from their experience and culture, to listen to one another, learn from one another and find ways to work together for the common good.

“Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools,” the pope wrote. “Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways, one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion.”

The “social aggression” often found on social media has spilled over into mainstream political discourse, he said. “Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that “in analyzing conditions in the world today, the Holy Father provides us with a powerful and urgent vision for the moral renewal of politics and political and economic institutions from the local level to the global level, calling us to build a common future that truly serves the good of the human person.”

“For the church,” he added, “the pope is challenging us to overcome the individualism in our culture and to serve our neighbors in love, seeing Jesus Christ in every person, and seeking a society of justice and mercy, compassion and mutual concern.”

In the encyclical Pope Francis had particularly harsh words for politicians who have “fomented and exploited” fear over immigration, ignoring the fact that migrants and refugees “possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person.”

“No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings,” he said, “yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion.”

Pope Francis often has insisted that he is not calling for open borders and unregulated migration and, in the document, he again insists on the right of people not to be forced to migrate.

International aid to help people overcome extreme poverty in their homelands is essential, he said, but if such development takes too long, people do have the right to migrate to ensure the good of their families.

“Certain populist political regimes, as well as certain liberal economic approaches, maintain that an influx of migrants is to be prevented at all costs,” he wrote. “One fails to realize that behind such statements, abstract and hard to support, great numbers of lives are at stake.”

For Christians, he said, the answer cannot be to simply bow out of political engagement. Instead, they must act at a local level to build relationships of trust and assistance and support politicians and political platforms that promote the common good.

“Whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the ‘field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity,’” he said.

Getting practical, Pope Francis explained that “if someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity” but on a larger scale.

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

Pope signs new encyclical in Assisi

VATICAN CITY—Bringing the Vatican official in charge of translations with him, Pope Francis signed his new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, source of the document’s title and inspiration.

After celebrating Mass at St. Francis’ tomb October 3, the eve of the saint’s feast day, the pope called up Msgr. Paolo Braida and explained to the small congregation that the monsignor is in charge of “translations and the speeches of the pope” in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

“He watches over everything and that’s why I wanted him to be here today,” the pope said. He also brought with him the Spanish official who oversaw the accuracy of the various translations and the official who translated the text from Spanish into Portuguese.

Pope Francis set the text on the altar under the tomb of St. Francis and signed it.

The encyclical was scheduled to be released to the public October 4 just after midday.

Pope Francis arrived late for the Mass in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Francis after making a brief stop in Assisi at the Basilica of St. Clare, which houses the tomb of the close follower of St. Francis and founder of the Poor Clares.

The pope did not give a homily during the Mass, simply praying silently for several minutes after the reading of the Gospel. The text was that prescribed for the feast of St. Francis, Matthew 11:25-30, which begins, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.”

Because of measures designed to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the Mass was described as “private.” Only about two dozen people were in the small crypt chapel; they sat socially distanced, one person in each pew, and wore masks.

Several Franciscan sisters were present, as were the ministers general of the main Franciscan orders of men: Father Michael Perry, minister general of the Franciscans; Father Roberto Genuin, minister general of the Capuchins; and Father Amando Trujillo Cano, minister general of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service

Belief in God as creator has practical consequences

VATICAN CITY—Professing faith in God as the creator of all human beings, or even simply recognizing that all people possess an inherent dignity, has concrete consequences for how people should treat one another and make decisions in politics, economics and social life, Pope Francis wrote.

“Human beings have the same inviolable dignity in every age of history and no one can consider himself or herself authorized by particular situations to deny this conviction or to act against it,” the pope wrote in his encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”

Pope Francis signed the encyclical October 3 after celebrating Mass at the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Vatican released the more than 40,000-word text the next day.

The pope had been rumored to be writing an encyclical on nonviolence; and, once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, many expected a document exploring in depth his repeated pleas for the world to recognize the inequalities and injustices laid bare by the pandemic and adopt corrective economic, political and social policies.

“Fratelli Tutti” combines those two elements but does so in the framework set by the document on human fraternity and interreligious dialogue that he and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, signed in 2019.

In fact, in the new document Pope Francis wrote that he was “encouraged” by his dialogue with the Muslim leader and by their joint statement that “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”

The encyclical takes its title from St. Francis of Assisi and is inspired by his “fraternal openness,” which, the pope said, calls on people “to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.”

The title, which literally means “all brothers and sisters” or “all brothers,” are the words with which St. Francis “addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel,” the pope wrote.

That flavor, explained throughout the document, involves welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, listening to and giving a hand up to the poor, defending the rights of all and ensuring that each person, at every stage of life, is valued and invited to contribute to the community, he said. It also means supporting public policies that do so on a larger scale.

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, welcomed the encyclical as “an important contribution to the church’s rich tradition of social doctrine.”

“Pope Francis’ teaching here is profound and beautiful: God our father has created every human being with equal sanctity and dignity, equal rights and duties, and our creator calls us to form a single human family in which we live as brothers and sisters,” the archbishop said in a statement. “God’s plan for humanity, the pope reminds us, has implications for every aspect of our lives—from how we treat one another in our personal relationships, to how we organize and operate our societies and economies.”

Building on the social teachings of his predecessors, Pope Francis’ document once again strongly condemns the death penalty and makes an initial approach to declaring that the conditions once used to accept a “just war” no longer exist because of the indiscriminately lethal power of modern weapons.

St. John Paul II in “The Gospel of Life,” published in 1995, cast doubt on whether any nation needed to resort to capital punishment today to protect its people; developing that teaching, Pope Francis in 2018 authorized a change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church to make clear that “the death penalty is inadmissible.”

Signaling the start of a similar effort to respond to the current reality of warfare, Pope Francis in the new encyclical raised the question of “whether the development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and the enormous and growing possibilities offered by new technologies, have granted war an uncontrollable destructive power over great numbers of innocent civilians.”

“We can no longer think of war as a solution because its risks will probably always be greater than its supposed benefits,” one of the main criteria of just-war theory, he said. “In view of this, it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war.’ Never again war!”

At the heart of the new encyclical’s appeal to Catholics is a meditation on Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan and particularly on how Jesus takes a legal scholar’s question, “Who is my neighbor,” and turns it into a lesson on being called not to identify one’s neighbors but to become a neighbor to all, especially those most in need of aid.

“The parable eloquently presents the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world. In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the good Samaritan,” the pope said. “Any other decision would make us either one of the robbers or one of those who walked by without showing compassion for the sufferings of the man on the roadside.”

“The parable,” he continued, “shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.”

Pope Francis used the encyclical “to consider certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity” and acting as a neighbor to one another, including racism, extremism, “aggressive nationalism,” closing borders to migrants and refugees, polarization, politics as a power grab rather than a service to the common good, mistreatment of women, modern slavery and economic policies that allow the rich to get richer but do not create jobs and do not help the poor.

“The pain, uncertainty and fear, and the realization of our own limitations, brought on by the pandemic have only made it all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, our relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence,” he said.

Anna Rowlands, a British theologian invited to help present the document at the Vatican, told Catholic News Service the text’s “golden thread” is about discerning “what gives life” and helps everyone to develop their full potential and flourish.

“The whole theme of the document is about the way in which we’re called to attend to the world as Christ attended to the world,” paying attention to reality rather than “evading it and avoiding it,” and praying for the grace to respond as Jesus would.

When people ask, “Who is my neighbor?” often what they really want to know is “Who is not my neighbor?” or “Who can I legitimately say is not my responsibility,” Rowlands said.

Pope Francis called for catechesis and preaching that “speak more directly and clearly about the social meaning of existence, the fraternal dimension of spirituality, our conviction of the inalienable dignity of each person and our reasons for loving and accepting all our brothers and sisters.”

He also used the encyclical to strongly reassert a traditional tenet of Catholic social teaching: “the universal destination of goods” or “the common use of created goods,” which asserts, as St. John Paul said, that “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favoring anyone.”

The right to private property, and the benefits to individuals and society of protecting that right, Pope Francis wrote, “can only be considered a secondary natural right.”

“The right of some to free enterprise or market freedom cannot supersede the rights of peoples and the dignity of the poor, or, for that matter, respect for the natural environment,” the pope said. “Business abilities, which are a gift from God, should always be clearly directed to the development of others and to eliminating poverty,” especially through the creation of jobs that pay a living wage.

Pope Francis, Rowlands said, “wants to rehabilitate this idea of social friendship and social peace in the face of an all-pervasive social violence, which he sees running through the economy, running increasingly through politics, running through social media.”

The pope is not despairing, she said, but realistic. “He wants to offer a vision of how you begin from the most local, most every day and most concrete realities to build a culture of peace at every level.”

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service

Pope calls for politics to rediscover its vocation

VATICAN CITY—People who think politics is sinking to new lows may find comfort in knowing Pope Francis also is concerned about the debasement of what church teaching has described as a “lofty vocation.”

“Political life no longer has to do with healthy debates about long-term plans to improve people’s lives and to advance the common good, but only with slick marketing techniques primarily aimed at discrediting others. In this craven exchange of charges and countercharges, debate degenerates into a permanent state of disagreement and confrontation,” the pope wrote in his new encyclical.

The encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” was published October 4 and urges Christians and all people of goodwill to recognize the equal dignity of all people and to work together to build a world where people love and care for one another as brothers and sisters.

Building that world, he insisted, requires “encounter and dialogue,” processes that allow people to speak from their experience and culture, to listen to one another, learn from one another and find ways to work together for the common good.

“Today, in many countries, hyperbole, extremism and polarization have become political tools,” the pope wrote. “Employing a strategy of ridicule, suspicion and relentless criticism, in a variety of ways, one denies the right of others to exist or to have an opinion.”

The “social aggression” often found on social media has spilled over into mainstream political discourse, he said. “Things that until a few years ago could not be said by anyone without risking the loss of universal respect can now be said with impunity, and in the crudest of terms, even by some political figures.”

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement that “in analyzing conditions in the world today, the Holy Father provides us with a powerful and urgent vision for the moral renewal of politics and political and economic institutions from the local level to the global level, calling us to build a common future that truly serves the good of the human person.”

“For the church,” he added, “the pope is challenging us to overcome the individualism in our culture and to serve our neighbors in love, seeing Jesus Christ in every person, and seeking a society of justice and mercy, compassion and mutual concern.”

In the encyclical Pope Francis had particularly harsh words for politicians who have “fomented and exploited” fear over immigration, ignoring the fact that migrants and refugees “possess the same intrinsic dignity as any person.”

“No one will ever openly deny that they are human beings,” he said, “yet in practice, by our decisions and the way we treat them, we can show that we consider them less worthy, less important, less human. For Christians, this way of thinking and acting is unacceptable, since it sets certain political preferences above deep convictions of our faith: the inalienable dignity of each human person regardless of origin, race or religion.”

Pope Francis often has insisted that he is not calling for open borders and unregulated migration and, in the document, he again insists on the right of people not to be forced to migrate.

International aid to help people overcome extreme poverty in their homelands is essential, he said, but if such development takes too long, people do have the right to migrate to ensure the good of their families.

“Certain populist political regimes, as well as certain liberal economic approaches, maintain that an influx of migrants is to be prevented at all costs,” he wrote. “One fails to realize that behind such statements, abstract and hard to support, great numbers of lives are at stake.”

For Christians, he said, the answer cannot be to simply bow out of political engagement. Instead, they must act at a local level to build relationships of trust and assistance and support politicians and political platforms that promote the common good.

“Whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the ‘field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity,’” he said.

Getting practical, Pope Francis explained that “if someone helps an elderly person cross a river, that is a fine act of charity. The politician, on the other hand, builds a bridge, and that too is an act of charity” but on a larger scale.

By Cindy Wooden   I   Catholic News Service