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 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
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st-gabe-storm 4051Father Maurice J. Maroney, pastor of St. Gabriel Parish in Milford, outside of the beachfront rectory. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)

NEW HAVEN – When storm Sandy struck Connecticut in late October, Catholic Charities stood at the ready to assist victims of the storm with disaster relief efforts including emergency food and shelter.

Officials at the centers in the coastal towns of New Haven and Milford said that most of their initial assistance went to replenish food banks in Meriden and East Haven.

"We coordinated a drive through Centro San Jose in Fair Haven to replenish food, nonperishable items, cleaning supplies, batteries, battery-operated radios, diapers and baby wipes for distribution through the East Haven Food Bank," said Peter O’Donnell, director of fund development for Catholic Charities.

He noted that Catholic Charities works through local offices, centers and parishes to provide basic human needs, rental support, counseling services or referrals to other types of resources as requested by parishioners. A complete listing of  the Catholic Charities offices and family centers in the archdiocese may be found online at

Among the victims of Sandy was St. Gabriel Parish in Milford, where the 16-foot storm surge that hit the coastline at around midnight broke through a cement patio, spilling two to three feet of water into the first floor of the beachfront rectory; flooded the church basement with five to six feet of water that destroyed the furnace; and damaged the exterior of a newly built garage.

Father Maurice Maroney, pastor of the parish for the past 16 years, said he had boarded up the rectory and left the parish by noon on Oct. 29 to stay with a cousin in Stratford after police came through to evacuate the area.

But when his secretary called the next morning with the devastating news, he was in a state of disbelief.

Water in the rectory destroyed belongings including pieces of furniture that were found floating through the rooms of the first floor.

"I thought we were prepared," he said. "We had just gone through Hurricane Irene in August of last year that took off the front porch; but we didn’t get a drop of water in the rectory."

To heat the church in the following weeks, the parish rented large portable heaters to blow heat through large hoses into the building through openings made by removing some of the church’s stained glass windows.

Since Irene, the parish purchased a new furnace for the church, which now is installed; built a new garage that was finished only two months ago; and recently purchased a set of steps for the rectory. All were destroyed or damaged by Sandy.

"It’s awful to see your belongings thrown away, and it’s been exhausting to come here every day to help with the clean-up," said Father Maroney. "But when I think of all the families with children who’ve been disrupted or have lost their homes, it doesn’t compare."

Father Maroney said parish records such as baptismal and marriage certificates were not damaged; all are housed in an office in the parish center.

Anyone needing help with relief from the hurricane can contact Catholic Charities through local offices. Small grants are also available to parishioners in the archdiocese who have fallen on hard times through the Emergency Assistance Fund, an initiative of the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal.

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.