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Category Archives: religion
For many years, Saugatuck Church collected baby gifts during their 5 p.m. Christmas Eve pageant. They were donated to women and children, through the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk.
Tonight, that worship is online. However, the church continues its tradition of gathering gifts to benefit women and children in crisis. And you don’t have to be a parishioner to help!
Just stop at the white church downtown (245 Post Road East) between 4 and 5 p.m. today. Pop your trunk; a volunteer will retrieve your gift.
This has been a very tough year, for women, children and the DVCC itself. Items needed include supplies and pajamas for babies, as well as crafts for older children.
Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup noted that Tony Award-winner Kelli O’Hara is starring in a PBS holiday special.
She also did a much more local performance, at (and for) Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. (Her daughter Charlotte is a junior chorister there.)
Prepared’s 1-touch mobile alert system enables administrators to instantaneously alert both the entire campus and 911 dispatchers to an emergency. Click here for a full story.
Three Greens Farms Academy student-athletes from Westport have committed to colleges, to continue their academic and sports careers.
Connor McDonald will play tennis at Boston College; Piper Melnick plans to row at the University of California-Berkeley, and Mark Roszkowski heads off to Tufts University’s baseball team.
Congratulations to all 3 Dragons!
And finally … as always, The Band is there:
Police officers from far and wide joined hundreds of Vinny Penna’s Westport friends this morning, to bid a final farewell to their colleague and friend.
The retired deputy police chief died last week, at 51.
The Saugatuck native’s Assumption Church funeral Mass was livestreamed. A graveside service follows, at the Assumption cemetery on Greens Farms Road.
After the year we’ve had, everyone needs a little hope and joy.
And an angel.
Inspired by a project in Kennebunkport, Maine, the Saugatuck Church arts and ministry team wanted to design something to engage Westporters as they passed by.
Call it the downtown church’s holiday gift to the community.
Katherine Ross designed the wings. Michael Brennecke cut them, dug the hole and mixed the cement to secure them on the broad lawn outside the handsome building.
“We have been so isolated from each other, and under so much stress,” says Rev. Alison Patton.
“We hope these angel wings spark a little playfulness, give us a way to connect with each other, and encourage folks to share.” (Don’t forget to tag Saugatuck Church!)
“The world needs love, justice and compassion this season So we ae calling all angels.”
A sign will go up soon, but you heard it here first: “Be an angel this season. Take a selfie to post!”
John F. Suggs is a longtime Westporter, regular “06880” reader and former Jesuit. He is also passionate about keeping Jean Donovan’s memory alive. John writes:
Forty years ago today, 4 U.S. churchwomen were kidnaped, tortured, raped and killed in a remote section of El Salvador. They were targeted for openly living with and caring for the poor in the midst of El Salvador’s bloody civil war.
According to a 1993 United Nations Security Council report, the women were ordered killed by the US-trained and funded Salvadorian military, which covered up their involvement in the murders and obstructed initial investigations.
Three of the churchwomen were Catholic nuns. The fourth — Jean Donovan — was a 27-year-old lay Catholic volunteer who grew up in Westport.
In many ways, Jean was like any other Westport kid. She marched in the annual Memorial Day parade with her Girl Scout toop, made her first communion at Assumption Church and her confirmation at St. Luke.
A member of the Staples High School class of 1971, she played on the basketball and field hockey teams. An accomplished equestrian at Westport’s Fiddle Horse Farm, Jean managed the tack room after school and supervised youngsters assigned to work in the stables.
She was the quintessential Westport girl next door.
Until she wasn’t.
Only 6 years after graduating from Staples, after finishing grad school and starting as an account executive at Arthur Andersen, Jean put her career on hold to pursue something radically different.
She applied for a volunteer position with the Catholic Maryknoll Lay Mission. The program required a 2-year commitment living with and serving an impoverished community in El Salvador.
Accepted into the program, Jean quit her job, to begin training and coursework.
Today it is common for young Westporters to go on service or mission trips. Some expect a transformational experience. Others pad their resumes to help get into competitive colleges.
As parents, we sign permission slips and write checks, knowing that at least the trip gets our kids out of the Westport bubble. We hope their experiences in communities of poverty might have a beneficial impact on them — something lasting, beyond serving as a great subject for a college application essay.
I believe it was here that Jean began to differentiate herself from the quintessential Westport girl next door.
Jean had already been accepted into the right undergrad and graduate schools. She had completed her studies, and landed that important first professional job.
Jean had no need to make this 2-year service commitment to help advance her career. If anything, her decision derailed it — at least with Arthur Andersen.
So why did Jean do what she did?
Though I never had the pleasure of knowing Jean personally, I’ve worked hard over the years to help keep her memory alive in Westport. So I have given this question a lot of thought.
Based on all the information that I’ve gathered, I believe her decisions to not only quit her job and make this commitment, but also to stay in El Salvador as the violence escalated, were the result of her making a spiritual discernment.
This centuries-old decision-making process seeks to assist an individual in determining their best course of action. The person first becomes aware of the interior movements and deepest desires of their heart, then tests and evaluates its validity in alignment with God.
Two weeks before Jean died, she wrote a friend in Connecticut about the final decisions and actions she was about to take, based on what I believe were the results of her spiritual discernment.
The Peace Corps left today and my heart sank low. The danger is extreme, and they were right to leave….
Now I must assess my own position because I am not up for suicide. Several times I have decided to leave El Salvador. I almost could, except for the children, the poor, bruised victims of this insanity. Who would care for them? Whose heart could be so staunch as to favor the reasonable thing in a sea of their tears and helplessness? Not mine, dear friend, not mine.
Today let’s remember and honor this once quintessential Westport girl next door, whose discernment and subsequent action culminated in making the ultimate commitment to protect and care for the most vulnerable of all.
(Jean Donovan will be remembered this Sunday [December 6]. during the 11 a.m. mass at Assumption Church. Attendance is limited, due to COVID; click here to reserve a seat. The mass will be livestreamed.
(In progressive Catholic social justice networks, Jean Donovan is considered a saint. A Jean Donovan Summer Fellowship at Santa Clara University — a Jesuit school — supports students interested in social justice, while in Los Angeles the Casa Jean Donovan Community Residence houses members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
(Her story was told in “Salvador.” Written by Oliver Stone — who directed it too, as his 1st major film — the character based on her life was played by Cynthia Gibb. Amazingly, she too is a Staples High graduate, exactly 10 years after Jean Donovan.)
The departure of Cantor Dan Sklar from Temple Israel earlier this month surprised members of the congregation.
But, he says, the notion that he resigned — and that officials did all they could to retain him — is “a complete fabrication.”
In a video released yesterday, Sklar — who also earned a dual degree as a rabbi at Hebrew Union College — calls the temple’s version of events “disingenuous.” He says he was threatened with termination because of anger issues.
Sklar does not deny those issues. They are real, he says — and the result of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Sklar studied for the cantorate in Jerusalem during a period of intense suicide bombings. He saw their aftermath.
In his years at Temple Israel, Sklar says, he had several “outbursts of emotion.” They were related to issues of building security and COVID-19 — for example, threats by intruders, and unmasked people in the sanctuary. They were directed at colleagues and staff members, not congregants, he says.
In the video, he describes the pain of being barred by the temple from co-officiating at a funeral — and having no contact with the grieving family. He was also prohibited from contact with students he was preparing for bar and bat mitzvahs.
Sklar expresses gratitude to the many families and friends for the support they’ve shown. Despite losing his job — and his family’s health insurance — in the midst of a global pandemic, Sklar smiles a bit at the end.
Recalling Sabbath services on the beach, and “sharing life’s joys and trials,” he notes that being a cantor and rabbi “is not a job. It is who I am.”
Click below to see Dan Sklar’s video:
Last night, Temple Israel’s board of trustees emailed the congregation:
We are heartbroken to have to write this letter this evening.
We all recognize the imprint Cantor Sklar has had on our congregation and will cherish the memories we have of him. We know how important he has been to you and your family in times of celebration and mourning alike. We assure you that he has had a similar role in our own lives. He has deeply enriched the fabric of our community.
We are disappointed that Cantor Sklar has chosen to mischaracterize certain events that culminated in his departure from Temple Israel.
Unfortunately, over the course of recent years, Cantor Sklar exhibited behavior that resulted in a number of documented incidents which unambiguously violated our congregation’s code of conduct.
Last week, we reached a written separation agreement that was approved by Cantor Sklar and his counsel. The agreement would have generously provided for Cantor Sklar and his family. It would have enabled him to move on to the next stage of his career with his reputation intact and provided financial support for his family during a lengthy transition period.
Today Cantor Sklar revoked that agreement and chose to make public a number of hurtful and untrue accusations against Temple Israel.
We do not believe this is the appropriate forum to share the details of the numerous incidents that led to our decision, but we do want to assure you that we did everything we could to accommodate Cantor Sklar both in recent months as well as over the course of a number of years. Sadly, despite the many accommodations we provided, the situation became untenable. It was a painful but necessary decision we had to make despite the pandemic.
We wish Cantor Sklar and his family only the best. We understand this will be an emotional transition for Temple Israel, but our congregation is strong and resilient. Please feel free to reach out to us; we will support one another though this.
L’shalom — wishing you peace and comfort.