Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Gauntlet Of Miseries

Guest submission.

Gorgeous weather on Sunday! Crowds are returning to the streets, so lots of our fellow photographers were out there. The great weather also turned out the street performers and the transit prowlers. Where the people go, the showmen, the hucksters and the troubled follow.

On a stretch of the Red Line, just north of where the underground moves above ground, a young woman or girl, maybe in her late teens, all of 5-feet tall and no more than 80 pounds soaking wet, began her pitch by explaining that she'd found a shelter near a Blue Line stop that charges $18.00 a night: "I have five-dollars-and-eighty-seven cents, so far. Can anyone help me with the rest?" She wanted us to know that she counts pennies.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

" Conversations after sunset"; Elegant Simplicity in Poetry

In his twelve years in Southington, as pastor of St. Dominic Church, Fr. Henry C. Frascadore touched the hearts of many who came to see, hear and be spiritually uplifted by his unique style of pastoral leadership, his self-disciplined style of organization and empowerment, his exceptional communication skills and his exquisite passion for words that paint homiletic pictures of the details of everyday life and the human spirit through simple stories of life, the Gospel and biblical characters, all inspiring personal connections with the Divine.

In the fall of 2013, five years into his retirement as a priest in 2008, Fr. Henry, (as he likes to be called), published his second book of poetry, entitled: “Conversations After Sunset”, following his 2011 successful publication of “Beyond the Weeping Willow Tree: Mystery is a Gift Wrapped in Ordinary Paper” which was an immediate sensation with his now vast following.

Fr. Henry and Ramsey
The author’s “Conversations After Sunset” reveals deeply probing thoughts in sheer eloquence and poetic simplicity.  Each poem propels the reader to the next with its intriguing insights into ‘nothing in particular and yet, everything in particular’. We imagine we are with the author in his journey of life, awakening a keen sense of the ordinary things around us, things that seem unremarkable and are often left unobserved or taken for granted as part of the scenery of life. With his constant companion, “Ramsey”, Fr. Henry’s faithful black Labrador, he meticulously examines the most minute details of the sights, sounds and smells of an old capitol city that enable their fresh daily examination of the real and conjured senses of the urban neighborhood’s flowers, trees, ponds, birds, wind, litter in the street, the bus stop at Main Street and its people, strangers, going about their unremarkable yet wondersome activities and destinations once outside of the brief moments of their paths crossing within view of the author and his sniffing friend.

This sensitivity to urban nature echoes Fr. Henry’s keen spiritual connections with creation and its mysteries, the genuine value of the collection being the inspired discernment of the simplicity and complexity of the gifts of the universe. One may weave such thoughts into his/her own mind’s web, allowing the poet’s observations to penetrate our own worlds, savoring new sensations of life in our own hearts and minds, urging one to spiritually ruminate our own mysteries of life, re-examining vibrant moments that may have been inadvertently left along the wayside of our own life’s journey.

An extraordinarily gifted priest, educator and credentialed scholar during his first 50 years in the priesthood, Frascadore remains a spiritual thinker, visionary and mentor. Punctuating a remarkable professional career, “Conversations after Sunset” validates his gifts as a poet, exquisitely articulating the fundamentals of life while raising subconsciously stored personal thoughts to the conscious level, so that we may ponder our own inner conversations concerning our continuing journey.

“Conversations After Sunset” offers 125 pages that move the reader to closely held secrets of the soul where the poetic insights come alive in the privacy of one’s own prayerful reflections. The book may be purchased on Amazon. or in Southington, at the Bradley Memorial Hospital Gift Shop.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A New Year Is Not Just One Day!

The year 2014 is still new. It's only the tenth of 365 days to come this year.  Why is there value in think about that? 

It's certainly important that we salute the passing year and welcome the New Year with renewed aspirations and resolutions, that we gather in celebrations of family and friendship and a million or so people gather at New York's Times Square, even in frigid weather, to celebrate and cheer on the New Year to the very last second of the old, as megamillions more watch on television.  

I like that it's a good time to review how far we've come, or not, in the past year and to re-assess the direction our lives are taking with our eyes on hopeful plans to make the next twelve months better, productive.  Personally, I think about the fact that it takes everyone to bring about change for the better in our culture, in our society and our way of life.  More of us, I believe, must be the architects of change and improvement where it is needed not only to make our own place in the world better but to take help those who are not sharing the "successes", the joy and the means to have better lives.  It's also time to think about teaching everyone. One citizen at a time is the first step in bringing about meaninful societal change. 

This year, I remember those left behind many New Year's Eves through the years of my own life and I'm sure others did the same.  Some think of friendship, "success" and "progress" in life with goals of a whole variety of ideas about what we are searching for in life.  Myself?  I've reached the age and comfort to say, what about others?  

On January 6th millions celebrated the ending of the 12 Days of Christmas and celebrated the Feast of the (Three) Wise Men or (Three) Kings, the Epiphany. Millions, following the Christian tradition, open their hearts to an annually re-newed awareness of the Light of the Star of Bethlehem that guided the Magi, Casper, Melchior and Balthasar, to a stable in Bethlehem to pay homage and bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrr to a New-Born King, a king of a realm we did not know, with a mission of saving us from the ravages of evil within us. I don't need to repeat the story here to make a simple point:

No matter who we are, what our heritage, what our religious beliefs and traditions, we are spiritually and physically binded together as a race of humans who need other humans in our lives.  Imagine the proposition of one of us being the only person on Earth!  We can't imagine it in any way that makes sense. 

Men and women need others of their own species to live with and to love as they love themselves. 

My new year's review for this year took this route.  It's not easy; it's hard mental, emotional and spiritual work to think about our purpose in life or the responsibility for what we leave behind us, too vague, with many doors in our minds that we are not comfortable opening. 

But, I started my assessment in appreciating my family, our home, a place in our community, and the spirit, (for me with a capital ‘S’), that guides us through each day and every day, using our talents and gifts to help others and make the world at least a little better place. 

We are so very grateful to live in Southington, Connecticut, a community so rich in the good will of its people in all walks of life, their genuine compassion, generosity and love for others, whether through a small kindness or sharing something more substantial. Our community’s spirit gives hope and lightens the burdens of others in need. 

We have so many groups by the dozens like Southington Community Services, Bread for Life, charities initiated in the activities of many faith congregations and our inter-faith community, civic, fraternal and service organizations and institutions in Southington. 

Beyond the reality of serving the essential human needs of our own people, our town’s unrecognized corps of volunteers are a shining paradigm for others. They light the way for others who realize that there but for the Grace of God, go you and I. . Thanks, Southington, for welcoming us here in our retirement during the past nineteen years and for opening us to the splendid folks we’ve met in our churches, temples, charities, community service, civic and fraternal organizations as well as in our outstanding educational, professional, business and municipal institutions of this town. Writing your stories have been as uplifting to me as I imagine writing music can be.

And that, my friends, is what I thought about this New Year's Eve and how I plan to remain proactivley involved in life as a card-carrying member of my community every day this year, God willing.  

Happy New Year! What are you going to do for the next ...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Bread of Life

This just in, over the transom.   erf 1/8/2014

Why go to Church?
If you are spiritually alive, you're going to love this!
If you're spiritually dead, you won't want to read it.
If you're spiritually curious, there is still hope.
A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all."

This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

"I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.

"Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!" When you are DOWN to nothing..... God is UP to something!

"Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!"

The Bread of Life comes to us in more than one form.

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Veteran's Christmas Visit to D.C: A Mission of the Heart

By E. Richard Fortunato

Since his retirement as a police officer in Cheshire, John DeMello, Sr. puts a lot of time and energy into helping his community. He is a veteran of the time of the Vietnam War and a member of the American Legion, Kiltonic Post 72 in Southington, CT, where he is always ready to help veterans in need and those actively serving in the armed forces defending freedom and our country's interests. He often initiates missions of good will, faith and mercy with his wife, Jin, joining in many of his efforts.

On December 21st, John and his wife left for Washington, D.C. They were going to celebrate Christmas with their son, John, Jr. who is an Air Force Captain stationed at the Pentagon, and his fiancée, Nikki. They were also celebrating the forthcoming marriage of John, Jr. and Nikki who would be departing for Thailand late on Christmas Day after a joyful visit with his parents. Nikki and John, Jr. are to be married in Thailand on January 8th, after a tour of that beautiful country.
Meanwhile, John, Sr. and Jin had another mission in mind. On past visits to D.C., they had seen many veterans living in clusters on the streets of Washington.  With a note of sadness and hope in his mind's eye, John told his friends at the American Legion about the homeless vets in our nation’s capital. They encouraged and helped John reach out within the community of Southington for support of a collection of donated new or clean used clothing.

Executive Director of Southington Community Services, Janet Mellon, got wind of John’s project and her team responded immediately with bags of winter clothing donated by the people of Southington for the homeless and threadbare.

With astonishing speed, the generosity of the people of Southington abounded with donated blankets, gloves, coats, gloves, scarves, hats and warm socks and more. Energized by the community's spirit of giving, John and Jin laboriously sorted and packed  large bags of clothing in their home and garage, loading it all into their pickup for the trip to Washington.

On Christmas Day, we received an email from John:

“Today was a great day for us, very humbling. Jin and I met so many homeless veterans and other homeless individuals. We don't know how lucky we are. I met a homeless vet named Harrison, he did not want anything. He said his hope is just to be out of the homeless shelter one day and once again lead a productive life. What an outstanding person who you could quickly see was intelligent. Though he had clearly had his share of pain in life, he did not talk about it in specifics”.

“It was deeply moving ...sad ... to see homeless men and women living in the parks, sleeping on the grass with no place to go but a shelter for the homeless. The shelters allow individuals to come in at 7:00 pm but they have to be out at 7:00 am.”

“My wife and I are grateful to the American Legion Post#72, Southington Community Services, Janet Mellon, and so many great people of Southington that made this Christmas special for the homeless vets in D.C. None of this would have transpired were it not for all of you. God Bless you all.” 

On his return to Southington, John told me much more about the experience. He could not get the scene out of his mind of the homeless people surrounding the pickup truck for anything that might help them keep warm: a blanket, a hat, a pair of gloves. Jin was standing in the truck dispensing clothing as fast as she could to meet the outstretched hands and then began throwing some items out beyond the immediate human circle surrounding the truck to reach others while John moved among them handing clothing to all he could reach to be sure everyone got something.

As the crowd grew, John saw a truck parking just in front of theirs on the street. It was a truck with volunteers handing out hot cups of soup to the cold and hungry, many of them clutching their new Christmas gifts of clothing.

"Seeing homeless Americans in the parks and streets of Washington, is as sad as it gets", John said.  He thought a while and said to me that he remembers standing there, wondering how the people of Southington who had gathered and donated these articles of winter clothing would react to the scene... a sea of humans, many of whom have served our country, with outstretched hands, clinging to the hope of a gift of mercy to help them stave off the pain of the bitter cold.

In God's mercy, many of us are spared the sight of these everyday situations of human suffering.

But a few pictures speak volumes...    Click on each photo to enlarge.

John DeMello, Sr. and his wife, Jin, (left), stop at our home on December 18th to pick up clothing we donated and collected for their trip to Washington, D.C. Grace Fortunato is on the right helping as best she can with heavy bundles of clothes.

Jin DeMello, on Christmas Day, distributing clothes to homeless veterans gathering around their pickup truck on a street adjoining a park in Washington, D.C.

Crowd of homeless grows, many anxious, unsure if they'll receive some of the clothing being dispensed.

As the word spreads and homeless in the park see a crowd gathering they come over to the pick up truck, (could have been Santa's sleigh), bringing them articles of clothing to relieve them of the long cold days outdoors.

Another view of the park which is day time homeground for many homeless veterans.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Southington Town Manager Announces Plans to Meet Expected Severe Weather, Heavy Snow and Bitter Cold

Be informed as Local Weather Condition Bulletins are Announced by Southington Town Manager, Garry Brumback who made the following annoucement at 3:15 pm today, January 2, 2014. -- E. Richard Fortunato

During the next 48 hours we are expecting severe weather with heavy snow and bitter cold.  The following are the actions we are taking to prepare:

1) Highway staff is on duty and will remain so until the snow storm has passed. They have pretreated most of the roads and all are passable.  They will start to plow when conditions warrant it and will bring the contractors in when the heavy snow begins to fall.

2) Calendar House and the Library will be open and serve as “warming shelters” during normal duty hours tomorrow.  We don’t expect power outages so there are no plans to provide food or off hours shelter.

3) Janet (Mellon) is coordinating with a local hotel to make sure we have a few rooms available if needed for homeless needing shelter. The Police and Fire departments have been alerted to be on the lookout for those needing assistance.

4) Schools released early today and are planning to discuss how to respond tonight but will probably make the call in the morning.

5) If the roads are really bad for the morning commute I will delay opening Town offices until 10:00 am.

I will keep you posted as information is updated.


Garry Brumback, ICMA-CM
Town Manager
(860) 276-6200

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Community of Faith, Sharing Religious Beliefs and Traditions

The Quest for Common Ground is pleased to present a series of posts this month during this joyful holiday season in the hope of providing our community of Southington, Connecticut, and other communities of people greater understanding of the diversity of relgious beliefs rooted in their rich heritage and traditional creeds. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of the American credo that extends beyong tolerance and reaches out to understanding so that we may love one another as we love God.  It is, our faith, after all, which offers us the values of our most cherished beliefs and religious traditions which enrich our lives in this great country.  
Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker
Gishrei Shalom Jewish
Congregation, Southington, CT

We begin today with a joyful reflection by Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker of the Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation in Southington, CT.  Please feel free to share your comments with our community.                                                                                                    

By the time you read this, Chanukah, the 8-night Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights, will be over.  I am fortunate to celebrate with family and congregants, lighting the chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) and enjoying potato pancakes, known as latkes.  They are a traditional food of the holiday but jelly donuts may be consumed as well.  It is all about the oil so any fried food will do!

As a rabbi I have been asked many times this year about Thanksgiving and Chanukah falling so close together.  I am sure you have read about it and a search of the Internet will bring up the particular calendrical computations that produced the phenomenon. But in musing on the overlap of these two days, I offer this: Thanksgiving was the feast of gratitude the early settlers of America offered for the bounty of this new land that marked their survival over the hardship of their migration to the unknown and their appreciation for religious freedom.

Chanukah Menorah
For Jews, Chanukah, is a holiday that celebrates our surmounting the oppression of the Syrian-Greeks in the second century Before the Common Era.  Chanukah represents the few overcoming the many, the fight for self-determination over subjugation.

This year however, I am more focused both personally and professionally, on the resultant separation of the Jewish holiday from Christmas. For you see, Chanukah is not the Jewish Christmas and so I have an opportunity to teach that two great faith traditions celebrate joyous events both very different and very meaningful to each of us. I hope the understanding and compassion that can come from each holiday having its own fullness of time for observance signifies a wonderful new year to come.

- Rabbi Shelley Kovar Becker, Gishrei Shalom Jewish Congregation, Southington..