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Choirmaster Alice Matteson leads the Cathedral Youth Choir in the Agnus Dei during the Christmas Vigil Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.

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The faithful venerate the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the sanctuary after an annual Mass for the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford. 

Archbishop Leonard P. Blair was the celebrant.

The archbishop also blessed the image, which was carried into the cathedral by members of the Grupo Guadalupano, an organization of Mexican Americans. (Photo by Aaron Joseph)

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Luke Nugent, a student at St. Rita School in Hamden, takes part in the international initiative called Hour of Code on Dec. 11 at the school.

20141223cnsbr7400 webCarmela Recupero arranges poinsettias in the sanctuary of St. Anthony of Padua Church in the South Village neighborhood of New York Dec. 22.

Ms. Recupero and fellow volunteers were decorating the church in advance of the parish's Christmas Masses. (CNS photo /Gregory A. Shemitz)

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Faith and Evangelization Congress attendees browse through materials in the hallways at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol on Nov. 15. (Photo by Maria G. O'Donnell)

BRISTOL – The Archdiocese of Hartford Office of Religious Education and Evangelization (OREE) presented its annual Faith and Evangelization Congress on Nov. 15 at St. Paul High School in Bristol. This year’s theme was titled “Making God Known: Sharing the Stories of Faith.”

20141222cnsbr7338 webPope Francis greets U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights and Dames of Malta, during an audience to exchange Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia ll at the Vatican Dec. 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis' Christmas greeting to the Vatican bureaucracy this year was an extended warning against a host of spiritual ills to which he said Vatican officials are prone, including "spiritual Alzheimer's," "existential schizophrenia," publicity-seeking, the "terrorism of gossip" and even a poor sense of humor.

Shawnee award 4495 a webShawnee Baldwin (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

Shawnee Baldwin, coordinator of youth and young adult ministry for the Office of Religious Education and Evangelization, was honored with a regional leadership award Dec. 6 from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry.

20141216cnsph042 webMother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, speaks at a Dec. 16 Vatican press conference for release of the final report of a Vatican-ordered investigation of U.S. communities of women religious. At right is Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the Vatican's Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The apostolic visitation of U.S. communities of religious women, though initially met with some resistance, ended up promoting a greater sense of unity in the church and helped the women become more aware of how God is working in their lives, said the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

"May the self-assessment and dialogue sparked by the apostolic visitation continue to bear abundant fruit for the revitalization and strengthening of religious institutes in fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to their founding charisms," said Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, the prefect, at a Dec. 16 news conference at the Vatican.

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HAMDEN – Sacred Heart Academy students recently toured nearby Sacred Heart Manor to learn if a career in a construction-related field was right for them.

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mens-conf-2_0282SOUTHINGTON – Before the start of the fourth annual Connecticut Catholic Men’s Conference, held Oct. 22 at St. Dominic Church, Ron Gerlip of Westfield, Mass., said he hoped it would enlighten him and strengthen him in his faith. Eight hours later, he said, "It’s like what all the speakers said: If you walk away with something, your day has been fulfilled. I walk away today with a deeper faith, a chance to go to reconciliation, an attempt to be a better person for Christ."

 

mens-conf_0271Expectations and reactions of other men were similar. Joe Murphy of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Gales Ferry said he went "for the experience of fellowship and to enrich my life." Charlie Nostrand of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown said, "I want to get recharged going into the winter months. ... It’s nice to get a booster shot of spirituality and faith." And conference veteran Richard Feil of St. John Parish in Old Saybrook said, "There are always so many booths of information where you can pick up so much other information besides the talks. You don’t doze off in here. It’s spectacular."

Joe Premus, conference director, told the more than 400 men that a Pew Research poll found, "When a child comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 20 percent chance that his or her family will follow. When a woman comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 28 percent chance that her family will follow. But when a man comes to faith in Jesus, there’s a 93 percent chance that his family will follow."

Father John Gatzak, director of the Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office of Radio and Television and emcee of the conference, said the theme of this year’s gathering was "Know Him. Love Him. Serve Him." He said he was recently stopped for speeding, and the officer told him, "All right, Father, I’m giving you a warning: Slow down."

Father Gatzak advised the men, "Let’s slow down and come to know him, love him and serve him."

Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford used digital clocks and analog clocks as a metaphor for a disconnected society. Digital clocks show an isolated snapshot in time, but "On an analog clock face, you can see where time has been a minute ago and where it is going." He said we are all connected with each other and with God. "What really matters when our time is up are not the things we have acquired but the love that we have given away," he said.

Advertising entrepreneur-turned Catholic evangelist Tom Peterson picked up on this theme. For years, in the stressful but lucrative advertising world, he said, he suffered from the disease of "affluenza" – the desire to accumulate more and more wealth. He came to realize he had to "downsize and simplify" his life. He founded Catholics Come Home Inc. and VirtueMedia Inc., nonprofit apostolates dedicated to promoting Catholic evangelization and the sanctity of life. He announced that Catholic ads he created will air later this year on major television networks coast to coast and in prime time.

Doug Barry, who wowed the men at last year’s conference, returned to remind men that they are made to deal with conflict and that they should channel those energies in healthy ways rather than squelch them. Mr. Barry is founder and director of the Catholic apostolate RADIX and a personality on EWTN.

"The fighting spirit of a man is a gift from God," he said. "It is essential to the safety of the family." It’s no accident that soldiers in battle run toward the sound of gunfire – not to cause harm but to heal it, he said.

Randy Raus roused the men to become active in youth ministry. Mr. Raus is president of Life Teen, a parish-based ministry for young Catholics. He astonished the men with the statistic that if young Catholics are not involved in some kind of youth ministry, there is only a 3 percent chance that they will continue in the faith.

"Boys want to hear they have what it takes," he said. "I make it a point to tell my boys every day that I love them."

"If this conference helped one person, it was worth it," said Father Gatzak. "What I ask you to do now is to look deep into your hearts and see if you – if you – can be that one person."

Bruce Wimperis and his son Tony, both of Bridgewater, are members of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New Milford. "This is our first time," Bruce said. "We felt we would hear some great speakers and meet some great guys, and it’s been great."

Tony added, "I just came to hear some good wisdom from Doug Barry and some of the other speakers about how to be a man in the community, to live as a man of God and to take a leadership role."

Jeannot Michaud, a member of the Knights of Columbus of Council 12 in New Britain, has attended all four conferences and was happy this one was held in his home parish. "I think it’s an eye-opening experience, listening to all these speakers," he said. "It’s a refreshing, uplifting inspiration."

Father John L. Lavorgna, pastor of Our Lady of Pompeii Parish in East Haven, accompanied 10 men from his parish. He said, "It’s a great source of strength, a great sense of hope, but also a lot of joy. What you really sense at the outset is that everyone’s real happy to be here, excited to be here, encouraged and affirmed. And we let God work, and he’ll never let us down."

Father Ivan Kaszczak of the Unkrainian Diocese in Stamford, accompanied Bishop Chomnycky. He said, "I like the part about being a man, about taking responsibility, because I do find as a rule that Catholics are sort of timid and even apologetic when we express the faith."

Tommy Valuckas is a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Watertown. Of his first conference two years ago, he said, "It gave me a lot to think about on how I can become a better Catholic, how I can translate that to other people to have them become better Catholics."

Doug Barry’s talk made a big impression on Mr. Valuckas this year, he said. "There’s a lot of truth to what he says, and we need to become more the warriors for God. I think we sit back too much and let things happen when we really can cause a lot of change, we can effect a lot of change."

It’s great to be re-energized, he said, but men need to pass it along to other people and say, "Lookit, you’re Catholic. This is what you should be doing. A lot needs to be done, but we can do it."

A date and location for next year’s conference have not yet been decided, Mr. Premus said.

Events Calendar

December 2014
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12:00 AM
Knights of Columbus Museum, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Knights of Columbus Museum’s 10th annual Christmas crèche exhibition, “Buon Natale: Crèches of Italy,” opened Dec. 1 and remains on view until Feb. 1 with [...]
Date :  December 22, 2014
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03:15 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
There will be a children's concert at 3 p.m. and children's Mass at 4 pm at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
04:00 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, United States
Masses will be celebrated at 4 and 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at Holy Family Retreat Center. They [...]
05:30 PM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, United States
Masses will be celebrated at 4 and 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at Holy Family Retreat Center. They [...]
11:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
A Sacred Sounds Concert for Christmas Eve, "Bach at the Cathedral," will be performed at 11 p.m. Dec. 24 [...]
11:59 PM
Mass will be clelebrated at midnight at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford.
Date :  December 24, 2014
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