Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
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At 5:30 Mass in the back of the church – in an area reserved for teenagers who creep in late and adults who creep out early – a grandmother arrived with her two granddaughters.

The girls, who were about 11, genuflected hastily and pushed into the pew. They looked as if they’d spent the afternoon at soccer practice, the great all-American pastime in suburban communities across the country. I think some kids spend more time on the soccer field than the average trader spends on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

When Mass began, the woman showed them how to make the Sign of the Cross because they were confused whether it went left to right or right to left. Clearly, they were in unfamiliar territory.

Watching them reminded me of my early days teaching religion to eighth graders, when I was shocked to discover none of them knew their prayers.

This, of course, was back in the 1970s, when most religious education consisted of guitar strumming and group discussions that centered on the question, "So how do you feel about this?" rather than on telling them what was right and what was wrong.

Grandparents’ taking grandchildren to church has become a cultural phenomenon – a seriously necessary one because there are a lot of baby boomers who put their children’s spiritual development on the back burner or, should I say, second to soccer.

Where would we be without grandparents? In my childhood, it was my grandmother who first took me to church. She was an Italian immigrant who was widowed at an early age and had to raise nine children alone on the east side of Bridgeport during the Depression.

I can still remember walking with her to St. Mary’s Church on Pembroke Street and sitting in one of the back pews, listening to a Latin Mass with incense and candles and all the strange comings and goings that made no sense to me, but seemed terribly important.

Years later, when my mother taught CCD to students making their first holy Communion, the church posted a signup sheet at the entrance every week, just to make sure someone – parents or grandparents or the town dog warden – was getting the kids to Mass.

When you don’t start spiritual education at a young age, it’s hard to play catch-up. All too often, a child’s religious education can take a backseat to karate class, piano lessons, dance recitals and all our other social preoccupations.

I still remember when my friend’s 7-year-old son came to her one day with a startling question: "Mommy, who is God?" He must have heard about God in class or on the playground and figured this God person was someone he needed to meet. Fortunately, she realized she had to do something fast.

The tragedy is that our children are the last great hope for this troubled society, and if they think Guitar Hero is more important than God, the future is grim indeed.

We need to give them the tools to spread the faith in a Godless world.

Sad to say, I have adult friends who never had the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with God, and when they confront a crisis, praying to God is the last thing that comes to mind. They’ll call the lawyer; they’ll call the doctor; they’ll call the police department; they’ll call the financial adviser; but God isn’t on the list.

They’ll cry. They’ll scream. They’ll whine. They’ll complain. But, praying is a response that doesn’t come to mind, all because they never learned to have a "conscious contact with their Higher Power," as they say in 12-Step programs like AA.

God is just waiting for us to ask for help, but so many people don’t bother to ask – or don’t know enough to ask.

When Mass was over, the two girls – who spent much of the time looking around curiously as if they were on a field trip to the Museum of Natural History – seemed pleased with the experience. Their grandmother certainly was. She had a huge smile on her face, and I’m sure she intended to take them back the following week.

J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.