Paying forward Catholic education

BRIDGEPORT—Catholic education can lay a moral foundation that will last a lifetime. And no one is a truer testament to that than Dr. Sarita Soares, an internist and addiction medicine specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital.

As a doctor, Soares’ educational journey was longer than most, starting in Danbury at St. Peter School. She continued her Catholic education at Immaculate High School in Danbury and at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit college in Pennsylvania.

Soares then attended the University of Connecticut Medical School and did her residency at Yale University, joining its faculty afterwards. But even in a secular school and work setting, her foundation in Catholic education remained strong.

“We have a responsibility to use the gifts that were given to us by God to really try to foster community (and) reach out to those who are in our surroundings to help them in different ways,” Soares said. “We all have different gifts, and we are called to use them to help the people around us.”

Soares had been interested in pursuing medicine since she was young, but had doubts about that path as well. She attributes the decision to become a doctor to her participation in an Ignatian retreat while she was in college.

“I really felt like it was the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You know you have an interest, you have the talents, why are you fighting this?’” she said. “That, I think, really prompted me into applying to medical school. And even throughout the process, there were many times when I had doubts. And every time I had those doubts, I felt like something above me facilitated me being successful.”

Originally, Soares wanted to be a pediatrician because she loved children, but then found herself drawn to the problem-solving aspect of internal medicine.

“One of the gifts that was really fostered, especially through college, was the use of our God-given intellect to reason through problems,” she said. “I also felt like it was an opportunity to demonstrate some of those (Catholic) virtues, in terms of compassion and outreach.”

However, Soares did not necessarily see herself pursuing an addiction medicine specialty. But in the midst of an opioid epidemic in a facility with a robust addiction medicine program like Yale, she gradually began pursuing that additional specialty.

According to Soares, many of the patients she works with in her addiction medicine specialty can be particularly vulnerable and marginalized, and are in particular need not only of physical healing, but care and kindness as well.

‘They’re a population that people try to shy away from, and yet they are some of the people that need the most help,” Soares said. “If I could get some tools by educating myself, that’s a population of patients I can show empathy and compassion, using the gifts God has given me to help a group of people I wouldn’t necessarily run into on a day-to-day basis.”

Every new day at work gives Soares the opportunity to put her faith into meaningful action, especially in her interactions with patients. Each day will almost definitely involve practicing both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“In addiction medicine, it’s a lot of helping people who are struggling with mental health crises, struggling with a sense of depersonalization and fragmented families, helping people who may have been imprisoned, helping people who are homeless, helping immigrants and refugees,” she said. “I think (helping) a lot of the populations that we’re called to help is very much a part of what I do.”

Catholic education was an integral part of Soares’ path to becoming a doctor. And while she is thankful that her family chose Catholic schooling for her K-12 education, it was nevertheless a decision with a certain sacrifice for her family.

Catholic schools are just one of the missions supported through the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, particularly through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund that provides tuition assistance. And because of the role Catholic education played in her own story, Soares is particularly enthusiastic about “paying it forward” for future generations to be educated and formed in the faith.

“There’s definitely the opportunity for us who have been graduates of Catholic schools to remember that even though paying tuition to a Catholic school might mean you can’t go on a glamorous vacation, the things that really matter in the future (are) those foundations of faith and virtue that will have long-lasting impacts in children’s lives,” she said.

Soares continues growing in her faith with other young adults and is the interim president of Young Catholic Professionals’ Fairfield County Chapter. YCP is an interdisciplinary mentorship and networking professional group rooted in Catholic virtue, social justice and virtue.

“Dr. Soares’ journey through her trust in God is an example of how the teachings of the Catholic Church and the programs and services offered by the Appeal guides each and every one of us; it is truly inspiring,” said Pam Rittman, Director of Development and the Bishop’s Appeal. There are countless individuals and families, who with the help of generous donors like you, are supported and have changed lives.”

(To make your gift online, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.)

(Dr. Soares’ statements in the above article are her own opinion, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale School of Medicine or Yale Medicine.)

By Rose Brennan
Editor’s note: The 2023 Bishop’s Appeal “One in Christ” touches lives and supports every person in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Whether it is through faith formation, providing for those most in need, educating children at a Catholic school and more, we are truly “One in Christ” when we give a gift to the Appeal. Dr. Soares’ story is one of success, in part made possible by initiatives supported through the Appeal.