Dear Friends in Christ:
2019 Annual Report…This weekend I am pleased to present to you the 2019 Annual Report for Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish and to provide you with a highlight booklet at the ends of your pews (or on the yellow table at Saint Thomas Becket) for you to take home and read. I really do hope you will take the time to read through one of these booklets as doing so will help you to see how God is really at work in the midst of our parish family!
I will share some highlights with you at the Masses this weekend, but I would like to make a couple of significant comments at this time as well.
I think it is safe to say that the calendar year of 2019 was a year of blessings for our parish family in many different ways, some of which will be clear in the printed pages of the Annual Report, others which are known only to God.
As I reflect back on 2019, I am most grateful to the Parish Trustees, the Parish Finance Council, and the Parish Pastoral Council for their extraordinary and invaluable advice, counsel, and support. Whether it is in meetings, on conference calls, or just after Mass on the weekend, the members of these councils are ever willing to assist in making sure we remain a vibrant presence of the Catholic faith in Cheshire. They are dedicated to their respective roles in helping to build up our family of faith.
A special word of gratitude to our Trustees, Candy Nesbit and Mark Izzo, who were amazing in their availability and support throughout the process of selling the Epiphany Church and property. I could not have done it without them. I learned so much from them throughout this process and for that I am beyond grateful. The questions, the waiting, the back-and-forth of selling real estate is really not something I was ordained for but with their guidance, support, and counsel we got through the process.
As I often quote at this time of year, in the document Communities of Salt and Light by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, it says “parishes are communities of faith, of action, and of hope. They are where the Gospel is proclaimed and celebrated, where believers are formed and sent to renew the earth. Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church.”
I am in awe when I reflect on how our parish family is a family of faith, of action, and of hope. As you look through the Annual Report booklet you will see how this is made evident in the many ways we come together. We come together for spiritual and social events to strengthen our family. We come together for various adult education programs, various ministry meetings, and other times to grow together in our faith. We come together to be formed in the faith so that we can then bring that faith into our world. We Grow and Go as the theme for the Archdiocesan Synod reminds us. We, as a parish family, are actively doing this each and every day in a multitude of ways! For that we give thanks to God.
We, as a Pastoral Team, are continually seeking ways to bring our parish community together both socially and spiritually to grow together as a family. So many of the programs and events we offer throughout the year help each of us to grow in our understanding of the faith so that we may be nourished by word and Sacrament to go into our world and renew the earth. Each of us fulfills this mission each and every day by the way we live our lives, by the way our words and our actions show others that God is present within us, and by the way we share the joy and the love of Jesus with those we encounter.
To strengthen us for our role as missionary disciples I encourage everyone to join us for our upcoming spiritual and social events in 2020 so that together we can be strengthened by one another and God’s Word to truly go forth and bring others to the Lord by our lives. More information on the events and activities that we have planned will be in our bulletins in the weeks ahead, posted on our social media, and on our user-friendly website, www.stbridgetcheshire.org.
Here are some of the highlights of what we did as a parish family, which causes for us to express our gratitude to God for His many blessings and pray for His continued guidance:
1. We began the year strengthening our presence on social media and utilizing the tools of today to effectively communicate the faith.
2. We welcomed to our parish family the new Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese, Bishop Betancourt, who celebrated Mass with our parish family and offered his blessing to those in attendance.
3. We, once again, experienced the pain and the disgust of the sexual abuse crisis as the Archdiocese released the names of all those who were credibly accused. A fulfillment of a promise made to the people of God but one that, once again, caused us, priests and laity, to experience the pain of knowing that this took place in our beloved Church.
4. We saw the transfer of the beautiful Stations of the Cross from the Epiphany Church
property to the front of St. Bridget School as a way of uniting us as one family of faith; respecting the histories of the former parishes and building us up as one family of faith.
5. We executed the sale of the Epiphany Church and Property to Holy Theotokos and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in May. We wish them well in their new spiritual home. We thank them for the plaque in front of the outdoor statue of Mary recognizing the parishioners who worshipped there for 50 years. We look forward to collaborating with them in 2020 and well beyond.
6. We said goodbye to Father Philip O’Neill and wished him well on his new journey with the US Air Force as a Chaplain, and, we welcomed Father Anthony Federico as the new Parochial Vicar of our parish family. We are blessed that our parish family gets the excitement, enthusiasm, and joy of young holy priests in the early years of their ministry.
7. We painted Saint Thomas Becket Church, carpeted both Churches and the Education Wing at our South Campus, and repaired the masonry issues on Saint Bridget Church and our Parish Rectory.
8. We welcomed the Knights of Columbus State Council and the Silver Rose as we gathered to pray for a greater respect for all human life from conception to natural death.
9. We gathered to grow together as a family at events like our awesome Parish Picnic, the amazing Oktoberfest, and the relaxing and enjoyable No Turkey Thanksgiving Parish Dinner.
10. We walked the path of re-accreditation with our parish school throughout the year
culminating in the official on-site visit with New England Association of Schools and Colleges in October. We also witnessed the extraordinary generosity of the John G. Martin Foundation with their recent grant to St. Bridget School of $85,000 for us to purchase all NEW Smartboards for each of our classrooms.
There are many factors that are not reflected in our 2019 Annual Report that define us as a parish family.
· We are a family that reaches out to those in need beyond our parish boundaries, we collect tons of food, clothing, and other items for the clients of the Cheshire Community Food Pantry, the Saint Vincent DePaul Mission in Waterbury, and countless other organizations throughout the Archdiocese and beyond.
· We are a parish family that has dedicated parishioners ready and willing to lend a hand to any number of programs and events to make a difference in the lives of their fellow parishioners and the less fortunate.
· We are also a parish family blessed with the dedication of hundreds of volunteers who serve their fellow parishioners through various ministries here in the parish.
· We are blessed with a competent and, dare I say, extraordinary Pastoral Staff and support staff who are always ready to give one hundred and ten percent to anything and everything they do. I am indebted to each of them for their work each day in our parish family!
I have said it before, but I say it again, we want to hear from you! Is there a particular ministry you would like the Pastoral Staff to work toward forming? Is there a particular devotion you would like to see us offer? Is there a particular topic you would like covered in an evening Adult Education Talk? Let us know. Write it out and email it to email@example.com or drop it in an envelope marked Pastoral Staff in the collection on the weekend. All ideas are possible for consideration.
Finally, I hope you will not only focus on the financial report but that you will look through this Annual Report booklet and see that we are doing so much as a community of faith. We educate future generations, we gather in groups, we work together to enhance our liturgies, and we reach out to those most in need. That is what makes us such a strong family of faith! May God bless our efforts in the years ahead. Thank you for all that you do to make Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish such an amazing family of faith.
FINALLY, I wish to thank you the people of our parish family. I thank you for your love and dedication to our parish family, for your great generosity—especially financial generosity—which enables us to offer the great variety of programs and activities, and I thank you for your presence at Mass both daily and Sundays. We exist as a parish family because of each of you. This past year has indeed been a year of blessings for us as a parish family and I am most confident that God is indeed at work in our midst. God bless each of you and thank you for all you do for our parish family!
LENT IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER…Ash Wednesday is next week, February 26th! As we prepare for the Holy Season of Lent I want to make you aware of a couple of things we will be doing this Lent.
1. Ash Wednesday will be a little different than years past. We usually just have Masses and services and offer the distribution of ashes during those times. However, in an effort to be more accommodating of people’s schedules, IN ADDITION to the Masses and Services that are scheduled, we will be offering a special opportunity for you to receive your ashes. From 10AM until 2PM, we will have someone in Saint Bridget Church available for the distribution of ashes. You are invited to come during this time. Someone from the Knights of Columbus, the Men’s Club, the Women’s Society, or the Greeter’s Ministry teams will be at the doors of the Church to welcome people, provide them with a special prayer card, and invite them to say a few prayers in quiet before approaching for their ashes. It is something new. It is something out of the ordinary. I hope it works!
2. We will, once again, as a parish family focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy in a special way during the weeks of Lent. It will be an opportunity for us as a family of faith to reach out to others with the mercy and love of God and to fulfill the call of Pope Francis to be instruments of mercy in the lives of others. It is our hope that each weekend a basket will be in front of the altar and at the time the collectors are organizing the collection, our young people (and any “older” young person who wishes to come forward) will bring the particular item to the basket. These will occur as follows:
· Weekend of February 29 & March 1—Feed the Hungry—non-perishable food items for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry
· Weekend of March 7 & 8—Give drink to the Thirsty—beverages (water, juice, coffee, etc.) for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry
· Weekend of March 14 & 15—Clothe the naked—new (WHITE) socks for the Saint Vincent DePaul Shelter in Waterbury or onesies for use at Carolyn’s Place
· Weekend of March 21 & 22—Shelter the Homeless—a monetary collection for the Saint Vincent DePaul Shelter in Waterbury
· Weekend of March 28 & 29—Visit the Sick—children of the parish are asked to make Easter cards to be given to those in skilled nursing facilities or our homebound parishioners
· Weekend of April 4 & 5—Palm Sunday—Visit the imprisoned—the chaplains in our prison ministry in the Archdiocese ask that we collect Good News Bibles and Pocket Dictionaries for use in prison ministry…you can purchase these at any retailer or on Amazon
· Weekend of April 11 & 12—Easter Sunday—Bury the Dead—as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, we remember our loved ones who have gone before us in faith. May they share in His Resurrection!
I look forward to seeing all our parishioners, and in particular our young people, involved in this activity as we reflect on the importance of helping those in need among us.
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.