RIDGEFIELD—With the month of May traditionally devoted to Mary, St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield kicked it off with a “May Crowning.”
Young girls of the parish were invited to bring a flower from their own garden to Mass on Sunday, May 2. The oldest girl at the 10:30 am Mass placed a flower crown on the statue of Mary, followed by a short procession with song.
Afterward, everyone was invited to add their flowers to a vase next to our Blessed Mother and kneel before her for a moment of prayer.
It was well attended and God blessed the morning with incredibly beautiful weather. The Knights of Columbus constructed a liter to carry the statue for the procession. The Blessed Mother statue is on the right of the altar in the Nancy Bossidy Rec Center and can be venerated all throughout the month of May.
May Crowning is a special Marian devotion held during the month of May to honor Mary, Mother of Jesus as “Queen of May. The traditional ritual includes a procession to the statue of the Blessed Mother where she is crowned with a garland or crown of flowers.
BRIDGEPORT—In the din of everyday life and a world that is often chaotic, many young men may not hear the call to priesthood, and they often lack the encouragement they need to discern a vocation, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said on Good Shepherd Sunday.
In his online Mass from the Catholic Center, the bishop said “there are men in our midst whom the Lord is calling to the sacred priesthood,” but they may struggle to move forward without our support.
”We are in need of good holy priests to continue to guide us as shepherds. On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the Church asks us to pray for vocations and for our priests that they may be worthy shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd. I ask you to pray that they may be faithful to the end, and I ask you to pray for me.”
In his homily for the fourth Sunday of Easter, Bishop Caggiano reflected on the Gospel of John (10 11-18 ) 14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.”
The bishop said that of all the titles the lord ascribed to himself, the most endearing and beautiful is that of the Good Shepherd.
In the agrarian world in which Jesus lived, the relationship between shepherd and sheep would have been well understood by the people and would have resonated with them in a powerful way, he said.
“The sheep are guided by the Shepherd who leads them forward in security and love,“ he said. The sheep know the shepherds voice as one that protected them from danger and thieves.
“You and I are the sheep in the preaching of the word. Today we hear His voice,” the bishop said.
“We trust him and understand that He comes to feed us as the Good Shepherd so that we may be sustained as we face the challenges of life.”
Bishop Caggiano said that we are all called to holiness and to share in a basic priesthood through baptism, but certain men are called to a special ministry to “follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to preach courageously.”
The bishop said it was in the upper room on the night before he died that Jesus gave this unique ministry to his apostles.
The role of the priest is to help us turn our lives to the Good Shepherd and to make the grace and sanctity of the Lord present in our midst through the breaking of the bread and sharing of the wine.
The authority of a priest is based on a life of sacrifice and “comes from love—from laying down their lives and emptying themselves for other people,” he said.
The bishop said that after the attacks on the World Trade Center twenty years ago, there was a sign in every subway station that said, “If you see something, say something.”
Likewise, we should be on the lookout for the many men of all ages vocalizing or discerning the priesthood, and be prepared to identify, encourage and support those who are drawn to a vocation.
“In this case I have no doubt the Lord is calling many young men to priesthood,” the bishop. “If we see that, let us pray that they may find their own true path and we may have the priests we need to allow the Church’s mission to be renewed outside of the pandemic.”
Good Shepherd Sunday reminds us the Church needs priests to “preach the mission of Jesus and his Church all over the world so that ‘I am the Good Shepherd, I will lay down my life for you’ may be the words spoken on the lips of every priest.”
Before giving the final blessing the bishop personally asked all to pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life.
He also announced that Pope Francis has asked Catholic throughout the world to pray for the end of the pandemic and to offer a Rosary throughout the month of May. He encouraged all to join in the weekly diocesan rosary and said the diocese will continue to add its prayer to the global prayer for the end of suffering from the pandemic.
Foundations in Education is pleased to announce they are extending the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund application deadline for new K-8 families as long as funds permit. The hope is the extension will boost enrollment and also encourage consideration of Catholic education.
The mission of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund is to help families afford Catholic elementary school tuition in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Now in its 7th year, the fund has awarded nearly $15 million in assistance to thousands of students attending Diocesan schools in Fairfield County who demonstrate financial need.
Last year, an anonymous donor to Foundations in Education (FIE) provided $1 million in additional funding for COVID-19 emergency tuition assistance for K-8 families suffering financial hardship from coronavirus-related illness, loss of employment, or loss of business.
Together with this fund, FIE awarded 1,480 students over $3.5 million in tuition assistance for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“We have a lot of great donors who really believe in the value of Catholic education because they received so much from their own Catholic education or have seen the great work Catholic schools are doing,” said Foundations’ Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine.
The deadline for new families to apply to the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund was April 15 but has since been extended for a limited time, while funding permits.
After witnessing a delay in new student applications last spring due to COVID-19, FIE extended last year’s deadline. In doing so, a record high 260 new students applied for assistance.
This year, the deadline is being extended as a result of a continued surge of interest from public school families.
FIE’s Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine observes, “We saw firsthand the difference Catholic schools make in the lives of students. For the most part our teachers met in person with their students five days a week throughout the year, putting students first. They are our unsung heroes and are instrumental in delivering an exceptional education to students. Now is a great time to assure your child’s academic future by enrolling in one of our Catholic schools.”
The application process is streamlined for convenience. Applicants apply online via the FACTS Grant and Aid application at www.FACTSmgt.com/aid. Schools can assist new families with the application process.
According to the Office of the Superintendent, the nineteen Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport welcomed 1,114 new students in September 2020.
Principal at Saint Mary School in Ridgefield, Anna O’Rourke, shares, “Our objective this year was to provide a safe, in-person environment for students. Our protocols have been very effective, with minimal disruption. We see the benefit of in-person learning, and that is reinforced by parents, as we had 45 new students join us from Kindergarten – Grade 8.”
By Christopher Healy
Executive Director – CT Catholic Conference
“All glory goes to God. People of faith came together and their voices were heard and we are most grateful to legislators who realized we must show more compassion and support for those who are in distress, and isolation rather than lead people away from hope and love.”
“This victory belongs to the thousands of people from all faiths who got involved because they believe life is sacred and God-given. We have more to do and must improve palliative and hospice care, educate families on pain management and increase resources for mental health services.”
WASHINGTON – Following the verdict in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota today, Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of Houma-Thibodaux, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development issued a statement.
The bishops’ full statement follows:
“Today, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of the murder of George Floyd. As we receive this result, we recall that God is the source of all justice, love, and mercy. The death of George Floyd highlighted and amplified the deep need to see the sacredness in all people, but especially those who have been historically oppressed. Whatever the stage of human life, it not only matters, it is sacred.
“The events following George Floyd’s death also highlighted the urgent need for racial healing and reconciliation. As we have seen so plainly this past year, social injustices still exist in our country, and the nation remains deeply divided on how to right those wrongs. We join our voices and prayers in support of Archbishop Bernard Hebda of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and the entire Minnesota Catholic Conference which said today:
‘As a diverse community, the Catholic Church is committed to changing hearts and minds and to moving the conversation about race in this country beyond accusations and recriminations toward practical, nonviolent solutions to the everyday problems that are encountered in these communities.’
“Let us pray that through the revelation of so much pain and sadness, that God strengthens us to cleanse our land of the evil of racism which also manifests in ways that are hardly ever spoken, ways that never reach the headlines. Let us then join in the hard work of peacefully rebuilding what hatred and frustration has torn down. This is the true call of a disciple and the real work of restorative justice. Let us not lose the opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit falls like a flood on our land again, as at Pentecost, providing us with spiritual, emotional, and physical healing, as well as new ways to teach, preach, and model the Gospel message in how we treat each other.”
BRIDGEPORT – Peace may be elusive in our personal lives and society, but the gift of spiritual tranquility is available to us if we have trust in the Lord, Bishop Caggaino said at the online Mass for the Third Sunday of Easter.
In his homily from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop reflected on the Gospel of Luke in which the risen Jesus stands in the midst of the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.”
“In today’s gospel the Lord offers a gift to his disciples as he it offers to us, and it is a gift that human beings long for– Peace.”
The bishop said peace is a precious and divine gift, but also a very fragile and fleeting gift.
“Peace be with you seems to be far away in these turbulent and challenging times that divide us, and in the pandemic days we’re living,” he said.
Yet the Lord gives us peace for the taking, but we must learn how to receive it, he said.
Many define peace as an absence of war or turmoil, but that condition seems to be elusive because “men and women are quick to go into conflict among nations or in social media,” he said.
Others think of peace as tranquility where everything is in its proper place and all is well, but that too is short lived because we continue to face unexpected challenges such as the pandemic “which has upended our lives,” he said.
The Lord is offering something different, “a spiritual tranquility that is in the depth of our your heart and mine, a place where we can be at peace, at rest and tranquil in the knowledge that God is there with us in every moment of the day.”
The bishop said God loves us regardless of what we’ve done. Even when he seems distant to us, he never turns his back on us, “He is there loving us to the end.”
“Deep spiritual tranquility is a gift the Lord is willing to give us. For he and his Spirit is the one who dwells in our hearts, but we need to accept it.”
The bishop said that often we do not feel peaceful and we may be left in turmoil when our attempts to forgive, to offer peace and even perform acts of kindness are unappreciated or rejected by others.
“Allow me to ask the question, When Jesus was hanging on the Cross, for all of the pain, sacrifice and suffering he endured, how do you think he felt knowing that all of his pain and suffering were being scoffed at and mocked?”
The bishop said Jesus was serving a meal that much of humanity had contempt for, but he was sustained by knowing that “he died not only for our sake, but did it in obedience to the Father who loved him every moment of every day. It was that assurance that allowed him to give his life over to those who did not appreciate it and did not want it.”
Tranquility does not rest on the response of those who would receive the gift, but on the love of the Father who will never fail us, the bishop said.
If we look to others for validation, we may be happy to receive it, but it is best to remember to “keep our eyes fixed on the Lord who is always there to give us encouragement and strength,” he said.
“The Lord is offering us a peace only he can give us,” he said, a peace without conditions that no one can take away from us.
The bishop said in a world filled with so much strife and at a time when our acts of kindness, caring, and forgiveness are not always received well by our neighbors, “Only one can be with us and love us to the end, when he whispers to you and me, ‘Peace be with you.’”
In his latest series of illustrated presentations, Deacon Robert Henrey’s goal is to share his interest in Asian cultures, their histories, religious traditions and languages – an interest stimulated thanks to several years living and working in South East Asia and to ongoing opportunities for professional contacts, travel and study.
In this new ZOOM series Deacon Henrey of The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes describes the process whereby adventurers, traders and scholarly missionaries brought back home a growing awareness of the richness they had encountered. Each session is designed to stimulate discussion.
April 28 – Part One: Early Days – From Ancient World Traders and Mediaeval Adventures to the Age of Sail
May 12 – Part Two: India prior to the Arrival of the Portuguese
May 26 – Part Three: The Portuguese Century of Discovery
June 2 – Part Four: The Rise and Fall of the Mughals and how rival Europeans stepped into the void
The Fall Series will continue with the story of how the Portuguese made early inroads into both Japan and China thanks in large part to the remarkable achievements of Jesuit missionaries – with dramatically different and unforeseen outcomes. The presentations will also address how East and West gradually became aware of their each other’s cultures leading to our increasingly interconnected world.
Exploring the Mind, Body & Soul. How Innovation and Novel Delivery Systems Improve Human Health is the title of an international event that brings together experts from many sectors to discuss the latest breakthroughs in medicine and healthcare, as well as the human implications and cultural impact of technological advances.
It is the fifth Conference on this theme, and takes place in a virtual format from 6 to 8 May 2021.
Jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the “Cura Foundation” – an organization of healthcare experts whose mission it is to improve human health and increase quality of life globally – the Conference includes a roundtable on “Bridging Science and Faith”, aimed at exploring the relationship of religion and spirituality to health and wellbeing, including the relationship between mind, body and soul.
The event will bring together physicians, scientists, ethicists, religious leaders, patient rights advocates, policymakers, philanthropists and commentators to discuss the status quo in medical research and technology, and how these are implemented at a global level.
One of the main perspectives of the event deals with the deeper meaning of human existence and seeks areas of convergence between the humanities and the natural sciences.
Priests, pastoral health care workers and students from Pontifical and Catholic Universities worldwide are invited to take part in the Conference.
BRIDGEPORT– Doubt and fear are part of our fallen human condition, but obstacles to faith can be overcome by “readying our hearts” to receive the Divine Mercy that is there for the asking, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter.
In his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop reflected on the Gospel of John (20: 19-31), when Jesus speaks to Thomas in the upper room. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’”
The bishop explained that the possibility Jesus would have risen in bodily form would have been difficult for the apostles to believe unless they saw it with their own eyes. Yet, “doubting” Thomas teaches us an important lesson about faith.
Because Thomas was not with the other apostles the first time Jesus appeared to them in the upper room, he wanted proof. But in a moment of faith he no longer needed to touch the wounds of the Risen Lord because he saw him through the eyes of faith.
“What does it mean to see the Lord?” the bishop asked.
He said the apostles had the privilege of seeing Jesus with their own eyes, but we are challenged to see the Lord in a different way, “through clarifying our vision and keeping our minds focused without distractions that can create doubt.”
The Bishop said he wonders what Thomas did in the week between the first and second appearance of Jesus.
“How much did his heart burn to see the Lord? Did he spend the time taking out the distractions and worldly presumptions, so that he was ready to see the Lord when he came?”
Likewise, we are challenged to ready ourselves by focusing on the Lord and his teaching, “and we will see him, and doubt less the more we see him,” he said.
The second obstacle to faith discussed in the gospel is fear. The bishop noted that even after being moved to joy by the Lord’s first appearance to them, the apostles remained locked in the upper room a week later because they were still afraid.
“They came to faith, but it did not move them to action,” the bishop said of their reaction to the first appearance. “The apostles didn’t yet have the power of Holy Spirit that came to them at Pentecost, so that they could do what they might not normally do with their own talent.”
Like the apostles in the upper room, we often lock the doors out of fear, rather than reaching out, reconciling, challenging or addressing a difficult situation, the bishop said. “We’re afraid “to write that letter, make that phone call, or confront someone we love with the truth.”
“The apostles unlocked the door when the Spirit finally came to them in Pentecost,” he said, adding that the same “Spirit is dwelling in our hearts. When fears make the best of us, we can ask for the grace to overcome them with His power, not with our power.”
“Today is Divine Mercy Sunday when we remember that from the side of the Lord flowed the blood and water, the sacrament of our regeneration and baptism, and the celestial food in our journey to heaven. How merciful to extend this bridge to eternal life, forgive our sins and give us the path to freedom.”
The bishop concluded by saying, “Along the way in that journey there will be times we will doubt like Thomas and be fearful like the rest of the apostles, but do not fear because God’s mercy is there to help us and see us through.”
After Mass bishop thanked all those who joined him for the online Mass and wished all a “continuing blessed, happy and joyful Easter, a 50-day celebration of the great gift which is the Risen Lord in our midst.”
“Let us be renewed by the peace, forgiveness, and wounds of the merciful Jesus. Let us ask for the grace to become witnesses of mercy. Only in this way will our faith be alive and our lives unified. Only in this way will we proclaim the Gospel of God, which is the Gospel of mercy.” This is the exhortation that Pope Francis offered in his homily at Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, which is celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter.
Pictured: Divine Mercy Sunday in the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia
“For if love is only about us, faith becomes arid, barren and sentimental. Without others, faith becomes disembodied. Without works of mercy, it dies,” the Pope said. He celebrated the Mass at the 16th century Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia, close to the Vatican, which St. Pope John Paul II in 1994 designated as the official Divine Mercy church in Rome.
In keeping with Covid-19 health protocols, only some 80 people were permitted within the Church for the Mass. They included male and female prison inmates, nurses, disabled persons, refugees, a migrant family, and some ‘Missionaries of Mercy’ priests concelebrating with the Pope at the altar. However, the Mass was telecast and streamed live on social media to allow wider participation.
Pope Francis began his homily by recalling how the risen Jesus brings about “the resurrection of the disciples” by raising their spirits and changing their lives. He does this with mercy. “Having received that mercy, they become merciful in turn,” the Pope said. They receive mercy from Him through three gifts: peace, the Spirit, and His wounds.
After the death of Jesus, the Pope explained, the disciples were huddled in a room, trapped in futility and full of remorse for having abandoned and denied their Lord. But Jesus arrives and greets them with, “Peace be with you!” The Pope said Jesus “does not bring a peace that removes the problems without, but one that infuses trust within. It is no outward peace, but peace of heart.” He explained, “The peace of Jesus made them pass from remorse to mission.” The peace of Jesus that awakens mission, the Pope continued, “entails not ease and comfort, but the challenge to break out of ourselves,” from the self-absorption that paralyzes, and from the bonds that keep the heart imprisoned. The disciples realized that God did not condemn or demean them, but instead believed in them; as St. John Henry Newman put it, “He loves us better than we love ourselves.”
Forgiveness through Holy Spirit
The second way Jesus shows mercy, the Pope said, is by bestowing the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins. By ourselves, he said, we cannot remove sin and its guilt. “Only God takes it away, only He by His mercy can make us emerge from the depths of our misery.” Hence, “we need to let ourselves be forgiven.”
“Forgiveness in the Holy Spirit is the Easter gift that enables our interior resurrection,” the Pope said, urging Christians to ask for the grace to “embrace the Sacrament of forgiveness.” “Confession,” he said, “is not about ourselves and our sins, but about God and His mercy.” “Confession is the Sacrament of resurrection, pure mercy,” the Pope said, urging all those who hear confessions to convey the sweetness of mercy.
Wounds of Jesus
Lastly, Jesus heals us with mercy by making our wounds His own and by bearing our weaknesses in His own body, Pope Francis said. The wounds of Jesus are “open channels between Him and us, shedding mercy upon our misery.” “They are pathways that God has opened up for us to enter into His tender love and actually ‘touch’ who He is.” “This,” the Pope said, happens at every Mass, where Jesus offers us His wounded and risen Body.” As the day’s Gospel episode of the doubting Thomas points out, “we discover God; we realize how close He is to us and we are moved to exclaim, ‘My Lord and my God!’” The grace of receiving mercy, he said, is the starting-point of our Christian journey. “Only if we accept the love of God, will we be able to offer something new to the world.”
Receiving and giving mercy
And this is what the disciples did, the Pope said pointing to the Acts of the Apostles. “Receiving mercy, they, in turn, became merciful.” No one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common, which the Pope stressed is pure Christianity, not Communism. Their fears had been dispelled by touching the Lord’s wounds, and now they are unafraid to heal the wounds of those in need.
The Pope concluded, urging all not to remain indifferent. “Having received mercy, let us now become merciful,” he said.
Divine Mercy Sunday
The feast of Divine Mercy has come into the liturgical calendar recently. A Polish nun, Saint Faustina Kowalska, who died in 1938, was an apostle of the devotion to Divine Mercy. During the course of revelations to her, Jesus asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to Divine Mercy, and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.
The liturgical texts of the Second Sunday of Easter already concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and thus are already suited the request of Jesus. This feast, which had previously been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was extended to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of St Faustina on 30 April 2000. Later, in a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world, the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday.”
The Knights of Columbus St Matthew Council 14360’s favorite week of the year is Holy Week. Since the council started in 2007, they have assisted Msgr. Walter Orlowski with preparing the parish for Holy Week and the commemoration of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ–the most solemn time of the Church Year. Last year due to the beginning of the pandemic, the parish was not open for in-person Masses so it was nice to welcome everyone home for the holiest week of the year.
“As Knights we are the Church’s right arm; it is our responsibility to ensure we do all we can to help our Parish Priests, Staff and Fellow parishioners as they journey to the parish on such a Holy Week. In some cases, this also marked the return to a bit of normalcy as the pandemic has altered people’s plan to attend weekly Mass,” said Council Grand Knight Anthony Armentano.
The Council really stepped up at the start of the pandemic, not only helping with the re-opening of the parish after being closed to in person Masses but conducting food drives, donating winter coats for those in need, sending food to the frontlines of the pandemic as well as helping repair and beautify Catholic Schools in the area.
“I love my Brother Knights. This group of men truly loves to assist our parish and those in need. They truly love to put their faith into Action, “said District Deputy and Past Grand Knight George Ribellino.
In a year already affected by a global pandemic, the parish also experienced a great loss When St Matthew Pastor Msgr. Walter Orlowski who had taken ill during the early stages of the pandemic sadly passed away in December just a few days before Christmas. Parochial Vicar Father Sunil Pereira, who had assumed the leadership role in parish during Msgr’s illness and eventual passing, sought out the Knights and the council stepped up to assist him with ushering the Masses and assisting with various projects around the parish.
“Father Sunil is a great priest and did such a phenomenal job keeping our parish running seamlessly and we wanted to help our Brother Knight to help make his job easier. St Matthew Parish is so blessed to have Father Sunil,” said Ribellino
During Holy Week, the council cleaned the church, set up signs promoting Easter Masses, led the Outdoor Stations of Cross on Good Friday, changed the banners from Spring to Easter around the campus, cleaned and painted all of the outside statues, helped prepare for triduum services and supplied ushers and readers for the Holy Week Masses.
“In the most important time of our liturgical year and in the midst of such uncertainty, my Brothers did what they do best-serve their Parish, Community and our Priests with unceasing energy. It was such a beautiful and inspiring Holy Week in every aspect including and especially the opportunity to attend services together in public–an option not available at this time last year. Truly-a Happy Easter,” Armentano reflected as the last Easter Mass had ended.
The goals of the Knights of Columbus Council at Saint Matthew Church in Norwalk are to perform acts of charity. Providing those in need with a range of support from financial to tactical help in dealing with a wide variety of challenges. Council members work together to foster the founding principles of our order; Charity, Unity, Fraternity & Patriotism. Our goal as a council is to continue to identify specific needs in our community and muster support and help to alleviate these challenges and hardships to the best of our abilities and resources. For more information, please go to www.saintmatthewknights.com. To join the Knights of Columbus, go to kofc.org/joinus. Free first year membership; use promo code MCGIVNEY2020.
I requested time to talk with Diocese of Bridgeport Bishop Frank Caggiano without really knowing what I wanted to talk about.
The second Easter during a global pandemic is enough of a reason.
Without questions, I had no expectations. Sometimes, that’s the best place to find answers.
“Oh my gosh, what a year it has been. It has been, in a way, almost a parable of Christian faith,” he says, picking up a cue from my invitation to contextualize Easter and the pandemic.
“The suffering was all around us, the promise of new life was being offered, but you didn’t quite see it,” continues Caggiano, who lives in Stamford. “Now we’re beginning to see it. It’s almost like a Holy Saturday experience. The suffering is done. But the resurrection is not quite in front of us. And it’s a very difficult position to be in for many people. But Easter gives us a promise that life will come. And this Easter we are in a much different place than last Easter.”
Suffering, doubt, renewal. The meaning of each has intensified over the past 12 months.
Our conversation feels like the partner bookend to one we had a little more than a year ago, in the early chapters of this epic. At that time, Caggiano was contemplating how to address gatherings as well as rituals such as Holy Communion.
The ensuing pages have hardly been light reading, but Caggiano’s voice has relaxed considerably from its grim tones of March 2020. His trademark energy never seemed to waver, so while it comes as a revelation when he mentions we are chatting on his birthday, I’m hardly surprised that he seizes this new stage of life with passion.
“I’m officially a senior citizen today! Sixty-two years old!” declares Caggiano, who was born on Easter Sunday, 1959. “And I say to myself, one of the gifts God has given me is good health.”
I’ve never known anyone to be this enthusiastic upon achieving senior status. A pandemic and time are hardly slowing Caggiano, who continues to launch initiatives in the diocese.
His observations about navigating the church through this “menace” (his word) mirror those of many Fairfield County executives. When your business is people, it’s difficult to be isolated.
But this newly minted senior citizen has learned to recognize the potentials of tending to parishioners virtually.
“Think of the services online. Who would have thought (he frequently speaks in italic) of that as a regular means of worshiping?”
Priests often hear from older parishioners who struggle to sway younger family members to join them at church. But Caggiano says he is encouraged by data suggesting almost every new person who was offered web links to services opened them.
He is also candid about the experience of meeting donors at fundraisers. While a traditional one might draw some 70 people, he has come to appreciate the value of conversing virtually with 20 people at a time. Rather than create distance, it has been a more intimate experience, while inviting instant feedback he says has been “extremely relevant.”
While schools are anxious to return to the old normal, the church is poised to move forward with a hybrid model. Caggiano appears thunderstruck at the notion that the coronavirus has delivered him fresh ways to communicate with followers. He concedes that the Catholic Church’s struggles can cause a feeling of inevitability that “things can never change for the better.”
COVID, of all things, has shaken that mindset. He sees a potential turning point.
“So, all of this suffering will have some grace, some good for the larger community, and I’m excited to do that.”
It’s not just about technology and doing business differently. At one point, I attempt some Journalism 101 misdirection to lure Caggiano back to his high school years at Regis on East 84th Street. He counters with Jesuit pedagogy and suddenly I’m back in Catholic school as he says things such as “We’ve reduced truth to fact. Truth is much richer than fact.”
The pandemic, he reasons, inspired the kind of soulful reactions that can lead the flock back to church.
“Because everybody had to address the basic questions of life, right?”
“Who am I?”
“Why am I here?”
“Where am I going?”
Caggiano laughs. Then he offers what can only be a prayer that events in painful chapters of the last year will inspire a revival of dignified discourse.
“Can we dare to hope we can have dialogue again?” Caggiano posits, whispering “dialogue” as though the word and concept might otherwise become further splintered.
I try again to lure him to the past, asking what his beloved mother would have made him for dinner on a childhood birthday in Brooklyn, New York.
As he grew older, he favored (and still does) Italian Wedding Soup. As a boy, it would have been ravioli, manicotti or lasagna, because they all contain ricotta cheese. He pronounces “manicotti” and “ricotta” precisely as an Italian kid raised on Van Sicklen Street in the 1960s should.
Then we look to the future. I invite him to share an Easter message with readers.
“It’s just one of encouragement,” Caggiano replies. “For people to persevere. We see signs of hope, but we should not be foolish.”
Suffering, doubt, renewal. The third cannot be realized without enduring the first two.
John Breunig is editorial page editor of the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time. firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/johnbreunig
Despite the chilly wind and even a few flurries, over 30 people gathered outside the Planned Parenthood facility at Commerce Park in Bridgeport to pray “A Way of the Cross for Abortion Victims” on Good Friday morning. Organizers led the group in a decade of the rosary as cars sped down Main Street, many tooting their horns in support.
To commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and rededicate themselves to the fight against abortion, these members of the Pro-Life Action League recited a special narrative of the 14 Stations. Holding detailed images of the Passion of Christ, individuals were assigned to read the scripture for each station and a brief prayer, followed by a pro-life reflection.
“It seems fitting that we solemnize Jesus’ suffering and death in connection with the pro-life ministry He has entrusted to us,” said organizer Tina Kelly who coordinated the event with Lenore Opalak, the team leader of 40 Days for Life.
BRIDGEPORT — After the long darkness of the pandemic, people are questioning the meaning of their lives and looking for answers, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said at the Easter Vigil Mass celebrated at St. Augustine Cathedral.
“They are asking, ‘Why am I here? Where am I going? And what does all of this life really mean?’” he said. “And behold, the answer which they seek is the one who has risen from the dead, the one who has broken the chains of sin and death, the one who gives every human heart its mission and destiny — Christ, the light that will never be extinguished.”
During his homily at the Easter Vigil, Bishop Caggiano called upon the faithful to be heroic witnesses to the light and not be afraid to preach the Gospel in a world that is often hostile to it.
He said that at times we can block the light of Christ “with our complacency, our familiarity, the fact that perhaps at times in our lives we become lukewarm or make peace with the world around us, when in fact we are called to be heroic in our witness to the light, to not fear the consequences of preaching this light of Christ to a world that sometimes does not want to hear it, does not want to see it, does not want to see it in you and me.”
Bishop Caggiano said that many people who are searching, hoping and looking for Christ, especially after the darkness of the pandemic, will find him in those who give faithful witness to the Gospel.
“He will come to them through you and me, and the light we shine in our hearts,” he said. “Let us show the world out there what it means to follow in the footsteps of the crucified and risen Savior.”
The Easter Vigil, which is the greatest liturgy of the year, the “mother of all vigils,” as St. Augustine said, began with the Liturgy of Light. The cathedral was in darkness while outside a holy fire was lit called the Lucernarium and blessed by Bishop Caggiano. The new Paschal candle was then lit, representing Christ, the light of the world. The priest led a procession into the dark church and stopped three times, proclaiming, “Christ, our Light!” as the candles of the congregation were lit from the Easter candle.
After the Easter candle arrived in the sanctuary, a Redemptoris Mater seminarian sang the ancient “Easter Proclamation,” also known as the Exsultet from the Latin “rejoice.”
This was followed by the Liturgy of the Word — seven readings from Genesis through Exodus and the Prophets to the New Testament, which were read in English and Spanish and chronicled God’s unfolding plan of salvation. Between the readings, psalms were chanted.
Since earliest times at the Easter Vigil, catechumens received the Sacraments of Initiation. Bishop Caggiano announced, “Tonight, Daniel, our brother, will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Our Lord.”
After the blessing of the baptismal water, the young man received his sacraments and later was the first person to receive Holy Communion.
The entire congregation renewed their baptismal promises and received a blessing from Bishop Caggiano with the newly blessed baptismal water.
The Easter Vigil culminated with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
In his homily, Bishop Caggiano reflected on his early mornings at his former residence in Trumbull, where he would begin his day with a cup of coffee and sit on the sofa in his sitting room, “enjoying a perfect view of the cemetery that abuts the property and the rising of the sun every morning.”
“It was in days like these in the beginning of spring that I had the great privilege to look upon those first rays of light that pierced the darkness, a light that steadily grew in power, color and beauty,” he recalled. “That light gave strength to my spirit and many times joy to my heart to prepare for what the day would bring. You and I, my friends, have come here tonight to celebrate a different type of dawn — a light that is more brilliant than a thousand suns. For it is the light of the one Son that is eternal.”
“For this is the sacred night that you and I have our spirits renewed, our hearts emboldened by a light that has pierced away the darkness of sin and death,” he said. “Your sins and my sins, your death and my death. For this is the night of our victory in Jesus Christ, a light that will never be extinguished, a light that brings hope and glory to all God’s children.”
The light of Christ comes to us in our baptism, he said, when we enter into the mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ by grace, which enlightens our minds by the gift of the Holy Spirit, giving us the gifts of faith, hope and love, along with the promise of everlasting life. It makes us adopted daughters and sons of God and members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
“We celebrate that great gift, perhaps the greatest of all gifts given us, this night when the darkness finally failed and the light conquered forever,” he said.
Recalling his early mornings at sunrise in Trumbull, Bishop Caggiano said the first light of dawn was blocked by a row of evergreen trees that were planted to separate the residences from the cemetery, and the sunlight “needed to fight its way to be seen through the branches until it rose high enough that the trees could no longer block it, to shine pure, unencumbered and clear for the eye to see.”
“Many a day I thought how beautiful it would be if those trees were not blocking it, if the light could be seen from its very beginning,” he recalled. “I wonder about that in your life and mine, for do we believe that the light has conquered darkness in Jesus Christ? Yes, we do believe it. We are here to celebrate it. But I must ask you, my friends, how often do you and I block the shining of that light in our lives like those trees do in Trumbull?”
Bishop Caggiano said that now, more than ever, we need to trim away whatever is in our lives that blocks the light of Christ.
“My friends, as we leave this church, let us resolve to take all that is withered, all that is dead in our lives, all that blocks us from being true witnesses of the light in the world and cast it aside and burn it away so that the light can shine brightly.”
At the conclusion, he said it was a great blessing to celebrate the Easter Vigil of the Lord together, and the congregation applauded.
“It is, please, Heavenly Father, a sign of hope for what is to come for us in the months ahead.”