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Archbishop's Desk

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  • On receiving the pallium

    On June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I was blessed to receive from the hands of...

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Milestones

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  • Daughter of Mary Immaculate professes final vows

    NEW BRITAIN – Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso poses with Mother Mary Jennifer Carroll,...

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Youth

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  • St. Dunstan's awards two scholarships

    GLASTONBURY – Two graduating seniors from St. Dunstan Parish have received the Rev. Joseph R....

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HARWINTON – Few of us ever think of ourselves as privileged. Until we’re not.

The last light to go out during storm Alfred was the LED digital clock on our DVD player. For half a second after the rest of the house was plunged into darkness on the evening of Oct. 29, the DVD clock glowed 8:32.

My wife Jean and I hunkered down for the night with extra blankets, satisfied that we were as ready as we could be. We had done the laundry; charged the cell phones; and filled jugs with water and cars with gas. We had candles, canned food, flashlights.

Darkness? Bring it on.

But temperatures plunged. Wind whistled. Wet snow bent the lilac and magnolia and cracked the maple.

In the morning, as I gazed at more than 20 inches of snow, I said, "We can’t stay here."

"But there’s no power anywhere."

I bit my lip. "There are ... shelters."

Neither of us liked the idea. Shelters were for ... others. Besides, when I dialed 211 to find the nearest one, I was on hold so long that I had to hang up to preserve my cell phone charge. We turned on the radio and learned that a makeshift shelter was being set up near our home.

A cheerful young woman answered the door, wearing an EMT jumpsuit with a holster for her two-way radio.

"Oh, hi," I said, "our power is out and our house is freezing. Can we hang here for a while?"

"Absolutely!" the woman said. She showed us into a large, open room that was warm and bright, powered by a gasoline generator outside that sounded like an 18-wheeler downshifting for a hill.

A family of four sat at a table, playing Trivial Pursuit. "How many minor league home runs did Babe Ruth hit?" the questioner asked.

An elderly foursome swapped sections of the Sunday paper bearing headlines about the storm’s devastation. I helped a volunteer unfold portable cots. By nightfall, 19 cots had been arranged in rows, as more people, young and old, showed up. Many of us had brought food to contribute to a supper, prepared by the EMT woman and other volunteers.

It all sounds homey and comfy. It is not. There is nothing homey or comfy about being away from your comfortable home, even if home is a small ranch house.

The cots were made of polyester fabric supported by tubular steel and aluminum. They don’t exactly have "sleep numbers" for comfort. The metal tubes bruise your ankles, butt and neck.

At one point, I may have been the only person awake, listening to 18 others snoring in their unique styles. One man sounded like a woodpecker on a hollow apple tree. Another sounded like someone dragging a chair across a cement floor. One woman’s explosive exhalations were like a steam release valve.

How we could sleep at all is a mystery. Elderly hard-of-hearing people stayed up late talking in what they thought were whispers; people two towns away may now know intimate details about their surgeries. The EMT’s squawk box kept rasping about trees down on nearby roads. And the generator kept up a constant growl.

Nobody would possibly want to live in a shelter night after night.

And yet: In Connecticut, on Jan. 27, 2011, there were 3,770 people staying in shelters, according to the annual Point in Time snapshot of homelessness, reported by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH). About 42 percent of these people – which included 496 adults with families and 800 children in families – had never before been homeless. For the year 2010, more than 11,000 people, including more than 1,500 children, spent some time in shelters in Connecticut.

Rent problems, family disputes and domestic violence accounted for about 88 percent of homelessness, but they were not the only causes. They certainly were not the reasons that my wife and I and 17 other people slept on those backbreaking cots on the night before Halloween.

But, as inconvenient as shelters are, they sure beat freezing on the streets or in unheated homes. That’s why a number of shelters in Connecticut receive assistance from the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, including the Immaculate Conception Shelter, Mercy Housing & Shelter and South Park Inn-Homeless Shelter, all in Hartford; Samaritan Shelter in Manchester; St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Shelter in Bristol and Waterbury; Winchester Emergency Shelter in Winsted; Beth-El Shelter in Milford; Columbus House in New Haven; Shelter NOW in Meriden; and others.

They literally save lives.

But one night was enough for us. A nearby motel had power restored the next night, and there we at least had the added comforts of a hot shower and privacy (but, frankly, not much else). The night after that, a family member got power back and invited us in.

Finally, just 90 hours after our DVD clock faded out, our lights came on. The furnace hummed to life. The refrigerator purred. The dishwasher and washing machine caught up on their assignments.

Once again, we were among the privileged. Only this time, we knew it.

Oh, and Babe Ruth hit only one minor league home run. Amazing, the stuff you learn in a shelter.

 Jack Sheedy is the News Editor of The Catholic Transcript and lives in Litchfield County.

Events Calendar

September 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1
12:00 AM
Archbishop O'Brien Library , Bloomfield, United States
The Archbishop O’Brien Library will participate in a community-based project with Life Choice Donor Services, a non-profit organ procurement organization, during September, to raise awareness for organ [...]
Date :  September 01, 2014
2
3
4
06:00 PM
Hartford Club, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The House of Bread, one of the area’s largest urban ministries, will kick off its 35th [...]
Date :  September 04, 2014
5
6
09:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
09:00 AM
“Empowering Catholic Social Justice Teachings through Gospel Living, Every Day, Every Way’ is the title of a Catechist Day presentation to be given by Father Chris Tiano, director of the Office of [...]
Date :  September 06, 2014
7
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
08:00 AM
Academy of the Holy Family's Dining Hall, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Knights of Columbus will have a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 7 at the Academy of the Holy Family’s Dining Hall at 54 W. Main St., Baltic.  Pancakes, French [...]
11:30 AM
St. Rita Day Care Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
St. Rita Parish in Hamden will celebrate its 50th anniversary with an outdoor Mass at 11:30 a.m. Sept. 7 [...]
Date :  September 07, 2014
8
9
10
11
07:00 PM
St. Lawrence O'Toole Church, Hartford, Hartford, United States
People from the English, Spanish and Portuguese Cursillo communities will be among the congregants at a multicultural Cursillo Mass that will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 at St. Lawrence O’Toole [...]
Date :  September 11, 2014
12
03:00 PM
St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church, Springfield, Springfield, United States
The Archdiocese of Hartford will host a one-day pilgrimage to St. Anthony Maronite Catholic Church in [...]
Date :  September 12, 2014
13
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Bloomfield, United States
A workshop titled "Building Intercultural Competence in Our Parishes" will be presented from 9 a.m. to [...]
10:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine, Litchfield, United States
BRANFORD – The St. Mary Ladies Guild is planning a Day of Pilgrimage and Prayer on Sept. 13 at the [...]
10:30 AM
Mortensen Riverfront Park, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Immaculate Conception Shelter & Housing Corp. will have its third annual “Give Me [...]
Date :  September 13, 2014
14
08:30 AM
Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Waterbury, Waterbury, United States
WATERBURY – Sheridan Council 24 of the Knights of Columbus will host its second annual Communion [...]
Date :  September 14, 2014
15
16
17
18
19
06:00 PM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
Date :  September 19, 2014
20
08:30 AM
Church of St. Ann, Avon, Avon, United States
St. Ann's Church of Avon is having its fifth annual clothing sale from 6-8:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 in Father Bennett Hall at the parish. Proceeds benefit students [...]
10:00 AM
St. Paul Catholic High School, Bristol, Bristol, United States
St. Paul Catholic High School open houses at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20,  7 p.m. Oct. 8 and at 10 and [...]
Date :  September 20, 2014
21
11:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
Applications are being accepted for the 2014 Catholic Youth Spectacular (CYS), set for Sept. 21 on the [...]
Date :  September 21, 2014
22
23
11:00 AM
Wampanoag Country Club, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 22nd annual Archbishop John F. Whealon Memorial Golf Tournament will take place Sept. 23 [...]
Date :  September 23, 2014
24
06:00 PM
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Hamden , Hamden, United States
Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Hamden will have its monthly Pro-Life Holy Hour Novena from 6-7 p.m. September 24.The Holy Hour will include exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, pro-life rosary, [...]
Date :  September 24, 2014
25
26
27
09:30 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
MERIDEN – The Meriden-Wallingford Council of Catholic Women will sponsor a catered breakfast at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 27 at Holy Angels Parish Center in South Meriden. Guest speaker Deacon Thomas J. Davis [...]
Date :  September 27, 2014
28
01:00 PM
Polish-American Club, West Haven, United States
NEW HAVEN – St. Stanislaus Parish will have its annual picnic/harvest festival from 1-8 p.m. Sept. 28, rain or shine, at the Polish-American Club at 194 W. Spring St., West Haven. Polish and [...]
Date :  September 28, 2014
29
30

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