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 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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springs 2129-BNew Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. talks to Dominican Sister Maryann Lawlor, Springs Learning Center, director, center, and Julia McNamara, president of Albertus Magnus College. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

NEW HAVEN – The Springs Learning Center celebrated its 10th anniversary with a luncheon at Albertus Magnus College on March 18 – exactly 10 years after the adult literacy center opened humbly at St. Rose of Lima Parish.

Sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the center has gone on, with help from some 200 volunteer tutors, to provide instruction in English as a second language (ESL) to more than 700 adult learners, most of whom live in the Fair Haven section of New Haven and represent about 30 countries.

Not only is the center flourishing, but students have continued on to become citizens, open businesses and attend institutions of higher learning – including one former student who currently attends Harvard University.

"It’s been a humbling mission," said an emotional Sister Maryann Lawlor, a Dominican Sister of Peace, who has served as director of the center since its founding. "I’m very proud of what has been accomplished and the people we’ve served."

The center presented awards for 10 years of service to 14 volunteers and staff, including Dominican Sisters Mary Ellen Boyle and Barbara DeCrosta, who have been part of the administrative team with Sister Maryann since the center opened.

"What you do is an extension of Catholic social justice teaching," said New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., who attended the celebration to thank the sisters for their work. "At times like this, we are reminded of the values that made us a great nation and a great people."

Also expressing gratitude for the "hard work" of the sisters was Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Peter A. Rosazza, who recalled the decision by the late Father William Burbank to offer two floors of the rectory at the parish for the start-up of the center.

According to Sister Maryann, education is one of the primary ministries of the Dominican Sisters, who have served the New Haven community for more than 100 years. Among the achievements are the founding of Albertus Magnus College in 1925 and the opening of St. Mary’s Academy (later St. Mary’s High School) in 1901. St. Mary’s  closed in 1991.

In 1994, the sisters established a successful literacy ministry in Columbus, Ohio, and used that experience to help meet New Haven’s growing literacy needs by opening the center.

Currently, about 45-55 adults volunteer there each year. After receiving training and materials from the center, volunteers commit to providing one-on-one tutoring to an individual learner for one hour a week for a year.

The center plans to continue the celebration of its anniversary with a gathering in June for students and tutors at St. Rose of Lima Parish.

Springs Learning Center is funded by a combination of donated services, corporate and civic donations, individual gifts and grants from foundations and other organizations.

The center’s primary goals are to provide individual tutoring in basic literacy skills, build job readiness and develop self-esteem for adult learners. In addition to offering ESL, the program includes instruction in reading, writing and other basic education areas that help adult learners gain needed life skills.

Information about the center may be found at www.springslearning.org.

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.