DANBURY—Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Missionary Seminary honored Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States on Sunday, who praised them for forming men who will go out as missionary disciples in the name of Christ to a world in need of evangelization.
More than 400 people attended the 5th Annual Gala Dinner, which recognized Archbishop Pierre, along with James Larkin, retired vice chairman of American Express International.
“The Church needs missionary disciples,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Missionary activity is one of the greatest challenges facing us today. Those of you who support the Neocatechumenal Way are doing a vital mission for the future of the Church.”
The Redemptoris Mater Seminary is under the direction of rector Father Marco Pacciana, along with Father Giandomenico Flora, spiritual director. Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer) seminaries are under the auspices of the Neocatechumenal Way, a 55-year-old charism in the Church dedicated to Christian formation and the New Evangelization. The seminaries form men as missionary diocesan priests to serve the local church or in any part of the world the bishop chooses.
The seminary in Stamford was established in 2015 on the Feast of Immaculate Conception through the efforts of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. Several years ago, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford asked for a section of the seminary to prepare men for vocations in the archdiocese, Father Pacciana said.
Bishop Caggiano, in his opening prayer at the gala, which was held at The Amber Room Colonnade in Danbury, praised the seminarians, and said that one day “We hope to see them ordained to be your sacred priests.”
Father Pacciana expressed his gratitude and said, “I am very happy and grateful for all of you coming tonight for your support.” He said the seminary has had many milestones over the past year, including the ordination of one of the original seminarians, Ricardo Batista Comim, to the transitional diaconate.
In his comments, Archbishop Pierre praised the seminary for its work forming men to be priests who are missionary disciples, who “shine like diamonds among the people of God.”
He said true missionary priests must have the ability to see where mercy is needed and bring a “healthy zeal” to their vocation so they can share the healing power of God’s mercy with others.
He said Redemptoris Mater produces men who give themselves to the Lord and their flock by bringing the joy of the Gospel to the world…and they must be willing to go out into the world.
“It is easier to stay home surrounded by those who love us, but this is not Jesus’ way—he does not use half measures,” the archbishop said. “He gives his disciples one word: Go.” It is “a powerful word that resonates in every cranny of missionary life.”
The men, he said, “must be in a permanent state of mission” and understand the territory of their mission—and their territory is the Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese of Hartford. He said, “This territory has a rich Catholic history and tradition, and it is still a missionary territory for those who have fallen away and who are on the margins of society.”
In order to announce Christ, the men must be “free of worldly attachments, and at Redemptoris Mater, seminarians learn to renounce the things of the world and develop an understanding of the beauty of freedom that only following Christ can give.”
Father Pacciana gave him a silver plaque and thanked him for his message and support. He also thanked James Larkin, who could not attend the gala, for his commitment to the seminary and the Church.
“The Nuncio is very supportive of the work of the Neocatecumenal Way and the Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in the USA,” Father Pacciana said later. “This dinner conveyed an atmosphere of joy and communion. People came from the tristate area and also from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to support the seminarians, but we were all together as one family, the family of the children of God, to celebrate and to support these men.” He said that most of the people at the gala rediscovered their baptism through the itinerary of Christian initiation that is the Neocatecumenal Way.
“Many of these were brothers and sisters from the communities where these seminarians too are rediscovering their baptism, and it is from this itinerary that their vocations come, and through this itinerary they are nourished and strengthened,” he said.
Father thanked Archbishop Pierre for attending and “showing with his presence the love and support of the Holy Father for the work of the Neocatecumenal Way and the Redemptoris Mater Seminaries.”
He said the archbishop presided over a vocational meeting in Gettysburg last July attended by more than 10,000 brothers and sisters from the Neocatecumenal Way, and “he saw firsthand the work of the Lord in their life, when young men, young women and entire families answered the call to become priests, nuns or to leave as a family for the mission to evangelize everywhere in the world.”
Father Pacciana also thanked Bishop Caggiano.
“He has honored us with his presence and is the man without whom none of this would have been possible in our diocese,” Father said. “Because of his great prophetic vision, we saw the opening of this seminary, which is an answer to the crisis of vocations and the larger crisis of faith our Church is going through.”
He thanked Archbishop Blair, “who had the same vision when a few years ago decided to open a section of our seminary for the formation of vocations for the Archdiocese of Hartford.” He thanked Bishop Juan M. Betancourt of the Archdiocese for his support and “the great work he is doing in fostering vocations in the Archdiocese of Hartford,” and Bishop James Massa, “who has always accompanied and supported us, both as auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and as rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, where these men study theology.”
He praised everyone involved in making this year’s gala a success and say next year’s dinner will be held on June 4.
In his final comments, Bishop Caggiano thanked Archbishop Pierre for his great witness to the United States, and he praised the seminarians: “These men, each in their own unique way, are very much committed. They are surrendering themselves to the hands of the Lord and will one day be our shepherds and missionary disciples. The Church will be in very good hands with these young men. I know them and I live with them.”
In offering the final blessing, Archbishop Blair said, “Lord, we are privileged to be together and celebrate as one on this feast of Corpus Christi, the great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.” He said the Blessed Virgin, who is the Mother of the Eucharist, is the patron of the Redemptoris Mater Seminaries (Mother of the Redeemer) and that the seminarians have all the help they need through the prayers of the Mother of God.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre was ordained on April 5, 1970, in Saint-Malo, France and incardinated in the Archdiocese of Rennes. He was parochial vicar of St. Peter and St. Paul Parish in Colombes, Diocese of Nanterre, France.
He has a master’s degree in Sacred Theology and a doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He completed his studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome and started his service in the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See on March 5, 1977. He was appointed first to the Pontifical Representation in New Zealand and the Islands of the Pacific Ocean. Subsequently, he served in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, in Cuba, in Brazil, and at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
He was elected Titular Archbishop of Gunela on July 12, 1995 and received the Episcopal Consecration on September 24, 1995, in Saint-Malo, France.
Archbishop Pierre was appointed apostolic nuncio to Haiti in 1995, where he served until 1999. He has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda and then to Mexico. He was appointed apostolic nuncio of the United States by Pope Francis on April 12, 2016.
Honoree James Larkin is a 50-year parishioner of St. Mary Church in Greenwich, a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and Wharton Graduate School. He and his wife Dr. Susan Larkin, who is an art historian, have two children and seven grandchildren.
A Korean War veteran, he served two tours of duty as a Marine Corps infantry officer in Korea, Japan and the U.S. and was discharged as a captain.
He spent 40 years in the international communications and financial services fields. His 12 years with American Broadcasting Company were comprised of cooperative liaison with the government’s counter-Castro undertakings in Central and South America. He retired as vice chairman of American Express International after previously serving as president, Europe, Middle East and Africa for the company.
Since 1992, he has been a supporter, contributor and collaborator in the international Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. In 1994, he was an Ecumenical Patriarchate delegate to the peace conference on Bosnia-Herzegovina in Istanbul. In 2000, he was the first American Catholic to be awarded the Cross of St. Andrew by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul and is Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He also received a citation from the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut for building unity between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.