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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hopes-2-gerckensThe Gerckens family, twins Brittany, left, and Ashley, mom Patsy and dad Arthur, share moments of pride after Mr. Gerckens was presented with the Office of Catholic Schools’ 2013 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award at the annual HOPES Dinner on Sept. 22 at the Aqua Turf Club in PlantsvilleSOUTHINGTON – When St. Mary-St. Michael School in Derby faced closing in 2010 because of  dwindling finances and enrollment, a group of parents, led by Arthur Gerckens, stepped up.

They created a strategic plan, implemented a number of fund-raising initiatives and successfully took the school from nearly closing its doors with 65 students to becoming a viable Catholic school again with 144 students today.

For his efforts to show what can happen when people who believe in Catholic education volunteer their talents, the Office of Catholic Schools (OCS) of the Archdiocese of Hartford gave Mr. Gerckens the 2013 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.

The occasion was the 36th annual HOPES (Help Our Parish Elementary Schools) Dinner, held Sept. 22 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville to honor volunteers who offer their time and talent on behalf of their parish elementary schools.

Also honored were 103 volunteers from 47 Catholic elementary schools, each of whom was presented with the St. John Neumann Award for supporting their schools in a number of ways with their time and talents.

“These are the people who carry the benefits of Catholic education in their hearts at all times,” said Anne T. Clubb, director of enrollment management and marketing for OCS, who coordinated and moderated the event.

Offering the invocation for the celebration, Archbishop Henry J. Mansell expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the volunteers. “We’re here tonight to celebrate the great success of Catholic schools,” he said.

He noted that among the reasons for the success of Catholic schools is their family-like environment.

Attendees also gave a standing ovation to a performance by the combined Catholic Schools Choir of Greater Waterbury under the direction of Joan Tortora.

Accepting his award, Mr. Gerckens, a 1976 graduate of St. Mary, said, “It’s a tremendous honor. It’s been a lot of hard work. But I want to stress that there was a team of people who kept the school viable. When you have a group of people with a common goal, great things can happen.”

Mr. Gerckens said that because of his involvement with the school and the awareness the campaign  raised in the community, he went on to be elected to the Derby Board of Aldermen.

He and his wife Patsy have twin daughters, Ashley and Brittany, who graduated from St. Mary-St. Michael School. Both now are freshmen at  Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden.

Presenting the awards to recipients were Archbishop Mansell; Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic Schools; and Maria Maynard, deputy superintendent.

For the last 36 years, the OCS has organized a HOPES collection at all parishes in September to support the Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese. It helps to fund grants to elementary schools and supports OCS marketing efforts.

The dinner is held the same weekend as the collection.

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.