Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Catholic Academy of Stamford holds Virtual Open House

STAMFORD—Adapting to coronavirus restrictions, Catholic Academy of Stamford was able to offer a virtual open house to prospective students.

Families were able to log-in at times that were convenient for them, making it accessible to those who may not have been able to attend in person.

In anticipation of this virtual event, Catholic Academy developed a video promoting the Academy and all it has to offer.

About Catholic Academy of Stamford

Since 2017, The Catholic Academy of Stamford has served the Stamford area community. And as our Mission Statement says:

We form and nurture our children–grades Pre-K 3 through grade 8- in the Gospel values of our Catholic Faith. We educate in a superior academic environment where we challenge our children to discover and fully develop their unique talents and abilities. We encourage our children to love God, love learning…and love one another.”

“One of the first things you notice when you visit our school is the environment,” says Patricia E. Brady, head of school. “Here on Newfield Avenue in Stamford, our students are taught in safe, nurturing environments that markedly improve students’ ability to learn.

Our small class sizes are optimized for learning in an effective socially distanced environment. This will continue to allow teachers to help build strong foundations for life-long learning. Indeed, we DO build strong foundations at The Academy.

Our students are formed in the Gospel values of the Catholic faith. Here, your child enjoys a transformative faith-filled experience where our students become whole and giving citizens who, when they graduate, leave us knowing God, loving God, and desiring to serve God in the world that is now open to possibilities for them.

Our students are provided with a superior academic experience. Your child will be challenged through rigorous, personalized learning, advanced robotics, sciences and STEM courses throughout their school experience.

Our students and their parents and grandparents form a family of faith where relationships begin as young as 3 years old and often last a lifetime.

I’ve been an educator and administrator for nearly forty years. I truly believe The Catholic Academy of Stamford is a tremendous value for your family, and an option worth looking into for your child’s education.

And so, I invite you to see for yourselves everything the Catholic Academy has to offer. Come, take a look!

Bishop re-promulgates Safe Environments Policies

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has re-promulgated the Diocesan Safe Environments policies and practices for the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults.

In a formal decree, issued on October 30, the bishop said the new policy and handbook will become effective immediately and available online in its entirety.

“As Catholics, we share a sacred obligation to protect all of God’s Children, especially the children, youth and vulnerable adults who are entrusted to our care,” the bishop said.

Printed copies of the revised Safe Environments Handbook along with information for reporting suspected abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport will be posted in a central location in all Churches and Schools, where they can be easily accessed and a copy of the Safe Environments Handbook should be made available on all school and parish websites.

“As our society and the Catholic Church face new challenges when it comes to the problem of child sexual abuse and other forms of abuse, we must continue to strengthen our response to this problem to ensure a safe environment, therefore we are issuing our third update to our policies and procedures relating to our implementation of the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Bridgeport,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The bishop said he is grateful to Erin Neil, director of Safe Environments, to members of the review board and to all staff and volunteers who worked on the report and participate in the program.

“Our diocese has shown great leadership in the areas of early detection, reporting and prevention of abuse and I am grateful for the support and cooperation of our ongoing efforts to safeguard children, youth and vulnerable adults,” he said.

Erin Neil said the diocese remains fully committed to upholding the highest standards set forth in the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Neil said that key changes contained with the 2020 Safe Environments Handbook are outlined below and the full policy may be found here.  (Click here for Spanish)

  • A list of numbers for reporting allegations of abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult are now located on the front cover of the Safe Environments Handbook
  •  A third party-reporting hotline option for victims
  •  Procedures for reporting abuse of a vulnerable adult
  •  Procedures for reporting an allegation of abuse to police in addition to the CT Department of Children and Family Services
  •  Procedures for reporting an allegation of abuse involving a U.S. bishop or cardinal
  •  Procedures for reporting suspected boundary violations and grooming behaviors toward minors and vulnerable adults

The new handbook also updates training information on identifying early warning signs and grooming behaviors in offenders of child sexual abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults and the definition of vulnerable adult, makes changes to the Sexual Misconduct Review Board process to include the review of allegations against deceased clerics, and updates the definition of a Credible Allegation.

With the publication of the new handbook the diocese also provides the CT Department of Children and Family Services updated definitions of abuse. It also updates training and criminal background check requirements for visiting members of the clergy.

Many of the changes and new procedures have been made in response to the recommendations included in the historic 2019 Accountability Investigation and report conducted by Judge Robert Holzberg.

“The judge’s recommendations were designed to further strengthen our efforts to address the ever-growing challenges we face as a Church and as a society to prevent abuse and assist victims. The bishop has incorporated them into the policies of the diocese,” Neil said.

In 2015, the bishop issued a revised set of policies relating to the implementation of the Charter in our diocese which are to be reviewed every five years.

Neil said the renewal of criminal background checks and Safe Environments training related to the policies contained within the revised 2020 Safe Environments Handbook will continue for all members of the clergy, lay employees, tenants, vendors, independent contractors and volunteers.

The changes include volunteers who do not have scheduled contact with children,  every five or 10 years based on their ministry, utilizing VIRTUS, Protecting God’s Children for Adults program and the VIRTUS database for parishes and school to track completion of these items.

Safe Environments training will continue annually for all students enrolled in a Catholic School through virtual or live instruction utilizing The Child Lures Prevention Program, Think First and Stay Safe and Personal Safety Training utilizing the Netsmartz.org program for middle school and high school students.

Parishes will make available Safe Environments training for parents and children enrolled in religious education programs using online instruction through the Netsmartz.org and Kidsmartz.org videos in order to complement the training that children receive through their public school.

“Parents may choose to teach this at home and opt-out of Safe Environments training at a parish or school by placing their request in writing. Training materials are publicly available and located on our diocesan website,” Neil said.

Printed copies of the revised Safe Environments Handbook along with information for reporting suspected abuse in the Diocese of Bridgeport must be posted in a central location in all Churches and schools where they can be easily accessed and a copy of the Safe Environments Handbook should be made available on all school and parish websites.

Beginning in November for tracking purposes, VIRTUS will have the revised policies and procedures uploaded to their website. Parish employees and volunteers may log into their VIRTUS account and sign these electronically or your parish Safe Environments coordinator will be able to quickly log receipt of the handbook into a parish VIRTUS database by searching a person’s name.

(For assistance with this step, contact Astrid Alvarez, VIRTUS training and Development Specialist 203.416.1407 or aalvarez@diobpt.org.)

Governor announces new guidelines for Churches

BRIDGEPORT—As the pandemic continues to worsen in our state, Governor Ned Lamont has announced the following new guidelines for Churches. The new guidelines go into effect this Friday, 11/6.

Mass and Liturgical Events
Indoors limited to 50% of capacity, no more than 100 people total
Outdoors limited to 100 people total

Non-liturgical Gatherings
Indoors limited to 25 people
Outdoors limited to 50 people

A reminder that registration is still required for Masses. There are no other changes to the most recent diocesan liturgical guidelines. For a complete listing of diocesan protocols, Covid-19 news and other updates, click here.

Andrew Walther remembered on All Saints’ Day

NEW HAVEN—Andrew Thomas Walther, president and chief operating officer of EWTN News, died Sunday evening in New Haven, Connecticut. Remembered first as a loving husband and father, in his life’s work he was dedicated to serving the Catholic Church and defending persecuted religious minorities throughout the world. Walther was 45 years old.

In June, Walther joined EWTN News as president and COO. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with leukemia. During the course of his treatment, Walther continued to lead the EWTN News team and to serve both his family and the Church.

“Andrew Walther’s death is a source of great sadness for all of us at EWTN and for me personally. Although Andrew had only been in his role as President and Chief Operating Officer of EWTN News since June, he had already accomplished so much. He had also been a friend and collaborator for many years before joining the Network. His death is a great loss for all who knew him, for EWTN and for the Church,” Michael Warsaw, chief executive officer and EWTN board chairman, remembered November 2.

From 2005 until 2020, Walther worked for the Knights of Columbus, where he was Vice President for Communications and Strategic Planning. In that role, he served as an advisor to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, while overseeing numerous initiatives for the Catholic fraternal organization, including a pandemic response campaign earlier this year and other crisis response projects.

Taking leadership roles in media and religious freedom advocacy, Walther also oversaw the Knights’ polling and book publishing operations, which included several New York Times bestsellers. Together with his wife, Maureen, he co-authored “The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History,” a book released this year.

Long devoted to the canonization cause of Father Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, Walther died one day after McGivney was formally beatified by the Church.

Walther’s work on behalf of Middle Eastern Christians is especially noteworthy, and was particularly close to his heart.

He played an essential role in a Knights of Columbus effort to assist persecuted and refugee Christians, through a fund that has distributed more than $20 million in aid, especially in Syria, Iraq, and the surrounding region. The same effort offered on-the-ground assistance to Christians rebuilding lives, churches, and even towns destroyed by ISIS, including an effort to completely rebuild the Iraqi town of Karamles on the Nineveh Plain.

Walther’s work in the region has been widely praised by bishops and other Christian leaders across the Middle East.

Born November 30, 1974, he was a California native and a lifelong Catholic. Walther earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Classics from the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for several years, and was recognized with the university’s Excellency in Teaching Award.

Walther began his career as a Catholic journalist writing for the National Catholic Register two decades ago.

“He was a man of deep faith and extraordinary gifts who always used his talents to serve others. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy that includes years of service to the Church, to the cause of persecuted Christians around the globe and to building up the culture of life. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Maureen and their four young children. He was a tremendous man and a wonderful friend whom I will miss greatly. That his death came on the Solemnity of All Saints is a great consolation to us all,” Warsaw recalled.

Friends say that while he was accomplished outside the home, it was his family that brought Walther the most joy. Walther and his wife Maureen married in 2010, and are the parents of four children.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

By Catholic News Service

St. Marguerite Fall Festival goes virtual!

BROOKFIELD—Parishes throughout the diocese have found creative and socially distant safe ways to continue fundraising efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The St. Marguerite Parish Annual Fall Festival, a tradition for the past three decades, is virtual for the first time this year.

“It started as a small craft fair by ladies at the parish and it has kept growing and growing,” said Mary Ellen Tiernan, Faith Formation director. “There were 45 vendors last year and we ran out of space.”

This year, space was not a problem since vendors agreed to participate virtually.

“It’s not a big fundraiser for us but we wanted to keep the connection with our parish members,” Tiernan said. “We want them to know, “We are here and we want you to stay involved.’”

Over the past 30 years, the Fall Festival has become quite an event for the community and she and others didn’t want to skip a year because of the pandemic.

Tiernan said she sent a letter to vendors who participated for the past two years and asked if they would be amenable to trying something different and showcasing their wares virtually.

Parish families lent a helping hand by making signs for front lawns to alert people to the virtual fair.

Vendors donated $30 to participate and sent a description of what they would like on the flyer and Tiernan went to work creating the flyers to post online.

The flyers, posted on the parish website and social media, contain a hyperlink for shoppers to see what vendors have to offer and potentially purchase items.

The virtual Fall Festival Vendor Fair has turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise. “We are able to get information out to hundreds of people,” said Tiernan, adding that people beyond the immediate community can participate.

Some vendors automatically ship to buyers, others with large items that may be too costly to ship, agree to send the items to the school where they may be picked up.

“The buyers come to the parking lot to an assigned spot and a runner goes to deliver the item to the buyer,” Tiernan said. “Everything is socially distant.”

The virtual fair also has another benefit. The one-day SAVERS drive, held in conjunction with the fair, could now be expanded.

“Since we are not meeting on the premises (due to coronavirus concerns), we have a lot of space,” Tiernan said. “Instead of doing a one-day drive we set aside a month.”

Bags of clothing can be dropped off at the Candlewood Lake Road parish and parish families sort the items into categories. Tiernan said parishioners with large vehicles volunteer to drive back and forth to bring the hundreds of bags and dozens of boxes of items to SAVERS on Federal Road. SAVERS support the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization.

“There’s no way I could have done it this way, if we had the fair,” Tiernan said, adding that the children of the parish are an integral part of the process. Many of the children are Confirmation candidates and incorporating Corporal Works of Mercy into their lives is essential.

“It’s an important message for kids to see parents involved, too.”

Note: The St. Marguerite Parish Annual Fall Festival concludes on Friday (Nov. 6).


 

Youth in Action Grants due November 13

BRIDGEPORT—Foundations in Faith is thrilled to announce the second year of Youth in Action Grant funding. We have expanded our reach and increased the funding based upon the tremendous success of the first-year projects. Things to know:

  • The 2021 YIA Grant Application is now live. All applications must be submitted online and by November 13, 2020.
  • We are inviting young Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport representing:
    • 1) Catholic High Schools
    • 2) Parish High School Youth Groups
    • 3) Young Adult (ages 20-35) Catholic Groups aligned with Diocesan Priest or sponsoring Parish to apply for up to $5,000 in funding.
  • The projects that receive grant funding will run from January-December 2021
  • Project ideas are “by youth and for youth” to deepen and enhance their Catholic faith formation experiences. Adult mentor(s) will be a part of the team to help guide and support the youth leaders in the design and execution of their project
  • Projects must incorporate 2 or 3 of the following elements:
    • 1) Evangelization
    • 2) Collaboration
    • 3) Justice and Equity

Youth in Action Application

Youth in Action Budget template

View Only- Youth in Action Application (Applications must be submitted online. No hard copy or print outs of the  “view-only application” will be accepted)

Submit your application by November 13. Foundations in Faith Grant Review Committee will review your grant requests and make recommendations for funding to the Board of Trustees in early December. Awards announced in late December and funded project launch in January 2021.

(For more information contact Kelly Weldon at: kelly.weldon@foundationsinfaith.org.)

November is Black Catholic History Month

BRIDGEPORT— The National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) of the United States voted on Tuesday, July 24, 1990, while meeting in convention at Fordham University in New York, to establish November as Black Catholic History Month. The reason behind the selection of the month of November was the number of important dates to Catholics of African descent that fell within this month.

The first celebration of Black Catholic History Month began in November of 1990 in various cities in the United States with the celebration of St. Martin de Porres feast day. The liturgy celebrated the 350th anniversary of St. Martin’s transition from this life to eternal life. In Detroit on this day in 1990, Archbishop Adam Maida, the local Archbishop, was the celebrant for the Mass. Also present was the President of the NBCCC, Bro. Roy Smith, OSC. The Mass was held at St. Anthony Church.

In the world today there are 200 million people of African descent in the Roman Catholic Church throughout the world.

In observation of this month in the Church, The Leadership Institute has included resources on its website to help us learn more.

Links include opportunities to learn about different Black Catholics and initiatives.

Learn more about Father Augustus Tolton, the first Roman Catholic priest in the United States publicly known to be black. A former slave who was baptized and reared Catholic, Tolton studied formally in Rome and was ordained in 1886.

Learn more about the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first successful Roman Catholic sisterhood in the world established by women of African descent.

Learn more about the Society of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart, The Josephites, a religious community of Catholic priests and brothers, committed to serving the African American community through the proclamation of the Gospel and our personal witness.

Learn more about Black Catholic Saints and Martyrs from the National Black Catholic Congress, Black Catholics whose cause for sainthood is now in process, and the timeline of U.S. Black Catholics presented by The National Black Catholic Congress.

The Leadership Institute’s Black Catholic History Month webpage also links to the recent webinar series “Conversations About Race,” a seven-week series hosted by The Leadership Institute, the diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism and the Apostolate for Black Catholics.

(To view these resources and more visit: www.formationreimagined/black-catholic-history-month.)

“Name calling” can tear down or build up

BRIDGEPORT—Sometimes calling each other names is a good thing, particularly when the name is “Saint,” Bishop frank J. Caggiano said in online Mass celebrating the Solmenity of All Saints.

In his homily on the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew (5:1-12A) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” the Bishop said that early Christians called each other “saints,” not because they were perfect or sinless but to encourage each other in the path toward holiness.

“They addressed each other with a name, a title that was an aspiration, an encouragement. In the act of calling one another saints, they are reminding each other of the destination their life was headed.”

The bishop began his homily from the Catholic Center chapel by noting that most children at some point regrettably engage in name calling, usually in a cruel way to put others down and hurt their feelings. He said adult society hasn’t improved on that behavior.

“In a world that has almost perfected the art of tearing down each other and calling each other the most horrible names as if we were children again, don’t you think it’s time to give the world a different path?” he asked.

The bishop said we need the courage and conviction to urge each other toward holiness, and that we have much good example because the saints of the Church—men, women, and children– have come from every tribe and land and have spoken different languages, but have achieved “union with God through the grace of Christ.”

“The church sweeps them all up today and remembers that their arrival is still our destination, and that we together must encourage each other in pursuit of holiness to join their company. We should not be afraid to ask for their help and intercession,” he said. “Many before us have arrived in glory and their prayers and intercession can help us arrive at our place in heaven. “

The bishop said that this week’s Gospel is an invitation to meditate on the beatitudes or “blessings, ” which form the catechism of eternal life.

Describing the beatitudes as “Words from the mouth of Our Savior that concretize God’s love in the world,” he said, “ You and I are his instruments. If we wish to see God, to live in glory, we are to be his instruments in this life. That is the disciples’ definition of holiness—to find his will and have the courage to do it.”

The bishop said that we’ve all known living saints in our lives, yet none of the saints “were perfect and sinless except Our Lady.”

In issuing his weekly challenge to the faithful, the bishop encouraged us to “live the virtues of the beatitudes” by becoming detached in spirit from material possessions and by having compassion for those who are suffering,

He urged the faithful to “be righteous and seek a purity that brings people together rather than divides them,” and to develop a meekness of heart in order “to remain open to the surprise of God” in our lives.

“How do I strive for great holiness? The lord has shown us the journey,” the bishop said, showing us the way by living in the spirit of the beatitudes.

Before the final blessing the bishop reminded people that Monday is the Feast of the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed and asked them “to spend All Souls Day in remembrance of those who have died to life and have been entrusted to the merciful love of God.”
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.
For information on the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/

Knights of Columbus Founder Beatified

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – The Catholic Church today declared Father Michael J. McGivney, the founder of the Knights of Columbus, “blessed.” He is now one step from canonization as a saint.

Father McGivney was given his title through an apostolic letter from Pope Francis that was read by Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Mass of beatification at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Connecticut. A tapestry of Father McGivney’s portrait was unveiled in the cathedral sanctuary after the letter was read.

Pope Francis credited Blessed Michael McGivney for his “zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and generous concern for his brothers and sisters,” that “made him an outstanding witness of Christian solidarity and fraternal assistance.”

The pope concluded that the Connecticut priest “henceforth be given the title blessed.”

The apostolic letter also announced that the liturgical memorial of Father McGivney will be observed annually in the Archdiocese of Hartford on Aug. 13 — the day between Father McGivney’s Aug. 12 birth and death on Aug. 14. Votive Masses in honor of Father McGivney can also be celebrated by priests for Knights of Columbus gatherings with the permission of the local bishop on any day when not superseded by another observance on the liturgical calendar.

Afterwards, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair offered words of appreciation to the pope.

The coronavirus pandemic necessitated that participation at the Mass was by invitation-only with the faithful able to watch the event on television or online.

Known in his day as a holy parish priest of the then-Diocese of Hartford, Father McGivney labored tirelessly to improve the condition of his 19th-century immigrant community in Connecticut. He founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882 to provide financial support for widows and orphans and to keep Catholic men and their families close to their faith at a time of widespread anti-Catholic bigotry.

The fledgling Knights of Columbus soon became a major force of evangelization, charity, racial integration and the defense of religious freedom. Today there are 2 million members in more than 16,000 K of C councils located in all 50 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and the Philippines, as well as in recently established councils in Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, France and South Korea.

“Nearly a century before the Second Vatican Council, Father McGivney’s vision empowered the laity to serve the Church and their neighbors in a new way — through a greater commitment to charity — and to build effective cooperation between laity and clergy,” said Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Today’s beatification serves to encourage that vision of lay leadership and fellowship.”

The Vatican announced on May 27 that Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Father McGivney, paving the way to beatification.

The miracle involved the healing of Michael Schachle, now 5-years old, from a fatal case of fetal hydrops, which causes a dangerous accumulation of fluids throughout the body of an unborn child. Michael’s parents, Daniel and Michelle Schachle of Dickson, Tennessee, responded to the seemingly hopeless situation by asking friends, family and Knights to join them in prayer for the intercession of Father McGivney. Michael’s subsequent healing had no medical or scientific explanation. Daniel and Michelle named their son Michael McGivney Schachle in thanksgiving for their son’s survival.

An additional miracle attributed to Father McGivney’s intercession will be required for canonization.

In August, the Knights announced that their Museum in New Haven, Conn, will be transformed into the Blessed Michael McGivney Pilgrimage Center to serve pilgrims who travel to New Haven to learn about Father McGivney and pray at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, where Father McGivney’s remains are entombed.

Photos courtesy of the Knights of Columbus

About Father McGivney
Born of Irish immigrant parents in 1852 in Waterbury, Connecticut, Father McGivney was a central figure in the dramatic growth of the Church in the United States in the late 19th century. Ordained in Baltimore in 1877, he ministered to a heavily Irish-American and immigrant community in Connecticut. At a time of anti-Catholic sentiment, he worked tirelessly to offer practical solutions to their many problems — spiritual and temporal alike. With a group of the leading Catholic men of New Haven, he founded the Knights to provide spiritual support for Catholic men and financial resources for families that had suffered the loss of their breadwinner.

Father McGivney died of pneumonia on Aug. 14, 1890 — two days after his 38th birthday — after falling ill amid a pandemic. Recent scientific evidence indicates that the pandemic — like the current one — may have been caused by a coronavirus.

Known by his contemporaries for his devotion to the faith and his embodiment of the characteristics of the Good Samaritan, Father McGivney remains an important role model for parish priests around the world.

In March 2008, Father McGivney was declared a Venerable Servant of God by Pope Benedict XVI, who during his visit to New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral cited the “remarkable accomplishment of that exemplary American priest, the Venerable Michael McGivney, whose vision and zeal led to the establishment of the Knights of Columbus.”

Two recent books tell the story of Father McGivney and his legacy: Parish Priest (2006), his biography; and The Knights of Columbus: An Illustrated History (2020).

More information is available at www.FatherMcGivney.org.

About the Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is one of the world’s leading fraternal and service organizations, with 2 million members in more than 16,000 parish-based councils. During the past year, Knights around the world donated more than 77 million service hours and $187 million for worthy causes in their communities. The organization also offers extensive life insurance services to members and their families, resulting in more than $114 billion of life insurance in force. Knights of Columbus Asset Advisors offers investment services to individuals and institutions in accord with Catholic social teachings. From helping children in need, to providing wheelchairs for the disabled, to helping stock food banks, to offering top-rated and affordable insurance products to its members, the Knights of Columbus has supported families and communities for more than 138 years.

Local Knights of Columbus to distribute over 300 brand new coats 

NORWALK—More than 300 brand new coats will be distributed by the Knights of Columbus Coats for Kids Initiative with Family & Children’s Agency (FCA).  This Initiative helps keep kids warm over the winter months by providing this necessity. Due to the COVID -19 pandemic, the Knights had to do it slightly different this year. Normally, the families would come down to the distribution site and the Knights would assist with finding the correct size. To be safe during the pandemic, the Knights of Columbus and FCA decided to have the Knights set up the coats at FCA’s building on 140 Water Street on Saturday, October 24.  The FCA will have social workers pick up the coats and distribute them to the families directly. “Even though we had to change how we do the event, the most important thing is that children will receive a warm coat for the upcoming winter season”, said Project Chairman and District Deputy George Ribellino. 

Knights of Columbus Councils from Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Westport and 4th Degree Assembly100 came together to purchase the brand new coats. The local event is part of the Knights of Columbus national Leave No Neighbor Behind initiative. Since the program launched in 2009, more than 500,000 coats have been distributed in 49 states and all 10 Canadian provinces.

“The pandemic has created an even bigger need in our community so we do what Knights do and help our Brothers and Sisters when times are rough,” said Ribellino. “It’s great to see brother Knights come together from different councils to combine resources to help more people in need.”

FCA’s President & CEO, Rob Cashel adds, “Personally, and on behalf of Family & Children’s Agency, I cannot thank the Knights of Columbus enough for their generous efforts to secure 300 new coats for our clients through their Coats for Kids Initiative. During these challenging times, I am truly grateful that there are groups like the Knights of Columbus that dedicate their time and efforts to meeting critical needs in our community”.

CANCELLED: ‘Books Behind Bars’ at St. Catherine/St. Agnes

RIVERSIDE—CANCELLED Do you have old paperback books lying around? The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes is collecting softcover books to be donated to inmates in regional prisons.

Bring your books: all genres, fiction, self-help, mysteries, non-fiction, biographies…for adults-young adult/teens. No hardcover, textbooks, or children’s books.

Books will be collected Tuesdays, November 10, 17, 24 from 9-11 am to the parking area across from St. Catherine of Siena Church entrance at 4 Riverside Ave. (Same location as weekly food drives for Neighbor-to-Neighbor).

The Life of a Parish-Life Coordinator

According to a 2005 study by Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), more than five hundred U.S. parishes were entrusted to someone other than a priest. Many of these church workers, usually called parish-life coordinators, are lay people, including women religious, although most are deacons. Given the ongoing shortage of priests, a 2019 CARA report surprisingly indicated that just 341 parishes are now being administered to by deacons or lay people, a more than 30 percent decline. This can be attributed in part to the closing or merging of parishes, but it also seems to reflect a hesitancy on the part of bishops to embrace lay leadership on the parish level. The concern, as expressed by an instruction released by the Vatican in July, is that the central role of the priesthood in the sacramental and pastoral life of the Church cannot, by definition, be assumed by the laity. Otherwise, the statement explained, pastoral leadership can be seen as merely “functional” rather than sacerdotal. The distinctive roles of the laity and the priesthood must be secured; an “essential difference…exists between the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood.” The appointment of parish-life coordinators cannot be made for “reasons of convenience or ‘ambiguous advancement of the laity.’”

These are not necessarily unreasonable concerns. When it comes to the sacramental life of the Church and the centrality of the priesthood to Catholic historical and theological self-understanding, turning over priestly roles to the laity raises a host of questions. But with no dramatic increase in priestly vocations on the horizon, at least in the United States, parish-life coordinators will remain the face of some parishes, a face that most parishioners seem to welcome. According to CARA, these devoted lay people are usually highly educated and are most often women. That is the case for Eleanor Sauers, the parish-life coordinator for St. Anthony of Padua Church in Fairfield, Connecticut. Fairfield is in the Diocese of Bridgeport, whose bishop is the Most Reverend Frank Caggiano. Sauers was the first—and remains the only—lay parish-life coordinator in the diocese. I recently interviewed her by email. Our exchange has been edited for clarity.

PAUL BAUMANN: Eleanor, you became parish-life coordinator after the death of Fr. John Baran, a much-loved pastor. You were the head of religious education at St. Anthony’s at the time, and it was my impression that you and Fr. John were good friends, and that he was a mentor for you. What was that transition like? How do you see your pastoral vision in light of Fr. John’s ministry?

ELEANOR SAUERS: I became the director of religious education at St. Anthony’s in September 2002. I had come to the parish as a volunteer when Fr. John was transferred there as an administrator. Fr. John had been a parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in Fairfield for seven years, during which time I worked (as a volunteer) with him on the parish council, the youth group, the liturgy committee, and other ministries. John became a close friend to my family during this time.

I left my position in a local insurance agency in 2000, having entered the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education at Fordham. John encouraged me to pursue my studies and became a mentor to me throughout my master’s and doctoral journeys. At St. Anthony’s, I worked with Fr. John, Frank Macari, the music director, and Beth Paris, the pastoral minister for youth. We were a team. Throughout John’s tenure, during his long affliction with muscular dystrophy, and especially during his final battle with melanoma, he and I collaborated on most parish efforts.

When John died in March 2018, I was devastated. Fr. Michael Boccaccio, a semi-retired diocesan priest, was appointed administrator of the parish but I ran the day-to-day activities. The future was uncertain, but the team and I were determined to continue to implement Fr. John’s vision for the parish. That vision was firmly rooted in the collegiality and subsidiary foci of the Second Vatican Council. We respected and treated parishioners as adults. We also recognized that as a small parish we couldn’t offer everything, but whatever we offered had to be done well. Fr. John’s preaching and his welcoming manner, especially his determination to create an environment where the Spirit could flourish, caused the parish to blossom and grow exponentially until his death.

In the months following his death, we maintained parish life as we thought he would, but we were aware things could and would change as soon as the next pastor was named. We were dedicated to keeping Fr. John’s mission alive. Bishop Caggiano met with the parish staff, trustees, and pastoral council twice—the first time in June 2018. He asked us what our hopes were for the next pastor. He also told us that he would eventually be appointing a diocesan priest. We met with the bishop again in December. At that time, he informed us that he was appointing me as the parish-life coordinator.

The months in between those meetings were anxious ones, not knowing what the future would bring. But we decided to “act as if” things would work out for the best and that John’s legacy would not only be maintained but built upon.

My pastoral vision, influenced heavily by my time with John, is one of promoting inclusivity in all areas of parish life. By that I mean welcoming all people and inviting them to share in the life of the parish. In particular, I am interested in reaching out to other communities, particularly communities of color, to help our parishioners and theirs gain new perspectives on what we have in common and new respect for the ways in which we differ. At this moment, recognizing and fighting racism is of paramount importance. I am interested in showing that the Catholic Church is a place where you learn how to get closer to God. I want to share our rich spiritual life as Catholics, and provide opportunities to discuss our faith. My emphasis is always on community and how communal worship and socialization can help form, inform, and transform people.

PB: Did Bishop Caggiano initiate the discussion about your appointment or did parishioners urge him to make you parish-life coordinator? What were your conversations with the bishop like before your appointment? How often do you meet or talk with him now?

ES: In November, eight months after John’s death, the bishop called and asked to meet. When I arrived at his office, he first asked how I was doing, how I was handling things at the parish. He then began to speak of his search for John’s replacement. Eventually, he said he was considering a new form of parish leadership and opened a folder containing several pages detailing the duties and responsibilities of a “parish-life coordinator.” Bishop Caggiano indicated that he knew I had already been doing much of what was entailed in the position. I agreed! He asked me to think about assuming the parish-life coordinator position and get back to him. I immediately answered that I would do it. That response initiated a discussion of items to be handled and how to announce this decision to the parish. It was decided that he would come to the parish on the first Sunday of December to announce his decision to the same group that had met with him in June. The announcement to the entire parish occurred the following Sunday.

Bishop Caggiano has always been cordial and friendly. Our conversations, monthly during the first half-year of my appointment, were pleasant. He always asked about me, the parish, and invariably about what he could do to help. Beyond that six-month period, we have met only during the regularly scheduled pastor and administrator gatherings, which are now held on Zoom.

PB: Did you have to go through a certification program for lay parish-life coordinators? Do you have much contact with other parish-life coordinators across the country?

ES: I did not go through any specific certification program, but my degree work at Fordham included studies of parishes and their organization, the mission and ministry of the Church, pastoral care, spirituality, religious education, and leadership. Fr. John’s mentorship and the practical experience I gained running the parish when he was ill filled in the blanks. Throughout the country, there are hundreds of parishes led by lay people, although it is more common that the leader is a deacon or a vowed religious woman. Unfortunately, I have not had much contact with other parish-life coordinators. As you might imagine, we are all pretty busy.

PB: Is your financial compensation adequate? Does it include benefits such as health care?

ES: The parish compensates me very fairly, commensurate with my responsibilities. My benefits include participation in a pension plan and health insurance.

PB: What has most surprised you about your work? What has been the hardest part of the job? What gives you the most satisfaction?

ES: I have been surprised that so much of my time is taken up with maintenance of the premises, money matters, and meetings. During the first year I spent a lot of time raising a good deal of money for a diocesan capital campaign. During this second year, our response to the pandemic has taken priority, which now includes taking reservations for attending Mass, sanitizing the church before and after each Mass, and livestreaming the 10 a.m. Mass on the parish website. Raising money is the part of the job that has been hardest. I derive the greatest satisfaction from meeting with individuals and families about their concerns, working with the team to plan liturgical celebrations and plans for the parish, and being with parishioners at Mass. Being visible and accessible is essential to the position.

PB: Weddings, baptisms, and funerals are a big part of any priest’s ministry. Given your limited sacramental “faculties,” how have you coordinated those activities at St. Anthony’s?

ES: Of course, I do not preside at weddings, baptisms, funerals, or Mass. I do give a short reflection after Mass, and I meet with families to plan sacramental services, especially funerals. The priests of the Fairfield University Jesuit Community are our sacramental partners, and they preside at Masses, and at most of the weddings and funerals. A deacon assigned to Fairfield University and to our parish meets with and presides at most baptisms. Collaboration between the parish and the Jesuits has been smooth and fruitful.

PB: In July the Vatican issued an instruction touching on the role of parish-life coordinators. The instruction emphasized that the appointment of parish-life coordinators should be considered a temporary measure. It also expressed concerns about confusing the roles of parish-life coordinators and priests, noting that the sacerdotal nature of the priesthood must remain distinct from the “common priesthood” of the laity. In your experience, to what extent are these legitimate concerns?

ES: The Vatican instruction did not contain any new norms but reiterated previously stated concerns, specifically about evangelization as the means of renewing parish life. Recognizing that geographical parishes are no longer the norm, the document spoke of “reorganizing the manner in which pastoral care of parish communities is assigned,” and called for a greater collaboration with the laity. Yes, the distinction between the sacerdotal priesthood and the common priesthood of the laity was a concern, as was the proper role of the priest as the sacramental leader of the parish. In my experience, however, no parishioner confuses my position with that of the priests who serve our parish. Parishioners view me as the administrator of the parish and as a spiritual leader, but do not view my role as sacramental. People are savvy and can easily distinguish between the two vocations. That said, because we are likely to face a shortage of ordained clergy for the foreseeable future, I think parish-life coordinators will continue to serve the church in many parts of the United States.

PB: I assume that the response to your appointment has been overwhelmingly positive. But every church leader is also subject to complaints. What sort of complaints have you had to deal with?

ES: The response of the parish to my appointment was positive, but there were some people outside the parish who phoned, wrote, or made derogatory comments on social media, especially in the weeks following the announcement of my appointment. Of course, I am not aware of all the complaints parishioners might have. Complaints about pandemic preparations or the cancellation of events are understandable. Overall, I feel very blessed by the parishioners and am so grateful for their support.

St. Anthony’s Parish under Fr. John came to be known as an inclusive community. The parish continues that sense of welcome even during these difficult times. I believe we have continued to create an environment where the Spirit can flourish. We try to meet people where they are on the journey of faith, without judgment. Our parishioners are warm and loving people and their warmth and their joy in being together to celebrate the liturgy is palpable and contagious.

PB: Who do you go to for spiritual guidance yourself?

ES: The liturgy inspires me. My spiritual director has been most helpful, as have the Jesuits from the Fairfield University community. For the past two years I’ve been taking a course at Fairfield, “Aging with Grace,” taught by Fr. John Murray. The class has provided support, challenge, and comfort. I also belong to a long-established prayer group and a women’s Bible study group. And of course, my leadership team is a valued source of support.

From the beginning, the Holy Spirit has been an integral part of my time at St. Anthony’s. I sense the Spirit’s presence every day. I also sense Fr. John’s presence guiding me and the parish. I give thanks every day for the opportunity to serve God’s people at St. Anthony’s.

PB: What are Masses at St. Anthony’s like during the pandemic? What has changed and who shows up? Do parishioners continue to support the parish financially?

ES: Obviously, Masses are quite different now. Because of social-distancing requirements, the church can only seat forty-eight people. In the “good old days” the church held five hundred worshipers. Mass goers are now required to make a reservation in advance, answer questions about their recent travels and how they are feeling, check in when they arrive, and use hand sanitizer before entering the church.

We have only two Masses on the weekend now. Both are on Sunday, one at 10 a.m. and the other at noon. Previously, we also had Masses on Saturday evening at 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday. Those who come now are older for the most part, together with a few families, a couple of younger couples, and a few singles. The 10 a.m. Mass is usually full; the noon Mass usually is not.

It is my impression that most people are not ready to be in the enclosed space of a church, regardless of how safe we try to make it. Disasters usually send us into the arms of our family and friends, and to the churches. One of the many disheartening consequences of the pandemic is that we cannot do that now. Another casualty of the pandemic is singing. There is now no congregational singing (we are a singing parish!), no exchange of peace, and no mingling before or after Mass. People must satisfy their thirst for community with waves and brief greetings.

Our parish is so fortunate in many ways, one of which is the financial support from parishioners. Of course, the Sunday collections are down because Mass attendance is so limited. But those parishioners who have continued to contribute have subscribed to GiveCentral, our online system, or send their donations through the mail. Some use the mail slot in the rectory’s front door. Parishioners have been generous. We have been able to maintain our staff, for which I am most grateful. The work does not stop even during a pandemic.

PB: You mentioned that inclusion and fighting racism are two of your pastoral goals. Fairfield is a relatively well-to-do, mostly white suburb. How have you tried to pursue those goals?

ES: In the summer of 2015, after the tragic shootings at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, there was a memorial service conducted at the Bethel AME Church on Grove Street in neighboring Bridgeport. Members of many different congregations—Christian, Jewish, Muslim—from around the area were invited. Twelve parishioners from St. Anthony’s went. It was a powerful experience for everyone involved. What I remember particularly were the words of Rabbi Prosnit from B’nai Israel in Bridgeport. “Disturb me, O Lord…wrest me from my complacency,” the rabbi challenged us. Those words made us all sit up and take notice. Another minister prayed for the shooter and his family. Some in the congregation murmured “Amen,” and “That’s right.” Our little group was amazed and humbled at these expressions of forgiveness.

That evening left a mark on all of us. One of our parishioners has kept in contact with a few Bethel congregants and attends services occasionally with them. Our goal is to engage with other congregations and to build relationships. We also have groups in the parish who are reading about racism and how we can recognize it in ourselves. We must take an honest look at ourselves before we can engage with others. But the goal is to establish lines of communication and dialogue that honor the experiences of others and work together to better all parties.

We are also a member of the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport. We have two delegates working directly with the council. The group’s agenda includes food inequality, racial justice, building bridges among different communities of faith, youth programs, and more. These delegates report back to us, and their information is shared in the parish bulletin.

The parish has a Social Justice Committee that meets regularly and provides information to the parish about various grassroots organizations. The committee is currently focused on climate change. Financially and with volunteer workers, we also support Bridgeport’s Thomas Merton Center, Operation Hope, Mercy Learning Center, and Caroline House, all of which serve people in need.

Originally published at commonwealmagazine.org by By Paul Baumann
October 29, 2020

Some Parishes return to Phase 2 guidelines

BRIDGEPORT–  With a second wave of the coronavirus beginning to take hold across Fairfield County, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has updated health and safety protocols for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

In a memo to all clergy issued today, the bishop noted that several cities including Bridgeport, Danbury, and Stamford have reverted to the state’s Phase 2 reopening guidelines in response to a growing positivity rate and an increase in hospitalizations.

The Bishop announced that if a parish is located in a city or municipality that has returned to Phase 2, then the following guidelines are in effect:

1. Mass and Liturgical Events
a. Indoors limited to 25% of capacity, no more than 100 people total
b. Outdoors limited to 150 people total

2. Non-liturgical Gatherings
a. Indoors limited to 25 people
b. Outdoors limited to 100 people

The bishop said there are no other changes to the most recent diocesan liturgical guidelines.

In addition to limiting capacity, masks, proper social distancing, and frequent sanitization are essential.

The bishop thanked pastors and priests for their continued leadership and support of diocesan COVID-19 protocols during this challenging time.

Radio: Saving Lives in the Central African Republic

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Each week, I look forward to recording my podcast, Let Me Be Frank with Veritas Catholic Network. Recording my podcast has helped reinforce in me an appreciation for how powerful the spoken word can be, which is why I so appreciate how people in the Central African Republic — a country literally in the middle of Africa — use radio as an important way to provide accurate and essential information to stop the spread of COVID-19. Catholic Relief Services, which has been in the Central African Republic since 1999, works with partners and radio programs there to dispel rumors about the disease. In a country where the internet isn’t widely available, radio is one of the best tools for fighting the spread of the virus by providing people with accurate information. It’s a simple and effective way of reaching millions of people, and saving lives.

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

Vigil of All Saints 

BRIDGEPORT—Saturday is the day before the Solemnity of All Saints. In the evening, The Cathedral Parish of Bridgeport will have an opportunity for prayer at St. Patrick Church starting at 7:30 pm with Sung Vespers (Evening Prayer chanted in Latin) followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 8 pm until a little after midnight.  
During the evening, there will be devotions prayed and excerpts from the lives of the saints read. It will be in English and Spanish.  
(More information will be posted at www.thecathedralparish.org/allsaints  .)