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  “Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta   Our community at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs was saddened this week by the sudden passing of one of our own. Catherine McClinch was a young woman who attended both Saint Catherine Academy and most recently was part of our newly formed Adult Day program. But she was much more than that. Catherine had a love of life – holidays were a favorite. Well into January, she would greet you with “Happy New Year” or “Happy Easter” following for weeks after the Easter Bunny was long gone. “Good morning Maureen Smile” was her way of addressing Sr. Maureen. And she was most content when her beloved Miss Sonia was within arm’s reach. Catherine brought to Saint Catherine’s a reminder to all of us that the measure of one’s life is simply in the relationships you have and the people you impacted. Upon learning of Catherine’s passing, we heard from volunteers, bus drivers, the woman at the counter at the Y – all telling stories of how Catherine had brought a smile to their day. All of us have been humbled by her perseverance in the face of life’s challenges and the simple joy that she chose to adopt. We will continue to smile when we are reminded of Catherine in music class or swimming at the Y; playing basketball in the gym or eating her ice pop. We each have that special moment that will remain with us. We are blessed to have known her and we are challenged to move forward and be the best person we can be every

By | January 27th, 2016|News|0 Comments

“Let There Be Peace on Earth”

Let There Be Peace on Earth Fairfield -- The joy and Christmas spirit was everywhere as the students presented “Jesus our Light” on December 23rd at Saint Catherine Academy. With a standing room only crowd, the students shared the story of the birth of Jesus with a moving introduction from Jesus as an adult, played by Anthony. This year’s production was written by Sr. Eileen Boffa, RSM and directed by Saint Catherine’s own Sr. Cheryl Driscoll, RSM. Each student is involved in the pageant. This year, Mary was played by Natalie and Joseph by Angel. At times, the stage was filled with angels and shepherds as well as a beautiful dramatization of the arrival of the Three Wise Men to the music of “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Before the Pageant began, Helen Burland welcomed the audience with special acknowledgment to the “Pageant Groupies”, those who have become regular attendees to this annual event. Bishop Caggiano, Sr. Mary Grace Walsh and Monsignor Thomas Powers, Vicar general of the Diocese were recognized. Ms. Burland was joined by Charles Chiusano, Chair of the Board of Directors as they thanked Al Barber and Sr. Mary Grace for their service to the Board. Both have step down from their Board positions. The audience showed their appreciation for their commitment to the mission of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs with a warm round of applause. Then the show began. Throughout the pageant, the audience was asked to join the cast in song. When the students began “This Little Light of Mine” and each had a candle that lit the stage, the audience was spellbound. When the cast and audience sang “Let There be Peace on Earth”, the power

By | January 12th, 2016|News|0 Comments

Christmas Tree Decorating at the Knights of Columbus Museum

The students worked all fall with art teacher, Gina Barber, to create decorations for a tree at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT. This annual program is a favorite of everyone at Saint Catherine Academy. The theme this year is crèches from Germany. The students worked with Miss Darlene, Sr. Maureen, Mary Claus, volunteer in our art class and Gina to create different ornaments that would have been part of a traditional Christmas Tree in Germany. Garland of gingerbread men and a tree topper added the finishing touches. The volunteers at the Museum treated the students and staff to a morning of Christmas activities highlighted by hot chocolate and donuts. The Museum is open to the public free of charge and the Christmas tree display and Crèches will be at the Museum until Feb. 1st.      

By | December 10th, 2015|News|0 Comments

A Visit to the Fairfield Police Department

--Fairfield Mrs. LaPorta's and Ms. Darlene's Vocational Class took a community field trip to the Fairfield Police Department to learn how the Police Department operates. Upon arrival, the students were met by Lt. Jim Perez who shoed the students all around the department including where people are fingerprinted, and put in a jail cell. We were then escorted down a ramp where Vanessa was asked to push a button and a door opened to a small garage. It was explained to us that this is where the criminals are brought into the station for booking. The highlight of this trip was being shown the police motorcycles, police cars and the mobile command unit. Each student prepared questions to learn about the different aspects of the Police Department. Lt. Perez was most helpful in answering all of the different questions, such as "What are handcuffs made of?" "How long do prisoners stay in jail?" "Are special needs people treated differently than others?" It was a very informative and interesting trip that all the students enjoyed!   

By | October 20th, 2015|News|0 Comments

Starry Night: A view from Saint Catherine Academy

Starry Night, was the culmination of a yearlong study of Vincent Van Gogh for our students and adult participants at the St Catherine Center for Special Needs. Gina Barber, our dedicated volunteer art teacher, spent the 2014-2015 school year exposing our students and adult participants to the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Our artists painted sunflowers to be used as centerpieces for the Gala, made containers based on Starry Night to hold cookies baked for the bus drivers as holiday gifts, 3D chairs to represent Van Gogh’s painting Chair, and painted cats similar to those depicted in many of his paintings. The students utilized the Van Gogh theme for the decorations for our award winning Christmas tree for the Knights of Columbus Museum, creating a nativity scene and stars to adorn the tree. Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night in 1889 while living in Saint Remy, France. He would gaze out his window each evening and watch the night sky break into morning. The bright star in the painting is the planet Venus. The hamlet pictured is invented and the church spire is reminiscent of his native Netherlands. He used his imagination and memory to create this spectacular piece of work which is one of his most recognized and sought after image. For our rendering of Starry Night, Gina divided the painting into 17 sections, giving each of the students and adults a piece of the painting. Each artist created their own interpretation on a 16” X 12” canvas using paint and pastels creating a textured panel depicting their individual scene. When that was complete, Gina put the pieces together on a 6’ X 4’ board creating the stunning final masterpiece. When the finished product

By | October 2nd, 2015|News|0 Comments

Knights of Columbus brighten the halls of St. Catherine Academy

Knights of Columbus Councils from St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa churches in Trumbull and St. Lawrence in Shelton recently volunteered to paint more than 4,000 square feet of St. Catherine Academy in Fairfield. Knights and volunteers from the three churches painted the school’s main hallway, receptionist office, physical therapy room and vocational room over the course of four days. The school’s hadn’t been painted in roughly 4 years and needed a fresh coat of paint as well as spackling in several places. "This is a wonderful act of faith in action. We are so appreciative of the time and effort that was put in to make our building shine! I hope that members of these councils will be regular visitors to Saint Catherine's. They are always welcomed!"  Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs exclaimed. St. Catherine Academy is a special education school serving students of all faiths who are impacted with autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities. The facility is intentionally designed to help students transition from former environments to one that encourages greater independence. Students develop positive self-esteem and self-confidence while acquiring the necessary skills to reach their potential for independent living or a return to a mainstream environment. “As Knights of Columbus, it is our duty to act upon Jesus’ teaching of loving thy neighbor as thyself,” said Christian Meagher, grand knight of Knights of Columbus Council 5806 at St. Catherine of Siena. “When Helen told us that the school needed a new coat of paint, brothers from these three councils enthusiastically answered the call. We were all proud to help this wonderful school and support its mission to make sure everyone get a quality education and

By | August 21st, 2015|News|0 Comments

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The weather was not picture perfect but nothing could dampen the fun of a day at the ballpark. The students in the summer program at Saint Catherine Academy and the young adults who are participating on the adult day program at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs were treated to a BlueFish baseball game at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport. Bob Scinto donated his box so everyone could attend. “Before we went to the game, we talked about baseball and the BlueFish players with some of the students and young adults,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director.  “It helps to share information ahead of time so that everyone gets the most out of the experience. “ “This was my first baseball game,” reported Vanessa. “I didn’t understand it at first but I eventually did. I really liked the music that they played.” “I had a great time,” said Anthony. “It was really exciting when the players from each side got into an argument about the umpires call.” During the game, the fans from Saint Catherine had a special visitor, the BlueFish mascot, who came and spent some time with them. “It was lot of fun seeing the mascot dancing with us, “said Natalie. It was a wonderful afternoon and best of all, the BlueFish won!

By | July 17th, 2015|News|0 Comments

Celebrating St. Catherine’s First Student

(Reprinted from Fairfield County Catholic- Pat Hennessy) When James Barry stepped off the bus on the opening day of school at St. Catherine Academy on August 30, 1999, he was the first student to be welcomed into the new school. With his graduation on June 8, his years at St. Catherine's came to fulfillment. St. Catherine's is the only Catholic school in Connecticut for children with special needs. "Our program begins with a strong emphasis on academics, and through the years that percentage reduces to make time for vocational skill development," says Helen Burland, St. Catherine's executive director. James, who has Downs syndrome, reflected recently on his years at St. Catherine's. "Math is my best subject," he says of the academic program. "I'm a math whiz. That and history. I love history." Classes at St. Catherine Academy have led to a life-long love of learning. James became a devoted follower of the History Channel, building an even wider knowledge of the recent and ancient past. "James excelled in this subject area," says Burland. While a strong academic program is central, St. Catherine's focuses on preparing students with special needs for life, ranging far beyond academic subjects.  The curriculum meets each individual at their own level and works on developing the life lessons needed for independence and, when students need it, development of social and interpersonal skills. That last item is one James definitely never lacked. "he's a happy-go-lucky fellow, always pulling jokes," says Sister Cheryl Driscoll, RSM, his language arts teacher. "And he's very, very kind to other students." Brian Farrell, director of education at St. Catherine's agrees. "He goes out of his way to welcome new students,' he says. "His ability to bring everybody

By | July 9th, 2015|News|0 Comments

The Center adds a Coordinator of Health Services

--Fairfield- Yvonne Pacifico has joined the staff at Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs as the Coordinator of Health Services. In this position, Yvonne will coordinate services with the Town of Fairfield Public Health Office and with the Department of Developmental Services as she serves both the students at Saint Catherine Academy as well as the individuals who are enrolled in the newly approved Adult Services Day Program. She will be managing, planning, implementing and evaluating the health programs at the Center. Yvonne is a Registered Nurse with a Bachelors Degree in Nursing from Adelphi University and a Masters Degree in Nursing Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. Yvonne joins Saint Catherine Center following a twenty year career with the Fairfield Health Department. In addition, she continues to practice her nursing profession as a clinical nurse at Bridgeport Hospital and as an Adjunct Clinical Instructor at Fairfield University. “This appointment represents a significant addition to our program and staff,” said Helen Burland, Executive Director of Saint Catherine Center for Special Needs. “We are so fortunate that Yvonne was ready to retire from her role with Fairfield Public Health Department at this time.”

By | February 25th, 2015|News|0 Comments

In the Greenhouse

While there is a foot of snow outside, our students have been able to continue to work at Gilbertie's Herb Farm inside the greenhouse. They are growing rosemary and the students weeded all of the pots before they are delivered to the retail stores. This is a great fine motor skill developer as well as a good team building experience. It gave all of us a chance to go home and look up some good recipes that use rosemary. The Farm is a great place for our students to learn so many wonderful new things!

By | January 30th, 2015|News|0 Comments