BRIDGEPORT– “This is first and foremost a day to say thank you to Our Lord. Thank you for choosing them as priests and for choosing us who have come after them,” said Msgr. William Scheyd Saturday morning at the special Mass of Commemoration for Deceased Priests and Deacons.
“We owe them a debt of gratitude. Each and every one was chosen by God to do his work and be ministers of the Gospel. Just as God has chosen us in our faults and failings,” said Msgr. Scheyd.
Bishop Caggiano, who served as principal celebrant, was joined by diocesan priests and deacons and their wives for the yearly Mass for Deceased Clergy, celebrated on the first Saturday in November each year. He said that during this month of All Saints and All Souls observances, the Mass is an opportunity to pray for the repose of souls of deceased clergy and to offer thanks for their lifetime of service.
In his homily, Msgr. Scheyd said that remembering deceased clergy and bishops unites the diocese in faith and reminds us of the promise of our own “homecoming and participation in the Union of Souls given through baptism.”
Msgr. Scheyd said he recently visited the Priests Circle at St Michael Cemetery in Stratford and was surprised to see that many of the early priests of the diocese died in their 30’s and 40’s and were not blessed with long lives.
He said that while to many the life of a priest may look placid on the outside, that all priests have their challenges, including being too hard on themselves as they try to live up to the privilege of their priestly ministry.
“All priests are chosen by God to do what we do. God has chosen all of us in our faults and failings,” he said, adding that priests should take confidence in the Lord’s love, “because Jesus died for our sins and redeemed us in his Resurrection.”
Msgr. Scheyd delivered an affectionate remembrance of the Most Rev. Walter W. Curtis, Second Bishop of Bridgeport, noting that October was the 25th anniversary of the Bishop’s death in 1997.
He said Bishop Curtis was born in 1913, grew up in Jersey City, and was named the second Bishop of Bridgeport in 1961 at the age of 48. He retired in 1988, and died at the age of 84.
Describing Bishop Curtis as a “man of his times,” Msgr. Scheyd, who was ordained by the Bishop Curtis in 1965, and later went on to serve as his Vicar General, said the Bishop was profoundly changed by his participation in Vatican II. When he returned from the Second Vatican Council in Rome, the bishop sold the episcopal residence in the Brooklawn section of Fairfield and moved into two rooms at the Cathedral.
He said that Bishop Curtis, who was a moral theologian, adopted a lifestyle of simplicity. He enjoyed city life, having people around him, and fully engaging in the life of the Cathedral parish. He also looked forward to the yearly food festival—waiting each year to enjoy the Belgium waffles!
When the L’Ambiance Tower construction project collapsed in 1987, taking the lives of 28 construction workers across the street from the Cathedral, Bishop Curtis was among the first to be on the scene of the disaster, and he immediately began ministering to workers and families. He also stood beside the family of the last victim at 1:30 a.m. when the body was recovered later in the week.
Throughout the long search and rescue process he inspired many as he stood outside praying the rosary each night in the chilly sprint weather, Msgr. Scheyd said. “He was a priest and a bishop of great kindness, goodness and compassion.”
After the homily, Bishop Caggiano lead the Universal Prayer, “God, the Father Almighty, raised Jesus from the dead and He will give. Life to our own mortal bodies. We pray to him faith.” The priests responded, “Lord, bring us to life in Christ.”
The bishop concluded the prayer with these words, “Grant, Lord, we pray, that as our faith is built on the Risen Christ, so too ma our hope be steadfast, as we await the resurrection of your faithful from the dead. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord.”
Before giving the final blessing Bishop Caggiano thanked Msgr. Scheyd for the glimpse he offered into the life of Bishop Curtis, and said the Mass for Deceased Clergy was “a day of thanksgiving and intercession, and a gesture of thanks for those who came before us, and upon their shoulder we stand.”