Feed the Hungry on “Souper Bowl” Sunday
January 23rd, 2019

Every year on Super Bowl Sunday, Our Lady of Assumption Church in Fairfield hosts a food drive to benefit Operation Hope of Fairfield and The Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport. This year is no different, but the need for this event may be greater than ever. With thousands of furloughed Federal employees and even more Connecticut residents seeing a decline in their SNAP benefits, the need for services from local food pantries has escalated. This may become heightened in the coming months when SNAP benefits run out completely. 

The Stratfield Road Church has been highly successful running this annual event and both Operation Hope and The Thomas Merton Center are hoping that this year is no different. 

Celebrating Mother Cabrini’s Love For Immigrants
January 23rd, 2019

STAMFORD—In observance of the feast day of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, Sacred Heart Church celebrated Mass and held a panel discussion about the immigration services provided by Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

In his homily, Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general of the diocese, described St. Frances Cabrini as a powerful example of a woman who understood the importance of loving your neighbor rather than humanity in the abstract.

“We have been made in the likeness of God and therefore we show we are responding to Jesus’s grace by caring for our neighbors and by caring for those we might not like as much, and for the foreigner who is escaping violence and poverty,” he said. “Mother Cabrini fought for the people she loved and cared for the poor and immigrants.”

Mother Cabrini, who was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized, started the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Italy with seven other women in 1880. The congregation provided support to Italian immigrants in the United States, and during the course of 35 years, she began 67 institutions to care for orphans, the poor, the sick and the uneducated. She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1909.

Peg Regan, SSND, former executive director of Caroline House in Bridgeport, which teaches English as a Second Language and life skills to women, said, “Mother Cabrini was concerned about doing things for others, and all of her work came out of a heart full of empathy and concern for people who were suffering.” Sister Regan, who teaches ESL in Norwalk and is developing a program for Room to Grow, said Mother Cabrini’s example is especially relevant in America today, where immigration issues often provoke an acrimonious political debate.

Peter Maloney, a board member of Catholic Charities, said, “This was the second time we celebrated Mother Cabrini’s feast day at Sacred Heart. The first was in 2016 after an Italian Mass. We give her a lot of credit for being a person of tremendous strength, but often overlook that she worked against a tremendous tide of hate directed against Italian immigrants… I remember her strength every time some foolish or unkind word pops up in the media concerning today’s immigrants.”

More than 200 people turned out for the event titled, “A Celebration of Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, Patroness of Immigrants,” which included a presentation about the services available through Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. The panelists were immigration counselors Alex Arevalo and Maria Palacios, and board members Daniel Casal and Maloney.

Father Alfonso Picone, pastor of Sacred Heart, thanked the panelists for their participation and said a prayer to Mother Cabrini that she intercede for the well-being of the immigrants and their families.

Alex Arevalo, who is program manager of Immigration Services, is accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeal to represent clients before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in matters of immigration. He said the team makes the annual visit to remind people of the services that are available to them through Catholic Charities.

“These are trying times for immigrants, and the Church needs to be there for them to explain faithfully what their options are for improving their lives and the lives of their children,” Arevalo said.

Arevalo has been with Catholic Charities since 2001, first working with at-risk youth, and since 2006 with immigration services.

“We have made an annual commitment to celebrate Mother Cabrini with different immigrant communities,” he said. “We help people navigate the complexity of immigration law, and we hope to continue to expand the program because of the growing need.”

He urged the audience members to make an appointment and visit the immigration services offices so that their cases can be analyzed individually. He also cautioned them and said immigration fraud by unauthorized practitioners is rampant.

The immigration team of Catholic Charities is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals of the Department of Justice. The immigration services program provides affordable counseling and legal assistance to newcomers throughout Fairfield County regardless of race, religion, sex, creed or economic status. It also provides consultation on immigration-related problems, and accredited representation at USCIS Immigration appointments.

Service fees are nominal, and donations are welcome. Services are provided at two locations: The Catholic Center, 238 Jewett Avenue in Bridgeport and 174 Richmond Hill Avenue in Stamford.

(For more information or to make a donation, call 203.416.1322 or visit

By Joe Pisani
As seen on the Diocese of Bridgeport, Fairfield County Catholic website.

Governor-Elect To Visit New Covenant Center
January 4th, 2019

STAMFORD—In advance of Connecticut Governor-Elect Ned Lamont’s Inauguration on Wednesday, January 9, 2019, he will be visiting Catholic Charities of Fairfield County’s program, New Covenant Center, on Sunday, January 6.

The Governor-Elect chose the 40-year-old food insecurity program in Stamford in recognition of providing over 600,000 meals each year through their 365-day-a-year Café (Soup Kitchen) and three-day-a-week Food Pantry. Mr. Lamont will make his first stop at New Covenant at 11 am and plans to stay 30-45 minutes. This is part of his five-stop “Day of Service” throughout the state. Susan Bysiewicz, the Lieutenant Governor-Elect, will also visit various nonprofits throughout Connecticut.

“We are honored that Mr. Lamont has selected New Covenant Center as his ‘inaugural’ stop on his Day of Service to draw attention to nonprofit agencies that are helping those most in need,” said John Gutman, executive director of the program.  “He will be assisting other volunteers and staff in the preparation of our Sunday lunch.”

The Governor is encouraging lower Fairfield County residents to donate food items for New Covenant’s food pantry or make monetary donations. This can be done between 10 am and 1:30 pm on Sunday, January 6. The Center is located at 174 Richmond Hill Avenue, at the corner of Fairfield Avenue and Richmond Hill Avenue. Please enter through the front double-glass doors on the corner.

The mission of New Covenant Center is to provide a nutritious meal to all those who are hungry. By creating a safe, warm and compassionate environment, they are taking the first steps toward empowering men, women, and children to reach their full potential and regain their dignity and self-respect.

(For more information and to get involved, visit the Governor-elect’s website.)

As published on the Fairfield County Catholic website.

Sold Out Crowd Attends Norwalk ‘Celebrity Breakfast’
December 12th, 2018

(L to R) Father Robert Kinnally, Ed Bagnulo, Nancy Owens, Richard Madwid, Bill Tommins, Michael Tintrup, Al Barber, & Mark Texeira.

Celebrity guest speaker Father Robert Kinnally, Pastor of St. Aloysius & Chancellor for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

NORWALK—Hundreds of people from around the Norwalk and New Canaan area came out to the Shorehaven Golf Club on December 7 to support the programs of Catholic Charities in the city of Norwalk.

This year’s breakfast featured guest speaker Father Robert Kinnally, chancellor of the Diocese of Bridgeport and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish.

Though quick to poke fun at his “lack of celebrity status,” Father Rob began his inspiring talk by quoting the famous Mother Teresa, saying: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

He then took to the podium to beautifully describe his parents, who he credits as having taught him the importance of charity and how to give of oneself generously.

“My parents didn’t just explain to me why it was important to be charitable, they showed me, every single day by their example,” Father Rob explained, sharing multiple beautiful (and often humorous) stories about his youth.

One such story involved a particular Thanksgiving when then Rob asked his mother “who was coming to dinner?”

Catholic Charities’ President Al Barber

“I don’t know,” she replied.

“Well, how many people are coming?” Father Rob remembers asking.

“I don’t know,” was the answer then too.

In his speech, Father Rob explained that his parents would invite “everyone who didn’t have a seat at someone’s table” to Thanksgiving, which often led to a diverse and varied group each year. This was just one example of their “radical hospitality” that Father Rob referenced throughout his speech.

As his speech closed, Father Rob praised both Catholic Charities programs hosted in the city of Norwalk—Behavioral Health Services and Room to Grow Preschool. Both programs assist individuals, children, and families by educating and counseling them on a daily basis to help them navigate their way through life.

Director of Behavioral Health Richard Madwid

In addition to hearing from Father Rob, Al Barber, president of Catholic Charities began the day, Richard Madwid, director of Behavioral Health Services shared an update on what is happening in the program, and Nancy Owens, director of Room to Grow Preschool elaborated on the importance of the program to the Norwalk community.

Bill Tommins of the Catholic Charities Board of Directors closed out the morning and Msgr. Cullen led the opening prayer.

Director of Room to Grow Preschool Nancy Owens with RTG Board Member Ed Bagnulo

For 25 years, the Norwalk Breakfast has supported Behavioral Health Services and Room to Grow Preschool. Now more than ever the success of this event is vital as the agency strives to expand the services provided by Room to Grow Preschool to include financial literacy, English as a Second Language class, afterschool homework support, and parenting education. Catholic Charities is also working hard to promote the necessity of behavioral services throughout the City of Norwalk to help those struggling and battling mental health issues such as grief and loss, depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Catholic Charities’ Board Member and Development Board Chair Bill Tommins

Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, Inc. is one of the largest private social service providers in Connecticut. Since 1916, Catholic Charities has served all people with programs that feed the hungry and homebound, shelter the homeless, strengthen families, assist the physically and emotionally challenged and deliver consultation and assistance to immigrants. They serve all people without regard to age, race, religion or ability to pay. Catholic Charities puts faith into action by providing food, housing, mental health, adoption, immigration, and family support services to the needy and vulnerable of Fairfield County.

Written by John Grosso
As seen in Fairfield County Catholic

Adoption Builds Families
December 12th, 2018

BRIDGEPORT—For 102 years, Catholic Charities of Fairfield County (CCFC) has provided services for expectant parents and adoptive families. Over the last century the program’s core focus has remained the same: to help those who choose to build their family through adoption, and to help the expectant mothers as well.

Family Directions offers a broad spectrum of services in the pregnancy counseling and adoption area. For example, if an expectant mother who is considering adoption has concerns about being able to parent effectively or being capable of affording the cost of raising a child, the Family Directions staff helps her feel supported and not alone. Whatever the mother’s choice is—keeping the baby or going the adoption route—they are there to help her. In the circumstance where she keeps the baby, the agency provides counseling and guidance for as long as the mother needs it and also assists her in obtaining as many supportive services as possible. If however, she decides on an adoption plan, a coordinator is by her side to make sure she understands all of the legal and emotional elements of her decision.

For the families who are adopting, Family Directions helps them prepare to welcome the child into their home and supports them during the entire process. “When you are adopting a child, there is some anxiety because you are dealing with the unknown,” explained Chris, who is an adoptive parent along with his wife Louise. “You wonder if you are going to be capable of this responsibility, which of course biological parents do too. But the difference is, you do not know exactly when you will be taking your child home because you have to wait for the agency to tell you that they have found a match for your family. For biological parents, there is a known due date so that uncertainty is eliminated. Catholic Charities was great at putting our minds at ease while simultaneously guiding us every step of the way.”

Chris and Louise now have five children, four of whom were adopted through Catholic Charities. Although there were many agencies to choose from, the couple chose CCFC for a few reasons. As Catholics, they were naturally attracted to the agency. They were also incredibly impressed by CCFC’s absolute commitment to the well-being of everyone involved: the child, the expectant mother and the adoptive family. Lastly, because CCFC is a nonprofit, they knew the agency had no ulterior motive that could have been driven by financial gain.

“We are extremely proud to offer services that center on adoption,” said Al Barber, the president of Catholic Charities. “Our staff truly cares about everyone involved and keeps in touch with them long after the adoption process is completed.”

For Chris and Louise, the four experiences of taking the leap into adoption with Catholic Charities by their side was nothing short of incredible. As Chris summarized, “It’s like winning the Powerball…but four times over.”

CCFC is licensed by the Department of Children and Families as a child-placing agency and is COA Accredited, with full Hague Accreditation.

Written by Ellen McGinness
As seen in Fairfield County Catholic

Corporate Offices: 238 Jewett Ave Bridgeport, CT 06606
Phone: 203.416.1503
Fax: 203.372.5045

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