Msgr. DiGiovanni and Stamford couple to be honored

STAMFORD—Monsignor Stephen M. DiGiovanni, pastor of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist and founding rector of Saint John Fisher Seminary, will be honored at the Second Annual Rector’s Dinner. His tenure at the seminary produced 27 priests currently serving in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The event, “Forming Fishers of Men,” will be held at the Italian Center of Stamford on May 18 and also recognize Stamford residents Phil and Judy DeFelice for their longtime commitment to the seminary and the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The dinner is being hosted by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and Father Paul Check, rector of the seminary.

“By honoring members of the clergy and lay faithful who have contributed significantly to the formation of candidates for the priesthood, the Rector’s Dinner affirms the essential work of Saint John Fisher Seminary and helps to raise funds for the seminary’s work and ongoing restoration,” Bishop Caggiano said. “I thank everyone in advance for their support and enthusiasm, and look forward to this very blessed and special evening.”

Bishop Caggiano praised Monsignor DiGiovanni and the DeFelices, who he said have faithfully served the ‘Fishermen’ for more than 20 years.

“Our honorees were also instrumental in the development of the adoration chapel and have truly inspired the diocese through their leadership and ongoing support for the seminary,” he added.

Father Check said, “I am one of a number of priests serving in the diocese today who attribute in good measure the formation we received for the priesthood to Monsignor DiGiovanni.” When Father Check entered in 1992, Monsignor was vocation director and rector. He later also served as parochial vicar under Monsignor at St. John the Evangelist for six years.

A churchman, author and historian, Monsignor DiGiovanni was founding rector of the seminary in 1989 when it was located on Daniels Farm Road in Trumbull before moving to Stamford in 1995. Sixty-four active priests in the diocese are alumni of the seminary, 27 of them are from Monsignor DiGiovanni’s tenure.

Born in Arlington, Mass., he is an alumnus of the Pontifical North American College in the Vatican and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport in 1977. In 1983, he was awarded his doctorate in Ecclesiastical History from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He served as parochial vicar in two parishes, temporary administrator in another, vocation director for the diocese and rector of the seminary. He has been pastor of the Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist in Stamford since 1998.

His most recent book, “Armed with Faith: The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, M.M.,” tells the story of Servant of God Father Capodanno’s missionary work in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and his service as chaplain during the Vietnam War, where he was killed while ministering to Marines in combat.

Father Check said that Phil and Judy DeFelice have been his personal friends since before his ordination to the diaconate in 1996 through their involvement with the seminary, where Ms. DeFelice was receptionist and secretary for 22 years before retiring in 2017.

“Those job descriptions don’t adequately indicate the scope of her roles,” he said. “She has a great heart for the men and lives a true spiritual maternity for so many who have come through the program and are now priests.”

Father Check praised Phil DeFelice, who is a general contractor, carpenter and woodworker by trade. “He is diligent and accomplished in his work,” he said. “There is an added dimension to his professional life, which is his life of faith. He has put his skills to the service of the diocese and the seminary.”

DeFelice was instrumental in the major renovations done to St. Augustine Cathedral, along with the construction of the seminary’s main chapel and adoration chapel.

Last year’s dinner was sold out.

(For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call the seminary at 203.322.5331.)