Messages From Fr. Anthony Smith

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I would like to extend an invitation to the men in our parish to attend the 2021 CT Catholic Men’s Conference next Saturday, September 25, at New Britain Stadium.   Featured speakers are Fr Donald Calloway, Dr. Ralph Martin, Gary Zimak & Dr. Blythe Kaufman. Fr. Elias Mills will be the homilist at the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Blair.

You might be thinking, ‘I just don’t want to give up my Saturday for an event I’m not sure I want to attend.’ Let me assure you, you will not regret taking this one day to spend reflecting on your faith, your life and where God is leading you. This conference calls you to take a chance and get out of your comfort zone. When you do, the door may open up to new possibilities. You can feel renewed in your faith and in your relationships with your family. And you just may find a whole new perspective in your personal life through a deeper relationship with Christ.   This time with our Lord will call you to reflect upon your life and your faith, examine your conscience, and free yourself from the burdens you may not even know you are carrying. You will have an opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation, attend the Vigil Mass and hear some inspiring talks on different parts of our faith.

Our Catholic faith has so much to offer and most of us only tap into a very small part. There is so much more to experience, to know and to receive. Your life is meant to be lived fully and with peace and joy.  We can sometimes go through life stuck in habits and ways of thinking that take the joy of truly living away. Christ comes to give us the fullness of life and we need to stop in our normal routine, turn to Christ and give him our attention.

Take a chance and come experience something new in your faith journey.  Come to the Ct Catholic Men’s Conference and relax, listen, pray, reflect and find where Christ may be leading you.

Though the heat is still with us, we know summer is winding down. Soon we will see longer shadows, mums bloom and dew covering the grass in the morning.  Fall is on our doorstep.  This week our students returned to school and our faith formation programs are gearing up for a new school year.  It seems like it was yesterday that we were looking forward to a restful summer after a year of navigating the pandemic.  It was a short summer for our faculty and staff, as they came back in August to prepare for the upcoming year.  We will continue to face some of the same challenges of keeping our children safe and in- person while this pandemic lingers.  I am confident that we will have another successful year education our children and forming them in the faith. 

As we begin this year I want to express my gratitude to all our faculty and staff for the work they have done to prepare for this new school year.  Dedication, love and faith are the virtues that I see in our teachers and staff, and it is these virtues that will inspire our children. 

I would also like to welcome our new teachers and catechists who have joined us this year.  Thank you for being an integral part of our parish community.

Finally I ask for your prayers for our faculty, staff and students as they begin this year.  Your faith and support are the very foundation upon which we can provide our children the best education possible.  And I ask for a special prayer for our Confirmation candidates of St. John the Evangelist who are in their final stages of preparation. 

Seek rest! That is the message in the Gospel today. When the apostles returned from their missionary journey they were, no doubt, exhausted. Jesus bids them to come away to a deserted place for rest. Jesus knew the importance of stepping outside of our daily routine and allowing ourselves to recuperate. Any exertion on our bodies requires time to rest and this includes the mind. We need a respite from the constant pressures of life and the worries that come from our jobs both inside and outside the home. When our minds become exhausted we may lose our enthusiasm and energy for all that we are called to do in our life.

Rest requires shutting out and shutting off for a time. Jesus said to his Apostles, ““Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” That deserted place does not have to be a remote location, but a place where we can escape the pressures of our daily routine. That deserted place means getting away from those things that can bring you back into our work mode. Rest requires putting aside your smart phone, your laptop, your IPad and whatever means you have to stay connected to your work.

What is rest meant to do?
1) Give your physical body time to heal. A Major League Pitcher is required to put every ounce of power and force into each pitch. After one game they need to rest their arm for three days. Our daily routine often exhausts all our energy. Like the pitcher we need to rest the body and let it heal.
2) Give your mind a break. When our thought process can’t seem to be shut off from our daily responsibilities then we know we need break. When our minds are exhausted, our psychological well-being is at risk and this, in turn can, can lead to physical exhaustion. The mind needs a break. A deserted place is found when we can clear our minds of the details that consume our thoughts and allow ourselves to view the bigger picture in our life. Rest allows us to reflect upon where we have come so far and where we are going.
3) Rest gives us time to listen to our Lord speak to us. When we shut out the frenetic pace of the world for a while we can open ourselves up to listen for God’s call. There is a peace in coming to rest in our Lord. That peace will allow us to reenergize ourselves and continue fulfilling the vocation to which we have been called with enthusiasm.

So my friends, please listen to Jesus when he says “come away…and rest awhile.”

This past Friday, May 14th was my 10th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood.  It is a minor milestone but one that still leaves me asking, ‘where did these years go?’  Almost six of those years have been spent here in Watertown as pastor of St John the Evangelist Parish. During that time I have also been administrator of Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and now administrator of St Mary Magdalen Church in Oakville.  All these assignments have enriched my priesthood in countless ways. For almost six years I have been blessed to be your pastor, and on this weekend of my anniversary I give thanks for God’s call sending me here.

Back in the spring of 2015, when I was the Vocation Director, I was on my way to the train station with Archbishop Blair. We were traveling to visit some of our seminarians.  Shortly after picking up the Archbishop he said, ‘I would like to send you to St John in Watertown to be pastor. I have to admit I was surprised by the announcement. My emotions were mixed since I was enjoying my time as Vocation Director. But the thought of being a pastor was exciting and from that moment I looked forward to fulfilling this call. I was especially excited to come back to the Litchfield Hills, the county I had called home for many years. For these six years I have been blessed to live my vocation in a most beautiful part of the state. More importantly, I have been blessed and humbled to serve the parishioners of St John the Evangelist and, recently the parishioners of St Mary Magdalen Church.

Together we have accomplished a great deal in these past six years. We’ve work hard to update our campus, make improvements to our buildings, add new ministries, sponsor wonderful fundraising events, develop a dynamic Faith formation program and continue to provide a first rate Catholic Education at our schools.  Our liturgies are enhanced with beautiful music and we continue to provide outreach to those in need.  We are simply building on the hard work and legacy of my predecessors. All of our efforts must have one focus – Our Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that I have helped make Christ the center of all our efforts.

My anniversary is not a personal milestone or accomplishment, rather it is a time for gratitude that I have been able to serve the people of God for the past ten years as a priest of Jesus Christ. I am especially grateful to be serving in Watertown/Oakville. It really is all about Jesus working in and through all of us and, together, with Christ, we can accomplish great things.

Thank you for making my time here so special. Thank you for being a model of faith. Thank you for your perseverance through the most tumultuous times in recent history of our Church. Thank you for helping me fulfill my calling. And thanks to Fr Gustavo, Fr Phil, Fr Dave and Fr Zacharias for their fraternal support and to our deacons, Dcn Victor, Dcn Dan, Dcn Bob, Dcn George and Dcn Mike for their commitment serving at the altar.  Finally thank you to all our parish staff, and school faculty and staff for the heroic work you do every day.

Today we celebrate and give thanks. Monday, it is back to doing the work we are called to do, making Christ present in the sacraments, in the Word and in the ministries we fulfill.   We have much more work to do and together, with faith, we will continue building the Kingdom of God.

Before I came to St John the Evangelist Parish I was the Vocation Director for the Archdiocese for two years. I had the opportunity to accompany men of different ages and backgrounds on their journey of discernment and formation to the priesthood. The culmination of that journey for most of the men was ordination to the diaconate and eventually to the priesthood. For some the culmination was the decision to leave formation and pursue another vocation path. Either way these men were seeking the Will of God in their lives.

The challenge in this discernment process is recognizing the signs of God’s Will and placing Trust in His Will. Part of recognizing God’s plan in my discernment was listening to the people of God and the encouragement of parishioners, family and friends. They became an integral part in my path to ordination.

Today the number of young people pursuing a vocation to the priesthood and consecrated life is vastly smaller than decades ago. We live in a culture where the call to serve in the Church can so often be muffled and even drowned out by the noise of the world. The lures of a secular culture, and the lack of support for someone seeking a vocation has caused a steady decline in vocations. I used to hear often about the ‘vocation crisis’ in our world today. My response was, we don’t have a vocation crisis per se, but a crisis in hearing the call to the priesthood and consecrated life. Helping young people hear the call is essential to the strength of vocations in our Church.

This is where you and I play a significant part in helping provide shepherds in our Church for the future. We can so often be the voice of God calling and encouraging our brothers and sisters to consider discerning a call. By our example, our adherence to the practices of our faith, our devotions and by our prayers we can help overcome the obstacles that prevent a person from considering a vocation in the Church. A witness to the faith is a powerful draw and incentive for a person to consider a vocation. On this Good Shepherd Sunday I ask that you pray for vocations in the Church, support someone who may shows signs of a vocation and encourage others to seek this path by telling the story of your faith journey and the essential role of those serving in the Church have played in your life.

In last Sunday’s edition of the Waterbury Republican I found an interesting response to a question posed to feature article writer, Armin Brott (aka Mr. Dad).  The question was, ‘Of all the non- material things parents can give to their children what do you think is the most important?’ Now my answer would be a bit different than Mr. Brott’s. I would answer faith and love, however I was intrigued by his answer. He said ‘resilience’.   Mr. Brott mentioned other desires of a parent for their children such as happiness, loving relationships, success in a career, but, he says, resilience can ‘contribute’ to all these other qualities in life.

I often will use the word ‘perseverance’ in my homilies or letters for I believe our spiritual life requires this virtue. But I like this word ‘resilience’, especially when we understand it in light of the definition Mr. Brott provides from ‘Psychology Today’:

“Resilience is the psychological quality that allows some people to be knocked down by the adversities of life and come back at least as strong as before.…” (Google; Psychology Today – Resilience for full definition)

I thought to myself ‘this is truly a wonderful gift to give a child’. But it is also a most valuable gift we can give to ourselves at any age. When we develop a resilient personality we can view life as a series of opportunities to become better and stronger when we encounter challenges and failures.  Failure can have devastating effects in our life and if we don’t use our failures to learn, change and grow as a person, those failures can define our life.  We may have a natural human tendency to back away when we hit an obstacle or failure in our life, but we can develop a will to be resilient and our resilience will be a force that keeps us looking forward to a goal. It is a quality that reminds us that we have something to offer this world, that our life has a purpose and that we are stronger than adversity.

How might resilience relate to our spiritual life?  Certainly we will run into bumpy roads on our spiritual journey. Resilience can help us navigate those ups and downs and even draw us deeper into a life of faith.   I have witnessed the incredible resilience you, our parishioners, have demonstrated in the past twelve months.  But, conversely, I believe our faith can be the force behind developing a resilient personality.  When we hold onto to the truth that we are loved to the very core of our being then we will know that our life always has purpose and meaning. If we know our life has meaning then we know that any failure in life is not the end – that we still have a vocation to fulfill and a goal to reach. Our faith reminds us that we have the gift of reconciliation when we fail through sin. We are not meant to live with sin, but to seek forgiveness and move forward.    God’s love and mercy will show us a new start when we have fallen in life and the virtue of hope will destroy all despair.  We also know, by faith, that we are never abandoned. Jesus told his apostles he would be with them always.   They certainly had their failures and obstacles, but faith gave them all they needed to develop a resilient quality to keep moving forward with their mission even to the point of giving their life as a witness.

Resilience is a wonderful quality to have in life, and one that will help us reach our goals. When life ‘knocks you down’ turn to your faith and see how it can lead to developing a resilient quality.

Holy Week was very special this year. After 2020 when we celebrated the Triduum in an empty church having the pews fill up was a beautiful sight. Additionally, having two new members fully initiated into the Church at the Easter Vigil just added to the joy of the celebration.

The liturgies during the Triduum are rich in Tradition and profound in the Scriptures. In my homilies I focused on several themes that I think are essential in our spiritual journey. On Holy Thursday I preached about three components of the priesthood. First was presence. On this most important night when Jesus gives his apostles his presence in the Eucharist at the Last Supper we are reminded that our Lord is always present in the world and in our lives. The Blessed Sacrament is a gift where we experience Christ’s presence in a real way at each celebration of the Mass. Then we hear about the washing of the feet in the Gospel. By example he showed his apostles what they will be called to do – to humbly serve. Discipleship is a call to serve. And finally when Jesus goes out to the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed to His Father as he suffered in angst. These are all important components of the priesthood, but truly they are part of everyone’s call to discipleship.

On Good Friday I focused on the theme of love and asked the question, ‘Why would we ever call a day when Jesus suffered and died ’good’?’ One reason it is ‘good’ is that we are shown the depth of God’s love for us. We are reminded that our life is more precious in God’s eyes than we could ever imagine. He loves us so much he was willing to suffer and die for us.

On Easter the theme was hope and renewal. In a world where we endure many trials and when we experience many forms of death to a life we once knew, the resurrection reminds us that our faith is all about renewal, new life, and new opportunities to find purpose and joy in our life. It is all about hope overcoming despair. The joy of Easter is knowing death is conquered forever and we are destined for life through faith.

Easter is far from over and the joy that comes on Easter morning is meant to be celebrated and experienced for weeks to come. We will be in the Easter season for the next seven weeks so enjoy and remember, Christ is present to you, you are loved and hope is never extinguished. Live a life of prayer and find fulfillment in the service for which you are called.

Happy Easter!

By now I am accustomed to troubling headlines in our daily news. Last Saturday when I read the headlines of our local paper I was particularly disturbed to read two headlines about two bills being discussed in our state legislator – House Bill 6425 (“An Act Concerning Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients”) and the legalization of recreation use of Marijuana. I thought to myself, ‘Is this the best we can do for the generations to come?’ ‘Is this the legacy we want to leave our world and to our children and grandchildren?’ If made into law an “Aid in Dying” law and the legalization of recreation use of marijuana will be a direct assault on the dignity and potential of human life. We can do much better than this.

House Bill 6425 is meant to give the sick and suffering the option to end their life at their discretion. But is this a humane option? Imagine, if you will, a society where ending one’s own life becomes common place. I find this disturbing. The suffering of the sick and dying is very real, but we have, in place, the means to ease the suffering and give comfort to those who are actively dying. House Bill 6425 is not an option our society needs. This will be the beginning of a very slippery slope to justifying other criteria for offering this option, like depression or other mental illness. Life is too precious.

And what does the recreational use of marijuana tell our young people? – ‘When life becomes tedious or when the challenges in life become overwhelming you can simply turn to marijuana and ‘feel good’?’ This flies in the face of achieving excellence and reaching our potential in life. Facing challenges and learning ways to cope with life’s difficulties in our youth builds excellence in character. Open marijuana use will lead to a deterioration in our society and the lives of our children will be the first to suffer. We owe our youth and young adults more than this option. What could possibly be the reason for making drugs more available? Tax revenue? Really? Poor reason to put our society at risk. With the legalization of recreation use of marijuana more people will be in an altered state at work, at school and behind the wheel. And the message to children will be; ‘getting high is just fine’. I’ll ask the question again; ‘Do we, as a society, really want to leave this as our legacy?’ Can’t we do much better?

Please contact your legislator and our governor and tell them we can do much better in Connecticut. Say ‘no’ to House Bill 6425 and the legalization of recreation use of marijuana.

Last week I took a few days off as I normally do this time of year. This year, with travel restrictions, I took the opportunity to stay home and organize my Stuff. As I was going through all my belongings I realized ‘I have a lot of stuff’. Stuff that has been sitting around in boxes; lots of memorabilia, books, letters, tools and clothing. It took hours to go through my belongings and after several trips to the dumpster I was able to condense my ‘Stuff’ significantly. The feeling of lightning the load is liberating and even though I did not have a chance to travel for my vacation I feel that this week was productive and even restful.

Over the years we accumulate a great deal of ‘Stuff’ in our lives and every now and then, we need to stop and start to unload. In our material driven world, we buy lots of ‘stuff’, and we become attached to our material possessions. We are always looking for something more, something new. Unloading means evaluating what we truly need and getting rid of what we don’t. Unloading also means being a bit more frugal and detached from things as we go forward.

Over time we also collect a great deal of ‘stuff’ that weighs on our mind and on our heart. We can be weighed down by worry, anxiety, guilt, resentment, anger and envy in our lives and the load becomes burdensome. Unloading all that burdens our lives is a liberating feeling and this is essential in our spiritual life. In the Gospel of John 10:10 Jesus says, ‘I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’ Christ truly comes to give us an abundant life and when we hold on to all that other stuff we may miss Christ’s presence, His love and his mercy in our lives. Perhaps in these winter months it is a good time to lighten our load a bit and get rid of stuff that weighs us down. Give your burdens to our lord in prayer, unload guilt and sins in the sacrament of Reconciliation and be present to our lord in the Eucharist as he is present to you. Finally, pray for the ability to forgive and let go. Take the time to focus on Christ and find what truly fulfills all your wants and needs.

The account of Jesus calling forth his disciples raises an obvious question. Why was there no hesitation in, Simon, Andrew, James and John when Jesus calls? There is no inquiry and no questions asked. No one responded, ‘wait, let me finish my work then I’ll follow you.’ No, they all simply dropped their nets and embarked on a completely new path in their life. What was it about this call that drew them to leave everything and journey with a man they just met? Perhaps Jesus simply recognized what these disciples already knew deep in their heart. Perhaps Jesus just removed the veil that kept hidden their true desire in life. The invitation was all that was needed to confirm their vocation and answering that call was simple. The call was simply a fulfillment of what was planted in their very soul by God.

We share a similar call. Deep within all of us there is a desire to answer that call to follow Christ. Even today some recognize that inner desire and have no hesitation in answering the call to a deeper faith. Many of us may have some hesitation. We may not answer that call with the same determination and certitude. The second question we can ask is; ‘Why not?

Perhaps there are two factors that can keep that veil over the true desire that lies within. One is distractions. Our world is just filled with distractions. Some are distractions of responsibility, some are distractions of worry and some are distractions of the appetites, desire for money, power and material things. The four men in the Gospel were simply doing their job as fisherman. Their life was simple and in that simplicity they could easily focus on what Jesus was offering. Our distractions are difficult to put aside in most cases, but when we can move to simplify our lives we can focus on less things with more intention. Specifically we can focus on Christ and hear his call to follow him.

The second factor is fear. Fear is so often an obstacle in anything new path to which we may be called. Even the Blessed Virgin had a moment of hesitation when the angel Gabriel appeared to her at the Annunciation. But when Mary put aside her fear the call was clear. ‘Do not be afraid’ said the angel. When our hearts are stirred with the call to go deeper in our relationship with Christ recall those words of the Angel Gabriel that are repeated throughout the Gospels. ‘Do not be afraid’.

The disturbing violence on the Capitol steps and under the Rotunda, that ensued a protest rally, must not determine our destiny or define our character as a free country that is governed by just laws and the rule of order. The world looks to our country as the model of civility when it comes to transfer of governance. Our founding fathers gave us the gift of the Constitution that has always facilitated this peaceful transfer. We must protect the integrity of our democracy that allows for dissent and differing opinions expressed by persuasive words and debate, not by violence. In the end the rule of just laws must determine our civil destiny. In this time of strife we must appeal to God for His wisdom and to seek His Will. We seek the intercession of the patron saint of our country, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, to pray for our common cause and help us see the Will of God even through the murky waters of turbulence. Let us pray for justice and peace for all.

October is Respect Life Month. Today inserted in the bulletin is letter signed by all the bishops of Connecticut. I encourage you to take some time to read this very important letter.

The battle to uphold the dignity of life continues in our time. As Catholic we stand on the front line of that battle and our voice must continue to be heard. We speak for the most vulnerable, the unborn, the sick and the elderly. Our stand on life cuts across all ages and all stages of life. All races, all creeds, all nationalities, all levels of socioeconomic status, born and unborn are created in the image and likeness of God and possess an inherent dignity. When the dignity of human life is not upheld we see a deterioration in all parts of society.

During this Respect Life Month I encourage you to let your voice be heard for life. Together we can have a very powerful voice and together we can make a profound change in our culture. Our voice can enact laws, change hearts and offer support and comfort to those who feel they have no voice. Together we can make a difference in a person’s life who is struggling with an unplanned pregnancy through organizations like Carolyn’s Place. Together we can create a culture of life by adhering to our founding principles of the right to life, liberty and happiness. Together we can seek and restore justice for any one life that is not given due respect.

Find your voice and seek to create a culture that respects all life.

We live in a country where we have many choices. This is a blessing, but it can also be a source of angst as we ponder the many choices in life. Have you ever found yourself in the isle of a grocery store faced with an endless selection of items unable to make a decision? Or perhaps as a child we were given the choice of countless flavors at an ice cream parlor and we were overwhelmed by the choices. As an adult we need to make many choices that will have a substantial impact on our lives and our society. The choice of college or university we attend, the direction of our career, where we will live, are all major decision we have made or will need to make. Then there are health issues that come with a whole set of new choices. And in less than a month we will need to choose at the voting booth, a decision that will chart the course of our nation for many years. These decisions can often cause anxiety and that anxiety can create indecision. Life is a series of choices and decisions.

How do we make a good decision? Certainly knowledge is essential. We need to get as much information about the issue that is calling for a decision. The more we are informed the better we can discern. But even with all the knowledge we possess decisions can still be very difficult and still be a source of angst. This is when we must ask the question; ‘Lord what is your Will? Ultimately we will find peace when we align our wills with God in our decision. Choices in life must be discerned by reason and by prayer. It is through prayer that we appeal to God’s wisdom and there can be no greater variable in our choice. This will require humility, courage and an openness to His guidance. In a concrete way we find His guidance in the teaching of the Catholic faith. Our Church has discerned many of the issues we will need to make under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Church’s teaching will help us make, not only an informed decisions, but one that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that guidance may go against our desires, but in the end we know that we will find peace when our decision is aligned with God’s Will. As people of faith we cannot exclude prayer in our discernment. The stakes are too high in many cases. When we have discerned well with reason, knowledge and, most importantly prayer, we then must trust that our Lord will be with us on the pathway we travel.

We are now in week 12 of open public Sunday Masses in the Archdiocese of Hartford. Each week our numbers fluctuate a bit, but our attendance is steadily increasing. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your cooperation in adhering to the protocols set forth by the state and the Archdioceses of Hartford. The wearing of masks, social distancing, not being able to join in singing have changed our experience of Mass. Sitting through Mass with the mask on is not easy, but you still come and you have been so generous in your constant support. We can’t thank you enough.

I would also like to thank all our parishioners who are unable to come at this time, but join us online. Before Mass I like to peak at the screen to seen the number of people who are joining us via Facebook and to view their words of greetings. We are so glad to see so many logging on to participate in the Mass at home. We will continue to provide this option during the pandemic.

We can’t ignore the negative effects of this pandemic. Many have struggled with the isolation caused by social distancing. The elderly and those who have underlying health issues are particularly vulnerable to the effects of isolation. I ask for your help in our mission to bring Christ to our parishioners. Please contact us if you know someone who might be struggling with isolation, feel disconnected from the parish or may not have access to the online Mass. Currently we do not have Eucharistic ministers visiting the homebound, but Fr Zacharias, myself or one of our deacons, will be glad to pay a visit. A phone call or just a visit may make all the difference in the world.

Message/ Reflection  from Fr. Anthony Smith

I’ve been reading Matthew Kelly’s book ‘Rediscover the Saints’.  In one particular chapter he focuses on St Mary Mackillop, a saint who was not afraid to speak her mind. The focus was on recognizing truth in our lives. He begins the chapter with this subtitle; ‘How coachable are you?’ This sentence made me think about my own life and ask that question of myself; ‘how coachable am I?’  Or another way of putting it, ‘how open am I to constructive critiscm and suggestions?’  I don’t think anyone enjoys criticism, but truthfully criticism can make us pause and reflect upon ourselves and even motivate us to make changes in our life.  When someone is honest and straightforward with us, we have an objective view of ourselves and with this view we have the ability to change and make improvements.  ‘Champions love coaching’ Kelly writes. In other words those who aspire to be great in life must be open to some form of coaching.  Coaching requires honesty. If a premier athlete closes themselves off to coaching and correction and even criticism they will fail to improve.

How open am I to criticism? I admit, I struggle with criticism, coaching and uninvited suggestions at times.  This is a form of pride and it is a weakness.  Perhaps that is why this chapter was significant for me.  We sometimes confuse constructive criticism and coaching as an affront to out competence.  Rather we should look at it as an opportunity to grow and improve.  The road to become a champion is paved with our openness to coaching.

Our faith journey requires coaching.  We can sometimes view the lessons we find in scripture and the teaching of the Church difficult to accept. And we find it even more difficult to be on the receiving end of fraternal correction in our lives when it comes to how we live our life. In our culture today we don’t take moral correction well and we sometimes fail to seek spiritual coaching.  We sometimes become an island onto ourselves when it comes to determining our spiritual and moral character. We must ask, ‘what is the purpose of this correction and the lessons we find in our faith?’  The answer is holiness, reaching our full spiritual and moral potential as the person we were created to be.  The Church is called to help the people of God find their full potential as disciples and this requires coaching and, at times, correction.  When we put pride aside and open our heart and minds in humility we can find an opportunity to be the ‘best version of ourselves’ to borrow a term from Kelly. 

We can sometimes overlook the great gifts our Catholic faith provides. Among those gifts are the great models of faith and discipleship we encounter both in Scripture and in those lives that are recognized as saints. Why are these role models so important for us? They manifest the human potential in all of us.

Recognizing our potential is exciting and it can ignite a passion for living. At times in our life we can fail to recognize there is a potential lying deep within us that just needs to be tapped into. The means to open the door to our potential is found in our faith and seeking holiness. Unfortunately there exists many voices in our world that tell us holiness is not possible or it is not even desirable. But if we consider holiness as a path to finding and reaching our full potential through our relationship with Christ, then life can take on a whole new meaning and holiness is something that is greatly desired.

We can simply look to the saints who reached their potential by living a holy life. These saints are people like you and me who encounter the same challenges and temptations you and I experience. As a youth St Francis lived a life of leisure, enjoying his material possessions and spending his time at parties. Remaining in that life of dissipation would have ended in a meaningless life. Instead he found his true self and his great potential when he turned his life to Christ. He gave away all his worldly goods and let Christ fill him with grace and through that grace his life changed the world.

Mother Teresa was a person of great humility. She lived a simple austere life of prayer and work, but in her great faith she found joy in her calling, and she was passionate about showing the world that the lives of the poor, sick and dying were beautiful lives because they were loved by God. Her simple mission did not go unnoticed by the world. Realizing her powerful potential for service and self-giving literally changed the world in which she lived.

God has put within us the potential to live a great life. We just need to recognize that we possess great potential. We reach our ultimate potential through faith and the will to live a holy life. When we humble ourselves before our Lord, spend time in prayer, seeking His Will, we will recognize the potential that lies within. Finding our potential requires imagining the possibilities in life and acknowledging that through faith all things are possible. Finding our potential also requires optimism. We need the virtue of hope we find in optimism when we face the obstacles to reaching our potential. Ultimately we need Christ who will lead us to the life we are called to live.

Your life is destined for greatness. Allow our Lord to reveal your potential.

Starting Saturday, August 15th Fr. Zacharias Pushpanathan will become the Temporary Administrator of St. Mary Magdalen Parish and School and will assume all the temporal, pastoral and spiritual responsibilities. Fr. Zacharias will reside at the rectory.

I want to thank the whole staff and clergy at the parish and the staff and faculty at the school for their hard work and dedication these past few months. Thank you for helping me as temporary administrator to continue the ministry at our parish. Also I would like the thank our Parish Council. Parish Finance Committee, Trustees and School Board and School Finance Committee for their guidance.

Many thanks to Fr. George Mukuka for his commitment to celebrate Mass each weekend. Finally I would like to thank the parishioners for the continued support, presence and prayers offered during this time.

Please know you have been in my prayers. I want to congratulate Fr. Zacharias on his new position and wish him well. I will be assisting him in making a smooth transition.

May God Bless you and keep you safe in His care.
Peace and prayers
Sincerely in Christ
Fr. Anthony J. Smith

I was in a meeting this past week and the priest I was meeting with said something very simple, but for some reason it seemed to hit me as quite profound. To paraphrase he said there is no power in this world great than our Lord Jesus Christ. Deep down I have always known this but to hear it in a time when you are faced with many challenges and uncertainties and even when we might be experiencing some fear and anxiety this truth is a great source of comfort. Fear can sometimes manifest in our lives when we feel we are alone in our struggles in life. Believing Christ is right there in the mix with us and is more powerful than any force in this world can be a great source of courage and peace. If we truly believe Christ walks with us through life then we really do not have anything to fear at all. But knowing Christ is present and that he is ultimately in control takes faith.

Peter experienced that moment of faith when he sees Jesus walking toward them in the boat. In a moment of complete abandonment to faith Peter heeds the call of Jesus to get out of the boast and come to him on the water. Peter finds himself so focused on Christ that he is drawn to our Lord and no law of nature could prevent him. There is no fear and no doubt. Then his focused is broken by the waves and the wind. In that moment fear pours into his being and he begins to sink. Peter calls out ‘Lord save me’. Before he goes under Jesus reaches down and grabs Peter, pulls him up and says ‘why did you doubt?’ That is a question we need to ask ourselves. Why do we doubt? Why do we take our focus off Christ?

It is simple to fall into the same temptation Peter experienced. Committing ourselves to faith can be difficult because it means letting go of what we are accustomed to hold onto. Jesus comes to conquer our fears by his presence. He says over and over again, ‘do not be afraid.’ Do not be afraid to put yourself in the hands of Christ. Do not be afraid to put complete trust in our Lord. Do not be afraid of any force or evil in this world for Christ is with us and there is no power in this world greater than our Lord. Fear not, he is with you. Trust in him. When you find it difficult to hold on to faith simply say the prayer Peter said in his moment of fear, Lord, save me.’

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

When Jesus hears about the death of John the Baptist his reaction is to go off by himself. Perhaps we can all relate to his feelings. No doubt Jesus’ humanity felt the pain that we all feel at the loss of a loved one. Like Jesus we may just want to go off by ourselves, at times, and be alone in our sorrow, in our thoughts, and in our prayers. Jesus’ reaction to the news of John the Baptist manifests the true humanity he shares with you and me. His divinity would not negate his human experience. Jesus experienced all that we experienced. It’s easier to come to know someone when they share the same experiences in life that we share. Perhaps this is why it is so important for us to hear that Jesus experienced very human emotions and struggles. We find this in the account of the raising of Lazarus. We hear that Jesus wept. He weeps for his friend as you and I would.

In the Gospel today Jesus doesn’t get very far in his quest for solitude. He doesn’t even get a chance to put his feet on dry land and have some alone time. The crowds track him down. Here we find another very human emotion – ‘When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.’

Jesus calls us to a personal relationship with him. Coming to know Christ can sometimes be a challenge in our spiritual life. We focus on the miracles, the great words of wisdom we find in the parables, the teaching with authority, the need for repentance, the sacraments he institutes and ultimately his passion, death and resurrection. Perhaps we fail to focus on the simple moments when he reveals his humanity. It is in that humanity that we can make an instant connection. It is in his humanity that he shares our life experiences and knows the challenges we experience each day, the sorrows in life, and also the moments of great joy. Through his humanity he leads us to his divinity and builds the bridge between God and His people. God the Father sends His Son into the world to join humanity, not to be separate from us, and in that inseparable bond he lifts us up to know God. In that bond we find God who knows us through and through. In Jesus we encounter God whose heart is moved with pity for us when we are in need. Through Jesus we encounter God who so desires to heal us in every way, God who desires to give us in abundance and, at the end of his earthly life, we find God loving us so much that he lays down his life for us. Jesus is someone we can relate to, but more importantly, he is one we can come to know and love for he became one of us so that we could come to know him. And when we come to know Jesus we know the Father, for they are One and we can’t help but worship Him and find joy in His love.

Mother Teresa is well known for her quotes of wisdom. Often she focuses on the significance of doing small acts of love. If you search the web for quotes from Mother Teresa you will find many quotes similar to this one:

“Small things done with great love will change the world.” (azquotes.com)

In the Gospel today Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a tiny mustard seed that when sown in the field becomes the ‘largest of plants’. The message both Jesus and Mother Teresa are making is clear – our actions, no matter how small, can have a profound impact on the lives of others and in our world. Collectively our acts of love can literally change the world. And if changing the world requires small acts of love we all have the power within ourselves to make this world a better place.

We can often feel powerless in the face of great challenges and adversity in our community and in our world. This feeling of powerlessness can cause us to give up on our responsibility and duty to build up the kingdom of God and leave it to others. We don’t need to be in a position of power and influence to make a difference and to manifest the kingdom of God here and now. All we need to know is that we have the power to love. Using that power in small acts of love will have a powerful impact. These small acts of love are the seed that can grow into something large and beautiful.

Changing the world through love must begin within ourselves. We must recognize the potential we possess for love. This love will inspire us to act and even the smallest act can be life changing for someone.

Recently I was in line at a drive-up waiting to purchase my morning coffee. As usual I was in a rush and had a busy day ahead. As I got to the window the attendant informed me that the car in front of me paid for my coffee. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and it began my day with an incredibly positive experience. That set the tone for my whole day. It was a small, anonymous act of kindness that had a profound impact on me. It was small but powerful.

Don’t underestimate the power of kindness, a smile, an offer to pray for someone, helping someone in need, respect, courtesy or forgiveness. The number of small acts of love are endless and they can be as simple as saying ‘hello’ to a stranger as you pass them on the street. The kingdom of God is manifested through you and me and very often in very small ways.

Welcome back!!  We are so pleased to be able to open our doors to our parishioners for Sunday Mass. We’ve missed you over these past few months.  As we begin the gather changes in the way we celebrate liturgies are inevitable, but the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist remains constant.  We also recognize that not everyone will be ready to gather in a public setting and many should not until we have a better control of COVID-19. For those unable to return we will continue to livestream our Mass.   We will work to keep those safe who do attend.

This weekend we also celebrate Independence Day.  It is a time to give thanks for the great courage of our founders who signed their name to the Declaration of Independence 244 years ago.  Through the years our country has endured many wars, many economic downturns and many struggles with establishing our identity, but what we find in the Declaration of Independence remains unchanged: Than all are endowed by God with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  As we celebrate our country’s birth perhaps we can take some time to focus on what unites us as Americans and offer prayers for our country that we may uphold the unalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all people.

Last Sunday we returned to ordinary time in our liturgical calendar. I have to admit that I look forward to this season. The joy of the Easter season and the solemnities of Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi are truly wonderful celebrations in our Church but there is something about slowing down and getting back to a normal routine.  Post Easter Ordinary Time also coincides with the beginning of summer and as I get older I enjoy summer more and more.

Calling this time “ordinary’, however seems like a contradiction in terms this year. What is ordinary about our life today? A pandemic has claimed the lives of over 100,000 people and shutdown our world for weeks.  In the midst of adapting to this pandemic many families are left with worries about their jobs and about the future. And there is social change. The senseless and tragic death of George Floyd has sounded the call to root out the scourge of injustice wherever it occurs. ‘Ordinary’ does not describe the summer of 2020.

We live in a restless world where change, whether good or bad, and unforeseen challenges will always be with us. There will be some periods when life seems calm and ‘normal’ but throughout life we will all be required to constantly adapt to a new normal. 

In the midst of a constantly changing world we need a stable foundation.  Without stability our lives can become very fragile. We can be swept away by the tides of strife or the winds of change. But if we have a stable foundation we can withstand the storms in life and adapt to the  ebb and flow of the tides

Stability can be found in strong family ties, and in long held friendships, but even these foundations can be shaken at times.  We need a solid unmoving base that we can return to again and again. Our foundation is faith. Faith in an unchanging God whose message is constant.  The message stays the same no matter what happens in our world or in our personal lives.  The message is love – that we are loved and are called to Love God and love our neighbor. The message is mercy – God’s great mercy that redeemed all mankind. The message is joy – that we are destined to experience joy. The message is peace – peace in our world and peace in our hearts. The message is hope – the virtue that overcomes all despair.

Our lives may seem far from ordinary during this season of Ordinary Time, but our faith assures us that no matter what we may encounter in life Christ is that sure foundation upon which we can form a just world and a fruitful life even in the most challenging of times.

As I look outside today on a warm spring morning the beauty of spring is in full bloom and soon our trees will be giving us some nice cool shade.  In the midst of our current health crisis we still have reason to be thankful for the new life we see growing all around us. Of course we always have reason for thanksgiving in the season of Easter when we are reminded by the resurrection that, through faith, we are called to experience the beauty of new life in Christ.

I have yet another reason to be thankful.  Since the first weekend of suspended Masses at the parish so many of you have been incredibly supportive of our church.  Your continued support both financially and spiritually has been overwhelming.  Many of you have sent notes of appreciation and support which has been extremely encouraging in this very difficult time.  You have also shared your sorrow at the passing of our pastor Fr Hickey.  I want to take this opportunity to say ‘Thank you’ for your continued presence at St Mary Magdalen Church. While we can’t be together physically your presence is still felt and your support helps keep the ministry of the parish going. Your patience has also been appreciated. I know there is a tremendous yearning to receive the sacraments and this time has been very distressing, but you have manifested great kindness and understanding as we navigate the safety of all.  I pray every day this pandemic will loosen its grip on our community and we can safely gather again to celebrate the Eucharist and pray together.  So my friends I say,‘Thank you’.

I am also so very grateful to our staff and clergy at our parish. The parish staff along with or deacons have made sure that all of you have an opportunity to stay connected to the church in many ways.  In the wake of the passing of Fr. Hickey and the restrictions on public Masses, our staff has worked hard to maintain that all important connection through the bulletin, letters, phone calls, Masses online, distribution of palms and food collection.  They have done all the leg work to keep, not only the business end of the parish going, but also the spiritual and social ministry as well.  Thank you!

To our school administration, faculty and staff who, from the very first week our school building was closed, have been online teaching our students and continuing the excellence in Catholic education – I say ‘thank you’.  This has been a tremendous challenge for our teachers who had to quickly adapt to a new way of teaching and they have been innovative, creative and persevering in their work.

Each year when we celebrate the Easter season we give thanks and experience the joy of the resurrection.  This Easter season has been challenging, to say the least, but one to still give great thanks to God for all the blessings manifested through you.  Thank you!

April 21, 2020

I am Fr Anthony Smith, the pastor of St John the Evangelist Church, and I have been asked to be the temporary administrator of St Mary Magdalen Church in the wake of Fr Hickey’s passing. I am humbled to be asked to assist St Mary Magdalen in these very challenging times.  I look forward to meeting with you in the near future.

We are in the midst of very uncertain times. This uncertainty caused us to postpone our Confirmation Mass and I am sure you have been wondering when we can reschedule. Unfortunately this pandemic does not allow us to make definitive dates for previously scheduled events including our Confirmation.  I pray that we are on the back end of this crisis and we can see the end in sight soon.  I will let you know when we can expect to schedule Confirmation as soon as we get directives from the Archdiocese.

I have been in contact with Sherrie Gemmell to get a report on your status of preparation.  She assures me that most of the preparation had been completed prior to this current shutdown.  When we get a firm date and allowed to gather again we will schedule a time to meet and take care of any questions and any unfinished preparation prior to the Confirmation.

Until then please do not hesitate to contact me and our staff at this email or by calling the office (860) 274-1955.  Please be assured of my prayers as we persevere through this challenging time.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Anthony J. Smith

April 21, 2020

I am Fr Anthony Smith, the pastor of St John the Evangelist Church, and I have been asked to be the temporary administrator of St Mary Magdalen Church in the wake of Fr Hickey’s passing. I am humbled to be asked to assist St Mary Magdalen in these very challenging times.  I look forward to meeting with you in the near future.

This is the time of year when flowers and shrubs are manifesting their beautiful blooms. The beauty reminds us that its First Communion time in the Church. Normally it is a time when excitement builds for our children as they prepare to receive Holy Communion for the very first time.  Unfortunately we are living in a very challenging and uncertain time. As you know, with the current shutdown of all public events, our scheduled First Holy Communion Mass has been postponed.  The uncertainty of this pandemic does not allow us to set a definitive date for this Mass at this time.  I am hoping and praying that we will soon see the end of this health crisis and begin to gather as a faith community once again.  We will need to wait for directives from the Archdiocese before any scheduling of Masses can take place.  When we get word that we can celebrate public Mass we will begin planning for our First Communion Mass.  We will keep you posted when any further information becomes available.

Until then please be assured of my prayers for you and your family as we persevere through this very challenging time.  If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me or our staff at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (860) 274-1955.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr Anthony J. Smith

April 15, 2020

In light of the continued assessment of the spread of the coronavirus within Connecticut and Governor Lamont’s Executive Order of April 10th mandating the cancellation of school classes and the extension of closures of non-essential businesses through May 20, 2020, the Archdiocese has deemed it necessary to update the cancellation of public Masses and liturgies that had previously been extended through April 30, 2020. Given the constantly changing landscape, and the decisions of civil authorities in this regard, the cancellation of public Masses and liturgies in the Archdiocese of Hartford (the counties of Hartford, Litchfield, and New Haven) will remain in effect until further notice.

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Mass Schedule

Weekend Masses
Saturday Vigil, 4:00 PM;
Sunday, 8:30 & 10:30 AM
Daily Mass
Monday-Wednesday; 8:00 AM Chapel

Sacrament of Reconciliation
Saturday, 3:00-3:30 PM

Parish Livestream

Our Parish Facebook page “Keep the Faith” will live stream Mass
from our church at 10:30 am on Sunday

Parish Livestream