Ann Marie Somma

Ann Marie Somma is editor of

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Lifetree Cafes Offer Space for Tough Topics

by Ann Marie Somma 06-07-2013
Axel Lauer/Shutterstock.

Avenue of blossoming trees. Axel Lauer/Shutterstock.

On a recent Monday evening, a room inside Christ Community Church was transformed into a coffeehouse with fresh-brewed coffee, plenty of popped kettle corn and the thorny subject of racism on the table.

For an hour, about 20 people gathered around tables, shared personal experiences about racism, watched a short documentary and answered questions meant to stimulate conversation.

The event is called Lifetree Cafe, and it’s a new evangelical tool gaining popularity with churches reaching out to potential members.

Old-School Confessional Revives Saying ‘I’m Sorry’

by Ann Marie Somma 04-29-2013
RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

The new confessional at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Church, RNS photo by Ann Marie Somma/Hartford Faith & Values.

DERBY, Conn. — The Rev. Janusz Kukulka can’t say for sure that his parishioners are sinning more, but they sure are lining up at the new confessional booth to tell him about it.

For years, Kukulka, was content with absolving sins in a private room marked by an exit sign to the right of the altar St. Mary the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

But something happened during Lent this year. For the first time, Kukulka really noticed the two confessionals missing from the rear of his church. They’d been gone for four decades, ripped out during the 1970s to make room for air conditioning units during a renovation inspired by the Second Vatican Council.

They must have been a thing of beauty, Kukulka thought. He imagined their dark oak paneled doors and arched moldings to match the Gothic architecture of the church designed by renowned 19th-century architect Patrick Keely.

Their absence was striking, especially when the Archdiocese of Hartford had asked parishes to extend their confession hours during Lent, part of a public relations campaign to get Catholics to return to the sacrament of reconciliation.

So, one Sunday Kukulka announced his desire to the congregation. “I told them I wanted a visible confessional,” he said.

He got one within a week.

Descendants Want Justice for Connecticut Witches

by Ann Marie Somma 10-02-2012
RNS HartfordFAVS photo by Ann Marie Somma

Anthony Griego and members of the Connecticut Wiccan & Pagan Network. RNS HartfordFAVS photo by Ann Marie Somma

HARTFORD, Conn. — At age 82, Bernice Mable Graham Telian doubts she'll live long enough to see the name of her great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother and 10 others hanged in colonial Connecticut for witchcraft cleared.

Telian was researching her family tree when she discovered that her seventh grandmother, Mary Barnes of Farmington, Conn., was sent to the gallows at the site of the old State House in Hartford in 1663.

"You won't find Mary's grave. She and all these people who were hanged were dumped in a hole. Their graves aren't marked. They wanted them to be forgotten," said Telian, a retired university administrator who now lives in Delhi, NY.