Dear Friends in Christ:
And so it began. The forty days of Lent began this past Wednesday! How is it going? Every year on Ash Wednesday I hear the same old statements from family and friends telling me their goals for Lent. Sadly, these statements are often not about real change.
As the ashes were placed on our foreheads we were told “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Repent comes from the Greek word metanoia which means “a change of mind.” Lent is a time to make that deliberate decision to turn our lives around and go in the opposite direction, specifically, to turn back toward God. As one of the Prefaces of Lent says “through bodily fasting you restrain our faults, raise up our minds, and bestow both virtue and its rewards, through Christ our Lord.” That is what Lent is really meant to be about.
As I said, family and friends are often eager to share with me what they are “giving up” for Lent, but these are often using Lent as a kick-starter for some diet or new regimen. More often than not, their sacrifice is misguided. So this year I challenged them to take on our parish theme as the guide they use in Lent. Some accepted the challenge, others did not. Remember, even Jesus faced this in His life: “as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”(John 6:66)
#pickonething This is a challenge! This will not be easy! But Lent should be about more than simply giving stuff up, like chocolates and pizza, and more about DOING something that will bring that real change in our lives. It should be about metanoia and turning back toward God. It should be about becoming more like Christ. So what is that one thing you need to change in your life? What is that one thing you need to work on to bring it from vice to virtue?
HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT THIS LENT, in addition to regularly scheduled Masses and activities, AT SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN PARISH to help us as we strive to bring about real change in our lives:
1. Weekly Confessions in Saint Bridget Church on Mondays between the two morning Masses (7:30-8:30AM). Please note this is in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Hartford and the Monday Confessions Program that calls for every Parish in the Archdiocese to have a priest available for Confessions at some time on the Mondays of Lent. To find other opportunities please visit the designated website www.confessionmondays.com.
2. Stations of the Cross…every Friday at Saint Thomas Becket Church at 3:30PM and at Saint Bridget Church at 7PM.
3. Lenten Suppers…Every Friday evening of Lent from 5-7p.m., a Lenten meal is prepared at Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish Center. Menu always includes Pasta with sauce, salad, bread, a variety of soups each week, beverages and so much more. Cost is $10 per adult, $5 children and seniors, and $25 max per family.
4. Our Weekly Corporal Works of Mercy…each weekend of Lent we will focus as a family of faith on a particular Corporal Work of Mercy. Please see separate listing of these on page 7.
5. Saint Bridget of Sweden Parish Lenten Daily Reflection Videos…the video series for Advent was so well received that we have decided to do another series for Lent. Each day, representatives of the Pastoral Staff, the Pastoral Council, the Faculty of St. Bridget School, and members of the Student Council and the National Junior Honor Society of our Parish School will lead us in a reflection on the readings of the day to assist us on this spiritual journey! You can find it on our Parish Facebook Page and our Parish Website.
Please mark your calendars and join us for these important moments in our Lenten journey as a family of faith. We hope to see you there!
May our communal and personal prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving truly prepare us for the celebration of Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday! A blessed Lent to you all!
A Lenten Challenge and Invitation… This Lent share with someone what we are doing in our parish. Share with them your experience of the activities and events both spiritual and social that make you proud to be part of our parish family. Invite someone to join us! Bring a family member or friend to our Lenten Suppers or Adoration or Stations of the Cross. Bring someone who may have stopped practicing their faith to Mass with you. You are the means through which others come to know the Lord and His love, why wait to bring them to the table where He nourishes us in Word and Sacrament? Can we all invite one person back to the Church, back to the practice of their faith? I think we can! The Challenge Is ON!!!
ASH WEDNESDAY thoughts and observations…As you know we offered a new experience for receiving ashes this year, and I want to share with you some comments about this new offering. First, I express my profound gratitude to the 40 volunteers who served the parish from 10AM until 2PM as both greeters and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Every half-hour we had someone at the three entrances greeting people and providing them a prayer card and then we had two Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion in the sanctuary ready to distribute the ashes when people came forward. IT WAS A HUGE SUCCESS. One Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion shared with me that during her half-hour she counted over 60 people! Here are some more comments that came to us by text, email, and on our Facebook page:
1. “I just wanted to pass on the feedback I received while greeting from 1:30-2pm at the side entrance by the parking lot. There was a steady stream of people, and everyone praised this new opportunity to receive ashes and expressed their thanks. Several people also commented on the beautiful music that was playing, which added to their experience.”
2. “Beautiful opportunity to start off Lent…giving out ashes during that time was very moving…so many people took advantage of this opportunity.”
3. “Drove all the way from downtown Waterbury at lunch today for ashes during your “open house.” Not only was it convenient but I found it peaceful, comforting, and allowed me to spend my time on my terms in God’s house. The prayer card was a great touch. Thank you!”
I am so pleased that this new offering met the need for so many with their busy and hectic schedules. We estimate, based on the prayer cards, that we welcomed over 700 people during these four hours! I pray that each of them felt welcomed and motivated to make this Lent a time for true conversion!
This weekend we also are kicking off the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal in our parish. If you haven’t already, you will soon receive a letter from Archbishop Blair seeking your support. As Catholics in the Archdiocese of Hartford we have a profound impact on our local communities not only in the spiritual realm, but intimately connected to it, the realm of social services and visibly through the many charities and outreach services performed by, or with help from, our Church. For the fourth year in a row, in 2019, the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal Vicariate Outreach Program provided over $1,000,000 to over 225 local organizations in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven counties. Organizations such as the Cheshire Community Food Pantry right here in our own town received funding from the Appeal’s Vicariate Outreach Program that makes a difference in serving our neighbors. All funds contributed to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal are used exclusively for the purposes outlined in the Appeal literature, which can be found at: https://archdioceseofhartford.org/appeal/. Please respond generously.
As always, remember to pray for our parish family and ask God’s blessings as we build His kingdom here. Please know that I am praying for you, and I ask for your prayers for me, that together through the intercession of Saint Bridget of Sweden, our Patroness, and united in the Eucharist, we will reflect the presence of Jesus to the world.