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Top Ten Poetry Lines

By Jeff Pajak

Catholic Communications volunteer intern

Cross over to the world of poetry

Last Father’s Day, I was sitting in a quaint but renowned little restaurant with my parents as we awaited our pancakes, omelets, and muffins to arrive. It was Sunday morning, and we were fresh out of Mass and enjoying the leisurely comforts of eating out, something we do not do too often. While we waited for our food, we got talking about literature. We talked about the pros and cons of “skimming” books as opposed to newspapers, and how society seems to possess an attention span too short for devoting much time to the written word. It was my father, I believe, who brought up poetry, and we all agreed that good poetry is an entirely unique genre because it forces the reader to slow down if he or she wishes to understand it. It was a great discussion, and it got me thinking about the poetry that I personally enjoy. When my go-to editor and supervisor, Peggy Weber, suggested I write about a “top ten” of favorite lines of poetry, my face lit up like the fourth of July.

Now, I certainly do not pretend to know what lines of poetry are “the best,” and I do not mean to insult anyone by leaving out lines from his or her own favorite poet. The following excerpts are simply lines of poetry that made an impact on me at some stage in my life and continue to strike that chord which only the music of words can strum. I should add that these ten fragments are in no way listed in order from my favorite to my least favorite, or in any other order. It was hard enough cutting down the list of candidates to ten. So, here it goes…

1.      …and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,

        Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion.

             ~ Gerard Manley Hopkins, “The Windhover”

I remember when I first heard of Hopkins. My favorite English professor at Providence College suggested him to some friends and myself, and we were all unfamiliar with the poet-priest. “You guys have yet to discover Hopkins?” he asked. “You’re in for a treat.” That just might be an understatement. From what I have read, Hopkins created a style all his own that has yet to be matched. Just read aloud any of his intensely alliterated poems, and you’ll be surprised at the beautiful sounds you hear your mouth making.

2.      ‘Reign thou in Hell thy kingdom, let mee serve

          In Heav’n God ever blest, and His Divine

          Behests to obey, worthiest to be obey’d,

          Yet Chains in Hell, not Realms expect: meanwhile

          From mee return’d, as erst thou said’st, from flight,

          This greeting on thy impious Crest receive.’

               ~ John Milton, “Paradise Lost,” Book VI. ll. 183-188.

These are the lines concluding the noble speech of the angel, Abdiel, to Satan. Abdiel was the only one who spoke against Satan when the rebellious angel sought to persuade a third of the angels of heaven to reject the Son of God as their Lord. When he first resisted Satan, Abdiel was all alone in defending God’s Son, and he fled to inform the other angels still true to the Most High. The scene above is when Abdiel returned with Michael the Archangel to meet Satan and his horde in battle, the battle in heaven which resulted in Satan’s imminent defeat and fall. Moments before the battle begins, Abdiel and Satan exchange words, and finish abruptly when Abdiel cuts to the chase and wallops the Prince of Darkness upside the head. Perhaps the most epic moment in the most epic poem of all time.

                 3.      The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

                           But I have promises to keep,

                           And miles to go before I sleep,

                           And miles to go before I sleep.

                       ~ Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”   

I’m a huge fan of Frost, and so I challenged myself to include only one of his poems for the top ten list. It may have been the fifth hardest decision of my life. There is some critical controversy over whether or not the speaker of “Stopping by Woods” is contemplating suicide. I like to think that the speaker, like all of us at one point or another, is simply tired of the world and wishes to leave it behind; but his responsibilities or some daunting task call to him, and he knows that he cannot rest until it is finished.

4.      But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

          I have spread my dreams under your feet;

          Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

               ~ W.B. Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”

To be honest, I first heard these lines in an action movie,”Equilibrium”; but the scene was crucial, and the actor, Sean Bean, delivered the lines so well that the lines stayed with me until I stumbled across them years later during a course on British literature. The entire poem is only eight lines and is simply worded, so it’s a cinch to read this one in a matter of seconds. But it may stay with you for years.

5.      Add faith unto your force and be not faint.

               ~ Edmund Spenser, “The Faerie Queene,” I.1.19

I don’t know the exact number of lines which constitute this massive work of classic poetry, but my copy of “The Faerie Queene” is one thousand fifty-five pages long. That’s a whole lot of poetry! Of all those words, though, the ones above made a special impression on me in the way they concisely join physical and spiritual strength with courage. Sometimes, I find myself repeating this line like a mantra in my head when I’m faced with a trial, and it helps.

6.      Not till the fire is dying in the grate,

          Look we for any kinship with the stars.

               ~ George Meredith, “Modern Love”. IV

 I have not come across George Meredith anywhere in any way since the day an English professor, who is fond of rare writers, introduced him to me. That was several years ago, and though I have only read “Modern Love” once all the way through, I have not forgotten the vivid language and images Meredith used to paint the picture of a troubled marriage. Apparently, Meredith’s poetry was not seen as anything special in comparison to his other writings; anyone who reads “Modern Love” will likely find that hard to believe.

7.      …The flood may bear me far,

          I hope to see my Pilot face to face

          When I have crost the bar.

               ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Crossing the Bar”

My roommate gave me an excellent edition of Tennyson’s poetry last year. I recall that when I first opened it, I flipped to the back of the book, as if it were a novel and I were sneaking a peek at the ending. “Crossing the Bar” was the last poem in the collection and the first poem of Tennyson’s that I ever read. It would also become the first poem I’d choose to memorize for my own pleasure. It recounts the thoughts of the aging poet as he ponders his approaching death, and though its theme may seem grim, the poem sings like a lullaby and has a calming, reassuring effect.

8.      Awake, my sleeper, to the sun,

          A worker in the morning town,

          And leave the poppied pickthank where he lies;

          The fences of the light are down,

          All but the briskest riders thrown,

          And worlds hang on the trees.

               ~ Dylan Thomas, “When Once the Twilight Locks No Longer”

I am a new-comer to the world of Dylan Thomas. Every morning, since the start of summer, I have tried to read at least one of Thomas’ poems while I eat my breakfast. So far, Thomas has made a brilliant summer companion alongside my bowl of cereal. The illustrative images in his poems are unlike anything I have encountered and carry with them such force – I am blown away every time. Unraveling these images for yourself is something you don’t want to miss. Besides, aren’t you curious to know what a “poppied pickthank” is?

9.      And we are here as on a darkling plain

          Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

          Where ignorant armies clash by night.

               ~ Matthew Arnold, “Dover Beach”

This poem holds special significance for me. I recall there was a good stretch of my life when I was interested in language and liked to read in my own spare time, but nothing more serious than that. Then, I stumbled across the last few lines of “Dover Beach” in an English literature textbook, and suddenly I wanted to be a poet. The words had moved me before I had even understood them, and since then my interest in words has taken a more active approach. I no longer wait for the next reading assignment that will grab my attention in an unexpected way; now, I hunt down the beautiful words of poets, novelists, and playwrights wherever I can find them. I probably visit the library more often than the bathroom, and for that I can blame Mr. Matthew Arnold.

10.  Lord, forgive me if my need

         Sometimes shapes a human creed.

              ~ Countee Cullen, “Heritage”

Being human, and therefore flawed, it is so easy to take what we think is best and then convince ourselves that it is also what God thinks is best, too. Cullen explores this concept among others in his poem “Heritage” in such a simple and heartfelt manner. When I read lines in this poem like the ones quoted above, I feel the same as I think Cullen felt when he wrote them. I feel as though we have prayed the same impulsive prayer; for “Heritage” is in many ways a prayer. I often repeat these two lines in my head, and whenever I do, I am connected to an African American poet from the Harlem Renaissance who died over half a century ago.

Searching for my top ten favorite lines of poetry taught me a lot about myself. I imagine we all relate to literature in different ways. The things we choose to read, then, represent different relationships. You may choose to acquaint yourself with the newspaper every morning, but it is the author whose pages you choose to revisit again and again who holds a place in your heart. Perhaps you could say that our favorite books are like friends: whom we choose for a friend says a lot about who we are. When you look at a shelf of books that represents countless hours of time spent toward nurturing yourself and various literary relationships, you learn a good deal about yourself. You see who your “friends” are and what they have in common, with each other and with you. For example, I learned that my friends often find solace in metaphors of the natural world, but at times they can be depressing and dark. However, I also discovered that my friends have hope, perseverance, and believe in a higher, benevolent power. Yep, that sounds a lot like me. I’d like to think that this list will encourage people to read these poems in their entirety. But I also hope that these poems show what the world of poetry has to offer, that people are inspired to find poetry that speaks to them, and that they then take their time with it.


The following reflection was a morning prayer given by Emanuel Vasconcelos, the campus minister at Cathedral High School in Springfield.

It should be noted that “Mr. V” is the second campus minister from Cathedral to leave his job and pursue a religious vocation. Keith Maczkiewicz served at Cathedral from 2004 to 2006 and is now in formation as a Jesuit.

At Prayer in the Cathedral High School Chapel

As I was driving in to school this morning, I noticed it was pretty foggy. Fog is sometimes scary to drive through, since you don’t see what’s ahead of you in the distance. There’s been a lot of fog the last few weeks among everyone here at Cathedral about me and next year. I’ve heard rumors that run the spectrum of having a girlfriend to becoming a monk. Allow me to “melt the fog clouds” so to speak by sharing with you an abbreviated version of my vocation story.

Melting the fog

It was about this time a year ago that I was filling out a “Preliminary Questionnaire” expressing interest in the Conventual Franciscan Friars. I thought it was funny, because I never had an interest in Franciscans before, and I didn’t even know who Conventual Franciscan Friars were until I started working here at Cathedral four years ago. In April last year I was talking one-on-one with Fr. Marek from St. Stan’s in Chicopee, and he gave my name to the Vocation Director, Fr. Vincent, just so I could get more information about the friars and make a better informed decision.

St. Stanislaus Basilica, courtesy of their web site

I mailed out that questionnaire last June. I remember hearing back from Fr. Vincent and scheduling to meet him in July. I was so nervous! I remember choosing my outfit, making sure I looked good…not to sound weird, but it almost felt like a first date! I wanted to make a good impression on him. All of my meetings with him have been good. In November I met more of the friars and postulants (that’s a fancy term for first-year guys who are looking at joining the order) down in Maryland, where they study. I got the sense that God was leading me to this. I went back down there in January, and it felt like a homecoming! I kept being reassured that this was the right direction for me to go, and the more I was informed, the more I wanted to join.

Signing on with St. Francis

 I applied, and I’ll be finding out in mid-June  (HE FOUND OUT AND IT IS OFFICIAL ) whether or not I’m going to Maryland this coming August  to enter as a postulant for the Conventual Franciscan Friars.  (ENTRANCE DATE IS AUG. 23) It’s looking pretty positive, but nothing’s official until mid-June.

 The most difficult part of all this is that to enter into something like this means that I have to leave whatever I’m in. Believe me, this has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life, and it’s taken a lot of thought and prayer. I love being here at Cathedral and I really enjoy working and praying alongside all of you.

Leading a prayer service at Cathedral for Conor Reynolds

I just sense in me this “higher calling” of being a Franciscan priest that I trust will bring me great joy and happiness, and bring me closer to Jesus than ever before. My prayer for all of you is that you also discover in your hearts what it is that God is calling you to be. He is calling you to something. We just need to listen for Him. It is in God’s Will that we will find our peace and our joy. I’d like to share with you a prayer that fits for today, especially with the “fogginess” of not knowing where God is leading us. It’s by Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton

I’ll leave extra copies of this prayer on the prayer intention book in our Chapel.

We begin our day in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The prayer is in this book

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, And the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen. (Thomas Merton)


A table full of tempting treats

Photos and information courtesy of Sister of St. Joseph Betty Matuszek, pastoral minister at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Springfield.

Bake sales are popular fundraisers and the goodies displayed at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Springfield were very popular. The ministry of St. Vincent DePaul at our parish held a very successful one, recently.

The event was for the benefit of  two local soup kitchens. Most of the $925 they raised was split between Open Pantry Inc. of Springfield and Lorraine’s Kitchen of Chicopee, to be used for Farmers Market and Food Bank spending. This will help provide fresh fruits and vegetables to kitchen guests, and support the economy of local growers. Meanwhile, the parish is maximizing their year-round food collection by asking for the most needed staples, to add to the seasonal fare.

Goodies for a good cause

In July and August, churchgoers can join the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s  project by donating  pasta sauce, pasta, tuna, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, and rice. 

Collecting peanut butter and other items for the needy

In addition to the bake sale efforts, parish groups at Mt. Carmel  often supply meals at the Springfield Open Pantry Soup Kitchen, Loaves and Fishes. Among them is the Women’s Guild of Mt. Carmel, Springfield. Their menu is pasta, meatballs, salad, and brownies.

Delicious meatballs -- Mt. Carmel Style


Billy Sullivan and Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell at the First Friday Prayer Breakfast

Editor’s note: At a recent First Friday Prayer Breakfast, Bishop McDonnell entertained his audience with many anecdotes and much information about St. Michael’s Cathedral, before it was a cathedral.

He shared the notes from his talk with the diocesan blog so that others might learn about the rich history of our cathedral. 

(Modern exterior Photos by Jeff Pajak, Catholic Communications intern)


On Sept. 27, 1840, the first priest was assigned to Springfield. His name was Father George Reardon. He didn’t let any moss grow under his feet. Less than a month later, on Oct. 22, 1840, he purchased a lot on Union Street for $700. He purchased an adjacent lot for $1,000 in 1846.

He celebrated Mass two times a motnh in private homes and later in a factory on State Street. Then on Oct. 15, 1846 he bought the Baptist Tabernacle, which measured 40 feet by 70 feet. This was moved to Union Street. And in 1847, the church was dedicated to St. Benedict and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

By 1849 there were 400 members.

St. Benedict

Our Blessed Mother

Father John Julius Dougherty was the new pastor. He ministered to Springfield and Saxonville, Framingham, Natick, Sudbury, Stowe, Ware, Palmer, Westfield, Rockbottom, Indian Orchard, Monson and Brookfield. He visited each place once a month. Now that is a big parish.

He bought land for a new church but the parishioners thought it was too far out of town at the corner of Chestnut and Liberty Streets.

It is interesting to note that the far away property was sold to the Beaven family — which gave the Springfield Diocese its second bishop, Thomas Beaven.

Bishop Thomas Beaven

In 1852 Father Micheal Galligher (Some spell it Gallagher)  enlarged the Union Street site, but he had his eyes on bigger things.

He bought property on Elliot Street in 1860.

He had been thwarted in a previous purchase up near the Springfield Armory. This time, though, he bought a variety of parcels that gave him land from the corner of State and Elliot Streets to Salem Streets.

He later re-sold some of the land and kept the property from Edwards Street — and he turned a profit.

He had paid $34, 750 for all of the lots. And he re-sold the lots from Edward Street north  for $35,000.

In July of 1860, ground was broken for St. Michael’s Church. It was constructed relatively quickly and the first Mass was held there on Chrismas Day, 1861.

St. Michael's Cathedral, 150 years since the groundbreaking

The architect was the famous Patirck Kiely. Construction cost was $75,000. Later, an E.G.G. Organ was installed. The St. Augustine Chapel and crypt also were added later.

New Englanders were still not celebrating Christmas at the time the church held its first Mass. However, Father Galligher was a smart man and good with public relations and community outreach.

Fr. Michael Galligher

The parish offered a free public concert on Dec. 27, 1861 — just two days after the first Mass. It received a nice write up in the paper and many distinguished guests attended the event.

Father Galligher had named the church in honor of his own patron saint.

St. Michael the Archangel

The fiscally sound pastor worked hard and the parish was debt free by Sept. 28, 1867. This meant that the building could be consecrated as a church. Bishop John Joseph Williams of Boston traveled to Springfield for the ceremony. History books note that it was the first consecrated church in New England.

Sadly, Father Galligher died in 1869. His burial spot is on the left side of the cathedral entrance.

Fr. Galligher's grave

A close-up look at the memorial stone. Note his hame is spelled with an I.

On June 14, 1870 — the Diocese of Springfield was erected. That makes our diocese 140 years old.

Cardinal John McCloskey of New York dedicated the building on Sept. 25, 1870.

Today, people pass by the historic place on State Street and know it as the site of ordinations and Chrism Masses. However, it also brings with it a very rich history as a building that served some of Springfield’s earliest Catholics.

St. Michael's newest neighbor

Area Catholics were fed food and information at recent First Friday Prayer Breakfast


By Father C.J. Wateikus

Pastor, St. Ann Parish, Lenox

 Photos by Carole Quinn

Fr. C.J.

We at St. Ann Parish honored a good man with a special ceremony recently. We unveiled a plaque in honor of the late Benedictine Father Anthony Michael Cacciola.

Our parish hall, which opened in April, 2007, was dedicated to Father Cacciola.

His father and mother were instrumental in the beginning of our new parish center and so the parish council voted to recognize him and the efforts of his family.

Joe and Kay Cacciola, proud parents of Father Anthony

However, our Deacon George Keator noticed we didn’t have a picture of Father Cacciola.

Deacon George and Father C.J.

We talked about it and decided that it would be a good idea to put up a plaque in his honor.

Again, we went to the parish council. And they once again voted unanimously to approve the plaque.

The very next day, I got in the mail a brochure from a company that makes plaques.

They come in a whole variety. And then I saw the one from this company in Oklahoma.

It was perfect.

Then I got the idea of approaching his friends and asking them if they would like to contribute to the purchase of this.

The response was immediate and overwhelming. So, the purchase of it was borne by friends of the family. I mailed the company a picture which was taken when he became a monk.

Many who loved Father Cacciola attended the 4 p.m. Mass.

A grateful congregation

Benedictine Father Mark Cooper, from the Benedictine Abbey in Manchester, N.H. con-celebrated. He brought down the vestments that Father Anthony wore for his First Mass. These were made by his mother and the the chalice was made by his father. They are kept at the St. Anselm Community.

Benedictine Father Mark Cooper

Father Cacciola was born July 12, 1961 and died Feb. 13, 1990 at the age of 28. He was ordained June 24, 1989.

It was in was in his last year of the seminary that he became ill. He had a seizure one day and it ended up being a brain tumor.

He was ordained knowing his time was limited.

His brothers, Joe  and Bobby unveiled the actual plaque.

The unveiling

Fr. Anthony remembered

And a whole pew was filled with young and happy well-wishers.

A parish potluck dinner coincided with the event so there was more celebration after the liturgy and a chance to visit.

Mary Farley and her baby daughter returned from New Hampshire to sing a favorite song of the Cacciola family. She joined with fellow musicians Sandy Morley and Art DeVylder.

The dedication of the plaque was like a cherry on a cake. It was wonderful to dedicate the building to this young man. It was great to have this plaque to visualize and honor him. But it also is wonderful to  honor his parents who are so dedicated to St. Anne Parish. His father assists so much. He is constantly doing work for the parish.

When Joe and Kay they found out we were doing this they were deeply touched an honored that their son’s image would be in the building.

The plaque unveiling was a chance for the St. Ann community to gather and honor a young priest and his family. It also was a way for the parish to celebrate its new parish center, once again. And it was our community’s way of thanking Joe and Kay Cacciola for all that they have given to St. Ann’s.

 By Jeff Pajak

Catholic Communications intern

Lead by Example

 The times they are a changin’. With the speed at which our technology is evolving, people have been able to communicate in ways like never before. In the olden days, we sent telegrams to family and friends across the country by horse or boat and it would take months, perhaps longer, for a reply.

The first mail truck

 Since those days, time, knowledge, and effort have yielded more advanced forms of communication that allow a person in Boston to reach someone in Casablanca at the click of a button.

 Yet despite the wonderful conveniences of modern technology, somehow it seems that other forms of communication have suffered. Parents are trying to keep up with the texting genius of their children, who have newer cell phones every year with twice the number of features and apps. With these kinds of technological divisions between generations (or between you and your own generation), it can be intimidating to any earnest Christian trying to get the Word out to today’s youth. But an old saying comes to mind: “Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise.” Perhaps modern technology is preventing us from communicating clearly to the youth; but perhaps it can also help us connect with more of them than ever before.

If you wish to speak to someone, it helps to learn his language, even if that language be one of computers.

Computer language

 However, I am also a big believer in the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” While words – whether spoken or written – have proven themselves to be quite effective when it comes to sending a message, I do recall one particular instance when it was the silent example that made a lasting impression on the youth.

 I was a senior at Holyoke Catholic High School, and a member of Christian Leadership, which organized many of the religious events for the student body, such as Liturgy and class retreats. In those days (it seems so long ago!), Holyoke Catholic was in Granby and Mass for the school was held in the gymnasium. Now, as you might expect, whenever hundreds of high school students gather together in a single enclosed space – or any kind of space for that matter – there’s bound to be some tom-foolery. On these occasions, all the students knew that it was Mass they were attending; yet even so, it was an occasion to bump into friends and teammates all in the same place and at the same time. How could they not be a little rambunctious?

 As the students in charge of the Liturgy, members of Christian Leadership were responsible for finding ways to make students take it more seriously. It wasn’t that they were being deliberately disrespectful. They just didn’t fully understand that the Real Presence is Real, even if presented in the school gym, and they needed to keep that in mind as soon as they entered the building.

The Real Presence

 So that is where Christian Leadership began its approach. We knew that these were good kids who would respond to holiness if they saw it similar to the way they saw it in their home parishes. We asked ourselves, “How can we make our gym Liturgies more like those held in church?” After some brainstorming, we decided to have two people hold bowls of holy water at the gymnasium entrance. This way, the students would be reminded of what they were there for.

A holy reminder

 However, what may have had a greater impact on the students was the behavior of the Christian Leadership members themselves. We realized, after some self-examination, that we had not been the best role models for the students. For at previous liturgies, while the student body had filed in to take their seats, we were often joking around with one another, laughing, or simply speaking louder than a whisper. We decided, for the next Mass, to keep as quiet and respectful as possible as the students entered the gym.

The result was awe-inspiring. The noise and revelry immediately subsided when the underclassmen came into the foyer and saw the two silent Christian Leaders with the bowls of holy water, and a beautiful service followed. Many, especially the faculty, noticed the significant difference. Afterwards, Ms. Moon, who taught Catholic Identity to the freshmen, praised Christian Leadership for the wonderful Mass. With the approval of Holyoke Catholic’s strictest religion teacher, we knew we had done well.

 I’ll never forget how we were able to reach the younger students merely by adjusting our own behavior and setting a better example.

From my own limited experience, I have learned that youth are often a lot smarter than we realize. I think they recognize holiness and virtue when they see it, and though they may not fully understand it or why they are drawn to it, they know that what they see deserves their respect and even their admiration. For committed Christians, there is a way to cross the technological divide and evangelize the youth, and it starts with realizing that every aspect of our lives represents our faith. Every one of our actions has the potential to attract those searching for Christ, or turn them away. Before we try to reach the youth with words of the Gospel, we should be sure we are living examples of those words. To quote St. Francis of Assisi, “Our mission is to preach the Gospel; use words if necessary.”

If necessary, use words

By Father Bill Pomerleau

 Recently I paid a brief visit to the small town of Wales, on the eastern edge of our Diocese of Springfield. My destination was the former St. Monica Mission, a building I had last seen almost two years ago.

A colorful collection

My last visit was in my capacity as coordinator of patrimony for the diocese, a position which requires me to inspect and catalogue the surplus churches, convents, schools and rectories that have resulted from the pastoral planning process. Along with other diocesan officials, I make recommendations to Bishop McDonnell about the disposition of sacred objects in each building.

St. Monica’s, which in recent years hosted a single weekend Mass on weekends only, closed as a Catholic place of worship on Sept. 7, 2008, some months after its mother parish, St. Christopher’s in Brimfield, was yoked with St. Patrick’s in Monson.

At the time of St. Monica’s closing, its remaining parishioners had agreed that it did not make sense to place upon Father Jeddie Brooks and his parishioners  the financial and pastoral burdens of ministering in three sites. It made sense to stop using the simple chapel.

stained glass surroundings

Built in 1901, St. Monica’s was a charming, but outmoded building for  a church. It lacks water and sewer lines, and has no restroom. Parking is limited. A drop-down ceiling had been added to save on heating.  And reportedly, an underground stream ran under the building, making any repair or expansion project difficult.  The Town of Wales looked at acquiring the site for a senior center, but balked at the reputed problems at the site.

I recall saying to myself, “Father Bill, you’ll probably be back here reporting for the Catholic Observer as parishioners cry when the diocese brings in the wrecking crane.”

But I was wrong.

Sheila Cabot, an experienced businesswoman who ran a retail store in Palmer called Andrea’s Isle when she was just 23, wanted to open a new store that would sell fabric and trim. After considering other sites, she gave a careful look to St. Monica’s.

Sheila's special place

Cabot told me that the location of what’s now known as Meeting House Fabrics and Trim is not a disadvantage. While the center of tiny Wales might not support another variety store, it can house successfully a specialized store for quilters, who come from far away to supply their craft.

Before purchasing the building from the diocese for an undisclosed price last fall, she determined that she could afford to transform it into a place of business.

She discovered that a sump pump could take care of most of the water problems. An additional heater in the transcept part of the chapel that was once the Chapel of the Madonna, a short lived mission for Italian Catholics in Monson that was moved to Wales in 1931 could make the chapel habitable in the winter months.

Thoughtful transformation

Before handing the church over to Cabot and Valle, the diocese removed clearly sacred objects such as the altar, tabernacle, and Stations of the Cross. Two elaborate stained glass windows with religious symbolism were removed, while several others in the  nave of the church remained with small medallion sections with symbolism painted over.

But 37 nine-foot oak pews lined up in the church were included in the sale.       

Luckily, Cabot’s husband is a carpenter; and more luckily, her business partner Steve Valle and his father, Lewis Valle, are cabinetmakers.

While the Cabots tore out the dropped ceiling, did basic carpentry work,  and added 40 gallons of paint to the church, the Lewises undertook the most interesting part of the renovation project.

A new place with a lot of preparation

The St. Monica pews had a limited market for re-use in local churches. They were bulky and difficult to transport, and not the right size or quantity to fit other small churches in the diocese.

But in the cabinet makers had the expertise to reconfigure them. Steve Valle created 14, four-and-a-half foot pews to store fabrics on, and repurposed the remaining wood in baseboards, trim and a counter area.

New use for old pews

The combination of oak furniture, light fixtures and stained glass from the original chapel give a visitor a clear sense of the building’s history without making one feel that a sacred space is being violated.

An area of the transcept set aside for quilting groups to meet gives the air of a colonial  meeting house – the term which Protestant New Englanders used for building which served both as places of worship and secular gathering spaces.

Quilting area

 Several parishioners of St. Christopher’s and St. Patrick’s, particularly those who like to sew, were among the visitors at Cabot’s May 1. They were very pleased with the new use of their beloved building.

By Jeff Pajak

Editor’s note: Jeff is a volunteer summer intern for Catholic Communications and member of Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield.

Challenge yourself

 At the beginning of January, many of us like to make a list of resolutions for the New Year. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm wears off, and before long we fall into the same old habits and routine. Ever wish there was some kind of half-way point or monthly checkup to keep you focused? I find summer to be an ideal time for renewing my resolutions, or making them more realistic. I also find that summer resolutions are a lot less intimidating than those I make for the New Year – the ones that have been all but abandoned by Groundhog’s Day. Telling myself, “I will exercise for a half hour, five days a week,” for an entire year brings out the quitter in me; but setting myself the same challenge for the months of June through August suddenly appears possible. can do it

 This is why summer can be such a promising season: the days are longer and sunnier, the lost hours of winter are magically restored, and one can’t help but feel like anything is possible.

One thing I have learned from being a student, ironically enough, is that vacation time is a time for learning just as much as the school year is. Believe me, I enjoy lounging about on the couch like a vegetable as much as the next person. In fact, that’s exactly what I tend to do for the first week or so of every summer. But let’s be honest. After a while, doing nothing but staring at a television screen or computer monitor gives a bad headache. The goal is to keep your mind sharp and active during the infamously lazy season of summer, so don’t be afraid to vary your activities and try something new!

Reading is one of my favorite past times, so for starters, I like to choose at least one book which seems to have a lot I can learn from. Because of all the praise and recommendations it has received, G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy made its way to the top of my personal summer reading list, and the Apostle of Common Sense hasn’t disappointed me yet. Since I’m one of those people who forget any seed of wisdom obtained from a book a minute or two after I read it, I have established the inconvenient but worthwhile habit of keeping a journal at my side when reading. If I read a line I really like, I write it down in my reading journal and comment on it. This method not only helps me organize my thoughts better, but it also helps me to remember those wise or inspirational words which I would otherwise forget.

What are your thoughts?

Of course, not all your resolutions have to be the self-improvement type, like daily trips to the gym. More specifically, not all of your summer resolutions should feel like work. This is the summer, after all, and the wonderful weather should trigger much more than sporadic excursions to the beach. Why not have a picnic every week or two in your backyard, in the park, or on a hilltop? Bring your friends or the dog, or both, and don’t forget the ice-cold lemonade.

My picnic pal

 How about an early morning walk or bike ride? A great way to energize yourself at the start of the day, taking your two-wheeler out for a spin allows time for reflection and for planning the rest of your day. Plus, you never know what you might see. The other day, I spied some renegade chickens who had fled the coop after a powerful thunderstorm the night before.

Why'd the chicken cross the road?

Later, I pulled my bike over on the side of the road by the town river for a break, when my eye caught a trail in the woods on the other side of the road. I was quite the explorer when I was a kid, and stumbling upon an unexplored path waiting for me to discover it brought back old childhood memories and excitement.

Speaking of trails, why not go hiking? For Memorial Day, my parents and I went hiking up Mt. Tom.

Enjoying the view with my parents

 The pairs of chipmunks chasing one another and the butterflies fluttering about the path were not the only pleasures to be had. Along the way, we met a number of fellow hikers who, like us, had set time aside to enjoy the day-off outdoors. Just as we did, you’re likely to meet hikers who look like experienced professionals, hikers who look like first-timers, hikers who let you pet their cocker spaniels, and hikers who will kindly take your picture after you reach the summit. If you’re lucky, you may catch up to a party of parents and their prancing toddlers, filled with awe at all the sights to see. After spotting a group of circling turkey vultures along with another family of hikers, I was fortunate to overhear a young boy warning his father of the ways of nature. “Turkey vultures?” said the father to his son, “Mmmmm!” The boy earnestly replied, “No, dad! If you’re dead, they eat you!”

Flying with the turkey vultures

Perhaps you wish to learn the basics of a foreign language. Perhaps you’d like to make it to daily Mass more often. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to take up an instrument, or grow your own garden, or be able to pick out the summer constellations in the night sky, or master one of grandma’s old recipes.

Explore the heavens

 In truth, there is nothing stopping us from working towards our resolutions or beginning new hobbies anytime of the year. But sometimes summertime is the right time – the perfect time – for doing this. When we pull back the curtains or step outside and see the world coming into full bloom, it is hard not to be caught up in the rush of vigor and life all around us. So, Happy New Summer, good luck with your new summer’s resolutions, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it!

By Lois Fusco

Nearly 30 from Our Area See Shroud of Turin Up Close

A group of 27 pilgrims from western Massachusetts, upstate New York and central Connecticut ventured to Italy in late April on pilgrimage to view the Shroud of Turin. Their first stop was Rome where they visited, among other sites, Santa Susanna – the American Catholic church there. They were surprised by a visit from the Pastor, Paulist Father Greg Apparcel of California, who appeared on “Real to Reel” last December talking about the influence of St. Francis during a Catholic Communications-sponsored pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and San Giovanni Rotondo.

Enjoy the images seen while inItaly!

Heart-shaped medals hanging from icons are very common in churches in Rome – gifts from families that have received special favors.

Next up was a church across the street – Santa Maria della Vittoria. Boston Cardinal Sean  O’Malley is the titular head of that church. These 2 sweet angels adorn the top of the Communion rail in front of the main altar.

Many churches in Italy offer numerous side altars that are devoted to one or another saint. This particular altar at St. Mary of Victory is devoted to the Sacred Heart.

The pilgrimage was led by Father Peter A. Gregory, pastor of St. Charles Parish in Pittsfield.  He stopped at the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome with his family – his sister Joyce, her husband Bob, and his sister Judy.

The Spanish steps are nearby and attract thousands of tourists. Pilgrims Ken and Barb Bissaillon and Kate and Mandy Porreco are awed by the many huge Azaleas there.

Later in the day, the pilgrims traveled to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love on the outskirts of Rome. Buried there are Blessed Maria and Luigi Beltrame Quattrocchi, the first married couple to be beatified together. Four couples from the Diocese of Springfield renewed their vows including a tearful Joyce and Bob Pothier.

and Bill and Rose Ann Sturgeon, both of Pittsfield.

On Sunday at noon, the group received a papal blessing from Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square which is the setting of 1 of 8 Egyptian obelisks in the Eternal City, before heading north to Florence.

While in Florence, Fr. Peter had the honor of presiding over Mass for the group at the largest Franciscan church in Italy – Santa Croce.

The pilgrims visited many churches, the Pitti Palace and adjacent Boboli Gardens in Florence. One of the famous exteriors – the bronze doors of the Baptistery of San Giovanni by Lorenzo Ghiberti – is referred to as the “Gates of Paradise.” The sculptor’s work is one of the defining pieces of the Italian Renaissance.

The pilgrims were mesmerized by the beauty of many altars, the likes of which cannot be described by words.

Next, it was a 5-hour drive through the Italian countryside in picture-perfect weather. The pilgrims’ first full day in Turin – Torino, in Italian – began with Mass at a sister church, San Carlo, which is dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo. It was the very church where the Pontiff would visit four days later on May 2. The pilgrims got to watch as preparations were being made outside in Piazza San Carlo.

The visit by Benedict XVI was well publicized throughout Turin.

Pilgrims snaked around a 2-mile route to see the Shroud … about one-and-one-half hours in the sun.

Then, the moment was at hand. A feeling of peacefulness came over the group as it got to view the Shroud.

All agreed, it made the journey worthwhile.

Our pilgrims had advance reservations and got to see the Shroud up close once inside the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

That evening, the group dined Italian style in one of the many wonderful restaurants in Turin. Brimfield residents Sheilah and Ricco Krohn  are still best friends and can still make each other laugh after 27 years of marriage. 

As dessert was served, Joie and Junior Bourassa of Pittsfield fed each other, symbolic of a bride and groom who feed each other wedding cake.

Both couples renewed their vows in Rome.

The final stop on the eight-day journey was Italy’s fashion capital, Milan. There was some time for shopping at the first Prada store in the world  and at many other shops located in the city center.

Instead of shopping, some chose to climb to the rooftop of the spectacular Duomo, the fourth largest church in the world, for a prime view of the architecture of the spires and the Milan skyline.

All too soon, it was time to head home, filled with irreplaceable memories!

St. Michael’s Academy Middle School students held a May crowning on May 17 at its Wendover Road campus in Springfield.

Principal Carol Raffaele had noted on the diocesan blog that the school needed its own special statue of Mary, Our Blessed Mother,and her prayers were heard.

Msgr. David J. Joyce, a parochial vicar at Holy Name Parish in Springfield, donated the statue.

The Student council participated in the outdoor ceremony with reading by: Anna Marie Gregory(Grade 6), Rachel Bechard (Grade 6), Bao Kim (Grade 6), Brian McCrae (Grade 6 and student Student Council president), Kaylee Grabowski (Grade 7) and Michelle Jasiel (Grade 7).

Molly Sulilvan, secretary of the Student Council and an 8th grader, crowned Mary.

Praising Mary with Song and Prayers

Michael Rancitelli, the school’s music director, led the students in song. And all studented joiend together to recite a decade of the rosary.