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A Loving Legacy

Father John’s Lasting Impact



Several years ago, a local journalist took note of the nurturing, welcoming community the new pastor had developed at St. Anthony of Padua Church, founded in 1927 by the Franciscan Friars as an ethnic Polish-American parish, and saw this as a good news story worth sharing.

The priest, Reverend John Baran, considered the writer’s idea and, with some reluctance, agreed, albeit with one stipulation. “It can’t be about me,” he said. “The focus has to be on the parish and on our team.”

Father John, whose death at age 59 on March 24 shook the parish community, had many gifts. He was always approachable, a wonderful listener, and he ministered with empathy and compassion. But he was a private person and self-effacing.

Never mind that it was he, as administrator and then as pastor, who provided the progressive leadership that revitalized a parish the Diocese of Bridgeport had considered closing. “That first year, maybe 25 people were here for the Easter vigil,” he once recalled. No, the story’s emphasis had to be on the “team.”

“There was no youth group and there were 28 kids in religious ed when we got here,” says Eleanor Sauers, Ph.D., a dear friend who was appointed director of religious education just months after Father John’s arrival in February 2002. “Now, we have an active youth group and there are 275 children in religious ed.”

Beth Paris, a St. Anthony parishioner since 1991, joined the “team” as pastoral minister nearly a decade ago. Her daughter’s confirmation class, she remembered, “had just eight kids. Now we have 44 children and two teachers.”

St. Anthony has seen its membership of households more than double across the past 16 years, to 750. Much of the credit for that growth goes to Father John—from his one-person-at-a-time approach to community-building, the soup suppers, Sunday music series, and growing number of outreach programs, to his succinct, well-crafted homilies about present-day American life.

“He was the consummate preacher, speaking in ways that touched hearts and moved people into gospel action,” Sauers said in her tribute at Father John’s funeral mass. “In sprinkling his words with references to art, music, poetry, literature, and the news, he sparked the religious imagination of his listeners and changed their perceptions of the church and of life itself.”

Sauers met Father John across town at Our Lady of the Assumption, where he served as parochial vicar from 1994 to 2002. Two others from Assumption also took note of the spirited young priest and joined his “team” at St. Anthony—Frank Macari, director of music, and Deacon Donald Ross.

Together, often literally working hand-in-hand with the growing number of parishioners, they helped to rejuvenate St. Anthony, which had seen its weekend Mass attendance dip to the low hundreds. “He believed in inclusive leadership,” notes parishioner Donna Spigarolo. “He saw what your gifts were and he wanted you to share them with the parish. He really wanted lay people to take leadership roles.”

So, who will fill the enormous void? With the selection of a new pastor still many months away, the team and many parishioners have already voiced their support for the Rev. Michael Boccaccio, who had been assisting his long-time friend on a part-time basis since February 2017, following his retirement as pastor of St. Philip in Norwalk.

“John asked me if I’d be able to help him here after his muscular dystrophy became more pronounced,” explains Father Mike, who was appointed St. Anthony’s administrator just days prior to Father John’s death from cancer.

Boccaccio, a cancer survivor himself, shares many of Father John’s qualities, including a sense of humor and the ability to deliver homilies that touch people’s hearts and minds. “We were on the same page for liturgy and administration,” Father Mike says. “John was an incredible person, a gem of a man. He was a truly spirited priest who took the words of Jesus most seriously. He came to serve, not to be served.”

St. Anthony, he promises, “is going to go forward. I pledge this to you and I pledge it to my friend John. The bishop knows he’s dealing with a special parish. The dynamic spirit that flows here is sensational.”

“It is our intent,” Sauers states, “to maintain Father John’s legacy.”

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Where:
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View map »


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Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

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Cost: $50-$360

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View map »


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More information

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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Nadia Martinez
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Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
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The Bruce Museum spotlights the creative energy and vitality of fine art created by regional high school students in the 8th annual iCreate exhibition. Opening on June 9 and continuing...

Cost: Adults $10; Students and Seniors $8; Members and Children Under 5 Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203.413.6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Fairfield Sidewalk Sale & Street Fair Saturday, July 21, 2018 10:00am-4:00pm, Rain or Shine First Selectman Mike Tetreau announced today that the Town of Fairfield and Fairfield...

Cost: free

Where:
Downtown Fairfield
Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Town of Fairfield & Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-256-3120
Contact Name: Mark Barnhart
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A series of graphic novel-style panels designed by illustrator Kirk Manley tells the dramatic story of the spy ring that operated between New York City, Long Island, and Fairfield during the...

Cost: Members: Free; Adults: $5; Seniors & Students: $3; children 5 and under: Free.

Where:
Fairfield Museum
370 Beach Rd
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Mock Stock is going Metal in a nod to AC/DC, Guns N Roses, and Metallica.  Halfway to HELL (Tribute to AC/DC)- Halfway to HELL- AC/DC Tribute features a High energy stage show with two...

Cost: Tickets $20 in advance, $30 at the door.

Where:
Ives Concert Park
43 Lake Ave Ext
Danbury, CT  06811
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Sponsor: Ives Concert Park and Promotions in Motion
Telephone: 203-837-9227
Contact Name: Phyllis Cortese
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On June 23, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich opens Expressionism in Print: The Early Works of Richard Haas, 1957 - 64 in the Arcade Gallery. The exhibition will be on display through October 21, 2018....

Cost: Free for members; $10 for non-members; $8 for seniors and students with ID

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
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The Magpie Salute brings together the reunited guitar team of Rich Robinson and Marc Ford from the Black Crowes, bassist Sven Pipien (also from the Crowes) along with lead...

Cost: $48

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company in The Warehouse
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Egotistical leading man, director, and producer Fred Graham is reunited with his ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi, when the two are forced to play opposite one another in a new production of...

Cost: $50-$360

Where:
Waveny Park
70 Pine St.
New Canaan, CT  06840
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An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was London’s longest-running comedy having clocked a very palpable nine...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
Christine's Garden
151 Main Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Corteo, one of Cirque du Soleil’s most successful shows on record, comes to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for seven shows from July 18-22, 2018. Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is...

Cost: Starting at $52

Where:
Webster Bank Arena (Bridgeport)
, CT


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Garden Menagerie Exhibition on view through August 25, 2018 during regular library hours Garden Menagerie, features a variety of works by Alex Sax and a selection of nineteenth-century books...

Cost: Free and open to the public.

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 120-325-9034615
Contact Name: Tracy Steneken
Website »

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Hiking and practicing yoga outside in the fresh air leaves you feeling uplifted, centered, and peaceful! In warm weather months, we meet regularly in various parks and trails. Each event starts...

Cost: Three and Five Class Packages (3 times for $33, 5 times for $42)

Where:
Vary with each class
, CT


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More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Artis pleased to present “Burn Baby Burn”, a group exhibition featuring works by Kathleen Kucka, Dennis...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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