BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano launched a diocesan-wide renewal Friday as he consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to the protection and intercession of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, during this Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.
The Bishop celebrated a Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at St. Augustine’s Cathedral while pastors throughout the diocese simultaneously celebrated Mass, linking the diocese together in prayer and purpose.
Describing St. Joseph as a husband, father and saint who exemplified the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” Bishop Caggiano said, “You and I come here, my friends, not simply to ask for his help, not simply to seek his protection, but to follow his example.”
Calling the faithful to action, during his homily, he said: “My friends, no more words. We have had enough of the words. They have filled libraries. It is time for action, isn’t it? In this singular moment in the life of the Church, in this singular moment in the life of our world, now is the time we turn to Joseph to ask him to protect us, to guide us, to defend us, to inspire us to a mission that no longer needs words but faithful, humble, obedient action, for it is in our deeds that the world will see what Joseph saw. It is in our actions that the Lord will glimpse he who Joseph is carrying with his arms outstretched as a child, ready to stretch out his arms on the cross so that the love that he bore for us will set us free.”
The Mass culminated a week-long Novena to St. Joseph, calling upon him to intercede for the diocese during this year of celebration, proclaimed by Pope Francis in observance of the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being named Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pius IX. The pope also issued an Apostolic Letter titled “Patris Corde,” (“With a Father’s Heart”) in order “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”
The Mass launched a call to renewal that Bishop Caggiano announced in his pastoral exhortation, “Let Us Enter the Upper Room With the Lord,” issued on Ash Wednesday, which called for a personal and communal renewal of faith.
In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis describe Joseph as “a hidden presence” and “a man in the shadows.” Similarly, Bishop Caggiano observed, “Today we honor a man who has no directly recorded words in all of Sacred Scripture, and yet we come here to honor him as patron and guardian, defender and protector. Of all the members of the human race — second only to the Mother of God — to this man, this simple carpenter, was given a great mission: to protect and guard the Savior and Redeemer of all things and his Sacred Virgin Mother.”
Joseph accomplished the great mission he was given through the obedience that characterized his life and the humility that was the foundation of his spiritual relationship with God.
Photos by Amy Mortensen
“Joseph went about this great mission, going where he would not have chosen to go, in exile into Egypt, leaving family, occupation and language behind,” Bishop Caggiano said. “He did what the Lord asked — to take on his betrothed wife conceived of a child that was not his but he did it in obedience for he knew in his humility, it was not for him to understand God’s design. It was simply to say ‘yes.’”
Joseph was given the great gift of an intimate, personal and loving relationship with God, whom he was given to protect. This was the “wellspring of his power,” the bishop said.
The faithful of the diocese have also been given a great mission on the day of their Baptism, he said.
“Did you and I not also receive this great task to be the protector and defender of the Lord’s presence in the world?” he said. “That faith that binds us as a family, for each time you and I are out in the world, caring for the sick, the poor and the homeless, when you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”
The mission of renewal that the diocese embarks upon is a “grave one,” he said. “You and I follow in the footsteps of the carpenter. We are given the mission to be the guardians of the Truth, who is the person of Jesus alive in our midst, here in this Mystical Body.”
Echoing the theme of his pastoral exhortation, Bishop Caggiano said that just as Joseph found power in his intimate relationship with God, we must do the same.
“For that reason my friends, I have invited you into that Upper Room to sit with the Lord, his foster son and our God,” Bishop Caggiano said. “To come to look into his face and his eyes, to see his tears in the faces of those around us, to learn to hear his voice in our hearts and spirits, to recognize how God is with us in communion and to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity here as the foretaste of everlasting life. You and I will fail in our mission if we do not in equal way come to an intimate love and relationship with Christ.”
Even though there are no directly recorded words in Sacred Scripture attributed to St. Joseph, Bishop Caggiano said: “We know he spoke at least one, for in the passage we heard in the dream Joseph received, four verses later there is a simple sentence inspired by the Holy Spirit through St. Matthew, who writes, ‘He, Joseph, named him Jesus.’ For we know this man at least uttered one word. And that word is ‘Jesus.’ And that was enough for Joseph. Can we dare hope that it is enough for you and me?”
Following his homily, the bishop consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to St. Joseph, calling upon his intercession for the renewal.
While the pandemic has given new urgency to the bishop’s call, it is a theme he has sounded from day one: “When I first came to the diocese, in my installation homily, I spoke about my deep desire to build bridges to those who were seeking meaning and direction in
life. It seems to me that the time has come when we are all called to be bridge-builders to the people around us, leading them to Christ, for whom we serve as his ambassadors.”
The Synod discernment paved the way for renewal by building the foundation that will assist the diocese and its parishes in the work of recovery and revitalization.
While liturgies and other activities are planned for the year, the bishop made it clear that the call to the Upper Room is not a program, but an invitation to join him on “a spiritual journey, seeking the Lord’s grace to transform this time of suffering into a springtime of renewal for the life of the Church.”
Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, he envisions the first part of the year as a time of prayer and intense spiritual preparation that will lead to more in-person missionary outreach in the fall—an active going out into the community by “ambassadors” to welcome all back and invite others in for the first time.
Bishop Caggiano believes there is a role for everyone because the renewal is based on personal prayer, reconciliation with Christ and reception of the Holy Eucharist—all within our grasp as members of his Church who believe faith can transform our lives and change the world.
By Joe Pisani