Groundbreakings challenge me. Usually, I can't get the shovel in the ground. Either it is frozen or rocky. Thankfully, the building projects don't depend on my skill in wielding a shovel. Otherwise, we'd never get anything built - and we have some very important building projects under way.
Just before Christmas, I participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on Ogden Street, on the East Side of Bridgeport. This time it was for the Jubilee House - a Habitat for Humanity house the diocese is building as part of its 50th Anniversary Celebration. When I arrived on the building site, I was relieved to see that the ground had already been broken. In fact, it had been excavated and the slab foundation had been poured. People of all ages were gathered on the corner lot for the ceremony - and, visiting for the day, were members of the Sacred Heart University wrestling team, who stood on the slab, towering above us. With a few cameras rolling and snapping, I did my best to insert my shovel near the foundation.
Thanks to the tireless leadership of Sister Julie Horvath and the expertise of Habitat for Humanity, this project is well under way. A very deserving Latino family soon will be living in their new home. They are a hardworking family; both mom and dad hold down multiple jobs. Their three children are good students and are looking forward to living in house of their own. This family is symbolic of thousands of families in our county who deserve a break.
But they are not home yet. A lot of work remains to be done, particularly to finish the interior of the house. I would suggest that the Jubilee House is a perfect Lenten project. Wouldn't it be wonderful if young people - and the young at heart - from our various parishes would make a Lenten sacrificial gift to the Jubilee House? It would bring a very worthy project to a speedy conclusion and help a very hardworking and patient family to get on with their lives. I truly believe this is the sort of Lenten sacrifice that is pleasing in the Lord's eyes. To learn more about how you can help make this dream a reality, call 372- 4301, ext. 358, or visit the diocesan website, www.bridgeportdiocese.com.
Let me tell you about another project, also in Bridgeport. We are in the final stages of constructing our newest Bishop Curtis Homes. This new home is the former elementary school at Blessed Sacrament Parish. It will be a sign of new life in a struggling urban neighborhood. Unfortunately the project was delayed because the original contractor was unable to stay in business. But now we're back on track, and our new Bishop Curtis Homes is slated for completion this spring. Soon its 48 apartments will be occupied. Groundbreakings may be challenging, but ribbon cuttings are a great joy!
This new residence joins the ranks of eight other Bishop Curtis Homes found throughout Fairfield County - in the Bridgeport, Danbury, and Stamford environs. I have high hopes that new Bishop Curtis Homes are in the offing in Danbury and Norwalk. Every community should want at least one! These homes provide low-cost housing for people in their advancing years. And they are much more than affordable housing units. They become true communities where the residents know and care for one another. Bishop Curtis Homes are one of the many ways the diocese serves not only its members but, indeed, the community at large.
There are many other major building projects under way. On the Catholic school front, our regional elementary schools have been beehives of activity. For example, Our Lady Star of the Sea School in Stamford recently added two new classrooms and plans a new library and stage. Saint Peter School in Danbury is refurbishing its classrooms. New gymnasiums are rising or completed at Saint Mary's in Ridgefield, Saint Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, and Saint Thomas Aquinas in Fairfield. Among our high schools, Notre Dame in Fairfield is building new playing fields, and Trinity Catholic in Stamford has added new lab space.
Saint Stephen Parish in Trumbull and Saint Matthew Parish in Norwalk have had to expand their churches to meet their growing numbers (see article on page 13). Saint James Parish in Stratford is renovating the interior of its church, and Saint Patrick's in Redding Ridge will undergo an expansion. These and other renovated and expanded churches join the ranks of the newly-renovated Cathedral of Saint Augustine.
In Trumbull, construction is under way on a new community mausoleum at Gate of Heaven Cemetery. Named for Saint Monica, the mother of our diocesan patron, Saint Augustine, this sacred place reflects the growing demand of Catholic families for above-ground burial in a final resting place close to those loved ones who have preceded them in death.
Finally, I know that most of you have read about the colossal project under way at Saint John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford. "Trinity Place," a 320,000-square-foot office tower, will be constructed by Lowe Enterprises on parish property in a ground lease arrangement that will provide income both for the parish and for the charitable mission of the Church in Fairfield County.
As I reflect on these and other projects, the psalmist's refrain runs through my heart: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1). These projects cannot be merely bricks and mortar. Rather they are to be signs of the Lord's life and love taking deeper roots in our community and in our hearts.
As Lent begins, we need to allow the Lord to enlarge and renovate our hearts through prayer, penance, sacrifice, and service to others. The hard part is usually the groundbreaking - getting through the excuses we've built up for not practicing our faith and for living in a self-centered way. Once we allow the Lord to break through, the divine architect and builder will enable us to repair broken relationships with Himself and others, through the Sacrament of Penance. He will enable us to make room in our hearts for our families, colleagues, friends, and even enemies by sharing His sacrificial love with us in the Eucharist each week or even daily.
By opening our hearts to the Lord and by seeing the Lord in others, especially those in need, our hearts do indeed become - in Blessed Teresa of Calcutta's words - something beautiful for God.
This column is credited to Fairfield County Catholic monthly magazine.
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