The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist

The Mother Church of Stamford • 279 Atlantic Street, Stamford, Connecticut 06901 • Phone: (203) 324-1553 • Fax: (203) 359-2660 • Email:

"Sure, there are good Catholic people and churches all over. But, as is often the case, you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it."

No Embarrassment of Riches down South

By Susan Piening and Frank Trotta

When we, like many in Connecticut, decided enough was enough and it was time to move away from high taxes, left-wing politicians, traffic nightmares and too much snow, we knew we would be losing one irreplaceable treasure – St. John’s and its wonderful people.

Sure, there are good Catholic people and churches all over. But, as is often the case, you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it. We didn’t expect to find clones of our wonderful priests or a structure at beautiful as the Basilica or a reprise of the robust and rich deep faith formation of St. John’s, but we thought ourselves fortunate that our new home was right across the street from a Catholic church in one of the oldest Dioceses in the United States.

However, that church is staffed with a single priest who lives in a community miles away. It has only three weekday Masses – and those at the inconvenient hour of 9:30 a.m. The next closest Catholic church – a Vietnamese parish – is 7.29 miles away with a weekday Mass at 6 p.m., or 11 miles away at a traditional Catholic college run by Benedictine monks with a daily Mass, depending on whether school is in session, at 11 a.m. or 5 p.m.

Daily Mass-goers, you try planning your day around THOSE times.

On the other hand, a search of shows that there are 30 Catholic churches within 7.55 miles of our Connecticut house. Indeed, the daily Mass options we have been spoiled with in Connecticut are truly an embarrassment of riches.

Within five miles of our Connecticut place there are 27 daily Masses: four at 7 a.m.; four at 7:30 a.m.; one at 7:45 a.m.; five at 8 a.m.; one at 8:30 a.m.; four at 9 a.m.; one at 12:05 p.m.; one at 12:10 p.m.; one at 5:15 p.m.; one at 5:30 p.m.; a Polish and a Spanish Mass each at 7 p.m.; and an English Mass at 7:30 p.m. There are practically more daily Masses than Metro North trains. And the Masses are certainly more punctual, not to mention transporting you to a far better place!

The Sunday Mass and confession schedules in both locales follows suit. A plethora at St. John’s; a dearth down south. I guess the adage about missing the water when the well runs dry can be adapted to say, “You don’t miss the Holy Water until you move away!”

But St. John’s is so much more than Mass and confession. It is a true community of believers who live their faith day-in and day-out. And that is precisely the recipe Rod Dreher calls for in his much-discussed book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation.

By now you are probably wondering, “So why move?” To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, “Some see things; and say, ‘Why?’ Others dream things that never were; and say, ‘Why not?’” Maybe, just maybe, we might be able to bring a little bit of St. John’s with us to our new home.

There is plenty of opportunity. The new pastor at the local parish is bringing in top-notch speakers for adult faith formation. There are two deacons to help the sole priest. And the neighborhood parish is growing so fast that the church has plans to double the size of its building.

If getting to daily Mass means driving extra miles, so what? At last check, gas is only $1.88 a gallon down there! Besides, if our St. John friends need a reprieve from the snow, they will have a warm place to visit. “Y’all come on down.”

The Trottas are parishioners of the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist.

6 thoughts on “No Embarrassment of Riches down South 07/07/17

  1. A relative newcomer

    Its really very unfortunate that you did not move to the Arlington Diocese, nor to St. Bede in Williamsburg. Those parishes make the Basilica look pale by comparison!

    They have more Masses on Sunday, all of which begin by introducing yourself to neighbors, so you get to know fellow worshipers. There are also, or were, more Bible studies, prayer groups, lectures, community service projects, prayer intention chains, concerts, and theology on tap sessions, than here, plus strong parish schools. Confession is also more readily available- just call the Rectory with some possible times.

    Lastly, people mingle, across ages and groups, and talk outside after Mass, at any of several coffee hours or in the parking lot. They even have parish family directories!

    Newcomers really feel like they are joining a large, supportive community! The preaching is often as strong too, as are the youth and young adult offerings.

  2. Dear “A Relative Newcomer”,

    I am sorry you seem to be disappointed by the St. John’s parish community. We have found St John’s to be such a wonderfully diverse parish, ethnically and economically and a true representation of our Catholic Church and its universality. Every day this diverse community comes together to pray and worship our Lord.

    This diversity can make it difficult “to be all things to all people,” but our pastor and priests work hard to bring this diverse community together by offering a variety of opportunities for the members of our parish to grow in faith and to be a stronger community (just read the bulletin). But they are only 3 people and if we want more programs or opportunities to get together, the members of the parish need to step up.

    If there was a program at you last parish you felt would work here talk to Monsignor or Father Vill, offer to run the program. Maybe, just maybe, you might be able to bring a little bit of your old parish to your new parish and will find that community you seem to be missing.

    In Christ, Susan Piening

  3. Dear “A Relative Newcomer”,

    I have no doubt that you will find what you are looking for in this area and especially at St. John’s.

    Sure, your former parishes may have had more Masses, but chances are they had more priests too. Even so, with the density of parishes in the Stamford / Greenwich area (as we pointed out, 30 parishes within 7-1/2 miles of our house) the Mass opportunities, Sundays and weekdays, are plentiful.

    The same with confessions. I was told St. John’s has more confessions than any parish in the Diocese, and with confession before every Sunday Mass and before Noon Mass each day, I believe it. Indeed, the New York Times did a feature article on confessions at our parish. Our priests also offer confession by appointment as noted in the bulletin.

    St. John’s too, offers faith formation at all levels. Parishioners determine for themselves which level of formation is appropriate to their stage of the journey. We have Patristic Study Groups; St. Monica Institute; Biblical Greek Course; The Upper Room; and a long history of Faith on Tap. In fact, people worldwide have access to downloadable “podcasts” of our prior Faith on Tap lectures, to hear when and where convenient.

    Indeed, one of those talks, “Weapons of Mass Devotion — 7 Essentials to Understanding The Mass” by Fr. Paul Scalia of the Arlington Diocese (downloadable via the link above), is apropos for this discussion. Father explains that Mass is not a “communal dinner” or a “social event.” The primary purpose of the Mass is worship. It comes from God and is for God.

    The fellowship you seek springs from worshiping God with the communion of saints and with your fellow parishioners. As Fr. Scalia points out in another St. John’s talk, “What Are Friends For” (also downloadable via the link above), true friendships are forged when you look alongside you and see another working with you towards the same eternal goal and think “You too? You are working towards the same goal as I am!”

    Father reminds us that Heaven is the goal of friendship. Judging by your comment, “A Relative Newcomer”, you obviously understand and are seeking that. I have no doubt you will find that at our parish.

    St. John’s offers many seedbeds for that fellowship to blossom. For instance, every Friday parish men of all ages (from their 20s to their 90s) and walks of life (from attorneys and bespoke tailors to carpenters and construction workers) gather in the rectory for the “Holy Name Society.” We meet at 7 a.m. for coffee, discussions, Eucharistic adoration, and a brief reading and homily. We are done by 8 and then some go off to work and some to Mass. After Mass the men again cluster. Some go out together for breakfast at a local diner, some go to pray in front of Planned Parenthood and others go off to home or work.

    The beauty of this is that it is organic — not a contrivance. It evolves and is not forced. It is a natural outgrowth. Men self-select, finding what is right for them, for their schedule, for their stage in life and location in their faith journey.

    There are similar opportunities for community in the other parish activities: coffee hour after the 10 a.m. Sunday “Family” Mass; the Legion of Mary; Walking With Purpose; Altar Servers; Diocese-wide Young Adult Masses held at our Basilica; the Pro-Life Group.

    Seek and you will find. And if you don’t find immediately then become a “new evangelist” and start a group yourself. The parish will welcome it.

    With respect and in the brotherhood of Christ, Frank Trotta

  4. A Relative Newcomer

    Thank you for the responses.

    Fr. Scalia grew up in and now serves in the diocese I mentioned. Many of the Williamsburg parish members come from that diocese too. Perhaps it’s just an Arlington neighborhood and school based parish feeling.

    I absolutely love the fact that Masses at St. John’s feel like one is part of a truly international community!

    I actually had no idea, from reading the online bulletin dutifully, that one could request a Confession if mid-day does not work. Very heartening! It’s curious though that there is none before 5pm Sunday Mass.

    Personally, I have found it extremely difficult to make friends in our parish. I did try three groups, when my schedule allowed. Two other newcomers, whom I’m getting to know, feel like the events are very cliquey. I know people are super busy, but folks don’t seem to understand when someone new tries to become closer than an acquaintance.

    It’s interesting being on the Blessed is She group simultaneously! The Christian support system here seems to be missing; it’s all surface pleasantries, everything is good. We have wondered why there is no St. Vincent de Paul chapter, or equivalent, nor a closer connection to the New Covenant Center. My childhood parish has 12 different community service offerings. I think I will talk to the priests about adding another one here!

    PS: I was always taught that all members of the Church, all the baptized communion receivers, are part of God, part of Jesus’ very body, so worshipping God includes serving everyone with whom we attend Mass.

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