BRIDGEPORT—For both the Melaragnos and the Murphys, leadership of the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal, the pandemic has been a time for noticing and stepping up to address the great need in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
“Many people are asking for help at a time when help isn’t as readily available,” explained Roxanne Melaragno.
The 2021 ACA theme is “Arise” and people around the diocese have truly “arisen” to the challenge during this difficult time, although the need is still great.
Roxanne and Jason Melaragno, parishioners of Holy Family/St. Emery Parish in Fairfield continue as chair couple for this year’s appeal and have been serving in leadership roles within their parish and at the diocese. Kelly Anne and Dan Murphy, parishioners for St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, continue a second year as vice chair couple.
Kelly Anne and Dan Murphy shared their experiences of volunteering at multiple food drives this summer. The couple volunteered at St. Catherine of Siena, St. Lawrence, the Thomas Merton Center and New Covenant Center, just to name a few.
“We learned that we need to direct generosity properly so that it reaches those in need,” shared Kelly Anne, referring to an experience at Blessed Sacrament Food Pantry in Bridgeport. “Many people that benefit from the food pantry come by on foot, so bulk items are often too heavy for them to carry.” Kelly Anne explained that with each food drive, the volunteers learned more and more about how to be intentional when it comes to donations.
“The manner in which we do outreach is different,” she said. “We have to be cognizant of what people’s needs are.”
“My experience volunteering during the pandemic has opened my eyes to what others really need and how we can meet those needs in new ways.”
The Melaragnos noticed how enthusiastic people were about being able to return to Mass. From early-March to mid-May, public Mass was not celebrated in the diocese due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was a great sacrifice for many, especially those who watched a relative or friend fall ill, buried a loved one, or remained in isolation, the effort was in order to observe the state’s shelter at home order and save many lives.
On May 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced a gradual return to public Mass to begin later that month. The Melaragnos explained that although virtual Masses were a wonderful addition and a way to keep people connected during the height of COVID-19, the return to public Mass was indeed an occasion for much joy.
“People realized how much they missed Mass,” shared Jason Melaragno.
At their home parish of Holy Family/St. Emery, they noticed that the goal was to take precautions to help people feel as comfortable as possible returning to Mass—that even included the addition of a Holy Water dispenser.
The Murphys also remarked that it was comforting to see people gradually returning to public Mass, and at their home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, all available seating has been filled since the middle of the summer.
That being said, the Murphys are very grateful for the ability to livestream and attend virtually, especially for the elderly or those at high-risk. Their hope is that parishes can continue to reach out to their parishioners via livestream.
The Murphys also praised the many opportunities that have become available for virtual group prayer and reflection. “More people are praying the Rosary virtually than ever before,” remarked Kelly Anne.
The Melaragnos praised the efforts of the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport to make sure staff and students were safe while still delivering instruction, and dispelling fear through transparent and hopeful messaging. The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, funded through the ACA, is there for students who may not have the ability to receive Catholic education otherwise, a cause that is of great importance to the chair couple.
“As we look towards 2021, the need will continue, but we are both eager to see how the ACA will be able to help people,” said Jason.
He explained that he and his wife’s focus for this year’s appeal is participation. He hopes that participation can be at 100%, even without a specific dollar amount, in order to more readily help those in need. “We see that as an opportunity to both display their Catholic faith and enhance their faith.”
“We can call on donors to act heroically,” said the Murphys. “With the help of the ACA, we hopefully will get back to something vaguely better than normal by continuing to learn and through people engaging with their faith in different ways.”
(To learn more about the 2021, Arise, Annual Catholic Appeal or to make a gift, please visit 2021ACABridgeport.com or call 203.416.1470. Thank you for your support.)