About Helen Burland

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So far Helen Burland has created 47 blog entries.

Graduation 2019: Different Gifts

June 5th was a big day for Donte, Jack, and Jennifer, who graduated from Saint Catherine Academy during a special Mass celebrated by Msgr. Robert Weiss. “God gave each of us a different gift,” he said in his homily, “but the same God lives in us all.” He then acknowledged the special gifts each of the graduates had shared with their classmates, praising Jennifer as “the best spreader of peanut butter and a good friend to everyone”; Donte for “a smile that never stops and keeps us happy”; and Jack for “the best bow tie in the room—and when he hugs you, you know you’re loved.” Donte and Jennifer have both at the Academy for 11 years; Jack has been with us for the past year. Msgr. Weiss also thanked the graduates’ parents for the “love with which you’ve accepted this special responsibility.” “We all have a responsibility to bring happiness to this world, even when people are mean,” encouraged Msgr. Weiss. “We have to try to keep loving, knowing how much we are loved by God.” Anna, Jaheim, and Ron gave the readings and intercessions, which were chosen by the graduates. Along with classmates and staff, members of the three families watched proudly as Dr. Steve Cheeseman, Superintendent of the Diocesan Schools, presented the Certificates of Completion. At the end of Mass, Jennifer led the group in singing her signature song, “This Little Light of Mine.” A lunch and individual cakes for each graduate followed the Mass. Donte and Jack will continue in the Center’s Adult Day Program. View the photos

By | June 14th, 2019|Front Page News, News|0 Comments

The Joy of Singing Together

“What I really enjoy about singing in the choir is singing together,” says Anna Stowe, a Saint Catherine Academy student who has been part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s Youth Choir (otherwise known as “C4Y”) for the past year and a half. The choir, which boasts more than 120 members, was formed at Bishop Caggiano’s special request to bring youth together in community while cultivating their talents. Anna, who is 15 (“almost 16”) and an alto, had always enjoyed singing at her school in Chicago. When the family moved to Connecticut a couple of years ago, Anna’s mother Jill contacted the C4Y director, Mary Higgins. Anna met Mrs. Higgins and auditioned with the National Anthem—not an easy song! “I was a little nervous, but really excited,” said Anna. The next day Mrs. Higgins called to invite her to join. The choir is a serious commitment, with rehearsals every Tuesday night for an hour and a half. Because members are spread across the Diocese, Mrs. Higgins travels to multiple locations over the week to rehearse in small groups. At the Christmas concert, Anna was called forward to play the tambourine during a special song. “I watched her walk across the stage," her mother said. "When Anna joined the choir, I wanted her to be part of the crowd—not treated special—but that she was made extra special at the concert was humbling.” Anna took it all in stride.

By | March 12th, 2019|Front Page News, News|0 Comments

PB&J Days – A Role for Everyone

This article was posted on the Fairfield County Catholic website. FAIRFIELD—Every third Friday morning you’ll find a lively group of students and staff from Saint Catherine Academy and volunteers from the Order of Malta engaged in a signature project: the creation of 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport. (See more photos...) “This is a project that provides a sense of purpose in multiple ways,” says Helen Burland, executive director, who proposed the community service idea—called “PB&J Fridays”—shortly after she came to Saint Catherine Center. “Our students are on the receiving end of so much service and generosity. We wanted them to experience the joy of giving back as well,” commented Burland. The Order of Malta was a willing partner, as it promotes hands-on involvement in the organizations that they support. Four or five volunteers from the order currently participate each month. The Center has even had guest “chefs,” including Bishop Caggiano. Students and staff set up long tables in the gym at Saint Catherine Center and Malta volunteers bring in the supplies. The assembly line forms in a familiar symmetry: stacks of bread, peanut butter spreaders, jelly dippers and smoothers, sandwich-cutters, bag-inserters and packagers. Some students help as they can unsealing the sandwich bags and getting them ready. Soon music is playing and the room begins to smell like whole wheat and peanuts. There’s a sense of purpose, but also of fun. You hear a lot of laughter, as well as words of encouragement at every station. “There’s a role for everyone, whatever their ability,” says Burland. The project helps the students of Saint Catherine Academy learn practical motor skills, as well as the value and importance of patience and

By | March 4th, 2019|Front Page News, News|0 Comments

The Annual Christmas Pageant: “God Wanted This Amazing News to Get Around”

“Who would have guessed that the King of Kings, Jesus the Christ, would be born upon the hay in a stable? God wanted this amazing news to get around.” Saint Catherine Academy welcomed Christmas with music and a lot of love in our annual Christmas Pageant, “The Message of an Angel,” on December 21st. More than 200 family members and friends attended, including Bishop Caggiano, who remarked, “This pageant is the finest homily to show the meaning of Christmas.” There was a role for everyone in the script written by Sr. Eileen Boffa, directed by Sr. Cheryl Driscoll, and assisted by all the Academy teachers and assistants. The Angel Gabriel (Anna) narrated the beloved story, joined by Philip, Jack, Luke, and Ron as shepherds; and Donte beaming as both shining star and one of the three kings along with Fabricio and Frank. The band of angels (Lizabeth, Nyah, and Lindsy) brought tidings of great joy to Mary (Jennifer), Joseph (Jaheim), and the newborn Jesus (beautifully “performed” by Ella). Each student presented their own personal “gift” to Jesus—including “joy,” “helping,” “kindness,” “singing,” “smiling,” “affection,” “friendly,” “a loving heart”—and a rousing “Enthusiasm!” exclaimed by Ron. The event was followed by a reception and visit from Santa, hosted by members of the Order of Malta, and the Knights of Columbus. At the conclusion, Helen asked guests to consider what their gift to Jesus would be this Christmas. “Each of us is an innkeeper,” she said. “You have to decide whether you will make room for Jesus.” It’s a consideration not just for the Christmas season, but for all year. View more photos.

By | January 4th, 2019|Front Page News, News|0 Comments

A Smooth Start to the School Year

Saint Catherine Academy students and staff were excited to see each other again and get the new academic year rolling, settling into familiar routines and adjusting to new ones. Almost two weeks later we’ve already had our first fire drill—receiving a thumbs-up from the Fairfield Fire Department—and played our first kickball game, evoking big smiles and high-fives at every base. Like new shoots in a garden, there are already signs of individual growth in every class—such as advancing to double-digit addition, starting a new reader, or to learning a new word in sign language. Some students have taken on new roles as leaders in their class, welcoming others and helping when they can. “They are becoming good friends to each other,” said Mrs. LaPorta. Often the most enjoyable moments of the day are in the smallest activities, done together—singing attendance in Mrs. LaPorta’s class; picking out lockers in Sr. Cheryl’s; going to the grocery store for supplies with Mrs. Mitchell’s class; and enjoying a new reading corner with Mrs. McMahon. Mr. Matt is back with music class on Wednesdays, and students have been busy decorating project folders with our new Art teacher, Megan Collins. “It’s been a smooth start,” noted Eric Spencer, our new principal, who has been getting to know everyone, greeting students in the morning, sitting in on classes, and meeting parents in the afternoons as they come to pick up their children. “In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve witnessed not only structured learning in the classroom, but daily acts of care and kindness. It’s obvious to me that students feel emotionally safe and nurtured by the staff. This is what makes Saint Catherine Academy such a special place.”  

By | November 2nd, 2018|Front Page News, News|0 Comments

“Oh, What a Night!”

Michael LaBella, recipient of the 2018 Leadership Award, was congratulated by Charles Chiusano (L), Chairman of the Board, and Helen Burland (R), Executive Director.  The Annual “Joy and Gratitude” Dinner on June 10th at Fairfield University was hugely successful, attracting nearly 300 guests and raising over $300,000 in much-needed support for Center programs. Michael LaBella, recipient of the 2018 Leadership Award. (Visit our Facebook page to see the photos!) The combination of a great Silent Auction, a unique array of Live Auction experiences, and the generosity of so many donors who raised their hands in the Call for Charity contributed to the event’s success. Funds raised in the Call for Charity will support the development of vocational and social enterprise opportunities for students and adult day participants. Three individuals were recognized for their contributions of time and talent to Saint Catherine: the late Dan Caruso (Community Service); Eileen Blees (Volunteer Service) for facilitating gym class at the Academy the past 10 years; and Michael LaBella (Leadership), for his contribution as a Board member. “It was a great evening in every aspect—the size of the gathering, the quality of the auctions and, of course, the guests,” noted Charles Chiusano, Chairman of the Board. “The food was excellent, and the results are a godsend!” Guests enjoyed the relaxed, summertime atmosphere. Numerous attendees said the event was “the best one ever” for the Center. “This event is like a family reunion for a great cause,” said one guest. “I get to relax, catch up with friends, and support this wonderful organization at the same time.” A special Thank You to all our Dinner Sponsors: Britta and Denis Nayden; GoldPoint Partners; Knights of Columbus Supreme Office; Dian Jennings

By | June 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Graduation 2018

Natalie with Brian Farrell (L), Director of Education and Dr. Steve Cheeseman (R) Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Bridgeport “You are the light of the world… your light must shine before others.” Matthew 5 June 12th was a special day for 2018 Saint Catherine Academy graduate Natalie Massaro and her family. A Graduation Liturgy and Mass for Center staff and friends was concelebrated by Monsignor Robert Weiss, a Center Board member, and Rev. Robert Kinnally, Pastor at St. Aloysius Church in New Canaan.   As he congratulated the proud graduate, Msgr. Weiss focused on the theme of the day’s Gospel from Matthew 5: “You are the light of the world…your light must shine before others.” He spoke to Natalie’s classmates about how important their role was—as friends, fellow students, and individuals with unique gifts. “Each one of you is very special,” he said, “it’s important to remember that.” Brian Farrell, Director of Education, complimented Natalie’s “amazing progress” and described how she has grown in her time at the Academy, both socially and academically. Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Bridgeport and a Saint Catherine Center Board member, then presented the Certificate of Completion. At a festive lunch reception following the Mass and ceremony, Natalie thanked all her teachers and aides for helping her along the way. She will be attending the Saint Catherine adult day program in the fall.

By | June 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Helen Burland Receives the McGivney Award

PLANTSVILLE - The Forty-Third Annual Connecticut State Council of the Knights of Columbus Venerable Father Michael McGivney Award was presented to Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs on March 25 at the AquaTurf Club in Plantsville, CT.   Established in 1975 by the Connecticut Sate Council to honor the ideals of the Order’s founder, Venerable Father McGivney, this award recognizes individuals who throughout their lives have made significant humanitarian, civic and social contributions to their state, church or country. Knights Councils from all over the state were represented at this annual event. Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Archbishop Emeritus of Hartford, offered the Invocation as Knights and their guests totaling over 400 gathered in fellowship. Steve Bacon, State Deputy introduced Burland as a “champion for people with disabilities” and acknowledged her “leadership in the establishment of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs and continued growth of Saint Catherine Academy. The need to provide quality programming for the most vulnerable among us is easy to overlook. Helen and her team is committed to this and is a reminder to all of us that this is an important mission. ” Although Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was unable to attend,  he sent his acknowledgement for Burland.  "I give thanks to God for your long and dedicated service to the individuals that you provide service for and their families,” he said in his message.  In her acceptance, Burland thanked the Knights for their support of the mission of Saint Catherine Academy and Saint Catherine Center. “You were with us from the start,” she commented. “You set up an endowment scholarship to help in the early years assisting families who wanted their children with disabilities to have access

By | April 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments

St. Catherine Students Shine A Light

December 22, 2017 Fairfield County Catholic FAIRFIELD—“What a remarkable experience of faith!” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano at the end of this year’s St. Catherine Academy Christmas Pageant. “Now I can say it’s really the beginning of the Christmas Season in our diocese!” said the bishop to the more than 200 people who turned out for this year’s pageant performed by students who with autism or intellectual or developmental disabilities. The audience, consisting of family and friends of St. Catherine’s, was treated to one of the best productions of the Nativity in years as the young players lifted their voices in song, performed in beautiful costumes, and dramatized the birth of Christ. St. Catherine Academy student Anthony Virgile led the production with his excellent narration and reading of scripture, while Natalie Massaro and Philip Palilla were audience favorites with their portrayal of Mary and Joseph. The 17-member cast sang many Christmas favorites including Silent Night, and This Little Light of Mine, and they were joined by the entire audience on O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Angels we Have Heard on High, Joy to the World, and Let There Be Peace on Earth.

By | January 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments

Chihuly: Organic Shapes and Brilliant Colors

    -- Fairfield -- This year the students are studying the American glass sculptor, Dale Chihuly, as part of their art curriculum. Inspired by the recent exhibition at the New York Botanical Gardens, Mrs. Barber, our art teacher introduced Chihuly to the students by showing them a glass globe with infused colors. Chihuly’s works are considered to possess outstanding artistic merit in the field of blown glass, "moving it into the realm of large-scale sculpture." The technical difficulties of working with glass forms are considerable, yet Chihuly uses it as the primary medium for installations and environmental artwork. When asked to comment on what inspired him, Chihuly looked to his childhood fascination with glass marbles. In the 1990s, Chihuly became involved in several significant public exhibitions that involved glass chandeliers, integrating architecture and glass sculpture. Chilhuly reported that he “was as interested in the way my art works in a public space as in the art itself.” Mrs. Barber and Mrs. Claus worked with the students, using clear plastic cups and markers to create pieces of our own chandelier that is now on display in our kitchen at the Center. The study of his art continued through the holidays when students made candy dishes that were very colorful as gifts for their families. Recently, they were introduced to sculpture as they create their own uniquely shaped and colored three-D art. Chihuly offered living canvases in his most recent exhibition that showcased his signature organic shapes in brilliant colors. It is so exciting to give our students the opportunity to be expressive with a variety of mediums and unlimited choices of color.

By | January 18th, 2018|News|0 Comments