Top: Rev. Stephen Bálint, wearing vestment with St. Emery's image, in St. Emery Church, Fairfield, CT (photo by Debbie Soos); bottom: Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, O.Cist.
Rev. Stephen J. Bálint (1938-2020)
A third generation Hungarian-American, he was born in Bridgeport, CT on December 21st, 1938, and attended St. Stephen parochial school there. Joining the Boy Scouts, he achieved Eagle Scout status. After studying at Fairfield College Prep School, he went on to St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, CT, and continued at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Albany, NY. He was ordained at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport in 1965.
From 1965 to 1967, Fr. Bálint served as Assistant at St. Joseph parish in Danbury, CT and at St. Ambrose parish in Bridgeport from 1967 to 1970. Then he was named Associate Pastor of the Team Ministry at the same parish, a new diocesan experiment at the time.
The Pomperaug (CT) Council of the Boy Scouts of America made him their Council Chaplain in 1968, a position he held for three years. In 1971, he became Coordinator of Catholic Boy Scout Activities in the Norwalk-Ridgefield area. He served the Connecticut Yankee Council of the BSA for many years, receiving numerous honors and awards. Among those writing their condolences were several men who gratefully acknowledged Fr. Bálint’s guidance in their Scouting days.
For close to 40 years, Fr. Bálint was Resident Priest at St. Ladislaus parish in South Norwalk, CT where he regularly said Mass in fluent Hungarian and coordinated the Hungarian ministry. A highlight of his life, and of the life of the parish was the historic visit of Cardinal Mindszenty to St. Ladislaus in 1974. On his reassignment, the parishioners gave him a farewell dinner. He then became Hungarian Assistant at St. Emery Church in Fairfield as long as his health permitted. In South Norwalk, Fr. Bálint was Chaplain and 4th Degree Lifetime Member of the Knights of Columbus Council 1253.
Poor health caused him to retire from the Bridgeport Diocese in 2014, and although he moved into Queen of the Clergy Residence in Stamford, CT, he assisted at celebrating Mass at St. Bridget of Ireland parish.
He died on May 16th, 2020. A prayer service was held for him on My 26th at St. Ann’s parish in Bridgeport, with interment at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Stratford. A public invited Mass will be celebrated by Bishop Frank Caggiano at a future date.
May he rest in peace!
Abbot Denis Farkasfalvy, O.Cist. (1936-2020)
Born in Székesfehérvár and baptized Miklós, he was educated by the Cistercians until 1948, when the school was suppressed. A visit to the Cistercian Abbey of Zirc for the Easter celebration in 1949 made such a profound impression on him that he resolved to become a monk. He continued his education at the Benedictine Abbey school in Pannonhalma.
In 1950, Zirc was also suppressed but he joined the clandestine Cistercian novitiate in 1955, in Budapest, under the pretense of being a Law student.
During the few days of freedom achieved by the Revolution of 1956, the Abbot of Zirc was released, and he sent the young men studying to be monks out of the country to make sure they would have the opportunity to finish their studies and be ordained. Fr. Denis completed his theological studies in Rome. He was ordained in Austria in July of 1961.
Eventually, he became an accomplished theologian, publishing many works of Theology both in Hungarian and in English, and his translations of the Psalms and hymns for the Roman Breviary in Hungarian are highly regarded. Pope St. John Paul II appointed him to the Pontifical Biblical Commission.
He came to Texas in 1962, where he served as Chaplain to the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, who helped him to learn English, while he studied for a degree in Mathematics, to be applied at the newly founded Cistercian Prep School (Fr. Denis taught Mathematics there for 40 years.) He served at the Prep School as the second Headmaster, from 1969 to 1974, and 1975 to 1981. We read in the official obituary: ”Although he did not found the school (it was founded in 1962. Ed.), his brilliant, intense, insightful and decisive attitude cleared the atmosphere of confusion and allowed him to instill the extraordinarily high ideals he and the community envisioned for education.”
The monastic community elected Fr. Denis as their second Abbot in 1988, and he served 4 terms until his retirement in 2012. Under his leadership, the Abbey Church was constructed of two-ton blocks of limestone in 1992. Shortly after the 10th anniversary of the Church’s consecration (see article ewlsewhere in this issue), over a dozen young American vocations flowed in from the Prep School, the University of Dallas which the Hungarian Cistercians had been instrumental in establishing years before, and elsewhere.
”Through him, God has undoubtedly left an important mark on the monastery, school, and university, on the whole city of Dallas (he won the Catholic Foundation Award in 2016), on theology throughout the world, on the Church at large, on the history of our whole Order, and on countless individuals.”
Fr. Denis suffered from complications of multiple ailments, which were compounded by the Covid-19 virus. He died on May 20th, 2020.
May he rest in peace!