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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Bocce_Aug11SEYMOUR – Faith, family, friends, fellowship and, yes, fun.

That’s what members of St. Augustine Parish have been sharing every Wednesday evening this summer after building two bocce courts on the parish property last year.

And, judging from the fact that the number of participants has doubled to more than 40 since the games started, the new activity is a hit.

"It’s a lot of fun," said parishioner Fred Ortoli of Oxford. "It’s great being together and having this time as an opportunity to meet socially outside of church."

Even Father Honore Kombo, Pastor of St. Augustine’s, is joining in the fun, setting aside his passion for soccer to master the game of bocce.

"It’s wonderful for me and the people of the parish," he said. "It’s building community and helping us get to know each other better. Plus I’m getting out and competing. I don’t want to lose, but I will take it."

The bocce courts are the brainchild of Deacon Mario DiRienzo, who who envisioned the sport as a win-win way to build parish spirit and family.

"We see each other every week at church, but no one knows their fellow parishioners," said Deacon DiRienzo. "So I came up with the idea of bocce ball as a way for people to get to know each other and have some fun as well."

The enterprising deacon went to work, building two 16-foot long, wood-framed courts containing eight inches of stone. Parishioners John Fanotto and Joe Zamoic laid-out and dug the courts.

A pole was added in the hope of installing lights in the future for night play.

Another of Deacon DiRienzo’s motives was to recapture the sense of the church as the center of community that he enjoyed as a child in his native Italy.

"Years ago, the church was the center of everything," he said. "That’s where I learned my love of soccer after spending hours playing as a young boy. The church was always central, unique, and where everyone helped each other. That’s what I’d like to re-create."

The game of bocce, which has its roots in ancient Rome, was popularized in Italy.

To defray expenses, players pay a weekly fee of $3. Four sponsors also have stepped up with $100 donations that were earmarked for a mid-summer pizza party and end-of-the season awards banquet. Any remaining funds will be donated to the parish.

Deacon DiRienzo also designed a shirt that bears the name of the parish and the crest of the Archdiocese of Hartford as another way to build parish identity and funds.

"It’s great," said parishioner Steve Wiesniak of Seymour. "It gives me a chance to get out and exercise, get to know parishioners other than in a meeting or at church, and just enjoy the spirit of being together."

First played in ancient Rome, bocce later became popular throughout Italy. Each player on two teams has four chances to bowl a bocce ball as close as possible to a target, called a jack, to win points.

Father Kombo begins every Wednesday night’s match with a prayer.

"They love it, they absolutely love it," said Deacon DiRienzo’s wife, Rosemarie, who has been a behind-the-scenes coordinator and driver of the games. "Everyone is getting joy out of this and having fun; and one of the nice things is that Father Kombo comes.

"It’s been really nice," she said, "very, very successful … thank God."


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.