Dear Friends in Christ:
As I gave the Annual Parish Report last weekend I was acutely aware of all that God continues to do to guide us on this pilgrim journey. God has indeed blessed us with the gift of faith, and, as a parish family, has blessed us with so many parishioners who are ready and willing to give of their time, talent, and treasure to further the mission of the Church and to strengthen our parish family. I mean it when I said I am in awe at what God accomplishes in the lives of His people here in our parish family.
This past Monday evening, after a regular meeting of the Parish Pastoral Council, I made my way down to the Parish Center to hear a little bit of the presentation from Maria Tomasetti, Regional Director of Alzheimer’s Association, on Living with Dementia: Middle Stage Caregiver three-part series. She was speaking about the confusion at various times in dealing with those with dementia and the need to continue to connect with those we love who are experiencing dementia. It was really good to hear her share from her own experience with her father things that she tried that worked in helping to stay connected to him as he progressed through the various stages. She is coming back for the third part this Monday at 7PM on Day Services, In-Home Care Services, Senior Living Options, and Caregiver Needs.
HAPPIEST CONGRATULATIONS to Ann Smialek who on March 22nd will be presented the Saint Joseph Archdiocesan Medal of Appreciation at the Cathedral for her many years of service to our parish family. This medal goes to a person, or married couple, who has given particular devotion and service to the parish over many years. Ann has certainly done that. She has given of her time, her talent, and her treasure in a variety of ways to our parish family and for that we thank her and are pleased to recognize her with this Medal of Appreciation.
Ann has been an active member of our parish family for many years. She is always ready and willing to help out when called upon in any capacity. Ann constantly serves our parish and community. She coordinates, for years now, our Monday night Rosary Group, she helped to establish the monthly Children’s Rosary, and she leads the rosary each Saturday before the Vigil Mass at Saint Thomas Becket Church. She serves our parish as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and brings the Holy Eucharist to our homebound parishioners as well. Ann is a true asset to our parish family.
Ann is a terrific candidate for this Medal of Appreciation given her outstanding devotion to our parish, her desire to continually grow in her faith, and her years of service to our parish family and her fellow parishioners. I wish to publicly thank Ann for the many ways she contributes to the vibrancy of our parish family. Please join me in congratulating Ann on this honor and thanking her for her years of service to our parish family!!!
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday! Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. Ash Wednesday opens Lent, a season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Ash Wednesday takes place 46 days before Easter Sunday, and is chiefly observed by Catholics, although many other Christians observe it too.
Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Jewish tradition of penance and fasting. The practice includes the wearing of ashes on the head. The ashes symbolize the dust from which God made us. As the priest applies the ashes to a person's forehead, he speaks the words: "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return." Alternatively, the priest may speak the words, "Repent and believe in the Gospel."
Ashes also symbolize grief, in this case, grief that we have sinned and caused division from God. Writings from the Second-century Church refer to the wearing of ashes as a sign of penance. It is a sign to others that we acknowledge we are sinners. We don’t always love God as strongly as we could or as directly as we should, so Ash Wednesday provides us a chance to acknowledge our need for God and His mercy.
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!
So here is the schedule for Ash Wednesday:
At Saint Bridget Church (North Campus)
7AM & 9AM Mass with Distribution of Ashes
10AM to 2PM Opportunity for Prayer Time and Distribution of Ashes
At Saint Thomas Becket Church (South Campus)
3:30PM Prayer Service with Liturgy of the Word and Distribution of Ashes
5:30PM Mass with Distribution of Ashes
Don’t forget that this year, during Lent, 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. See page 7 for a list of items we will be collecting each week.
This Lent we invite you to think about our theme #pickonething. Ask yourself how will Lent be different for us this year? This weekend we have the opportunity to think about how we will make Lent meaningful this year. What will we do to make this Lent different? What will we do to Encounter Christ during the coming weeks of Lent? Rather than focusing on many things we want to invite you to focus on one thing.
PICK ONE THING such as one flaw, one bad habit, one weakness and work hard during these 40 days of Lent to change! This is a more personal and specific approach than we might be used too, but we believe it can be truly transformative. (Congratulations to Brenna Zbikowski, Grade 7 in our Religious Education Program, who won the artwork competition and whose artwork is seen below as well as on the banners at both church campuses. She won an Amazon gift card. Thank you to all those students who participated. We had over 30 pieces of art from which to select the winning artwork!)
Here are some things to expect this Lent:
1. Weekly Confessions in Saint Bridget Church on Monday mornings from 7:30-8:30AM. Please note this is in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Lenten Confession Program known as Confession Mondays. We will also hold an evening of Confession during Holy Week.
2. Stations of the Cross…every Friday at Saint Thomas Becket Church at 3:30PM and at Saint Bridget Church at 7PM.
3. Lenten Suppers…Every Friday evening of Lent from 5-7PM, a Lenten meal is prepared at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish Center. Menu always includes Pasta with sauce, salad, bread, a variety of soups each week, beverages and so much more. Cost is $10 per adult, $5 children and seniors, and $25 max per family. PLEASE JOIN US!
Finally, I offer you a Lenten Challenge and Invitation as I did last year…This Lent share with someone what we are doing in our parish. Share with them your experience of the activities and events both spiritual and social that make you proud to be part of our parish family. Invite someone to join us! Bring a family member or friend to our Lenten Suppers or Adoration or Stations of the Cross. Bring someone who may have stopped practicing their faith to Mass with you. You are the means through which others come to know the Lord and His love, why wait to bring them to the table where He nourishes us in Word and Sacrament? Can we all invite one person back to the Church, back to the practice of their faith? I think we can! The Challenge Is ON!!!
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.