More than 150 men and women religious recently attended a Consecrated Life Mass and Listening Session with the Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano at St. Luke Church in Westport.
The meeting, coordinated by Sr. Nancy Strillacci, A.S.C.J. Program Director in the Office of Clergy and Religious and Episcopal Delegate, was the third in a series, and began as a part of the Diocesan Synod process to support and affirm religious life.
In the hour-long open microphone session, issues relating to mission, ministry and community were discussed. The bishop addressed topics such as yearly stipends and ministry agreements of religious who work in the diocesan schools, parishes or Curia’s departments.
“Comments from the floor ranged from the need to know opportunities for ministry and leadership in the Diocese of Bridgeport to reactions to the recent comment by Pope Francis at a meeting of the International Union of Superiors General suggesting that a commission be formed to study the New Testament use of the word deaconess and possible modern implications,” said Sr. Nancy.
Afterwards there was a Liturgy for Consecrated Life during which religious renewed their vows. The theme of the event was mercy. In his homily the bishop recalled an incident at his first mass as a newly ordained. He said he went to use the ribbon to flip the pages to the next reading and suddenly saw the ribbon had detached from the Missal and was dangling from his hand.
This left him fumbling with pages, looking for the correct words while embarrassedly explaining that he “was new at this.” The bishop recalled the realization that all his learning, preparation and talent did not help him in this simple situation and reminded him that God was in charge. “God is powerful and merciful,” he said.
After Mass, the religious attended a special annual dinner at which twenty religious celebrating special jubilees of vows were honored and given gifts by Bishop Caggiano. The eldest had been in the vowed life eighty years. Eight sisters in attendance had a photo taken with the bishop.
The Diocese has over forty religious orders living or ministering in its borders and most were represented by members on this special night. Bishop Caggiano praised the witness religious give to Gospel values in a world which, more than ever, needs signs of Christ’s ideals and principles.