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Spring Dinner Dance – A Big Hit!

Spring Dinner Dance – A Bit Hit!!!

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On May 20, 2016, Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs in Fairfield hosted its Spring Dinner Dance at Saint Pius X in Fairfield for over 100 guests with special needs and their families. Members of parish communities and area group homes are invited to gather for a night of good food, music and friendship.




You might wonder why we all love Wednesday at Saint Catherine Center. Maybe it is because we spend the day together  – we take our weekly trip to Nutmeg Bowl and see who has brought their game! When Patrick bowls a spare, we all cheer and clap! We have two teams that compete with each other but mostly we just laugh.

Then we head back to the Center for our pizza lunch.2016-03-23 12.29.28 Some like it with cheese, some like it without; some like it cut up, some like to hold the slice and take a big bite! It’s delicious anyway you ‘slice it’!2016-03-23 13.06.05


The best part of the day is when Matt comes for music – we sing; we shake, shake, shake; we learn some new instruments; we pass the mic around so everyone gets a turn. Now you can see why Wednesday is our favorite day!

Thursday is Cooking Day!

Thursday is Cooking Day!

Our adult participants are learning their way around the kitchen. First the focus was appliance safety and cleanliness – how to load and unload a dishwasher; how to start the microwave; what food needs to be stored in the refrigerator. Now, each week, a group plans the lunch for Thursdays. Next, it is time to make the shopping list and take a trip to the local grocery store. And on Thursdays, the activity in the kitchen is joyful!

The menu for the first lunch was pasta and salad. cooking with adults 002Ellie proved to be quite the chef as she donned the oven mitts and guarded the stove as she carefully watched the water boil and the pasta cook. Meanwhile at the table, Patrick was chopping carrots and Emily was adding lettuce and tomatoes to the salad. cooking with adults 006The following week, it was grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. The most difficult lesson of the day was how to wait – each time a sandwich came off the griddle, the ‘cook’ was ready to sit down and eat it – and Miss Sonia gently reminded our chefs that they needed to wait until all the sandwiches were done so we could eat with all of our friends.

So many lessons are learned as we work together to plan and cook a meal. But the best experience of all is sharing the meal together. That is what building a community is all about!cooking with adults 014

New Partnership with the School Sisters of Notre Dame

Monday morning brings a flurry of activity as a group of participants in our Adult Day program head down to Wilton to volunteer at the Campus for the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Since November, 3 or 4 adults with their support staff help with laundry, cleaning the chapel, or helping in the dining hall. They are warmly greeted by the sisters as they pass in the hall or meet at the chapel doors. adults - job sites 002

“This is a positive experience for everyone,” reports Brenda DeMattio, coordinator of the Adult Services Program at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. “We get to develop some independent living skills in a real environment that also allows for socialization for our participants. The sisters are so welcoming. We are helping them and they are helping us!”

This partnership developed at the encouragement of Sr. Maureen Ulatowski, SSND, who is on staff at Saint Catherine Academy. The sisters from the Wilton campus regularly visit the Academy – volunteering for Peanut Butter and Jelly Fridays or attending the annual Christmas Pageant. This was next logical step in an ongoing relationship with the sisters.

“We are always looking for opportunities for skill development and community interaction, ” added Ms. DeMattio. “The campus offers so many opportunities for us to develop new skills and to practice some that we have already. We are thrilled to be there!” adults - job sites 003 adults - job sites 006

Bishop Caggiano celebrates Annual Mass celebrating People with Special Needs

 Fairfield, CT- November 1, 2015- The sun shone through the stain glass windows of Holy Cross Church as Bishop Caggiano welcomed all to the annual Mass celebrating people with special needs hosted by Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs.  Students from Saint Catherine Academy and two parishioners, one from St. Joseph Parish in Shelton and one from St. Edward the Confessor received one or more Sacraments of Initiation witnessed by over 150 in attendance.


“Today we gather as a faith community to witness the loving presence of Jesus in these young people and adults,” commented Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. “All seven participants have prepared for their sacraments working with their teachers at Saint Catherine Academy or within their parishes,” she continued. “These teachers are carrying out the mission of the Center and we are very grateful.”







During Mass, Saint Catherine Academy students, Vanessa Gomez, Patrick Nolan, Joanne Lindsy Paul, Jonathan Teixeira , Ellen Skoronski from St. Joseph Church and Francesco Cipollone from St. Edward the Confessor were confirmed. BEST DSC_8537 SMHeriberto Moya, as Saint Catherine Academy student received his First Holy Communion and Anthony Virgile, also a student at Saint Catherine Academy, was baptized and received his First Holy Communion. Fr. Robert Kinnally, Chancellor and Rector, St. John Fisher Seminary concelebrated and Peter DeMarco with Sharon Christie led the congregation in song.

Following Mass, everyone proceeded out of Church and headed to the new garden behind the Academy building for the dedication. The garden was made possible through the efforts of Andrew Aoyama whose Eagle Scout project created these raised beds and the generosity of donors, especially the CT Area Association of the Order of Malta. “We gather today to bless this garden and remember Kay and Jerry Luff,” began Burland. “Their vision and dedication to the mission of Saint Catherine Academy set an example for all of us. The children and young adults here are living examples of Jesus in our midst. This garden will serve as both an area for quiet reflection and active learning.” BEST DSC_8645 SMIn attendance were Kelly Luff Weldon, member of the Board of Directors of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs, Jennifer Luff Mitchell, Brad Luff and their families.

Bishop Caggiano proceeded to bless the garden and the crowd.  Following the dedication, the crowd filtered through the Academy building and headed to the gym for refreshments and photographs. It was a wonderful day of celebration filled with hope and joy.

“Joy and Gratitude” Annual Dinner- a evening of fellowship and celebration

The evening was beautiful as the crowd gathered under the tent at Fairfield University to celebrate a joyful year at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. Dinner guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers while they surveyed the silent and live auctions items that included sports memorabilia, variety of spirits, event tickets and a Las Vegas package that had plane tickets, hotel, dinner certificates and event passes. The evening sponsors included the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus, GoldPoint Partners, CrossBay Capital Partners, LLC, AEA Investors, Neuberger Berman, St. Rose of Lima Parish, the Valerie Luff Foundation, and TD Bank, NA.

DSC_2905“This is my favorite event. I love being with all these people who share my passion for Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs,” expressed Charles Chiusano, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Center. Charles welcomed the dinner guests with special recognition to Christine Herman, who has chaired the dinner for the past 12 years and has actively served on Advisory Board and now Board of Directors. “We are so grateful to Chris for her years of service and dedication to the mission of Saint Catherine Academy and the Center. We will miss her dearly and wish Michael and Chris the best of luck as they relocate to South Carolina.”

Monsignor Weiss, Pastor at St. Rose of Lima and member of the Board of Directors, offered the invocation before dinner and gave a special ‘shout out’ to James Barry, graduating student from Saint Catherine Academy who was in attendance. Bishop Caggiano addressed the guests via video as his schedule prevented him from attending in person. He thanked the benefactors of the Center with special recognition for the members of the Board of Directors.

DSC_2893Following dinner, Helen Burland, Executive Director of the Center addressed the dinner guests. “This has been a remarkable year for us,” she commented. “We chose tonight’s theme, joy and gratitude, because these words capture how we feel as our first year as Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs comes to a close. Your support, through volunteering, prayer as well as financial, has made the expansion of our programs possible. We are so grateful. And our joy is boundless – we are blessed with dedicated and talented staff, and children and young people who bring joy to the Center everyday,” she continued. “But the real reason we are here tonight is to celebrate James Barry, our newest graduate, who is with us tonight.” The audience was then treated to a brief photo montage that showed James as a young 6 year old to the young man of 21 – with many poignant moments depicted. Mrs. Burland then invited James to the podium as the audience rose to their feet applauding loudly.DSC_2946“Thank you so much,” James began. “Thank you. Saint Catherine Academy has been my family. My friends are all there,” he continued. “You are all in my heart.” As James left the stage, the audience was again on their feet. He was met with an endless line of ‘high fives’ as he headed back to his seat.

“As you can see, we have much to be proud of and grateful for,” Mrs. Burland continued. Next up was Al Barber, member of the Board of Directors and auctioneer extraordinaire. He coaxed the audience along as he worked to raise money with the live auction items that include dinner with Bishop Caggiano. The highlight of the live auction was the presentation of the collage of ‘Starry, Starry Night’ that had been created by the students under the watchful eye and creative genius of Gina Barber with her assistant, Mary Claus. The collage was auctioned off in honor of Gina and donated back to the Center by Britta and Denis Nayden and the Valerie Luff Foundation. It will be hung in the main hall of the Center.

DSC_2982The evening ended as it began under the tent as guests lingered and enjoyed the dessert and coffee bar. It was a beautiful evening that raised money for programs at the Center and allowed people to spend time together. Thank you to all who helped plan and all who attended.

Center Hires Coordinator of Health Services

–Fairfield- Yvonne Pacifico has joined the staff at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs as the Coordinator of Health Services. In this position, Yvonne will coordinate services with the Town of Fairfield Public Health Office and with the Department of Developmental Services as she serves both the students at Saint Catherine Academy as well as the individuals who are enrolled in the newly approved Adult Services Day Program. She will be managing, planning, implementing and evaluating the health programs at the Center. Yvonne is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelors Degree in Nursing from Adelphi University and a Masters Degree in Nursing Education from Teachers College at Columbia University.

Yvonne joins Saint Catherine Center following a twenty year career with the Fairfield Health Department. In addition, she continues to practice her nursing profession as a clinical nurse at Bridgeport Hospital and as an Adjunct Clinical Instructor at Fairfield University.

“This appointment represents a significant addition to our program and staff,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. “We are so fortunate that Yvonne was ready to retire from her role with Fairfield Public Health Department at this time.”


Program for Adults Gains Approval

Fairfield — The State of Connecticut Department of Developmental Services (DDS)approved the application that allows Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs to offer Group Day Services to individuals supported by DDS. The application process took over two years and was preceded by a feasibility study that was funded by the Koch Foundation. During the process, Center staff visited multiple DDS approved sites, conducted focus groups and interviewed caregivers, parents and caseworkers to help shape the proposed program. Several former students of Saint Catherine Academy have expressed interest in returning to the Center once the program was approved.

“This moves us forward as we work to fulfill the vision that created Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director. “Now we have the ability to offer a continuum of services from age 5 through adulthood. Our commitment to serving individuals with disabilities is boundless. Today, we removed an important barrier to fulfilling this vision.”

The next step requires staff to complete DDS Provider Orientation at the end of January. In addition, Center staff will review program needs and make recommendations to the Board of Directors regarding staffing and program resource needs. “We have done all of the preparation work for this decision,” Burland commented. “Now it is time to make this happen!”


New Program for Young Adults

Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs, located in Fairfield, will offer a religious formation program(RCIA) for adults with special needs, ages 18 and older, who wish to receive Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist, and/or Confirmation.

There will be a planning meeting on December 16th at 6:30p.m.

For more information or to sign up please

contact Michelle O’Mara, Director of Pastoral Care and Outreach

203 -540-5381 ext. 2012

Christmas Extravaganza

Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs and Convivio in Action is sponsoring the annual Christmas Extravaganza on Sunday, December at the Catholic Center, Queen of Saint Hall, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport.

The event will begin with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank Caggiano followed by a Christmas Pageant, arts and crafts and pizza. All children with special needs from the Diocese and their families are invited to join in the fun. There is no charge for the event but you must RSVP by November 14th so we can properly plan.

For more information, please call Michelle O’Mara at 203-540-5381 ext. 2012 or email at

Christmas Extravaganza 2014