Shelton parish is a place to ‘find joy’

The Rev. Ciprian Bejan has been pastor at St. Margaret Mary Church since Sept. 15 and has been spending a lot of his time getting to know parishioners. He was officially installed during a ceremony on Nov. 15.

ejan, who was ordained a priest in 2000 in his native Romania, has a clear direction in mind for his parish.

“We’re striving to make our church a welcoming place where people can find joy,” Bejan said. “Many times we feel empty and lonely inside. We invite people to fill their hearts with a joy of having a relationship with God.

“My mission is to help people have a close relationship with Jesus,” he said, and help them “become missionaries of joy. We’re a joyful community of believers.”

St. Margaret Mary Church serves about 800 families, he said, and most are from Shelton. The Roman Catholic church, at 50 Donovan Lane, was built in 1976.

The original church building was nearby, on Long Hill Avenue, where the Shelton Board of Education offices are located now.

Church services were conducted in the gymnasium of the parish school, and when the school closed, the building was sold to the city.

A new culture

Bejan, who grew up under communism, was first assigned to a parish in Bucharest and in 2003 came to the United States at the request of then Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

He served for seven years as associate pastor at St. Michael Church in Greenwich and then for a short time as chaplain at Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.

Bejan said he had to adjust to a different mind-set when he came to this country. “The mentality in American society is different,” he said. “I was impressed by the faith that people have and how much God plays a role in people’s lives.

“The tendency in Europe is once you have a well-established life, God is put on the back burner,” he said.

Bejan also noticed another cultural difference. “In Europe, everything revolves around the home,” he said. “Here, everything revolves around work.”

An active parish

St. Margaret Mary’s Church offers five Masses each weekend, including two on Saturday and three on Sunday morning.

The church is also offering a video series on Catholicism, presented by Father Robert Barron every other Monday night at 7 p.m. in the church hall.

The pastor in residence is the Rev. Nello Barachini. “He’s a great help,” Bejan said.

“We have a wonderful religious education program,” Bejan said, “and a very active youth group.”

Young people involved in activities

About 30 teenagers from the parish will attend a religious retreat for a weekend in December

Young people coordinate a Youth Mass once a month, and the church also has a men’s league, a ladies guild and a bereavement program, and bingo is offered on Tuesday nights.

The parish collects food for the Spooner House and is involved in other service projects with Blessed Sacrament Church in Bridgeport and the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Derby.

Parishioners collect gifts for children in need by participating in the annual Star Tree event.

There’s a children’s choir and an adult choir, under the direction of the choir cantor, Sarah Widomski.

Church members host a parish picnic in September, a parish Christmas party in December, and a Holly Fair with crafts and food, which took place Dec. 6 this year.

Bejan said he will continue to help his parishioners be “joyful and spread that joy. The Gospel can’t be confined.

"If our faith plays a great role in our lives, that joy expands," he continued. "The Holy Spirit will take us to the next step.”