Updated: Jun 29
Dear Friends in Christ:
Things were going so well. We began our reopening. Staff was returning to their places. Life was getting back to “normal,” well, at least to some experience of normalcy. In many respects I was on cloud nine. People were back around. Father Federico and I were able to see people in the pews again! Even Fenway was happy to see people coming back to their offices again!
Then late last Friday I received a call from our Police Chief and just like that without warning of any kind we were in the valley of the shadow of death.
The Police Chief was here to inform me that there was a horrible accident in town and one of our young parishioners and a student in our school, Tristan Barhorst, had died from his injuries. And just like that we, as a family of faith, were veered off the path we thought was ours for the coming weeks and straight into the difficult, dark, unfamiliar, and heart-wrenching valley.
No years of priestly service, no Seminary formation, nothing could prepare someone for this experience. I immediately called Father Federico and said get ready there’s been a horrible tragedy and we have to go. Off we went. On the way Father and I talked. I shared that one of my professors in Seminary said sometimes you will be sent into situations and feel wholly inadequate but know you are not there on your own you are there to represent the Church and more importantly God. He called it the Ministry of Presence. And this was one of those moments.
That evening we not only visited the scene and spent time with those who were still there but we went to New Haven to the hospital to be there for Tristan’s family. Just to be a sign that God and the Church are with them in the midst of their grief. Just to do our part in helping them know they are not alone in this time of loss. Just to be present to them as their priests and friends.
It is one of the hardest experiences for a parish priest. We mourn too. We mourn the death of this young child, someone we know so well given his being a student in our parish school. The memories of Tristan flooded our minds. He was respectful, kind, caring, and truly Christ-like in so many ways.
But we cannot sit idle in our own grief, for we are priests. As we journeyed to the hospital that evening I remember while we were praying the rosary I was asking God to give us the strength to help everyone: his parents, his sister, his friends, his classmates, our school and our parish family. I remember beginning a list in my head of things we would need to start to plan to help people during the coming days.
What have I learned through this time? I have learned that God is there! He is there caring for these grieving parents through the outpouring of love and support from family and friends. He is there caring for Sienna, Tristan’s sister, through the care and love of her friends and schoolmates. He is there! Nothing, not even death, can ever separate us from the love of God! My friends, I have witnessed this reality these past few days.
A young death is a terrible reality. But from that reality, comes an empathy, a compassion, and a knowledge that is most visible when it is directed toward helping others in distress. And boy did the people of Cheshire come out to support them. It has truly been amazing to see the many people and businesses that have reached out to Tristan’s family and to our parish to see if there is anything they can do to help in this time of need. Even in the midst of this time of pain I am reminded how blessed I am to be the Pastor of this phenomenal family of faith in this amazing and caring community of Cheshire.
My prayer is for Christi and Tyler, and Sienna. My prayer is for all those who know their family and love them including our parish and school family. My prayer is for all those who have experienced the death of a young child. That all may know that God is with you during your time of loss, that your child was special and loved, that you may move on but you will never move past it nor forget your child and the impact they have had in the lives of others.
At the same time, as we deal with this tragic loss, we are still in the midst of phased in reopening of our offices and church. I am so grateful to our staff who are working a modified schedule in the coming days to begin to acclimate to returning to normal hours. The parish staff will return to normal hours beginning on July 6, 2020. It is my prayer that all will remain vigilant, adhere to safety rules and guidelines, and be here to serve you!
As announced last weekend: WE ARE HIRING! Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish has an opening in our Maintenance Department. Mr. Matthew Vitello who has been with us for many years, and recently was the Facilities and Grounds Coordinator, has accepted a position elsewhere and will leave our parish staff by the end of the month. We thank him for his years of service to our parish family. In particular, and on behalf of the priests who have served here with me, I thank Matt for his constant willingness to assist us in every which way through the past few years. Good luck and know our prayers accompany you.
We are looking for candidates seeking full-time employment to join our staff. The Facilities and Grounds Coordinator is responsible for managing the maintenance, housekeeping, and custodial staff in the maintaining of church buildings, parish school, rectories and all other buildings belonging to the parish to ensure that all facilities and grounds are clean and well-maintained. Any candidate interested is asked to contact the parish office at email@example.com for a more detailed job description.
SEND US YOUR RECIPES…SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN PARISH COOKBOOK 2020…as we hear from so many during this time of pandemic, it has been a time we are all growing in our culinary expertise. If you have tuned in to our Casual Conversations live from our living room on Saturdays, you probably have noticed that a lot of inquiries have been made about what we have eaten, what we have cooked, and a cooking challenge has even arisen from these discussions!
That said, Father Federico and I thought it would be a great idea to take this time to create a Parish Cookbook with your family recipes or your favorites from this time of pandemic. I know cookbooks have been done in the past, but now seems like a perfect time to create a new one for our parish family.
Send your recipes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUNE 30th DEADLINE…DON’T FORGET WE ARE LOOKING FOR THE YOUNG ARTIST AMONG US…We are holding another art contest! It is that time of year again when we need to prepare for our annual parish Christmas card. We are looking for children of all ages to design our parish Christmas card. Last year it was a huge hit. I heard from so many people how much they loved that we used artwork from one of our young parishioners. We invite all school-aged children to think of Christmas and send us their design. The winner’s artwork will be the cover of our parish Christmas card which is sent to all parishioners and friends of Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish. All artwork must be submitted to the rectory by June 30th for consideration! We look forward to many submissions!
A WORD OF CONGRATULATIONS…I received word late last week that two of our parishioners have completed programs offered through the Archdiocesan Catholic Biblical School! We offer happiest congratulations to April Brilvitch on completing four years of Biblical Studies and receiving the Advanced Certificate in Biblical Studies. April is one of the PreK4 teachers in St. Bridget School and an active member of our parish family. We also congratulate Patti Flynn-Harris on completing two years of Biblical Studies and receiving the Basic Certificate in Biblical Studies. Patti is chair of the Women’s Society and can be found volunteering in a multitude of ways throughout the parish.
If anyone is interested in engaging Scripture thoughtfully, comprehensively and prayerfully, so that your relationship to Jesus, Our Savior will grow beyond imagining please contact the Catholic Biblical School by visiting https://catholicedaohct.org/basic-information or contact them directly at
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings upon us all in this time of pandemic. With the gracious intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, may we be united with one another in prayer! Please pray for me and know that I am praying for you!