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 23, 1976 when Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien passed away.
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cram halfPat’s daughter was dying and her co-workers knew it. Each day after work, Pat headed to the AIDS residence to sit by her grown daughter’s bedside. In addition, she offered her sewing skills to other residents of the house. She mended clothes, replaced buttons and altered garments to fit bodies that were wasting away. She distributed rosary beads and music tapes. Mostly, she tried to squeeze a lifetime of loving into the few remaining months of her daughter’s life.

“You’re exhausted,” her supervisor said to Pat one day. The supervisor insisted that Pat begin taking every Tuesday afternoon off in order to spend more time with her daughter. The young woman did not have many Tuesdays left.

One Tuesday afternoon in late May, Pat headed out on an errand before visiting her daughter. It was pouring rain and she was distracted as she pondered her daughter’s fragile health. After completing the errand, Pat was about to drive to the AIDS residence when she realized that she was growing light-headed. She needed an afternoon snack.

“I wish there was an old-fashioned bakery nearby,” she thought.

Immediately she spotted a bakery across the street.

Pat headed toward it, musing about how much she would enjoy a traditional bismark, a European pastry similar to a doughnut, filled with jam or custard. “No one makes bismarks anymore,” she warned herself as she stepped into the small shop.

But there they were. Next to the register sat a display case with fresh bismarks.

“Bismarks!” she exclaimed. “I’ll take one, and a cup of tea, please.”

With bismark and tea in hand, Pat headed to a tiny table in a corner of the shop. Before she could settle in, however, she became aware of a woman standing over her. The woman carried two enormous garbage bags bulging with clothing. She wore a baggy dress splattered with big flowers; rather ugly, Pat thought. She also wore a ratty fur coat that smelled rancid from the drenching rain. Her face looked haggard and old.

Pat locked eyes with the woman. They were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.

The woman just stared back.

Finally Pat spoke. “I can’t believe I found bismarks,” she said. “Would you like half of mine?”

“No,” the woman with the bags replied. “I’m waiting for a taxi. I’ve been waiting and waiting.”

Pat paused. She was anxious to get on her way, and yet she couldn’t look away from those piercing eyes. “I can drive you where you’re going,” Pat offered.

“Are you familiar with the streets in this town?” the woman asked.

“No, but we can find our way.”

Slipping the treat into her pocket, Pat and the stranger hurried through the driving rain to Pat’s old car. They were mostly quiet as they drove, but Pat did tell the woman that her daughter was very ill and that she was worried about her.

Suddenly the woman announced, “Stop here.” It was an odd location because there were no residences nearby. “But it’s raining,” Pat objected. “Let me take you to your apartment.”

The woman insisted that she be dropped off there. Pat stopped the car and the woman climbed out.

The stranger began to walk away. Then she turned back and said softly, “Your daughter will be with the communion of saints very soon.”

Pat’s eyes filled with tears. When she looked up to respond, the woman was gone.

Three weeks later, Pat’s daughter died of AIDS.

Pat has often wondered if the woman with the piercing eyes was an angel in disguise. After all, in showing hospitality to strangers, some have entertained angels unawares.

I hope it’s true. You see, Pat is my mother, and it was my sister who lay dying. The stranger’s words gave my mother hope during a time of great sadness.

Her words give me hope, as well.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.

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.