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 21, 1934 when Father James J. Kane offered Madison's first Mass in Madison's Memorial Town Hall.
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cc bkfst help hoperchbishop Leonard P. Blair and Catholic Charities’ CEO Lois Nesce flank Joan DeGioia and Maureen Soares of the Connecticut Columbiettes. (Photo by Jack Sheedy)

HARTFORD – It may not have been the season he had hoped for, but UConn football head coach Bob Diaco says he has sown seeds in “fertile ground.”

“It was kind of an abysmal season,” Mr. Diaco conceded to nearly 450 people attending the ninth annual Catholic Charities Help and Hope Breakfast at the Hartford Marriott Downtown Dec. 12. In his first year in the position, trying to improve on last year’s win-loss record of 3-9, Coach Diaco saw his team stumble to 2-10, the school’s worst season in 37 years.

“The other day I was thinking about – let’s just call it a story,” Coach Diaco said, and then he launched into a retelling of Jesus’ parable of the farmer from Matthew 13. “So this farmer spreads some seeds on a path, and it was a hard path with no soil, and the birds of the sky came and picked them up,” he said. The farmer tried rocky ground, with meager results; and finally he sowed seeds on fertile ground.

“His plants grew and they produced a crop 30,000 or 100,000 times greater than he expected,” he said.

The same is true of the players on his team, the coach said. He is trying to cultivate the minds of these young men so they can be fertile ground for becoming better players and better people.

For Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford, these Help and Hope breakfasts have proven to be fertile ground also, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years to fund adoption assistance and other programs to help neighbors in need. According to Peter O’Donnell, director of fund development, attendance at the event has grown by 50 percent since 2010 and revenue has nearly doubled – from $56,000 to more than $100,000 this year.

In his welcoming blessing, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair said the annual breakfast is “an event that is meant for the good of us, for the good of many.” He added, “As we gather for help and hope this morning, we pray that we may be blessed both to give and receive as a result of our efforts.”

With Irene O’Connor, WFSB’s news anchor of “Eyewitness News This Morning,” as emcee, the event also honored two individuals and one organization with the Help and Hope Award, given yearly for extraordinary leadership in providing help and hope to those in need. Archbishop Blair presented the awards to Peter G. Kelly, Pamela Trotman Reid and the State of Connecticut Columbiettes.

Mr. Kelly is a senior principal of Updike, Kelly and Spellacy, P.C., a law firm serving several Connecticut communities. He is a co-founder, with Jean-Pierre van Rooy and others, of the Malta House of Care, a mobile medical clinic serving the medical needs of the uninsured of Greater Hartford. Since its inception in 2006, Malta House of Care has provided more than 31,000 patient visits and expanded its services to Waterbury. Mr. Kelly told the Transcript that services in New Haven may begin as early as February.

Dr. Reid is president of the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford. Since beginning her tenure in 2008, she has established the School of Pharmacy in downtown Hartford, launching the university’s first professional doctoral program. She has overseen the transition of the institution from St. Joseph College to the University of St. Joseph and increased enrollment by 40 percent.

Joan DeGioia and Maureen Soares accepted the award on behalf of the Columbiettes, since 1939 the women’s auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus. For more than 20 years, the Connecticut membership of Columbiettes has provided Catholic Charities with thousands of individually prepared and packed boxes of personal items for newly resettled refugee families and families served through Catholic Charities centers.

Lois Nesci, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Hartford, said, “We can only dream of the day when the services of Catholic Charities are no longer sought because the needs no longer exist. That is the day when a family no longer struggles to ensure its children’s meals; when a child experiences the love and safety of a caring home; when those afflicted by inner sadness, despair and addiction find strength, hope and joy; and when those who find asylum in our nation [realize] the opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency.”

Joseph J. Savage, president of Webster Bank and Webster Bank Financial Corp., said that Webster Bank is a longtime supporter of both Catholic Charities and the University of Connecticut. Addressing Coach Diaco, he said, “We understand it takes time to become what you will be, and we are excited to be part of the transformation that you’re going through at UConn.” He challenged attendees to cultivate a strong corporate support system for Catholic Charities. For Mr. Savage, a strong business climate is fertile ground for the support of Catholic Charities’ many programs.

Proceeds from the Help and Hope Breakfast will benefit children in need throughout the archdiocese.

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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.