STAMFORD—Father John Connaughton assured his parishioners that “crying babies in church are music to a pastor’s ears”…so they blessed him with a symphony.
There was crying from one side of the church to the other on Sunday as the recently merged Parish of St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel observed the annual “Baptism Anniversary Celebration” with 40 children on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
Eighteen children who were baptized in 2019, along with 22 who marked the fifth anniversary of their baptism, came together with their families for the Mass and to renew baptismal vows during the annual celebration, which honors and encourages the parents and lets the parish pray together for them.
“It’s important for people to remember that the Church is their family, and this kind of event reminds them how important baptism is…and also how much we need a community to help us to get to know God,” Father Connaughton said.
In his homily, he talked about the challenges and wonders of parenthood, along with the spiritual development and opportunity for discipleship that it offers.
“There’s almost nothing that changes a person as much as becoming a parent does,” he said. “When that baby arrives, it comes with no instructions, and it’s up to the parents to take that baby home and keep it alive. Witnessing that among my sisters and my friends, it’s amazing to see how, before long, they’re able to do things like change diapers and wipe noses that they would have been completely repulsed by not long before.”
With parenthood comes countless teaching opportunities and occasions for growth, for child and mother and father, alike.
“If there’s something that people discover through the experience of having children, it’s that we have very little control over things in life, but giving themselves over to that of lack of control and having to figure things out has a remarkable effect,” Father said. “When people look back on their lives, they often marvel how much being a mom and dad has changed them. They are amazed at how different they have become from the totally self-absorbed and self-centered creature they had been; how hard it was to undergo the change, but also because they loved their child so much, it was kind of easy at the same time.”
A child coming into the life of a mother and father transforms them, just as the presence of the infant Jesus did to Mary and Joseph, particularly during the presentation in the Temple when Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be “a sign that would be contradicted,” Father said.
And just as parents must commit to giving their “whole selves to the care of their child,” becoming a disciple of Christ requires giving your entire self to him without hesitation or reservation.
“I said that almost nothing changes us more than parenthood,” Father said. “One thing that does change us more is discipleship. Our relationship with Christ as a member of his family, the Church, transforms us most of all.”
Gina Denner, who with her husband Charlie organized the event with a team of volunteers, has been involved with it since it began 11 years ago. “This is the most wonderful experience I have ever had in a ministry,” she said. “Our message to parents is to bring your children. We want them in church. We welcome them at St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel Parish.”
They are, she said, the future of the Catholic Church and should be a part of the faith community from the time of their baptism. While 18 infants attended the celebration, a total of 30 children were baptized last year in the parish.
The event began during Father Dave Riley’s tenure as pastor of St. Cecilia’s, Father Connaughton said, and “showed real pastoral insight on his part.”
“I think we’ve lost the sense of how important the sacrament of baptism is. It’s really the turning point in our lives with God and each other,” Father Connaughton said. “When we pass through the waters of Baptism, we go from being a creature beloved by God but alienated from him by Original Sin to being his adopted children. And because we are God’s children through Christ, we are also truly brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s what the Church is. It’s God’s family, which we are born into at baptism. Hopefully, this event helps people understand better the precious gift we’ve received in our baptism.”
Babies celebrating a 2019 baptism were: Thomas Christopher DelVecchio, Enrico Anthony DeMatt, Isabella Marie Evanko, Michele Timothy Fanelli, Katherine Shea Forde, Luke Christopher Geller, Clara June Hoelderlin, Gabriel Robert Kornhaas, Robert Kelly Lynch, Warren Charles Maucere, Brigitta Lisa Nastasi, Hudson Alexander Noel, Edem Gabriel Obro, Lily Florence Orbegoso, Sofia Maria Puggi, Annalise Joy Siemers, Henry William Smith and Joseph Jack Womack.
Children celebrating a 5-year anniversary were: Hailey Jane Albrecht, Adelina Maria Agiurgioaei-Boie, Grace Mackenzie Bridenbaker, Dante Charles Bruno, Matthew Colin DelMazzio, Luke Louis DelVecchio, Matteo Antonio Dudics, Anna Margaret Faugno, Madeleine Faith Fogarty, Valentina Giannone, Ryan Anthony Heigel, Callie Gwyneth Hoelderlin, Henley Sage Kursar, Samantha Jo Lewis, Emily Claire Mathias, Parker James Moore, Claudio Ninivaggi, Jesse Patrick Ortiz, Annie Kathleen Sansone, Mia Rose Torkamani, John Christopher Walsh, and Corrine Grace Whitbread.
The anniversary committee included Tammy Comstock, Theresa and Bill Lowe, Agnes Cannon, Ray and Nayr Champ, Antonietta Siciliano, Mary Buscemi, Sara Epperlein, Charlie and Gina Denner. They were assisted by Mark and Carolyn Browning, Maureen Ronan, Vicki Alton, Linda Bova, Donna Napolitano, MaryJo and Luke Pittoni, Linda Kuehn, Morgan Comstock, Andrea Tropea, Catherine Rogers and Ella Buscemi.