Campaign hits $98 million, surpassing original goal

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano recently announced that the diocesan capital campaign “We Stand With Christ” has reached $98 million, surpassing its original goal of $75 million and making it the largest and most successful campaign in the 65-year history of the diocese.

“We Stand With Christ is an overwhelming success and a testament to the generosity of the faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, along with the tireless efforts of our pastors and hundreds of volunteers,” Bishop Caggiano said.

The campaign, which began the fundraising phase a year ago after an eight-month planning phase, is still continuing. Of 59 parishes, 32 are actively working on the campaign, 10 of which will not start fundraising until 2020. The others are transitioning to the redemption phase of the campaign, which will entail collecting donations over the next five years.

The campaign has designated 50 percent of the funds raised for long-term needs of parishes, and the remaining 50 percent will be invested in diocesan ministries—Foundations in Education, Foundations in Faith and Foundations in Charity, three lay-run non-profits committed to Catholic education, faith formation and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

The We Stand With Christ campaign is led by Bishop Caggiano and a 26-member executive committee with the support of priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders, whose co-chairs are Brian Young of New Canaan and Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima.

At this point in the campaign, of the $98 million pledged, $30 million has already been collected. More than 13,000 people have made donations; 700 donors have each pledged more than $25,000; and ten have pledged in excess of $1 million.

Of the ten parishes that performed the best in achieving their goal, five were in Bridgeport. On average, the 12 Bridgeport parishes reached 110 percent of their goals—better than any city in the diocese.

“The We Stand With Christ campaign offers proof that people love their parishes and they are willing to make an investment in the Church and its mission even during these times of turmoil,” the bishop said. “For those who have not yet given, there is still time. Consider your donation an investment in the future of your parish and our diocese.”

He also praised the role of the pastors in moving the campaign forward and said they were the engines that drove the campaign, the spiritual guides and motivators. In many cases, they were also the ones who solicited gifts from the faithful, going out for meetings day and night to explain the needs of the parish and how the Foundations would benefit. Their efforts were augmented by the work of hundreds of lay and religious volunteers, who were fundamental to the success of We Stand With Christ. The donors, of course, were the ones who were instrumental in surpassing the original goal and hitting $98 million.

Now that the redemption phase has begun, the campaign office has set up systems to make payments on pledges. Organizers stress that there will be a cost savings if donors fulfill their pledges electronically, which will help the campaign save on printing, postage and processing fees. Each donor will be able to select the frequency and mode of their reminders to make payments.

Parish Projects

A number of parishes have already begun work on projects that are being funded by the capital campaign. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Danbury, which surpassed its goal, plans to add almost 90 parking spaces on parish-owned property to accommodate the large number of faithful who attend the six weekend Masses, according to the pastor, Father John Perez.

St. Margaret Mary Church in Shelton has completed work on its parish center, which will be dedicated by Bishop Caggiano in September. The center will have seven meeting rooms to accommodate catechism classes, parish ministries, community groups and church events. The parish reached 170 percent of its goal and as a result will receive 75 percent of the contributions above its initial target, said Father Ciprian Bejan.

Father Joseph Cervero, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Redding Ridge, said the campaign will help fund the renovation of the old St. Patrick Church built in 1880 and replaced by a new one in 2006. The renovations will provide a place for the youth ministry to meet, along with church and community groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Safe Rides.

At Christ the King Church in Trumbull, Father Terrence Walsh will be able to replace the roof on the school building and do smaller repair projects. He hopes to undertake a renovation of the sanctuary in the near future.

Father Frank Hoffmann, pastor of St. John Church in Darien, is preparing for the parish’s 125th anniversary next year, and the campaign has allowed him to do some deferred maintenance in time for the celebration, including repairs to the slate roof on the church, refinishing the wooden floors, replanting on the grounds and refurbishing the pathways and entrances. He also foresees the need for a new parking lot.

As the centennial of St. Roch Church in Greenwich approaches, Father Carl McIntosh said there are plans to repoint the stonework of the church facade and bell tower and repair windows suffering from water damage.

The three diocesan Foundations that will receive funds from We Stand With Christ are Foundations in Education, Foundations in Faith and Foundations in Charity. Each is overseen by a lay board and a third-party accounting firm that will provide a system of checks and balances.

There are nearly 40 lay trustees on the boards of Foundations in Education, Foundations in Charity and Foundations in Faith, the three non-profit initiatives begun by Bishop Caggiano as a result of the diocesan synod to address the needs of the Church in Fairfield County in the areas of education, charity and pastoral ministries.

At the heart of those Foundations are three independent lay boards, dedicated to their missions and committed to overseeing the funds entrusted to them.

Bishop Caggiano has pointed to the importance of lay leadership in the Foundations, emphasizing the professional expertise they bring, along with their commitment to their faith and a heartfelt desire to serve and further the Church’s mission in the diocese.

Foundations in Education has as its goal the transformation of the diocese’s Catholic schools through scholarships and faculty innovation and leadership grants. This year, Foundations awarded more than $2.7 million to 1,430 students—approximately 25 percent of those enrolled in 20 Catholic elementary schools in Fairfield County. In addition, Foundations will award $150,000 in innovation and leadership grants. Last year, 24 grants were awarded.

Foundations in Faith was established to further the diocese’s mission to support its pastoral ministries and programs in religious education, evangelization, support for priests, deacons and seminarians along with special-needs ministries.

Foundations in Faith succeeds the Faith in the Future Fund, a not-for-profit endowment fund created in 1996 as a result of a fundraising campaign with a goal to support both education and pastoral ministries of the diocese. Faith in the Future has supported these ministries and is poised to grow and continue this work as Foundations in Faith.

The John Paul II Fund for religious education and youth ministry is overseen by a board of 13 trustees who helped establish criteria for the grant applications.

Foundations in Charity will provide the impetus for new programs for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, one of the largest private non-profit human services providers in Connecticut with 30 programs that offer food, housing, behavioral health, adoption, immigration and family support services to the needy and vulnerable of all faiths.