FAIRFIELD—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano was recently honored by the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality with its Bowler Award in appreciation of his “lifetime of service exemplifying the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola.”
More than 200 people gathered at Fairfield University on April 12 for the dinner and award ceremony honoring the bishop.
In accepting the award, which is named after Rev. James Bowler S.J., founder of the center, Bishop Caggiano said, “The Murphy Center is one of the shining lights for the renewal that we are working for and praying to have in our midst here in the diocese.” He praised Father Bowler for “his remarkable vision and work.”
Rev. Gerald Blaszczak S.J., Director of the center and Vice President for Mission and Identity at Fairfield University, said, “We are grateful not only for Bishop Caggiano’s enthusiastic support at our founding, but for the close collaboration we have enjoyed in his efforts to strengthen the spiritual lives of all the faithful of the diocese, to make available to individuals, parish communities, to clergy, religious and laity, the rich resources of Ignatian Spirituality…We honor him for his unflagging commitment to the growth in Christ of the clergy, religious and laity of Diocese of Bridgeport, whom he has served with outstanding wisdom, courage, fidelity and compassion.”
He referenced Bishop Caggiano’s installation Mass six years ago, when he said the church must build bridges to those seeking God, to the poor, the sick, the lonely, the disabled, the unborn, those who live in fear, distress or may have given up hope in life. “We thank you for your tireless dedication to that task,” Father Blaszczak said. “We thank God that with you as our model and inspiration, Fairfield University and the Murphy Center have been privileged to collaborate with you and the Diocese of Bridgeport in building bridges.”
In accepting the award, Bishop Caggiano, a graduate of Regis High School, said, “I stand before you as a product of Jesuit education, and for that I am deeply grateful.” Recalling the motto of the Jesuits, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam” (“For the greater glory of God”), he said, “Hearing that phrase caught my imagination and has formed me ever since. It helped give me a compass in my life.”
“I cannot imagine the full renewal of our diocese without a thriving Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality being at its heart,” he said. “So imagine how grateful I am for the hundreds and soon to be thousands of people whose lives have been completely rearranged by grace because they have come to this center, allowing that compass who is the Lord to touch them, enlighten them, empower them, lift them up, give them hope, give them direction and lead them to glory. That is what we are about, and that is what we are celebrating tonight. It is not one man. It is all of us, finding that safe harbor who is Jesus Christ.”
Mark R. Nemec, PhD, president of Fairfield University, praised Bishop Caggiano and stressed the “shared mission, vision and purpose” of the university and diocese.
“There is no doubt the world needs the transformative power of a Jesuit education, an education which cultivates the pursuit of truth grounded in faith and reason,” he said. “Fundamental to this effort is the work of the Murphy Center and our dedication to Ignatian spiritual formation across the generations. We at Fairfield are blessed to work so closely with Bishop Caggiano not only in offering spiritual direction to the community but also in accompanying the youth of this region as they begin their own developmental formation.”
Co-chairs of the event were Rev. Robert Kinnally, Diocesan Chancellor and pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan, and Deacon Patrick Toole, Episcopal Delegate for Administration and Chairman of the center’s advisory board.
Father Kinnally said, “Bishop Frank’s support of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality speaks to his desire that each of us develop a closer relationship to Christ through prayer. The center provides the resources and relationships necessary to navigate a complicated world by placing God at the center. Such a place is essential in our part of the world, where we are restless and sometimes don’t realize that we are longing for God.”
Deacon Toole, who assisted Father Bowler in developing the center, said it works toward the goal that Bishop Caggiano has called us to embrace, which is to evangelize one person at a time.
The Murphy Center offers spiritual direction in the Ignatian tradition to guide individuals and groups in their journey toward this encounter, as St. Ignatius did, by “finding God in all things.” As part of this outreach, it also trains spiritual directors who can assist in the discernment of God’s direction in their lives. The center promotes expressions of Ignatian spirituality at individual and group levels, both on campus and in parish settings. (For more information, visit fairfield.edu/mcis.)
Kathleen Donnelly of St. Pius X Church in Fairfield described the path that led her to become a spiritual director, recalling that in 2015, “Father Jim Bowler casually but firmly invited me on the journey to become a certified spiritual director.” With that invitation began what she called her “journey of a lifetime.”
“They led us to an awakening awareness of the every so slight yet always present drop of God’s grace in our lives and in the lives of others,” she said.
She also thanked Colleen Gilbertson, Administrative Coordinator for the center, who helped Father Bowler implement his vision and was responsible for creating a space for the center at Dolan House on the Fairfield University campus. “She is our main support person,” Donnelly said. “We all consider Colleen to be our soul sister.”
Kate Ferdock, a sophomore at Fairfield University, said that for the past 10 weeks, she has been on the Ignatian spiritual journey of finding God in her life: “I had no idea how my life was about to be changed. I was embarking on the biggest spiritual journey of my life…Thanks to the Murphy Center, I have been able to see God working in ways I never thought of before.”
Susan Stone of New Canaan, who is in the formation program to become a certified spiritual director, said, “I am very grateful for the bishop’s enthusiastic support of the Murphy Center, which makes available the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and spiritual direction to all those who seek a deeper personal relationship with our living God, as well as the important work of their formation programs to train the laity to become spiritual directors. The formation of the laity in the Ignatian tradition of spiritual direction allows us to take on more responsibility to carry on our faith and be united with our clergy and religious in bringing Christ to others because we are all the Church.”