Newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

dirienzos_feb11Rosemarie DiRienzo holds the award that she received recently from the volunteer organization Soldiers’ Angels as her husband, Deacon Mario DiRienzo, points out a photo in a room in their Woodbridge home that is dedicated to Mrs. DiRienzo’s efforts to support soldiers and military chaplains. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

WOODBRIDGE – For the past five years, Rosemarie DiRienzo has been sending supplies to military chaplains stationed in the far-flung bases in Iraq and Afghanistan through Soldiers’ Angels – a group dedicated to sending care packages and letters of support to soldiers from home.

To thank her for her work, the California-based nonprofit organization recently recognized her with an award in the shape of a beautiful crystal angel that reads, "For giving above and beyond the call of angels in supporting our military personnel."

On the back is the simple phrase that captures the efforts of the group, founded in 2004 by the mother of two soldiers, as well as Mrs. DiRienzo’s mission: "May no soldier go unloved."

"You have no idea how wonderful this work is," said Mrs. DiRienzo, the wife of Deacon Mario DiRienzo, who serves at St. Augustine Parish in Seymour. "It’s wonderful, the responses and letters I’ve received.

"It has become an obsession with me," she said emphatically. "My father was an Army man, so I’m tuned into the military and the contributions of our service people."

Mrs. DiRienzo volunteers to serve one of four areas assigned by Soldiers’ Angels – specifically, to chaplains who minister in remote regions by offering prayer and sacramental support, celebrating Mass and providing pastoral counseling.

She has been assigned eight chaplains; six of whom are Catholic priests. The chaplains minister to 350 to 600 male and female soldiers.

She send the priests vestments, chalices, altar linens, prayer cards, rosaries, Bibles and other items collected from priests in the Archdiocese of Hartford. Each box is accompanied by a letter from the DiRienzos.

She also responds to requests she receives from the chaplains and the organization by sending items for soldiers, such as socks, T-shirts, personal hygiene items, hot chocolate, sheets, gloves and even candy and toys that the soldiers give to local children to help bridge relationships.

Local priests who have given items to send are Father Gene Gianelli (Our Lady of Assumption Parish in Woodbridge); Father Joseph Donnelly (Sacred Heart Parish in Southbury); Father James Shanley (St. George Parish in Guilford); Father Stephen Sledesky (St. Bridget/St. Bartholomew in Manchester); Father Robert Beloin (chaplain at Yale University’s St. Thomas More Chapel); and Father Ronald Genoa (Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin Residence in Bloomfield).

Other donations for the boxes of items that she sends monthly have been from Holy Family Monastery and Retreat Center in West Hartford, the Rosary Guild at Holy Rosary Parish in Ansonia, local councils of the Knights of Columbus, and the religious education program and parishioners of St. Augustine in Seymour.

The Thursday Woodbridge Senior Ladies group also has donated stitched prayer pouches for soldiers to slip into their pockets with a prayer or blessing inside; and children at St. Bridget School in Manchester assembled ‘happy feet’ care packages that included soap, detergent, socks, brushes, foot powder, nylon rope and clothes pins.

Mrs. DiRienzo also bargain- hunts for such items as stuffed animals and candy at local stores, and gratefully accepts donations from anyone who wants to help.

In addition to sending to her assigned chaplains, she also sends items to Father Dennis P. Hanley and to Father Lee W. Hellwig, both priests of the Archdiocese of Hartford, both of whom are serving overseas.

In return, she receives numerous letters of appreciation as well as photos of soldiers and priests, the latter shown wearing the donated vestments.

The DiRienzos send the boxes at their own expense. The postage on boxes transported on military cargo planes costs between $6 and $14, she said.

In one letter, a soldier wrote, "You’ll never know how much morale is lifted by the love and support of friends like you back home. Be assured that your contribution goes a long way in motivating our war fighters. It is my hope that this note will communicate our thanks and appreciation for your extraordinary generosity."

"They’re just so appreciative of everything you do that you just want to keep doing this," said Mrs. DiRienzo.

An entire room in the DiRienzos’ Woodbridge home is dedicated to Soldiers’ Angels. Some of the letters and photos are kept in that room. Other photos hang on a wall at her husband’s office, DiRienzo Mechanical Contractors Inc. in New Haven, where customers have identified family members in the photos.

"We do not realize how important and uplifting it is for them to get messages from home to help their morale," said Deacon DiRienzo, who has been a permanent deacon for 25 years.

In another letter, a soldier related that he and his wife have a baby on the way. He further wrote, "I’d like to personally thank you. It’s extremely uplifting for us to receive support from home in a war that many people in the United States seem to have placed in the back of their minds. We cannot deny that there are many who have lost their life. We cannot forget the courage, sacrifice and spirit that these soldiers possessed as well as the soldiers who on this very day are on patrol thousands of miles from home and loved ones. Once again, thank you very much for the time you give to us and for your support."

With a note of quiet determination in her voice, Mrs. DiRienzo said, "You get letters like this and you know you’re doing the right thing."

Information about Soldiers’ Angels is available at http://soldiersangels.org.

 

 

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