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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alpha for girls 4352 webMcKenna Maxwell and mom Karey talk with Divinia Hofilena, founder of the Alpha Achievement Program, during a recent fund-raiser at St. Thomas More Chapel and Center at Yale University in New Haven, where the educational program holds its classes. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)NEW HAVEN – Now approaching its 20th year, the Alpha Achievement Program has been helping girls in grades three through eight succeed not only in school but in life by fostering habits of lifelong learning and promoting good character development.

The program is the brainchild of founder Divinia Hofilena, whose vision is to help students strengthen academic performance and confidence, as well as to develop a sense of virtue and moral values – all in collaboration with parents as the primary educators of their children.

“We started this in 1996 to help adolescents learn about virtues … and later added the 3Rs,” said Orfilo Hofilena Jr., chairman of the Logos Foundation of New Haven that oversees Alpha.

“Parents ask us, ‘What did you do to my kids?’” he said with a laugh. “So it’s been very effective. They learn respect while developing academic skills, a work ethic and a sense of purpose.”

The program, held at the St. Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center on the campus of Yale University, is a supplementary educational program that promotes academic excellence and character development with the support of parents, teachers and volunteers.

In addition to classes in math, English, music, dance and computer technology, students study such values of character development as modesty, fortitude, sincerity, charity, generosity and respect. Teachers and tutors include Yale University students and professionals who receive training in class instruction.

Community service activities have included singing Christmas carols and making cards for residents in a local extended-care facility. Students also receive one-on-one tutoring.

“I call it a hidden gem,” said parent Karey Maxwell of Bethany. “I feel that I was blessed to have a program like this so close to us that included Yale University students as role models for our girls.”

Added her 10-year-old daughter, McKenna, “It helps me with character development, and helps me know what to do when I’m in situations that are questionable.”

The Alpha Achievement Program was modeled on the Rosedale Achievement Program in the South Bronx, N.Y., and the Metro Program in Chicago, Ill. Both of those programs were created to instill personal worth by developing students’ talents, character and spirit of service; and by strengthening academic skills and work habits through individual attention.

“It’s not a specific curriculum,” explained board member, co-director and educator Dr. Maria Hofilena Clark. “It’s based on what each child is learning at this time. It combines character building with academic building…teaching virtues such as how to respect people, be kind and be responsible,” she said, while drawing upon Yale students as role models.

Alpha was designed to address adolescents’ premature loss of interest in academic work, lack of integration of school work with life-affirming values and virtues, and parental fear of losing control and influence over the growth and development of their adolescent children, according to program materials. The program prepares students to complete their education, achieve vocational goals and fulfill their human potential, helping to transform them into positive contributors to their community and society as a whole. They come from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, have different achievement levels and attend both public and private schools.

Classes are held on Saturday afternoons from October to December for the fall session, and from January to April for the winter/spring session, and stretch over two weeks for the summer session.

Enrollment is limited to 25 students.

Appointments for registration may be scheduled by calling 203/393-3396 or 203/507-7812; or emailing

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.