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November 4, 2018

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday at St. Agnes in the church hall, a wonderful reception was held in honor of Father Francis Callahan, thanking him for his many years of service to St. Agnes Parish and wishing him well in his retirement. Over three hundred people came to visit Fr. Callahan and to wish him the best. On behalf of Precious Blood Parish, I want to thank Deacon Nicholas Genovese as well as the other members of the committee who worked so hard to put the reception together.

On this past Monday evening at St. Agnes, I, along with Deacon John Hoffman met with the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion who serve our parish. Fr. Sam and Fr. Deny as well as Deacon Nick Genovese were also present. At this meeting, we discussed some changes that will take place early in the new year so that the liturgical life and practice of our parish may be more streamlined and cohesive. To be sure, some of the changes may be unsettling to some of our ministers, but I am sure that over time, they will grow used to them and adapt to the new way of doing things liturgically. On behalf of the parish community, I thank all of them for their many years of selfless service and sacrifice in distributing the Eucharist to the people of the parish both in church as well as to those who are homebound, in the hospital or in one of the nursing facilities in town.

For some inexplicable reason, the coming Ladies’ Guild event scheduled for Tuesday, November 13 in Father Cronin Hall has not been publicized in the bulletin. On that evening, a “Paint Night” will be held. For the small sum of just $25.00, participants will receive a canvas, paints, and a paintbrush and be led to create masterpieces of their own. I know of other parishes and organizations that have held Paint Nights, and they are a great deal of fun. There are a few tickets still available. You can contact Tori Saxer at the rectory for more information.

Please remember our annual parish Mass of Remembrance which will be celebrated this coming Wednesday, November 7 at 7:30 PM at St. Agnes. The names of all who have died and have been buried from our parish will be read and they will be remembered in a special way. This is an opportunity for everyone to come together to remember their beloved deceased, commend them to God, and seek renewed comfort and consolation.

Have a good week!

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October 21, 2018

Dear Friends,

A word of explanation is in order regarding the recent rearrangement of some of the furnishings in the sanctuary at St. Agnes. Over a month ago, we moved the presider’s chair, the chair used by the priest at Mass, as well as the deacon’s chair down from behind the altar off to the right side of the sanctuary looking out. The reason for this is that the Church does not envision the entire Mass being celebrated at the altar. The altar is reserved for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the part of the Mass which commemorates the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. This part of the Mass runs from the reception and preparation of the gifts until the reception of Communion by the people is completed, at which time the altar is cleared. During most of the rest of the Mass, the priest and the deacon perform their ministry from their place at their respective chairs. Of course, the Liturgy of the Word which entails the reading of the Scriptures as well as the homily is focused on the pulpit, also known as the ambo. While Father Callahan was in residence at St. Agnes and assisting with the celebration of Masses, we left the chairs where they were out of consideration for his age and ease of mobility. Since Father Callahan has moved to Fairfield, there is no longer a need for the chairs to remain where they were.

A reminder is in order regarding the reception in honor of Father Callahan which will take place next Sunday, October 28, from 1:00-3:00 PM in the hall at St. Agnes. Father Callahan served St. Agnes well as its pastor for thirty-four years and I hope that many of you will come to greet him, wish him well, and to thank him for his tireless service.

I mentioned last weekend the All Souls’ envelopes. Those of you who use parish support envelopes will find one in your packets this month. Those who do not use envelopes may nonetheless find some available at the entrances of both churches. Drop these into the collection basket. They will be collected and placed on the altar in both churches. Those whose names are written on them will be remembered in a special way at all Masses during the month of November.

On Wednesday, November 7, at 7:30 PM at St. Agnes, we will be celebrating the annual Mass of Remembrance for all who have died and were buried from either St. Mary’s or St. Agnes’ churches since last All Souls’ Day. After the homily, their names will be read and a candle will be lighted in their memory. A reception will follow in the hall.

Finally, once again this year the Milford Interfaith Thanksgiving Service will be held at St. Mary’s on Tuesday, November 20 at 7:00 PM. All are invited.

Have a good week!

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October 11, 2018

Dear Friends,

This Thursday, October 18, marks an historic day in the Archdiocese of Hartford. At 2:00 PM in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford, Father Juan Miguel Betancourt, SEMV, will be ordained as a bishop by Archbishop Blair and begin service as Auxiliary Bishop of Hartford. Bishop-elect Betancourt is a member of the Servants of the Eucharist and the Virgin Mary, an order based in Puerto Rico. He is a native of Puerto Rico, forty-eight years old, and was ordained as a priest in 2001. He is trained in Biblical studies, has served as a pastor in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, and has also served as Vice Dean of St. Paul Seminary, also in the St. Paul- Minneapolis archdiocese. We welcome him to the Archdiocese of Hartford. Please keep Bishop Betancourt in your prayers this week.

We are preparing to begin RCIA (The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) once again. If you know of anyone who is interested in exploring the possibility of becoming Catholic, please invite them to consider joining us. Contact Deacon John Hoffman for more information.

As the month of October unfolds, once again all registered households will be receiving a letter from me in the mail requesting your support of the Annual Collection. I hope that you will take the time to read the letter and consider making a gift to this collection. Its proceeds are vitally important for the financial health of our parish as well as our efforts to maintain and improve our beautiful parish buildings and grounds.

You may have noticed an envelope in your packet for All Souls’ Day. Each year, during the month of November, the Church prays in a special and fervent way for all the faithful departed. It is the custom in many parishes for the faithful to make an offering and include on the envelope the names of loved ones they would like to remember. So please consider making an offering and dropping your envelope into the basket anytime during this month. These envelopes will be collected and placed on the altars both at St. Mary’s and St. Agnes’ for the entirety of the month of November and all those whose names are recorded there will be remembered in a special way at every Mass throughout the month.

Have a wonderful week!

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September 23, 2018

Dear Friends,

As a spiritual response to the terrible revelations of sexual abuse of minors by priests across six dioceses in Pennsylvania as well as the news concerning the now-former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and his misconduct, Archbishop Blair has mandated that every parish in the Archdiocese pray the Prayer to St. Michael at the end of every Mass and that every parish have an hour of Eucharistic Adoration for the purpose of reparation for the sins of the clergy which have wounded the Church as well as for the purification and renewal of both the Church and the clergy.

Here in our parish, we will begin to pray the Prayer to St. Michael once it is placed in the Journeysongs hymnal at St. Mary’s. Happily, it is already available on the back cover of the Breaking Bread hymnal used at St. Agnes. For those of you over the age of sixty, and certainly over the age of seventy, the Prayer to St. Michael will be very familiar, as it was prayed at Mass from the time of Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1903, until the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's. For the rest of us who are younger, we will become familiar with that prayer in short order. Once the prayer text is available at St. Mary’s, which I anticipate will be in the very near future, we will pray that prayer after the blessing and before the dismissal at every Mass until further notice.

The hour of Eucharistic Adoration will take place every Friday after the 9:00 AM Mass until 10:30 AM at St. Agnes Church. One of the priests or deacons will place the Blessed Sacrament on the altar in the monstrance. The rosary will be prayed and then there will be time for silent prayer until the Blessed Sacrament is reposed in the tabernacle. I urge as many of you to come to that hour of adoration as possible. Furthermore, I would also suggest that we undertake an additional penance each Friday, that we abstain from meat and fast by giving up one of the three meals that day. Prayer and fasting taken together are powerful means of penance and reparation, good for our own spiritual lives, but also good for the Church and its renewal and purification.

Looking ahead, we will be convening a meeting of the liturgy committee to plan the major events for the fall, including both the Advent and Christmas seasons, which it is hard to believe, are approaching. The liturgy committee will meet at St. Agnes on Wednesday, October 3, at 7:30 PM. Anyone who is interested or who has ideas is most welcome.

We will have the annual Blessing of Animals held in conjunction with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi at St. Mary’s on Saturday, October 6, at 12:30 PM. The blessing will be held on the church grounds outside of Fr. Cronin Hall where the statue of St. Francis of Assisi is located. Please have dogs on leashes and cats and other animals in crates.

Finally, I would like to thank the DeMarco Family for their hard and dedicated work in planting a new and beautiful garden near the statue of Our Lady on the grounds of St. Mary’s between the church and the rectory. Their efforts will bear much fruit for years to come and on behalf of the parish for their time and dedication to the task.

Have a great week!

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September 9, 2018

Dear Friends,

As Catholics, we are living in very difficult and trying times. The recent news revealing the large-scale sexual abuse of so many innocent children and its cover-up by high-level leaders in six dioceses of Pennsylvania came as a bombshell when the long-expected grand jury report was released. Over a period spanning seventy years, well more than one thousand children were abused by over three hundred priests, and in most of the cases, little was done by bishops and high-level diocesan officials to stop it. Out of fear of scandal, or fear of harm being done to the Church or the reputations of her leaders, or fear of monetary losses, these cases were kept quiet, away from the eyes of law enforcement authorities. In many cases, priests who were accused of abuse were simply transferred from one parish to another, whether sent for treatment and evaluation or not, and in most cases, the people of the parishes were never informed. Thus, ongoing abuse was facilitated, more children were harmed, and as we see, far more damage was done over time, first to the many victims whose lives were forever altered and in many cases even ruined, and ironically, to the Church itself.

The situation laid out so starkly in the report of the Pennsylvania grand jury is indefensible and to be deplored at the deepest level. It cries out for acts of penance and reparation on the part of the Church of today and its leaders. While we cannot change or rewrite the past, we can do whatever we can to insure that this does not happen again. This calls for determination, for vigilance, for strict adherence to the standards in place for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. These standards have been in place since 2002, and have been reviewed and updated consistently since then. The only brightness in the gloom of this dark time in the Church is to be found in the fact that far fewer cases of sexual abuse have been reported in the years since 2002, and virtually all have been handled properly and not buried in the sand.

This can be attributed to the fact that many more people are aware of the scourge of sexual abuse, that people are likely to speak up about it, and report it to proper authorities both within the Church as well as in law enforcement. The admission standards to seminary and ministerial formation programs have been greatly strengthened. All employees of the Church, all members of the clergy, and even those who volunteer in the parish must have undergone a background check and completed training in recognition of what sexual abuse it and how to recognize signs of it. Our parish complies strictly with the requirements of the bishops of the United States and the Archdiocese of Hartford. By now, all registered Catholic households in the Archdiocese have received a mailing containing a letter from Archbishop Blair as well as a letter from Kathleen Nowasadko, the Archdiocesan Director of the Office of Safe Environment. I hope that you have taken the time to read these messages carefully.

The report of the Pennsylvania grand jury, taken with the other story of scandal that has emerged in recent weeks, namely the resignation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the retired Archbishop of Washington, from the College of Cardinals, after revelations of sexual misconduct with a teenaged boy in the 1950's as well as misconduct involving his own seminarians and young priests as Bishop of Metuchen and then Archbishop of Newark, both in New Jersey, indicate that more work needs to be done, namely in establishing ways for holding bishops accountable for their own misconduct or their inaction in the face of reports of sexual abuse. Until now, there has been no way for someone to raise the alarm in the Church about a bishop and his misconduct or improper handling of complaints. This needs to be addressed and corrected, and this should involve the laity in the Church. The Pope should also take action, drastic action as needed.

Several weeks ago, Deacon Bob Magnuson delivered a magnificent homily at St. Mary’s on the effect of these recent scandals. He delivered essentially the same message last weekend at St. Agnes. While many are questioning why they are Catholic or why they should remain Catholic, Deacon Magnuson gave an eloquent witness why he is a Catholic and why he will remain. In no way did he sugar-coat or gloss over the effects of these terrible sins which we are facing. What he did do is to point out all that is good, that remains good in our Church and the faith we profess. We are challenged in these times to hold fast as the barque of Peter gets tossed to and fro by the storms our sins have wrought. And as Jesus came to the disciples that night on the Sea of Galilee, to a boat filled with men filled with fear for their lives, he comes to us and speaks the very same words he spoke then: “Do not be afraid! I am here.”

We must remember and hold fast to the promise that Jesus made. The Church was established by him. He will never abandon his Church. Nothing will destroy his Church, not even our worst sins. Our faith is only in Jesus Christ, who is Lord of history, Lord of the cosmos, and Lord of the Church. We do not put our faith in any one else, be that person be priest, bishop, or pope. Even as I say this, I will not deny the need for accountability, for transparency, for true repentance, for a firm determination to do whatever needs to be done to insure that our Church is a place where children, and where anyone can feel safe and loved. Nothing less than this will serve to properly address the crisis we now face.

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August 5, 2018

Dear Friends,

This Wednesday, August 8, beginning at 7:00PM in the hall at St. Agnes, we will be holding a listening session open to all parishioners of Precious Blood Parish. This listening session is part of the synod process underway in the Archdiocese of Hartford as the Archdiocese continues the work of pastoral planning and looks to the future.

The purpose of the session is to focus on issues pertaining to the Archdiocese as a whole, and not the parish. While we know that Precious Blood is not a perfect parish and we know that not everyone in the new parish is entirely happy with the merger and subsequent developments, the meeting on Wednesday is not intended to be a “gripe session” on parish matters. Rather, the focus for all comments is centered on three questions that were raised by Archbishop Blair, again all having to do with the future direction of the Archdiocese of Hartford and its mission. By way of repetition, the questions are as follows: What is the Archdiocese of Hartford doing well? What is the Archdiocese not doing well? What is the Archdiocese not doing that it should be doing?

As Catholics, we tend to operate out of a very narrow understanding of what the Church really is. Most of us grow up in parishes and we become attached to the parish and its ways and customs. The parish is, after the family itself which Vatican II called “the domestic Church,” the center of the faith lives of most Catholics. The recent process of merging parishes and creating new parishes has not been without its difficulties precisely because of this. As parishes merge, things change, from Mass and confession schedules, to personnel, to religious education offerings, and more. Change is difficult for most people, but change is a reality, a part of life. The Church itself has changed markedly in the last fifty years alone. Nothing stays the same. While change may be disconcerting and even frightening to some people, in the midst of it, we know that God remains timeless and without change, and that, even as the incidentals around us may change, the Mass and the sacraments are still celebrated, the Gospel is preached, and works of charity are performed in the name of Christ for those in need.

But even as we acknowledge the centrality of the parish, we must also make it clear: the Church is much more than the parish. A parish is not and can never be an entity unto itself, for every parish is related to and connected to other parishes around it in what is for us the Archdiocese of Hartford. We are a family of parishes, a communion of local communities of faith united under the leadership of the principal shepherd of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop. This is what is known in theological terms as the local Church. For his part, the pastor of the local parish represents the parish to the Archbishop and the Archdiocese and represents the Archbishop and the Archdiocese to the parish. Thus, the pastor is appointed to serve the parish by the Archbishop. Beyond the Archdiocese, the local Church, we are also part of the Universal Church that exists everywhere in the world. The Universal Church is a communion, a family of local Churches, dioceses and archdioceses around the world, each under the leadership of a bishop. Each bishop receives his appointment from the Pope, the Holy Father, who is the Bishop of Rome, the earthly head of the Church and the Vicar of Christ. All bishops are members of a special body in the Church known as the college of bishops, united in communion with the Pope, who is the head of the college. As the bishops are in communion with the Pope, they represent their dioceses, the local churches, to the Pope and the Universal Church, and they also represent the Pope and the Universal Church to their dioceses. As the Archbishop of Hartford, Archbishop Blair has this role and function for us.

My point in all of this is that we need to think more broadly than we have become accustomed to thinking. We must stop limiting our vision to either St. Mary’s or St. Agnes’ and begin to think more in terms of Precious Blood, the wider Archdiocese of Hartford, and the Church Universal. The word “parochialism,” means “ a limited or narrow outlook, especially one focused on a local area, narrow-mindedness.” The root word of parochialism is parochus, which is the Latin word for “parish.” There is a great richness in parish life, its customs and traditions, but we must do whatever we can to avoid parochialism, which implies a resistance to change.

In the months since the merger of St. Agnes’ and St. Mary’s, there has been much cooperation on the part of the people of the parish. To be fair, little has changed in the first twelve months. I wanted to go slowly and deliberately without rocking the boat unduly and unnecessarily. However, as the approval of the new Mass schedule indicated, along with the appointment of a Parish Pastoral Council and a Parish Finance Council, things were not going to remain as they were forever. As we go forward in the next several months, there will be additional tweaking and changes that will go into effect, and these will affect the religious education program, the liturgical life and practices of the parish, and the social outreach ministries of the parish as well. Not everyone may necessarily be happy with or approve these changes. Nevertheless, I ask your cooperation, your understanding, and your open-mindedness as we seek to come closer together as a new parish community.

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July 22, 2018

Dear Friends,

As Deacon John Hoffman noted in this space a few weeks ago, Archbishop Blair has announced his intention to convene a synod for the Archdiocese of Hartford, probably in the fall of 2020. A synod is a special and graced gathering of representatives from around the Archdiocese, clergy, religious and laity. The synod delegates meet to pray, discern, and discuss the future of the Archdiocese in terms of its priorities and direction. At the end of a synod, the delegates approve a series of recommendations to the Archbishop, who accepts them and then undertakes a process of implementing them.

All around the Archdiocese this summer, every parish is expected to hold a listening session which is open to all the parishioners. The session is not attended by any members of the clergy, be they priests or deacons, so that freedom of expression and openness of mind can be promoted. The results of the listening session are recorded as are the names of all who attend and sent to the synod office in Hartford.

Our parish listening session will take place on Wednesday, August 8, beginning at 7:00 PM in the hall at St. Agnes. The facilitator will be Tracy Casey, and I am grateful to her for her willingness to assist in this manner. I will be present at the beginning to welcome all who come and to lead the group in prayer, after which I will leave.

In preparation for the synod, the Archbishop has asked us to consider carefully the following three questions, again noting that the focus is on the Archdiocese as a whole and not the parish in particular: What is the Archdiocese of Hartford doing well? What is the Archdiocese of Hartford not doing well? What is the Archdiocese of Hartford not doing that it should be doing? Please consider these questions and plan to come to the synod listening session on August 8. Your ideas and input are valued by the Archbishop.

I am happy to announce that our parish has achieved its goal for the 2018 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, just surpassing the $110,000 mark. I am grateful to all who contributed to the appeal and encourage those who have not yet made a gift to do so. The Appeal remains open for gifts through December 31.

Finally, by way of an update, for reasons of his health and personal safety, Father Callahan has relocated permanently from the St. Agnes Rectory on Merwin Avenue to his sister’s house in Fairfield. His new address is: The Rev. Francis X. Callahan, 178 Hollydale Road, Fairfield, CT 06824. I am sure that cards and notes would be appreciated.

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June 24, 2018

Dear Friends,

This Friday, June 29, the Solemnity of SS. Peter & Paul, Apostles, marks the first anniversary of the founding of Precious Blood Parish. Our new parish, formed from two venerable parishes, St. Mary and St. Agnes, in these past twelve months, has come together in many ways. We have had several social opportunities for the people of the parish to mingle and meet. Our new parish council and finance council have been formed and have met several times. The fruits of these meetings included the new Mass schedule, approved overwhelmingly by the people of the parish, a parish mission statement, and discussion of future plans and actions that will bind the parish closer together. Already I have noticed with pleasure that none too few of you are willing to go to either church for weekend or daily Masses. This is to be encouraged as the new Mass schedule goes into effect next January.

In reflecting on the past year, I am pleased with the progress that has been made. You, the people of the parish, by and large, have been most cooperative and supportive, even if there was some initial unhappiness. As we move forward, we will be working on bringing similar ministries from both churches together in a way that eliminates duplications and at the same time enhances possibilities. These ministries include the Ladies Guilds, the social outreach programs, as well as religious education and faith formation. May we keep our new parish foremost in our prayers this week as we mark this milestone, asking God to bless us in our efforts to be effective witnesses to the Gospel as the Catholic Church in central and eastern Milford.

Archbishop Blair has announced that he will convene a Synod for the Archdiocese of Hartford, which will be celebrated in 2020. Between now and then, there will be an intense period of preparation and discernment in which all of the people as well as the clergy of the Archdiocese will be involved. The purpose of the Synod is to take a good, long and hard look at how we as God’s people in the Archdiocese of Hartford are doing in responding to our call to be witnesses to Christ and missionary disciples, as Pope Francis call us to be. As we move into the summer months, we will be sponsoring a listening session to which all the people of the parish are invited. The session, the date and place for which will be announced in the next several weeks, will focus on three questions:

  1. What is the Archdiocese of Hartford doing well?
  2. What is the Archdiocese of Hartford not doing well?
  3. What is the Archdiocese of Hartford not doing which should be done?

Note that the focus of the questions is not on our own parish but on the Archdiocese as a whole.

A word on Father Callahan is in order. Last Sunday night, he fell in his room at the rectory on Merwin Avenue. He was taken to St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven, where he spent several days being evaluated. Happily, he seemed to suffer no serious injuries. As of this writing, he is in residence at the Milford Health and Rehabilitation Center on Platt Street. Should you wish to drop a card or a note in the mail to him, the address is 195 Platt Street here in Milford, the ZIP code being 06460. I will keep you posted on how he is doing.

Finally, there is a letter from the Catholic Bishops of Connecticut regarding Education Savings Accounts. You are urged to read it and get behind this initiative. A copy of the letter is available on the parish website. Check the bulletin cover for how to access the website.

Have a good week!

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June 17, 2018

Dear Friends,

Last weekend at St. Mary’s and this weekend at St. Agnes, we showed a video at all Masses regarding the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. The Appeal funds the works of the Archdiocese of Hartford, its offices and agencies, all of which seek to promote the Gospel and its values and to serve the poor and needy across Hartford, New Haven and Litchfield counties. Last year, over one million dollars from the proceeds of the Appeal was given in the form of grants to help local agencies and organizations who serve the poor and needy. Here in Milford, our own John Rigely Food Pantry, as well as the Beth-El Shelter were among local charitable organizations that received funding from the Appeal.

Our goal for the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal as the newly-formed Precious Blood Parish is $110,000, which may seem like an exorbitant sum. In actuality, the goal represents a combining of the goals of the former St. Mary Parish and the former St. Agnes Parish, $70,000 and $40,000 respectively. As of this writing, we have as a parish pledged some $103,000. So we are well along the way to making the goal. I thank those who have made a contribution and ask those who have not yet done so to consider making a pledge or gift. I do not ask this only so that we might achieve our parish goal, as good as that is. I also ask this mindful of how much good our gifts and pledges to the Appeal do for so many.

I remind you that the Mass books are open and available. There are a number of Sunday Masses available, especially at St. Agnes, and a number of weekday Masses available at both churches. Masses are traditionally offered for the deceased, often on the anniversary of death, the birthday of the deceased person, or even in commemoration of a wedding anniversary for one’s deceased parents. Masses can also be scheduled for living people in celebration of birthdays, wedding anniversaries, or as a means to praying for good health or a special intention. In recent weeks, a disturbing trend has emerged in that there are weekday and even occasionally a Sunday Mass with no intention at St. Mary’s. I have not encountered this before, and I wonder just what this may be signaling. If there are any questions or concerns that you may have about the scheduling of Masses at either church, please speak to me in person or you can email me at fr.aidan.donahue@aohct.org.

Finally, we are in the midst of graduation season. I offer my warmest congratulations to the Class of 2018 of St. Mary’s School, who received their diplomas at graduation ceremonies on June 6. I also congratulate those who have graduated or will graduate from local high schools, Catholic, public, or private, as well as those who will graduate from middle school in the coming days. May God’s blessing be poured out abundantly on them all and may the future for all our graduates be bright and filled with hope and endless possibilities.

Have a wonderful week!

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June 3, 2018

Dear Friends,

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, what used to be known as Corpus Christi, which means “the Body of Christ”. With the revision of the Roman Missal several years ago, the title was expanded to include mention of the Precious Blood of Christ as well, for as many of you may remember from your religious education, the Eucharist is the “Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity” of Jesus Christ. Today also marks the first time that we at Precious Blood Parish celebrate our patronal feast.

When the name of the newly-merged parish was announced last May by Archbishop Blair, there was more than just a little grumbling and discontent about it. It seemed archaic and old-fashioned, even strange. But with the passing of a year, and with most of us getting used to the new name, I have grown in my appreciation for it. Indeed, it is quite an honor for our parish to have this name.

In the time of the Old Testament, many cultures practiced animal sacrifice as a means of worshiping and even placating the gods. The shedding of blood was necessary for this to happen. Even in ancient Judaism, there was an elaborate sacrificial system centered in the Temple at Jerusalem whereby devout Jews would offer sacrifice to God as a means of worship, atonement for sin, and asking for blessings. This was established in the covenant on Mount Sinai between God and the Israelites.

With the death of Jesus once for all on the cross, there was no further need for the ancient Jewish sacrificial system. A NEW COVENANT was established. The blood of lambs, bulls, and goats was rendered powerless and insignificant by the Blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away once and for all, the sins of the world. The death of Jesus, the shedding of his Blood, brought about the salvation and the redemption of the world. We remember and celebrate this new and everlasting covenant whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist.

The true significance of the Precious Blood is brought out quite well in the Prayer over the Offerings taken from the Votive Mass of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It reads as follows:

As we offer our oblation to your majesty, O Lord, may we draw near in these mysteries
to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and celebrate anew the sprinkling of his Blood, in which lies all our salvation.
Through Christ our Lord.

Have a good week!

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May 6, 2018

Dear Friends:

By the time you read these words, the celebrations of First Communion will have concluded for the year in our parish. This year, Precious Blood Parish welcomed one hundred thirty-one children to the Lord’s table for the first time. I wonder how many of us, even after so many years, can still remember the day of our First Communion? We should at least be able to remember some things about it, for the celebration of First Communion is a significant milestone in the life of every Catholic. I myself received First Communion fifty years ago this week, on May 11, 1968 at SS. Peter and Paul Church in Waterbury. I remember it as a sunny warm day and I also remember that almost eighty of us, the second grade class at SS. Peter & Paul School, made our First Communion together. As is often done even today, so then the girls wore white dresses, veils, and gloves and the boys blue trousers, white shirts and white ties. The point of my small trip down memory lane is to stress that we should even now appreciate the wonder that is the Eucharist and that our reception of what is the “Sacrament of sacraments” should fill us with awe as much now, after so many years, as it did that day however many years ago.

This Thursday, May 10, is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, a holy day of obligation. There will be a Vigil Mass on Wednesday at 7:00 PM at St. Agnes, and on Thursday, Masses at St. Mary’s will be celebrated at 7:00 and 9:00 AM and at 12:05 PM. There will also be a Mass on Thursday morning at 9:00 at St. Agnes.

This week I leave for ten days of vacation in Florida. While I know that the parish is in good hands with Father Sam and Father Deny, I am happy that we will be sponsoring a Parish Mission that runs from Monday to Wednesday, May 14-16, with presentations each evening at 7:00, preceded by the recitation of the Rosary and followed by the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am happy to welcome Father William Garrott, OP to our parish for the mission. He will speak at a number of Masses this weekend and help Father Sam and Father Deny with the celebration of Masses as well. Please make every effort to come to the mission presentations next week. A parish mission is a special moment of grace where we can encounter the Living God in new and even surprising ways. May God bless our mission with success!

Have a good week!

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April 15, 2018

Dear Friends:

By way of starters, I would like to echo the excellent comments made by Deacon John Hoffman in last weekend’s bulletin regarding the observance of Holy Week and Easter in our newly-merged parish. It was gratifying to me to note the excellent attendance and participation in the liturgical observances of Holy Week, from Tenebrae on Wednesday evening, to Morning Prayer on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and especially in the large numbers who came to the Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper as well as the Good Friday Service and the Great Vigil of Easter. Of course, Easter was happily typical, with Masses both at St. Agnes and at St. Mary’s filled to capacity.

As I looked out at St. Mary’s Church last weekend (and I am sure the same was true for St. Agnes), I was led to wonder where everyone had gone? Of course, the regular, faithful church goers were here, but the throngs of Easter Sunday had all but evaporated. Why is this and what can we do about it?

On one level, I suppose we should be grateful that so many still feel that connection to the Church, that God and his presence in their lives moves them to come at least at Easter and also at Christmas. Why not every week? We try to celebrate the liturgy well here in our parish. The preaching is good, as is the music. What more can be done?

One thing that can be done is for all of us to take some time to refuel ourselves spiritually from time to time. The observance of Lent, which just ended, is one such example. By way of advance notice, I would like to call your attention to a special Parish Mission that will be taking place at St. Mary’s Church the evenings of May 14, 15, and 16. Father William (“Bill”) Garrott, OP, a Dominican father who gave the missionary appeal at St. Mary’s last summer and was very well received, will be leading a mission titled “iMercy: The Divine Hotspot.” Fr. Bill will be with us the weekend of May 12-13 by way of setting the stage for the mission and he will give a message on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evening of that week. The praying of the Rosary will be offered for anyone who wishes to come twenty minutes early each evening. Confessions will also be available after the preaching. Mark your calendars and plan to be with us. It will revitalize your spiritual life and great things can happen if we set aside some special time to be with God.

Finally, I want to congratulate the sixth-grade boys’ basketball team from our own St. Mary’s School. Last weekend, the boys won the New England CYO Basketball Championship. To them, as well as their coaches, Carl DeProfio and Eric Swanson, well done! 

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April 8, 2018

Alleluia! He is Risen!

During this past Easter weekend, it was gratifying and fitting to join so many celebrating our Savior’s triumph over death and sin. His continuing promise to each of us is that death is overcome, and we are freed from sin through his death and resurrection. Between our two churches in Precious Blood Parish, we estimate that over seven thousand faithful joined in worship. What a powerful statement that so many would gather to proclaim in one voice, “He is Risen!”.

Our celebration of the Triduum, the sacred three days leading to Easter, was well attended and especially spiritual. Saint Mary Church was the site for The Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday, Saint Agnes Church was the site of the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Friday, and the Solemn Easter Vigil was at Saint Mary Church. Many of you remarked about the reverence and uplifting nature of these services. Having packed Churches is a great sign of a healthy parish, and we certainly are healthy. A special thanks to Frank Zilinyi and the choir for the excellent music at all the Triduum services, and to Deacon Bob Magnuson for those prepared in RCIA who entered the Church this Easter.

A special thanks to all those “behind the scenes” person at both Churches who do so much in decorating, cleaning, and preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

I hope all of us can redouble our efforts to continue to welcome everyone in our community to join us each week to worship the Risen Lord. May the blessings of this Easter season continue for each of you and may each of us be more determined to bring the Risen Lord with us to all we meet.

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April 1, 2018

Dear Friends:

Our celebration of Easter marks the

culmination of our observance of Lent and the very apogee of the entire liturgical year. The Resurrection of the Lord is the very bedrock of our faith, without which everything else we say, do, or believe is essentially meaningless. As St. Augustine (d. 430) once put it, “We are Easter people, and alleluia is our song!”

When we ponder the mystery of the Resurrection, it is utterly amazing that there are no actual eyewitness accounts of that event. Of course, as it is told in Matthew 28, as the women came to the tomb early on the first day of the week, a great earthquake occurred, for an angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, approached, and rolled back the stone, sitting upon it. We are told that his appearance was like lightning and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards sent to watch over the tomb lest the disciples steal the body of Jesus presumably fainted out of sheer fear. Then the angelic figure announced the fact of the Resurrection. In the other gospels, we are told that the women came to the tomb that Sunday morning after the death of Jesus only to find the tomb opened, the stone rolled away from the entrance, and the body of Jesus nowhere to be found. No one, we are told, actually saw the Risen Lord walk out of the tomb.

What are we to make of this? It seems clear that the accounts of the empty tomb are no proof of the fact of the Resurrection. After all, the Jewish authorities told the guards, who feared for their lives since it would be reported to Pontius Pilate that they were derelict in their duty, that they would smooth things over with the governor and keep them out of trouble. The story that the Jewish authorities circulated was that the disciples stole the body of Jesus while the guards were asleep. The fact of the tomb found empty on Sunday morning only points to the reality of the Resurrection. It does not prove it decisively.

What seems to serve as proof of the Resurrection is the fact that Jesus appeared to his disciples alive, not only that first Easter morning, but a number of times over a period of forty days. Of course, as we would be, they were utterly dazzled and amazed. At first, they were frightened, thinking that they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus allayed their fears by having them touch him and taking some fish and eating it right before their eyes. Ghosts do not eat, nor are they tangible, having flesh and bones as we do.

The incontrovertible proof of the Lord’s Resurrection ultimately comes in the utter transformation of the disciples. Remember that we are told that they hid in the Upper Room where they had shared the Last Supper with Jesus, hiding for fear of the Jewish authorities, for fear of their very lives. Yet, when Jesus appears to them alive, and ultimately when the Spirit of God descended upon them, empowering them on Pentecost, they went forth and proclaimed the Risen Jesus as Lord and Savior, even to the point of laying down their lives for him. As Jesus told them, they were to be his witnesses, not only in Jerusalem, but also in Samaria and Galilee, and even to the ends of the earth.

We, too, twenty-plus centuries later, are also called to be witnesses to the Risen Christ. We know he is alive. We sense his presence among us. We stake our very lives, our eternal destiny on him and him alone, for without Jesus our lives have no meaning and there is no future, no eternity awaiting us. Without Jesus, our lives have no purpose and all that awaits us is everlasting death.

As we launch into the Easter Season, with our Lenten observance completed, what we need to ask ourselves is a simple question: how can we be effective witnesses to the Living Christ, the Jesus who is alive and among us, who is Lord of heaven and earth, and who is the One who gives meaning and purpose not just to our own lives but the lives of everyone?

On behalf of the priests, the deacons and the staff of Precious Blood Parish, I extend to all of you our warmest greetings for Easter. May the Risen Lord bless you and your loved ones with his very presence and may his Resurrection renew in all of us a lively hope and a deepened love for one another. Happy Easter to you all! 

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March 18, 2018

Dear Friends:

As announced in last weekend’s bulletin, the report on the financial state of our newly-formed parish is being given at all Masses this weekend. Copies of the financial report are being made available to interested parishioners for purposes of following along with the report as it is being given. Should you have any questions, please feel free to speak with me or to call me or Meg Hayes at (203) 878-3571 for assistance.

In this space, I will present the spiritual statistics for the year 2017, which will include the number of baptisms, weddings, First Communions, Confirmations, and funerals. While these may seem to be little more than raw statistics, they do present a “snapshot” of the life of our parish in general and the lives of numbers of parishioners in particular. The numbers I present indicate that Precious Blood Parish is a large and active parish with a vibrant and rich liturgical life. What is not detailed is the social outreach of the parish, the efforts made at forming the people of the parish, young and old, in knowledge of their faith, and other aspects of parish life.

During the year 2017, there were one hundred ten (110) children baptized. One hundred twelve (112) received their First Communion. One hundred and forty (140) young people and adults were confirmed by Archbishop Blair in October. Eighteen (18) couples were joined in marriage and one hundred forty-three (143) parishioners were commended to God as their funerals were celebrated.

Reflection on these numbers leaves me with a clear sense of the size and the potential of this parish, but it also leaves me wondering if our potential is being reached. The weekend Mass attendance stands at just around two thousand (2000) between both churches. The parish census indicates that there are 5469 households who claim Precious Blood as their parish. The weekend Mass attendance should be much greater than what it is. How many of the newly-baptized will be raised properly in the faith, receiving religious formation at home as well as here in the parish? Should not our numbers in religious education be much larger than they are? Or is religious education for many tied only to the reception of the sacraments, such as First Communion and Confirmation? A consistent concern these days is the sharp drop in the number of weddings celebrated in the Church. Young

couples, if they marry at all, choose to celebrate their wedding at commercial venues rather than as a sacrament in Church before God. Another trend is the movement away from the Mass of Christian Burial as the proper way for Catholics to commend a departed loved one to God. Far too often, the choice is made of a funeral home service, or still worse, a graveside service, both of which in the mind of the Church are to be the exception, rather than the rule, for funeral celebrations.

Lest I seem too negative, I still remain encouraged by the number of parishioners who come to church regularly and try to live their daily lives grounded in the truths of the Catholic faith. Precious Blood remains an active, vibrant parish. Good things are happening in our section of Milford and all of you are to be thanked profusely for your support, both in terms of your presence and in terms of your generous financial sacrifices. Good things are happening, and even better things can happen if we put our minds and hearts into making this not just a good parish, but one of the best in the Archdiocese of Hartford.

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March 11, 2018

Dear Friends:

With this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we celebrate what is known as Laetare Sunday, that is, the Sunday “of rejoicing.” We have fasted and prayed for over three weeks and now we sense that Easter nears, the great feast of our salvation. The color of the vestments worn this weekend traditionally is rose, which symbolizes joyful anticipation. Of course, there are two weeks of Lent that are ahead of us before we begin Holy Week. In light of that, we are called on this Sunday of joyful anticipation to intensify our spiritual observance of Lent.

Next Sunday, the season of Lent enters into what is known as Passiontide. The Fifth Week of Lent as well as Holy Week focus on the cross of Christ, the sacrifice that Jesus made for our salvation and the promise of eternal life that dawns for us all in the mystery and joy of Easter. At both St. Agnes’ and St. Mary’s Churches beginning next weekend, the statues will be covered in purple. This was a longstanding tradition in the Church prior to the Second Vatican Council, when what we call the Fifth Sunday of Lent was called Passion Sunday. On that Sunday, the Gospel account of Jesus going into hiding from the Jews was read and in recognition of that, the statues were all covered, usually in purple. While we no longer read that gospel passage on the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the bishops in recent years have granted permission for the statues to be covered as they once were. In observance of that, all statues and images in both churches will be covered beginning next Saturday evening and remain covered until Holy Saturday afternoon. What will remain uncovered is the crucifix, and appropriately so, for in these last days of Lent and the days of Holy Week, we should contemplate the mystery of the Lord’s cross. In doing so, as we genuflect in church, we could pray the antiphon that is used during the Stations of the Cross: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, for by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.”

The third annual St. Patrick’s Day Dinner will be held next Saturday, March 17 in the St. Mary School gym. Be sure to get your tickets. It promises to be a wonderful time with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and more, including lively Irish music.

Next weekend at both churches, a very brief homily will be given and the homily will be followed by the annual parish financial report. Copies of our financial statement will be available in the bulletin and comments will be made on it. Should you have any questions, you may contact me or Meg Hayes at (203) 878-3571. In this space next weekend, I will supply a report on the spiritual state of our parish.

Have a great week! 

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March 4, 2018

Dear Friends:

One of the onuses of being a pastor is the administrative work that is entailed in overseeing a parish, particularly a parish of our size, just short of 5500 registered households. The day to day operation of an organization the size of Precious Blood Parish can be daunting especially given the fact that we have two churches, a school and convent building as well as a cemetery. Thankfully, I do not have to do this alone. I am assisted by a competent and supportive staff, both clergy and laity, and while it can appear to be overwhelming to me, it really is not.

Last Sunday the Finance Council met to review the results of the past year and to approve the budget for the current year. Overall, the fiscal state of the parish is good. Your financial support of the parish has been quite generous, as it always has been. We have been careful in the expenditure of money, spending money as needed on repairs and improvements to the parish plants. A report on the financial state of our parish will be given at all Masses the weekend of March 17-18.

A question has been raised, and it is a good one. What is the purpose of the monthly collection? To be quite frank, I am not sure how the monthly collection originated. It dates back far into the history of the former St. Mary’s Parish and may have been started as a building fund to pay for the construction of the current church, school and convent on Gulf Street back in the late 1950's and early 1960's. It could have originated earlier for other reasons. The people at St. Agnes have not had a monthly collection, at least in their recent parish history, if ever. Now, since we have to normalize the collection schedule for the entire parish, a monthly collection is taken in both churches.

I am not a fan of extra collections, but most of them, save the monthly collection, are mandated by the Archdiocese or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All of them aim to support worthy causes and important dimensions of the mission of the Church here at home as well as around the world. As for the monthly collection, we simply cannot do without it. The annual proceeds of the monthly collection, which last year reached around $90,000, approximates the annual expenditures needed for ongoing maintenance and repair of the parish facilities. The regular Sunday and holy day collections cover salaries and benefits for our staff, clergy and laity alike, as well as the support required from each parish by the Archdiocese, the subsidy of the parish school the religious education program, insurance costs, what can be deemed the “bread and butter” aspects of the parish budget. In any event, I am cognizant of your sacrifices on behalf of the parish and I am grateful for your support.

Please remember in prayer the medical mission team which is in Marbial, Haiti this week, doing essential and Christ-like work for the people of our sister parish, St. Therese. In just seven days, the team will perform a number of critical surgical procedures and conduct a large number of checkups. We ask God’s blessing on their work and a safe trip home from Haiti next weekend. I thank all who so generously support that part of our parish mission outreach.

Please remember that next weekend, Daylight Savings Time begins. Before you retire next Saturday evening, set your clocks AHEAD one hour. We all might be a bit tired next Sunday morning but the longer daylight hours will be certainly appreciated. 

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February 18, 2018

Dear Friends:

With Ash Wednesday this week, we have launched into Lent, the annual season of repentance and spiritual renewal. These forty days which will culminate in the celebrations of Holy Week and Easter should be markedly different from other days for devout Catholics. The Church offers us all some ideas on how to make Lent a time of spiritual growth and renewal. The traditional “legs” of Lenten observance, as set down by the Lord himself in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. All of us can make a determined effort to pray a bit more, eat and spend a bit less, and share more from what we have been given with those who are in need.

Several ideas present themselves for your consideration. Last weekend, those who participated at Mass at St. Mary’s heard about the annual Healing Tree Lenten Project. For a small donation of as little as one dollar and no more than fifty dollars, you can help the people of St. Therese in Marbial, Haiti, who live with far less that we have been blessed to have. The money raised from the Healing Tree in past years has helped to fund the annual medical mission to Marbial, to make clean water systems available to the people, and to donate school supplies, over the counter medications and vitamins for use there. The twinning partnership which we have had for over a decade now has done so much good and you are to be commended for your ongoing generous support of the work that is done there.

Operation Rice Bowl is conducted each Lent. By forgoing something that you like or something that you do not really need and instead donating the money you would have spent to Operation Rice Bowl, you bring alive the spirit of almsgiving which has always been praised as a means of spiritual blessing for those who make the sacrifice and material help to those who are in need. Take a rice bowl with you. Put it on the table or somewhere else in your home and put the money you would have spent on non-essentials or things of pleasure into it. When Lent ends, make out a check payable to Precious Blood Parish noting on the check that it is for Operation Rice Bowl and return it to the church. We will send the proceeds to Catholic Relief Services which will then be sure to send the money where it is needed most.

Finally, there is another option. We can fast from using our cell phones each Friday during Lent. Keep your cell phone with you, of course, in case of emergency, but leave it off if possible or try to avoid using it for the day. Spend the time you would have spent on the phone by praying more, by actually talking face to face with family or loved ones. Read a book, perhaps the Bible. Take a walk and as you do so, pray the Rosary or do some meditation.

These are suggestions. Consider them or consider some other worthy way to make this a special Lent, a special time to grow closer to God and others. 

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February 4, 2018

Dear Friends,

It is now seven months into the life of our new parish of the Precious Blood, created from the merger of the former St. Mary’s Parish and St. Agnes’ Parish. Some aspects of parish life have remained essentially the same, others have seen some changes. A new Pastoral Council convened in November and a new Finance Council did likewise in December. We have had several social activities which served the purpose of helping us to get to know each other.

Now it is time to announce the revised Mass schedule which will be implemented the irst weekend of January next year, namely January 5 - 6, 2019. This revised schedule is the fruit of careful study and somewhat broad consultation. Throughout the months of July through October of last year, a careful count of Mass attendance was taken at every Mass in both churches. These results were studied, averages for each Mass determined, and then they were presented to the Pastoral Council at its November meeting with the directive that two schedules should be drawn up, each of them having one less Mass on Sunday morning in both churches. The two schedules were produced and then they were placed before the people of the parish for their input. Schedule A received considerably more votes than did Schedule B by a ratio of two to one.

Thus, I announce the following Mass schedule and other changes to the parish schedule effective the first weekend of January next year:

SATURDAY VIGIL MASSES
4:30 PM at St. Mary’s
5:00 PM at St. Agnes’

SUNDAY MASSES
8:30, 10:00, 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM at St. Mary’ 
7:30 and 10:30 AM at St. Agnes’

CONFESSIONS
Saturdays from 3:30 - 4:30 PM at St. Agnes’
Mondays from 6:00 - 7:00 PM at St. Mary’s (except on holidays)

The changes are really “tweaks” with the Saturday vigil Mass at St. Agnes moving back by a half hour, the elimination of the 7:00 AM Mass Sunday morning at St. Mary’s and the combining of the 10:00 and 11:30 AM Masses at St. Agnes into one Mass at 10:30 AM. The change in the confession schedule allows us to schedule weddings as late as 2:30 PM on Saturdays at St. Mary’s, which might be desirable for some couples. It also adds an additional hour of confessions each week on Monday evenings.

Change is not easy, but it is an essential part of life. I know that some will not be very happy with the new schedule, but I ask that everyone cooperate and adapt to the changes. The future of our parish is bright and I thank you for your support and understanding.

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January 28, 2017

Dear Friends:

Every year the last Sunday in January marks the beginning of Catholic Schools Week across the country. The Catholic school system in the United States traces its origins back to the work that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton did in the early nineteenth century. In the succeeding two centuries, Catholic schools multiplied and their influence on the life of our Church and our society in general grew exponentially. Many graduates of Catholic schools have gone on to successful careers in many fields and the contributions that they have made have had a lasting impact on life in the United States and beyond. Many of you, myself included, are the products of Catholic schools.

At Precious Blood Parish, we are blessed in that we have not just a Catholic school as part of our parish life, but a Catholic school that is thriving and excelling on so many levels. Financially, our school is on a solid foundation thanks to the foresight of Father Dennis Moran, who served as pastor of St. Mary’s Parish for many years and who, on his death in 1967, bequeathed a sizeable sum to be invested in an endowment for the school. Over the past fifty years, that endowment has grown and it remains available for use, should we ever need it. Happily, however, through the careful stewardship of parish resources, especially by my two immediate predecessors at St. Mary’s, Father Francis Seggel and Father James Cronin, as well as the sacrifices made by parents and even grandparents of our students through the years up to the present, our school is one of the most financially stable in the Archdiocese of Hartford. I pledge to do my utmost to keep that tradition intact as we move forward.

At the beginning of this Catholic Schools’ Week, I extend my deepest gratitude to the parents and grandparents of our students, over 360 in all, for the sacrifices, sometimes great sacrifices, they make to insure that their children and grandchildren receive the benefits of a well-rounded education, an education that is not only academically excellent, but one that tries to instill in our students the importance of faith, of knowing Jesus and what it means to be his disciples in the world of today. Every morning as the school day begins, the students in our school are asked what the motto of the school is. I ask it of them at almost every school Mass as well, and their response is always loud and clear: to live the message of Jesus.

I also want to thank Mr. Frank Lacerenza, the principal of our school, for the excellent work he does. We congratulate him on his selection as the Archdiocesan School Administrator of the Year for 2017. I thank the faculty and the staff as well for all of the work that they do each day. St. Mary’s School is a special place and we are blessed to have it as part of the life of our parish.

Next weekend, as I announced several times previously, I will announce formally the new Mass schedule which will take effect the first weekend in January next year. This schedule is the fruit of extensive consultation, thought, and input from the parish at-large. While I know that not everyone will be happy with some of the changes, I know that I can count on your fullest cooperation as the schedule takes effect eleven months from now. 

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