Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Jaime Bairaktaris, The Pope, And The Kids

In December, “06880” proudly told the story of Jaime Bairaktaris.

The Staples High School senior/EMT/Earthplace teacher/photographer hoped to fulfill his dream. He wanted to go to Naples over spring vacation, volunteering in a program with young kids in a very rough neighborhood.

Westporters opened their hearts — and wallets. They helped Jaime raise funds for the trip, a journey he could never have done on his own.

It’s been the experience of a lifetime.

In addition to his work with the improverished children, Jamie snagged a seat at yesterday’s papal mass in St. Peter’s Square. He sat just 150 yards from Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, as photographed by Jaime Bairaktaris.

Pope Francis, as photographed by Jaime Bairaktaris.

The mass focused on youth. Jaime saw it as a sign, to help even more.

“Now that I’ve been working with La Tenda, I know how truly incredible they are,” Jaime says.

“They provide healthcare, food and shelter for the homeless and poor. Their education and after-school programs keep children safe, and give them opportunity for a great future. Some kids’ parents are in jail. Others don’t have enough to eat. La Tenda helps them all.”

Centro La Tenda — in an area notorious for drugs and crime — is in a building that began as a monastery, turned into a war hospital, and now serves as an oasis for those needing the most help.

The children of La Tenda.

The children of La Tenda.

“The people who work there are the absolute best,” Jaime says. “I get emotional even thinking about leaving them. The kids have so much character, in an area so tough to live in.”

GoFundMe — and Westport — helped Jaime get to Naples. Now he hopes it can help again.

He’s opened up his account, and is accepting donations through 7 a.m. EDT Friday. All funds will be handed over to La Tenda, to continue their work.

Jaime made the decision to do this yesterday, at the papal mass. He emailed “06880,” then clicked “send.”

Now all you have to do is click here, to help.

Sleeping With The Pope

As chairman of Westport’s Parks and Recreation Commission, Charlie Haberstroh takes his job seriously. So the other day he read a long Wall Street Journal story titled “The New Mattress Professionals.” Hey, beds are great spots for recreational activities, right?

Charlie plowed through tons of details about Eve and Casper, Leesa and Keetsa. These startups are apparently turning the mattress industry upside down, with new marketing techniques. One of those is “celebrity endorsements or associations.”

Near the end, this caught Charlie’s eye:

Pope Francis was expected to sleep on a memory foam relaxed firm queen-sized mattress by West Port, Conn.-based online luxury mattress startup Saatva’s Loom & Leaf division. The pontiff visited the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary near Philadelphia last weekend, according to Stephen Dolan, the seminary’s chief financial officer. Mr. Dolan said the mattress was donated but declined to comment further and referred questions to the company.

Saatva chief executive Ron Rudzin says he is “simply honored and blessed” by the news.

I could not find a photo of the pope and his mattress. So this will have to do.

I could not find a photo of the pope and his mattress. So this will have to do.

Stuart Carlitz, chief executive of Bedding Industries of America, which manufactures Saatva mattresses, says he was approached by representatives from the World Meeting of Families, who asked if he could supply a bed for the Holy Father…. Mr. Carlitz says he donated the Saatva mattress, which retails for $999.

Today is Sunday. That’s a work day for the pope, so I couldn’t call the Vatican to ask how he slept.

Saatva Ron Rudzin, in a press photo. That's the Saugatuck River behind him.

Saatva Ron Rudzin, in a press photo. That’s the Saugatuck River behind him.

I had never heard of Saatva — let alone known that it’s headquartered right here in 06880.

I checked the company’s website to learn more about their Westport connection. I could not find much — beyond CEO Rudzin saying he likes to fish in the Saugatuck River — but I did find this:

Saatva is the fastest growing online mattress company in the country. Our honest passion for making each customer happy is the daily mantra. Our non commissioned, courteous and expert representatives give honest “no pressure” guidance. Our teams working in our 14 ‘partnering’ American factories are so proud to be building a luxury product that is healthy for the body and safe for the environment.

Additionally, we believe in building long term friendships with our delivery teams throughout our fulfillment centers. We love the culture that we’ve created as we are a wonderfully diverse and spirited group of employees who enjoy doing our part to keep America building.

So where is Saatva located?

There is no address on their website. BBB Business Review says they’re at 8 Wright Street. MerchantCircle.com puts them at 25 Sylvan Lane South, Suite W.

I would have called headquarters to find out.

But it’s Sunday. Everyone is sleeping in.

In addition to sleeping on a Westport mattress, Pope Francis apparently made an unannounced visit to Landtech, the engineering consultant firm in Saugatuck.

In addition to sleeping on a Westport mattress, Pope Francis apparently made an unannounced visit to Landtech, the engineering consultant firm in Saugatuck.


Deacon Dave At The Papal Mass

Westport’s own David Clarke of Assumption Church was among the deacons chosen to give communion today at Pope Francis’ Madison Square Garden mass.

He not only had a prominent role — but check out the photo below. There’s a star right above his head!

Deacon Dave Clarke, front and center.

Deacon Dave Clarke, front and center.

In other papal Assumption news, Father Tom Thorne — the Riverside Avenue church pastor — was invited to the White House lawn, for this week’s welcome-to-America reception.

In a town like Westport, there must be many other Francis-related stories. If you’ve got one, click “Comments” to share.

(Hat tip: Nancy Axthelm)

A 2nd Selectman, A Rabbi And A Pope Go Into New York…

Westport 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner was crossing 72nd Street earlier today. Look what he saw:

Meanwhile, Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of Westport’s Conservative Synagogue had an even closer encounter with Pope Francis.

As he wrote his congregation earlier today:

This morning, I had the distinct honor of attending the Multi-Religious Gathering with Pope Francis at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. It was truly a day in my life that I will never forget.

Pope Francis, at the 9/11 Memorial. (Photo/Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn)

Pope Francis, at the 9/11 Memorial. (Photo/Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn)

In a room filled with clergy and representatives of all religions, the positive energy was palpable and contagious. I sat next to an amazing woman from the Sikh community, and we were surrounded by fellow Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish clergy. The symbolism of sitting together at Ground Zero–where so many lives were lost due to baseless hatred and terror-and instead joining hands in the spirit of peace, was nothing short of awe-inspiring. The humble presence of the Pope and his simple yet powerful plea for unity and reconciliation among all people left our hearts filled spirit and with hope.

As we approach Shabbat and look forward to celebrating Sukkot next week, let us all look forward to the day in which God spreads a sukkat shalom (shelter of peace) over the entire world.

Warm wishes for Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameach.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and Bishop James Massa, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.

Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn and Bishop James Massa, auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn.

The Pope, Stephen Colbert — And Luke Rosenberg

Pope Francis owns the media this week — and Stephen Colbert is no exception. The “Late Show” host devoted last night’s entire show to the charismatic pontiff.

The final segment featured 2 choral groups: The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus (with Christian, Jewish and Muslim youths) and the Choir of St. Jean Baptiste, affiliated with the Upper East Side cathedral of the same name. In the pope’s honor they sang a churchly version of “Joy to the World” (aka “Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog,” the old Three Dog Night ditty).

In the back row was Luke Rosenberg. His day job is choral director at Staples, where he’s taken the program to heavenly heights. One of his side gigs is singing with St. Jean Baptiste.

Luke Rosenberg is 2nd from left in the back row -- he's the guy with the beard.

Luke Rosenberg is 2nd from left in the back row —  the guy with the beard.

English is not Pope Francis’ forte. But if he happened to watch Colbert last night in his hotel room — or perhaps on an iPad in the back seat of his Fiat — chances are he would have found Luke’s choir’s rendition very joyful indeed.

(Click here for the “Late Show” segment. It begins around the 37:00 mark. Despite Pope Francis’ critiques of capitalism, you’ll have to sit through several commercials before it runs.)

Pope Francis’ Westport Crucifix

Thousands of people will be on hand next Sunday (September 27), as Pope Francis celebrates mass on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Millions more will watch around the globe.

They’ll admire the crucifix — the centerpiece of the backdrop, hanging on the reredos wall. They may know it was specially designed for the mass.

But they won’t know — unless they read it here — that the crucifix has a Westport connection.

Larry Hoy was commissioned to create the papal crucifix. He’s a longtime local resident — and a veteran of other pope visits.

Hoy made furnishings for Popes John Paul II in Central Park, and Benedict XVI at Ground Zero and Yankee Stadium.

Larry Hoy, with one of his previous papal thrones.

Larry Hoy, with one of his previous papal thrones.

His design this time is in keeping with Pope Francis’ austere aesthetics. It’s constructed of composition gold-leafed wood, rather than the usual real gold leaf.

“Normally we’d use real gold,” Hoy says. “But we were instructed to use the composition gold, which is not a precious metal.”

The cross also has a corpus that was donated by a closed Philadelphia parish church.

“In soccer, 3 goals is called a hat trick,” says Hoy, whose son Dylan played 2 years at Staples and now stars at Wesleyan University.

“The pope’s hat is called a miter. So I guess I have a miter trick.”

Pope Francis, According To Paul Baumann

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday — and riffing off something the novelist Walker Percy supposedly said — Paul Baumann noted that the next pope “should be a bit of a Californian.”

Paul Baumann

Paul Baumann

By that, Baumann– editor of Commonweal (the oldest independent lay-edited Catholic opinion journal in the US), and a 1969 Staples graduate — meant that Rome must be willing “to think anew about once settled understandings of sexual morality and about how the church is governed.”

The future, Baumann wrote 4 days before a new pope was selected,

will surprise us as much as Benedict XVI’s resignation did. Rome should prepare to be joyously surprised by what is new, for that is what the church’s founder promised.

So was Baumann surprised — joyously or otherwise — by the choice of Pope Francis?

Not completely.

“It looks as though the cardinals went with a colleague they felt they knew well,” the Commonweal editor said of the runner-up at the previous conclave.

“Pope Francis appears to be very conservative theologically, much in the manner of John Paul II. His election is another reminder of how insular the hierarchy remains, but that should not be much of a surprise either.”

So what does Francis’s election mean for local Catholics? “Steady as she goes, I imagine,” the Westport native said.

However, he added, “the new pope’s emphasis on the problems of the poor might mean that American Catholics generally will be asked to do more on social justice issues.”