By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano says one of the most important goals of the 2024 One in Christ Appeal is to provide for the formation and support of our clergy, “who have a unique role in accompanying the people of God on their journey of faith as spiritual fathers.”

“Your gifts build up Christ’s body in our local church by encouraging vocational discernment for future generations, supporting seminarian and diaconate formation, and providing ongoing formation and retreats for our priests so that we may have holy ministers serving the people of God,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Your gifts will also support priests in their retirement, caring for their health and well-being while enabling them to continue living and proclaiming the Gospel.”

The One in Christ Appeal, which has an $8 million goal, will also provide for works of charity, formation in faith, education and catechesis.

Bishop Caggiano said, “The One in Christ Appeal supports the diocesan ministries, programs and agencies that deliver the pastoral care and human services that no single parish can provide on its own.”

Father Christopher Ford serves as the vocations and seminarians director of the diocese in addition to being director of campus ministry and chaplain to the Office of the Superintendent of Schools.

Commenting on the importance of the Bishop’s Appeal, he said, “We are very blessed—but we need to be blessed more. The reality is that we don’t just need priests. We need priests who are men who have a real sense of themselves and who have a heart that is truly formed and configured to Christ. Priests are not just functionaries—they are meant to be the continuation of the presence of God, and that is why we are servants of the Eucharist.”

Father Ford stressed the importance of excellent formation.

“It’s not just a matter of having priests, it’s a matter of having really well-formed priests who can serve the people of God and the mysteries of salvation well,” he said. “We send them to fantastic seminaries, and it costs money. But it is an investment not just in their formation now, but an investment in the Church and an investment in the Gospel. These are the guys who will continue to proclaim the Gospel decades down the road.”

Currently, 10 men are studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, two at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, one at St. John XXIII National Seminary in Massachusetts, and 12 at Redemptoris Mater in Stamford.

“We ask people a lot—especially to support the seminarians, the priests and the deacons—but we recognize the generosity is there,” he said. “We would not be able to do the things we have already done without the prayers, without the support and without the receptivity and generosity of the people of God. We’re confident of the love people have for their Church, we’re confident of the love people have for priests and we’re confident of the love they have for God. So we ask with confidence, but more importantly, we ask with gratitude because we know the generosity is there.”

Several current and future members of the clergy expressed their appreciation for the support of the Appeal and shared their own stories about bringing Jesus to people and people to Jesus.

“My decision to enter seminary came in response to the gradual revelation of God’s love for me as an individual and the reality that he alone can satisfy the desires of my heart,” said Salvatore J. Orosz, a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. “Nothing else fills me with purpose, fulfillment, and peace than the thought of being a priest. To quote St. Teresa of Avila, ‘Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices.’ Jesus has shown me the purpose for which I was created: him, and only him. I cannot think of a more sublime privilege and worthy use of a man’s life than winning souls for Jesus Christ.”

Monsignor William J. Scheyd, Vicar of Senior Priests, was ordained 1965 and is in charge of the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence in Stamford.

“In my 58 years of ministry as a priest, I have always sought to bring the love and mercy of Jesus to all I was called to serve, through the grace of God and direction of the Holy Spirit,” Monsignor Scheyd said. “Serving Jesus, the Son of God, is a unique calling and a vocation beyond the expectation of ordinary life experiences. What more fulfilling work can there be than serving our God in caring for his people! Hopefully, more young people will realize what real fulfillment there is in walking with the Lord in his priesthood. Yes, it is very challenging in these times, but it also is contributing to making this world a better place.”

The Diaconate Formation Program also benefits from the Appeal with the goal of forming ministers of word, liturgy and charity. Structured around the four pillars of human, spiritual, academic, and pastoral dimensions of formation, the program consists of a six-month aspirancy, followed by four years of theological formation, and three years of continuing formation after ordination.

Deacon John DiTaranto, the director of the diaconate and temporary parochial administrator of Notre Dame Parish in Easton, was ordained 16 years ago and has been active ever since. This past year he has seen an unprecedented number of men expressing interest in being accepted into diaconate formation. Eight more men began on April 6 and because of the continued interest, Bishop Caggiano will accept another cohort next year, when there could be up to 10 more aspirants.

“You can see how fabulous this is,” Deacon DiTaranto says. “Because of the interest, we will need more resources, which is why the Appeal is so important. The support will help us stay above water to keep the formation effective.”

He attributes the overwhelming interest to men witnessing the work of deacons in their parishes and in ministries throughout the diocese.

“These men are anxious to come in and serve the people of our diocese,” he says, “It’s more than volunteer work; there is a spiritual benefit to it, and they are truly being called to serve the faithful in community.”

In the future many of the newly ordained will have diocesan roles in addition to their work in parishes, so they can spread their gifts and talents more widely across the faithful, he said, by assignments in high schools, prisons, hospitals and the Thomas Merton Family Center.

Deacon DiTaranto, who celebrated his 30th anniversary on March 22 with his wife Maureen, said the married life offers deacons another perspective in understanding the spiritual and pastoral needs of the faithful.

Edward Carrillo is a fourthyear diaconate candidate, who anticipates his ordination in June. He credits his participation in the program with sustaining his family during a period of tragic crisis.

“During the pandemic, I lost my daughter and first-born child to COVID-19, and my son nearly succumbed to the same illness,” he said. “I can affirm with faith and love towards God that if it had not been for the Diaconate Program, my family and I would not have made it through. Because of God, the love, prayers, and assistance of our diaconate program family, and our bishop and parish community, we are here today, persevering and looking forward to serving others. When we serve with unconditional love and humility toward those in most need, we accomplish our mission of becoming the link that allows us to come together as One in Christ.”

Deacon John Mahon, who is assigned to St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, says that deacons are a bridge between priests and bishops and parishioners in the pew, “helping to bring all of us together as One in Christ.”

“The mission of the Church —the people of God—is to lead the world to eternal salvation, to enable all people to answer the universal call to holiness,” he said. “Only deacons routinely receive all seven sacraments, including both sacraments of service—as husbands, permanent deacons are charged to help their wives get to heaven; as deacons, they are charged to help all to get to heaven, and they provide this help not only to parishioners but also to the people they work with every day.”

Pamela S. Rittman, Director of Development and the Bishop’s Appeal, said: “We are grateful to the many priests who have made an enormous impact on our lives, providing insight and guidance in our spiritual journey. They have ministered to us in times of great challenge, sorrow and in life’s most joyful moments.”

In appreciation of permanent deacons and seminarians, she added, “Our ordained permanent deacons are a vital and a life-giving addition to our parishes, providing inspiration, deep joy and mutual support to pastors and parishioners alike. Their creative energies and talents minister to us all. Through the commitment of our seminarians, their years of study and personal discernment as they prepare for religious life, they join priests and deacons in bringing the Gospel to all and serving. They are true gifts from God.”

NEW CANAAN— Parishioners from across the Diocese of Bridgeport gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of collaboration through parish partnerships while encouraging more parishes to connect and pursue goals together.

“We are on the path now of the revival of our Church, to work as a larger parish family,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, emphasizing “The One” mission in the diocese, to focus every aspect of the Church on bringing individuals closer to God. “Tonight, we are celebrating walking with each other, as parishes have joined in a friendship with other parishes.”

Parish leaders and parishioners from St. Mary Parish in Stamford and St. Thomas More Parish in Darien previously met in June and were excited to share how their partnership has evolved and helped both parishes flourish in many ways.

St. Mary’s pastor, Father Gustavo A. Falla said he was grateful for the support and guidance not only from sister-parish St. Thomas More but also Foundations in Faith and the St. Francis Xavier Fund.

“St. Mary’s has secured $98,000 in grants that has helped us to cover the study of our church for the work that needs to be done,” said Father Falla about the more-than 100-year-old French Gothic church on Elm Street in Stamford which has been plagued with water leaks and is in need of restoration.

The additional funds needed to get drawings and put the work out to bid came from St. Thomas More, donating $48,000 of its 2021 Annual Bishop’s Appeal (ABA) overages to the St. Mary Water Infiltration project, at the suggestion of Joseph Gallagher, Chief Development Officer for the Diocese of Bridgeport. In June, St. Thomas More made a second donation of $50,000 to offset costs of the renovations starting this fall.

Father Falla was also happy to share that the parish secured $2.225 million in funding in the form of a loan from Fairfield County Bank to begin the restoration work needed which includes fixing roof flashing and gutter issues, replacing missing or damaged slate on the historic church as well as repairing water damaged areas.

The parish is also planning to sell one acre of property it is not using to repay the loan, a project that is expected to begin in mid-October.

As parishes throughout the diocese meet and exceed their ABA goal they are working together to form relationships with other parishes to continue to support the overall mission of the diocese.

“Collaboration has always been a part of the church,” St. Thomas More pastor Father Paul Murphy said. “We are one Church and this is one way of manifesting that.”

Father Murphy said he was grateful for the enthusiastic support of those gathered and noted how worshiping together brings out the best in everyone including how the communities of music and youth ministries are collaborating throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport.

“This is a true collaboration and celebration of the people of God building up the universal Church,” said Father Murphy, adding that an overarching goal is to make the church a better place to be in many different ways including elevating the community, its spiritual leaders and the physical places of worship.

“It ought to be beautiful. It ought to be a place worthy of worship,” Father Murphy said.

Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith, an organization that provides comprehensive support to enhance pastoral care for parishes and programs in the diocese, said that the number one ingredient for a good partnership is listening.

“We listened to the St. Mary team as it related to their needs. The SFX Committee has been an enthusiastic partner with them and has provided grants in the amount of $65,000 to move this project along,” Weldon said. “Our priests take care of us, and it’s our job to find ways to support them.”

St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bridgeport is another example of how parish partnerships, community commitment and support can help faith flourish. St. Charles Borromeo merged with St. George Parish in July.

St. Charles Borromeo’s pastor, Father Abelardo Vasquez, and its Director of Religious Education, Deacon David Rivera, said they are able to serve several different communities speaking four different languages with the support of funding from the St. Francis Xavier Fund, which has allowed them to expand the parish’s Urban Center for everyone to gather.

In fact, they said three years ago they had about 150 students now they have close to 450 students for religious education instruction.

“Our RCIA is flourishing with 63 catechumens and we have 45 kids in the youth group. We are meeting the needs of the Haitian, Brazilian and English communities,” Deacon Rivera said. “We want to show everyone the beauty, culture and reality of what it is to be a Catholic.”

Brian Young, who hosted the event at his home in New Canaan, co-founded SFX with the bishop. Young and Joe Sindelar were presented with blue and white baseball hats with “SFX” embroidered on them as a gift of gratitude for their ongoing support.

Young said he is excited about the good work being accomplished by the St. Francis Xavier Fund and he is pleased to see the progress being made in connecting parishes together.

“It’s so exciting to see where we are,” Young said of the collaborative work being done throughout the diocese. “We need each other. Our kids and our grandkids need to know we are all a part of the universal Church,” he said.

Bishop Caggiano agreed.

“I am grateful for what we have done in 10 years,” Bishop Caggiano said, “and I am hopeful for what the next 10 years will look like.”

BRIDGEPORT—As Director of the Bishop’s Appeal, Pamela S. Rittman has met many people who want to support the ministries and charities of the diocese, and many more who give generously in appreciation for what they’ve been given. They all share Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s vision that we are “One in Christ.”

“Our parishioners and donors are special because they see the value of our diocesan programs and how they affect people and change lives,” she says. “They see the Universal Church accomplishing what Christ asks of us in Matthew 25:35-36: ‘For I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’”

Rittman, who has worked in the diocese for 16 years, is President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Fairfield County. She said that when she first learned about the Bishop’s Appeal, she was inspired “to help advance the mission of the overall diocese that works to plan, support and provide for the future of our faith for our families and friends.”

“I knew in a small way I was now part of something bigger that would make a profound impact on the spiritual lives of individuals in addition to the programs that support the day-to-day needs of those struggling, discernment for seminarians preparing for ordination, Catholic school education, sacraments and so much more,” she said. “I felt honored that my gift in some way would accomplish this.”

Those are values shared by donors who contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal, including Richard and Elisabeth Dobbins of St. Mary Parish in Norwalk; John and Joanne Eppolito of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield; and Rich and Michelle Ruggiero of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Ridgefield.

The Dobbins family is especially grateful for Catholic education, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and Bishop Caggiano’s support of their parish. They are parents of three girls and three boys, one of whom graduated from Regina Pacis Academy on the St. Mary campus. This year, they made an extra effort to give even more to the Appeal because they recognize they are part of a “network of charity,” whose needs extend beyond their parish.

“As Catholics, we have a moral obligation to give and the bishop keeps our Catholic Church vital,” Elisabeth said. “We love our parish, and we raised our children there for the last 15 years. We could not have found a better place, and I am eternally grateful to the Lord for that. It has become a home outside of home for us. We also teach our children that we are not alone as a parish but joined together with all the other parishes in the diocese in a bond of mutual charity, like the early Christians, who helped each other in their material needs.”

Richard, a teacher at Brunswick School, was educated for eight years at St. Lawrence School in Huntington and four years at Fairfield Prep, and he’s an ardent supporter of Catholic education.

In addition, the formation of young men for the priesthood has always been a primary concern of his, since throughout his life, he has been influenced by committed priests, who were his friends, teachers and spiritual mentors. Richard has high praise for their pastor, Father John Ringley and seminarian Juan Colon from the parish, along with the former pastor Father Richard Cipolla and his lifelong friend, Monsignor Christopher Walsh, who wrote a letter of recommendation for him to Yale.

“I am privileged to have known remarkable priests,” Richard said. “And to support the next generation of priests is a tremendous privilege. Our lives have been touched in countless ways by these men.”

Despite the challenging economic times, he and Elisabeth were committed to giving even more to the Appeal this year.

“We are genuinely grateful to feel a part of this larger ‘network of charity’ and to contribute to the work of the diocese in some small way,” he said. “And the bishop’s ongoing solicitude for the spiritual welfare of our parish is what makes this yoke so easy and this joyful burden light.” When he thinks of the Appeal, John Eppolito calls to mind the inscription on the gravestone of the legendary Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Twenty-five years ago, he left corporate America and began working in a non-profit. It was a change that prompted him and his wife Joanne “to rethink our priorities in terms of how we would spend our time, talent and treasure.” He says that going to Mass on Sunday is an obligation but becoming engaged in your parish “enriches your life and opens you up more to the graces of God.” “We became more involved in our parish life,” he said. “We embraced tithing. We participated in Bible studies. Joanne joined the parish women’s group, and I joined Men’s Ministry.” He also participated in fundraising drives, served on the finance council, became a greeter and usher, and assisted pastor Monsignor Kevin Royal with the church’s 125th anniversary celebration in addition to serving on the boards of Foundation in Education, Foundations in Faith and the We Stand with Christ capital campaign.

“The diocesan experience showed me the need for support beyond my parish,” John said. “The diocesan effort complements and expands our parish mission. Bringing together support from all corners of the diocese multiplies the impact. The funds are used more efficiently and effectively.”

For example, he said, support for St. Mary School from the parish and diocese has enabled it to thrive and grow. In addition, the Appeal supports the formation of seminarians and the care of retired priests who dedicated their lives to minister to the faithful.

“The Bishop’s Appeal is essential to reach those in need beyond the scope of the local parish,” he said. “I hope parishioners realize their contributions make a real impact on communities and people who they may never meet but who are grateful for their generosity.”

Rich Ruggiero said the Appeal’s theme “One in Christ” spoke to him and his wife Michelle, parishioners of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. The parents of 13-year-old twins, they recognize the importance of being part of an individual faith community but also realize the Appeal adds “a totally different dimension to us serving the larger diocese.”

“The lens through which the diocese looks is broader and takes into account what people need across a larger area,” he said. “Most organizations have a narrowly tailored mission in terms of what they want to accomplish and where, but the diocese looks through a different lens so it can support many people in a tough economic environment.”

Rich attended one of Bishop Caggiano’s sessions on his vision of “The One” and said, “I was struck by his idea for this diocesan renewal, which will extend long beyond his tenure. You have to view it that way. It also extends to the larger faith community in the Church and in the world, and as members of his diocese, we have to ask what we can do to live that vision.”

As a reader in his parish, he kept abreast of the progress of the Appeal and believes that in addition to achieving their financial goals, parishes should strive for increased participation.

“It is super important that almost everyone participate on some level based on their individual circumstances,” he said. “And the idea of wider participation is inherent in the theme of being ‘One in Christ.’”

When Bishop Caggiano launched the 2023 Appeal, he said: “I ask you to consider the many ways the Appeal unites the diocese in service, compassion and faith. It is my prayer to bring our sisters and brothers together to encounter ‘The One’ and embrace the power of Jesus in our lives….In this year of Eucharistic Revival, please join in an effort that heals wounds, gives us hope and brings us together as one family in Christ.”

Rittman said: “We are grateful for each and every one, who out of their sacrifice help us continue the variety of ministries that make a difference in the lives of so many. Without them, we cannot advance the future of our faith. We thank and celebrate them and are pleased to highlight several individuals and families who, like you, give. Thank you.”

(The Bishop’s Appeal is at 94 percent of goal and it is critical we meet the overall budget to fund all the ministries. If you have not made your gift, please prayerfully consider a gift that that is within your means and know that your sacrifice, no matter the size, will make provide for the future of our Catholic faith and the most vulnerable in our communities. You may make your gift online at or by calling 203.416.1470. Thank you for your generosity.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am grateful to all who have made their commitment to the Bishop’s Appeal, and I am reminded of the transformation it provides to so many individuals and families.

If you have not yet had time to participate, I hope you will consider making a gift today. We are close to achieving our 2023 Bishop’s Appeal goal and I need your help to close out the campaign.

This year’s theme, “One in Christ,” focuses on opportunities for encounters with Christ. The vision and ministries it supports offer a realistic path to strengthening our relationship with Christ and bringing others back to the Church. It provides for the programs and services that focus on all people in our diocese, which is extraordinarily diverse in terms of ethnicity, financial stability and lifestyles— whether it is learning and growing in faith; providing basic daily living needs such as food, clothing, and shelter through Catholic Charities; offering tuition assistance for students to attend a diocesan school; supporting seminarians in their discernment process; and more.

Your generosity over the years has made an incredible impact. I have had the privilege of seeing firsthand the faces of people who have been helped and the positive effects of programs and ministries because you took the time to make a gift that changes lives.

Please prayerfully consider renewing your commitment by making a gift to this year’s Bishop’s Appeal. You may make it on line at Thank you for supporting your parish, our diocese and the work that we do as the Body of Christ.

On behalf of all those who benefit from your support, thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many people every day.

With every best wish for God‘s blessings upon you and your family, I am

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano,
Bishop of Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT—In challenging economic times, parishioners have demonstrated their generosity in giving to the 2023 Bishop’s Appeal, “One in Christ,” whose goal is to unite the diocese in service, compassion and faith.

When he launched the appeal, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said it was “more important now than ever that we work toward unity in our Church and in our society.”

“People in our parish have been very generous and responded with enthusiasm because they understand the importance of supporting the work of the local church and the diocese in Fairfield County,” said Father John Connaughton, pastor of St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel Parish in Stamford. His parish reached 107 percent of its goal with $144,048 in donations.

Father Connaughton praised his parishioners and attributed the success to regular updates at the end of Mass and being encouraged to participate. In some cases, he said, it was “a real sacrifice for people,” who nevertheless contributed.

“We’re not a wealthy parish, but the people are devoted to the parish,” he said. “We announced what was happening in the beginning of the year, and they responded. They knew that what we collected over the goal by June 30 would come back to the parish, and that was a helpful incentive for them to make their pledges.

The diocesan goal for the appeal is $8.1 million, unchanged from last year, and each parish will determine how it uses funds that were raised over their goals.

Dr. Eleanor W. Sauers, Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Fairfield, said this was the first year they had co-chairs for the appeal and the results were evident. St. Anthony’s reached 127.5 percent of its original goal of $111,100.

“I am extremely grateful to John and Beth Kelly and thrilled with the results,” she said. “I’m so grateful for the generosity of this parish. People are always willing to chip in and help any way they can. Anytime you need something, you just mention it, and generous, kind-hearted people come forth.”

She said that appointing co-chairs to promote the appeal also “took a lot of that pressure off me so I could be an administering presence.”

John Kelly described Dr. Sauers as “a great person and a great leader.” And even though the couple have been active in the parish, this was the first time they had taken on a responsibility like this.

“We spoke at all the Masses on three different weekends—in February, in April and in July— and thanked parishioners after we made the goal,” Kelly said. “I tried to emphasize what the appeal supports— it’s a long list of ministries and activities in the diocese—and explain the importance of the appeal from a parish perspective.”

He said the materials the diocesan Development Office provided were particularly helpful and kept parishioners informed about the progress of the appeal.

“We kept it in front of people and then would say, ‘We’re almost to the goal so please consider making a gift,’” he said.

As a result, many people came forward who were first-time donors, and the participation rate reached nearly 30 percent.

“I told a person this past weekend that almost 30 percent of the parish households participated,” Kelly said. “If you can get above 15 percent, you’re doing pretty good, so to have almost 30 percent is a credit to the parish.”

Dr. Sauers described St. Anthony’s as “a wonderful place with wonderful people” from diverse socio-economic backgrounds.

“It’s a good mix in terms of lifestyles and professions with some wealthy who are able to give and a lot of working people,” she said. “We have faithfilled people who give of their time, talent and treasure.”

Pamela S. Rittman, CFRE, Director of Development and the Bishop’s Appeal, thank our generous donors, pastors, administrators and parish life coordinators, along with their volunteers and staff “who work tirelessly every year on the Bishop’s Appeal.”

“We appreciate and depend on their leadership,” she said. “While it’s vital that parishioners support their parish and pastor, the Gospel calls us to assist those in need and continue to spread our Catholic faith in a much larger way. The Bishop’s Appeal provides the necessary means to do this and fulfill the Bishop’s vision of ‘The One’ that unites us in service, compassion, and faith. We are grateful for everyone’s gift.”

Reflecting on the theme “One in Christ,” Bishop Caggiano has said, “All of the good works we perform are accomplished in the name of Christ and are expressions of our oneness in Him. As we work toward the renewal of the diocese, our task is nothing less than to invite people into the Mystical Body of Christ by creating welcoming, vital, and loving communities of faith and unites.”

“It is my prayer to bring our sisters and brothers together to encounter ‘The One’ and embrace the power of Jesus in our lives, especially in this year of Eucharistic Revival,” he said.

The 2023 Appeal is led by Co-chairs Paula Summa and Jim O’Neill of St. Paul Parish in Greenwich and Monsignor Robert E. Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown. Morgan and Mark Mooney of St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield are this year’s Vice Chair Couple.

(The appeal is at 91 percent of its goal and there is still time to make your gift and reach your parish goal. Please visit or call 203.416.1470 today. Thank you for your generosity.)

Fairfield County Catholic is pleased to publish this interview with Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose Parish in Newtown and co-chair of the 2023 Annual Bishop’s Appeal. This year’s Appeal marks the first time that a pastor will share the co-chair role with chair couple Paula Summa and Jim O’Neill, and Appeal Vice Chairs Mark and Morgan Mooney. As a priest, pastor and Bishop’s Appeal leader, Monsignor Weiss shared the following insights into the importance of the Bishop’s Appeal and its role in uniting the diocese in faith and charity.

Q. Monsignor Weiss, your role as co-chair of the Bishop’s Appeal is another first for you and the diocese. How is it going?

A. Serving as pastor co-chair has been a very positive experience, especially listening to the lay couples co-chairing the Appeal with me. Not only are they extraordinarily supportive of the mission of the diocese and the importance of the Appeal in continuing to keep the Gospel alive in Fairfield County, they are very supportive of the clergy. They have great respect for the pastors and the responsibilities placed on us and are most appreciative of our efforts in the parishes and the diocese. We sometimes forget how blessed we are to have laity supporting us in our roles and responsibilities. They value the ministry that takes place in our parishes and our diocese under our leadership.

Q. Please comment on your long-time role as a member of the Pastors’ Advisory Committee.

A. I served on the Pastors’ Advisory Committee since its inception. It gives the pastors on the Committee an opportunity to discuss the value of the Appeal, become aware of the many ministries the diocese is able to provide through the Appeal and have a listening ear for those pastors who have valid concerns about how effective they can be in terms of meeting their parish goal. Several of our parishes have financial constraints for a variety of reasons, and the Committee is there to guide and assist them in meeting their parish goal. Committee members have difficult decisions to make as they listen to the pastors of parishes whose goal might seem out of reach. This Committee plays an important role when it comes adjusting and finalizing parish goals.

Q. This year’s Appeal theme is, “One in Christ” and the focus that Bishop Caggiano has placed on opportunities for encounter. Why are the programs and services funded by the Appeal so vital in achieving his vision and bringing people back to their faith?

A. “One in Christ” is a realistic approach to strengthening our relationship with Christ and the Church. In every generation there have been challenges for the Church. The challenges that face us today as Catholics are overwhelming as more and more Catholics turn away from the teaching of the Gospel and accept the social, moral and cultural values of contemporary society. The Diocese has set as a priority the challenge to renew the Church one person at a time using the many ministries and programs the Appeal provides.

Q. How does the Appeal impact the lives of all people in the Diocese of Bridgeport, whether they are a parishioner or not.

A. Sometimes we stay focused too often on the needs of our own parishes and forget that we are all part of the diocese. The programs and services of the diocese focus on the person and the needs that person requires… “one” person at a time. It is more than we can ever imagine when we take the time to learn exactly what the diocese is able to provide because of the Appeal funds. The Appeal is critical in assuring the continuation of the task given to us by Christ himself, especially fulfilling the spiritual and corporal works of mercy for those in need.

Q. Many people may not realize that by supporting programs on the diocesan level, they enable the diocese to offer what one parish alone cannot provide.

A. Again, we have to remember that we are part both of the diocese and our parish community. A single parish could never provide the ministries or programs the Appeal is able to accomplish, and it is our responsibility to help support the diocese as well as our parish in achieving those opportunities.
The diocese, which includes all of Fairfield County, is extraordinarily diverse in terms of ethnicity, financial stability and lifestyles. In many ways that diversity is a gift in helping us recognize the needs that exist and how vital it is for each of us to do what we are able to do with our personal resources, as limited as they might be.

Q. Please comment on the over-goal sharing program. If the parish has made its goal, should parishioners continue to give?

A. The over-goal sharing is another opportunity for us to support the Appeal. If a parish is able to raise more than their goal, the over-goal excess will be returned to the parish. It is left up to the leadership in that parish to decide how best to use the funds. The parish can choose to use the funds for their own purposes or to assist another parish or diocesan sponsored programs.

This past year our parish donated our over-goal funds to Foundations in Charity to assist the diocese in creating a new center for Merton House in Bridgeport. I recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new center in Bridgeport. It was an event that spoke of hope, faith and care for those who enter the doors of that center. I was proud that our parish is part of this new initiative to strengthen family life and to provide services to individuals that are not available elsewhere.

Q. Many people are already stretched financially and may feel that a small donation won’t make a difference.

A. I recall the poor widow in Scripture who was willing to give all she had for the sake of another by her humility, generosity and her openness to the call of the Gospel. I met a woman recently who said to me after attending a meeting that she was most likely the least wealthy person in that room but then she realized that as little as she has was still more than many others possess. We need to support this Appeal, no matter how much we have or do not have. We all can do something to keep the Gospel alive in our midst.

Every gift to the Appeal makes a difference. I have always held fast to the idea that “everyone doing a little makes a lot happen.” Each of us has to be honest with ourselves in terms of our giving realizing that we have a responsibility towards others, especially those in need of our assistance.

I know that our parishioners receive an endless amount of requests for financial support, and they have to spend the time to really assess where their donation can achieve the greatest good. Our diocese has developed an open and honest financial report to help us understand the purpose of the Appeal and the allocation of its funds.

Q. The Bishop often has said the Appeal unites us as a diocesan family. Do you have any favorite examples?

A. Every time I see the good works at St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, witness the breakfast wagon in Danbury, hear how many meals our soup kitchens serve daily, attend the ordination of our deacons and priests, listen to someone with emotional needs who was able to have counselling provided for them and see the youngest of our diocese have a Catholic education provided as their foundation, I see the Annual Appeal alive and at work in very real and practical ways.

Q. When you see people who have received support, how does that make you feel and what does that mean to our universal Church?

A. I have been blessed to be pastor in two parishes for whom the Appeal has been well received and supported. I have always felt it is my responsibility as a pastor to educate our parishioners on the nature of the Appeal and the role of the Diocese in our lives as Catholics in Fairfield County.

Q. What would you say to anyone who is hesitant about giving?

A. When you see the Appeal at work and the effect it has on the lives of thousands through charity, service, education and the promotion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is vital that we do all we can to support the Appeal and encourage others to do the same.

Q. In your role as co-chair as well as pastor, you’ve seen the Appeal at work for many years, how has it assisted your ministry?

A. As I approach my 50th anniversary of ordination, I cannot help but reflect on my ministry through the years and all that I have been given through the Appeal to help me enhance my ministry and develop a strong sense of community beyond our parish boundaries that touches so many lives. When you give and do the best you can, it comes back to you a hundredfold, and in my case a thousand-fold!

BRIDGEPORT—Catholic education can lay a moral foundation that will last a lifetime. And no one is a truer testament to that than Dr. Sarita Soares, an internist and addiction medicine specialist at Yale New Haven Hospital.

As a doctor, Soares’ educational journey was longer than most, starting in Danbury at St. Peter School. She continued her Catholic education at Immaculate High School in Danbury and at the University of Scranton, a Jesuit college in Pennsylvania.

Soares then attended the University of Connecticut Medical School and did her residency at Yale University, joining its faculty afterwards. But even in a secular school and work setting, her foundation in Catholic education remained strong.

“We have a responsibility to use the gifts that were given to us by God to really try to foster community (and) reach out to those who are in our surroundings to help them in different ways,” Soares said. “We all have different gifts, and we are called to use them to help the people around us.”

Soares had been interested in pursuing medicine since she was young, but had doubts about that path as well. She attributes the decision to become a doctor to her participation in an Ignatian retreat while she was in college.

“I really felt like it was the Holy Spirit saying, ‘You know you have an interest, you have the talents, why are you fighting this?’” she said. “That, I think, really prompted me into applying to medical school. And even throughout the process, there were many times when I had doubts. And every time I had those doubts, I felt like something above me facilitated me being successful.”

Originally, Soares wanted to be a pediatrician because she loved children, but then found herself drawn to the problem-solving aspect of internal medicine.

“One of the gifts that was really fostered, especially through college, was the use of our God-given intellect to reason through problems,” she said. “I also felt like it was an opportunity to demonstrate some of those (Catholic) virtues, in terms of compassion and outreach.”

However, Soares did not necessarily see herself pursuing an addiction medicine specialty. But in the midst of an opioid epidemic in a facility with a robust addiction medicine program like Yale, she gradually began pursuing that additional specialty.

According to Soares, many of the patients she works with in her addiction medicine specialty can be particularly vulnerable and marginalized, and are in particular need not only of physical healing, but care and kindness as well.

‘They’re a population that people try to shy away from, and yet they are some of the people that need the most help,” Soares said. “If I could get some tools by educating myself, that’s a population of patients I can show empathy and compassion, using the gifts God has given me to help a group of people I wouldn’t necessarily run into on a day-to-day basis.”

Every new day at work gives Soares the opportunity to put her faith into meaningful action, especially in her interactions with patients. Each day will almost definitely involve practicing both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“In addiction medicine, it’s a lot of helping people who are struggling with mental health crises, struggling with a sense of depersonalization and fragmented families, helping people who may have been imprisoned, helping people who are homeless, helping immigrants and refugees,” she said. “I think (helping) a lot of the populations that we’re called to help is very much a part of what I do.”

Catholic education was an integral part of Soares’ path to becoming a doctor. And while she is thankful that her family chose Catholic schooling for her K-12 education, it was nevertheless a decision with a certain sacrifice for her family.

Catholic schools are just one of the missions supported through the Annual Bishop’s Appeal, particularly through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund that provides tuition assistance. And because of the role Catholic education played in her own story, Soares is particularly enthusiastic about “paying it forward” for future generations to be educated and formed in the faith.

“There’s definitely the opportunity for us who have been graduates of Catholic schools to remember that even though paying tuition to a Catholic school might mean you can’t go on a glamorous vacation, the things that really matter in the future (are) those foundations of faith and virtue that will have long-lasting impacts in children’s lives,” she said.

Soares continues growing in her faith with other young adults and is the interim president of Young Catholic Professionals’ Fairfield County Chapter. YCP is an interdisciplinary mentorship and networking professional group rooted in Catholic virtue, social justice and virtue.

“Dr. Soares’ journey through her trust in God is an example of how the teachings of the Catholic Church and the programs and services offered by the Appeal guides each and every one of us; it is truly inspiring,” said Pam Rittman, Director of Development and the Bishop’s Appeal. There are countless individuals and families, who with the help of generous donors like you, are supported and have changed lives.”

(To make your gift online, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.)

(Dr. Soares’ statements in the above article are her own opinion, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Yale New Haven Hospital, Yale School of Medicine or Yale Medicine.)

By Rose Brennan
Editor’s note: The 2023 Bishop’s Appeal “One in Christ” touches lives and supports every person in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Whether it is through faith formation, providing for those most in need, educating children at a Catholic school and more, we are truly “One in Christ” when we give a gift to the Appeal. Dr. Soares’ story is one of success, in part made possible by initiatives supported through the Appeal.

By Joe Pisani

FAIRFIELD—When Morgan Mooney was in middle school in New Canaan, she and 10 other
students from the St. Aloysius Parish youth group would drive to Stamford at 6 am before school started to go to Eucharistic adoration. That’s how important her Catholic faith was to her.

Her husband Mark, who grew up outside Cleveland, went to Catholic grammar school and high school and then Fordham University, where he played football. He is firmly committed to Catholic education. The Mooneys’ four children—Jack, Grace, Andrew and Emery—all attend St. Thomas Aquinas School, and Jack is heading to St. Joseph High School in Trumbull in the fall.

Their Catholic faith is the center of their lives. Because of their commitment, Mark and Morgan,
who belong to St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield, were recently named the Vice Chair Couple of the 2023 Bishop’s Annual Appeal.

This year’s Appeal is centered on the theme “One in Christ,” which Bishop Frank J. Caggiano
says is especially urgent “as we work toward unity in our Church and in our society.”

The Appeal’s goal is $8.1 million, unchanged from last year, and each parish will determine
how it will use funds that are raised over their goal by June 30.

“We are on board with the mission, and it’s nice to be part of something you truly believe in,” Morgan said. “We firmly believe in the Catholic Church, and being a part of the Appeal is an honor. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

Mark particularly stressed their support of Catholic education.

“Some people consider it an expense, but we consider it an investment,” he said. “For us, it
is at the top of the list in importance. We also believe it’s good for our kids to see us involved in the Church, trying to help out.”

The Mooneys look forward to working with co-chairs Paula Summa and Jim O’Neill of St. Paul Parish in Greenwich and Monsignor Robert W. Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown.

Bishop Caggiano said the Appeal will help create “welcoming, vital and loving” faith communities. Two initiatives begun last year are already helping the diocese move forward in its renewal.

“The Seton Collaborative is bringing much-needed information technology and business operational support to our parishes and schools,” he said. “Likewise, the new Sacred Heart Guild is opening up the power of beauty through sacred art, music and literature in the Catholic tradition. World Youth Day will be celebrated this year and bring hope to young people in our diocese, along with hundreds of thousands of others who are committing their lives to Christ.”

Morgan and Mark also emphasize the ways in which the Appeal helps seminarians and retired priests and the many ministries of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Mark, who is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for NBC Sports, said, “Vocations are very important to me, along with taking care of retired priests. We all worry about what will happen to Mom and Dad, but what greater gift is there than helping a priest who served so many years?”

Morgan, a graduate of Lafayette College who has held positions at ABC and Discovery, is currently, according to Mark, the “Chief Operating Officer of the Mooney family.” She believes
the Appeal is essential to support the varied work of the Church throughout the diocese, particularly youth ministries.

One of four children, Morgan did Emmaus retreats and was involved in different ministries at St. Aloysius, where her parents Patricia and Robert Albus are active.

“Your faith is such a gift,” Morgan said. “Some don’t realize it. We tell our kids all the time that it is a gift they have been given, and you don’t just put it on the shelf every day. You should be thankful for it, and I think they’re starting to see how wonderful it is.”

Mark, who is the youngest of seven children, still remembers life outside of Cleveland and occasionally attending 6:30 a.m. daily Mass at St. Gregory the Great Parish with his parents before school, usually during Lent. His parents, Rene and Lawrence, still regularly attend daily Mass. “The faith was always part of my life,” he recalls. “My dad has a sister who is an Ursuline nun, and my mom has two sisters who were Ursuline nuns in the same convent. You were Catholic as much as you were Clevelanders and as much as you were Irish.”

From the time they met, the couple realized they shared the same love for the Church. Morgan recalls that when they were dating, they would often go to Mass together and knew they would raise their children in the Catholic faith.

“This was a gift from our parents, and we want to give it to our kids, who are growing up in a very different world from us,” Mark said. “My mom always said, ‘The Holy Spirit is in charge of the Catholic Church … and we don’t have anything to worry about.’”

The couple is active in their faith. Their children are altar servers. Morgan participated in
the Walking with Purpose program at their previous parish in Rye, N.Y. and ran their Advent
By Candlelight service there. She attends Walking with Purpose at St. Pius, their current parish, and Mark is a member of the Men’s Group that meets Saturday mornings.

The Mooneys stress how important it is for everyone to participate in the Annual Bishop’s Appeal and say that no gift is too small. The more people who take part, the more successful it will be.

“We believe in the importance of giving our time, talent and treasure,” Mark said, adding
some wisdom he acquired from Father Joseph M. McShane, S.J., now-retired President of Fordham University. “Father McShane always told me, ‘It’s not how much you’re gonna give … just give,’” Mark said. “If we can increase the percentage of people who give something, the
Appeal will be a great success.”

Pamela S. Rittman, Director of the Appeal said: “When we give through the Bishop’s Appeal, we are taking part in what Christ asks each of us to do, to take care of one another, to be a light and witness of Christ’s love, and to assist those who are continuing to spread the Gospel. Our diocesan programs are focused exactly on these goals. Our Lord blesses us each and every day, so let us continue to assist him by making the means available to fund vital programs. We are grateful for each and every gift, so please know you are making a difference in the lives of people you may never meet.”

BRIDGEPORT—The diocese has released “One in Christ, ” the new video to launch the 2023 Bishop’s Appeal throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport.

This year’s goal is $8.1 million to support the core programs and ministries in charity, formation, faith, education and catechesis throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The three-minute video is narrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano who makes a personal appeal for unity of mission and charity.

“My dear friends in Christ, each year, I have the privilege to come and stand before you with a grateful heart to ask once again for your help to make the annual Bishop’s Appeal a great success. I do so this year very mindful that our world is deeply troubled, deeply divided, deeply conflicted. And so the theme I’ve chosen for the Appeal this year is simply, One in Christ,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano says in his introduction to the video.

The Bishop makes references to new diocesan initiatives that are designed to draw the faithful “closer together in bonds of unity, friendship, and love. Not for our own sake, so that you and I hand in hand, heart to heart, shoulder to shoulder could go out into the world
and help whoever is in need, brother or sister alike, and invite them to see the true path that will allow the world the healing and hope, which is our right and destiny in Jesus Christ.”

The video was produced by Brian Russell of Fairfield, owner of Red Shoe Film and Video productions in Fairfield. It was produced in association with the diocesan development office.

This year’s Appeal supports new initiatives including “The Bridge” Center for Young Adult Entrepreneurship, a mentorship program for young adults. It will also help to fund the new Life Center and the St. John Paul II Evangelizing Communication Center planned to offer new paths of encounter to Christ.

The Bishop’s Appeal also support Catholic Charities, Pastoral Care for the Sick, the Institute for Catholic Formation, attendance at the upcoming World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, seminarian formation and education, the Sacred Heart Guild, the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence for retired priests, and the Seton Collaborative, which provides business expertise and operational support to parishes and schools.

“Your gift, whether big or small, is a tangible sign that we are together one in Christ in allowing this mission to go forward into the world,” said Bishop Caggiano. “As always, my friends, I’m grateful for all that you have done, and for your fidelity, and for your generosity. And now this is the moment I’m asking you once again to recommit to the unity we share, the mission that is ours, to give hope to a waiting world.”

To make your gift online, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.

BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano launched the 2023 Bishop’s Appeal with the theme “One in Christ,” calling it an urgent message “more important than ever as we work toward unity in our Church and in our society.”

The Appeal’s goal is $8.1 million, unchanged from last year, and each parish will determine how it will use funds that are raised over their goal by June 30, he said.

“I ask you to consider the many ways the Appeal unites the diocese in service, compassion and faith,” Bishop Caggiano said. “It is my prayer to bring our sisters and brothers together to encounter ‘The One’ and embrace the power of Jesus in our lives … In this year of Eucharistic Revival, please join in an effort that heals wounds, gives us hope and brings us together as one family in Christ.”

Reflecting on the theme “One in Christ,” he said, “All of the good works we perform are accomplished in the name of Christ and are expressions of our oneness in Him. As we work toward the renewal of the diocese, our task is nothing less than to invite people into the Mystical Body of Christ by creating welcoming, vital and loving communities of faith.”

Bishop Caggiano said the Bishop’s Appeal is a crucial vehicle to achieve those goals and that two initiatives begun last year are already helping the diocese move forward in its renewal.

“The Seton Collaborative is bringing much needed Information Technology and business operational support to our parishes and schools,” he said. “Likewise, the new Sacred Heart Guild is opening up the power of beauty through sacred art, music and literature in the Catholic tradition. World Youth Day will be celebrated this year and bring hope to young people in our diocese, along with hundreds of thousands of others who are committing their lives to Christ.”

The 2023 Appeal will be led by co-chairs Paula Summa and Jim O’Neill of St. Paul Parish in Greenwich and Monsignor Robert E. Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown. Morgan and Mark Mooney of St. Pius X Parish in Fairfield have been named this year’s vice chair couple.

“I think we all have to remember the Church is larger than our parishes, and we have a responsibility not just to support our parishes but to support the works of the diocese as well,” Monsignor Weiss said. “It is really important that we stand behind the Appeal because to me these are the Gospel mandates that Christ gave to us, especially to do work with the poor, to feed the hungry — the Corporal Works of Mercy, as well as the Spiritual Works of Mercy.”

Monsignor Weiss said the diocese comprises the very rich and the very poor and that both groups need resources, whether it be counseling or food and shelter.

Supporting vocations is another major consideration, and St. Rose of Lima has had vocations to the priesthood, the diaconate and the religious life in recent years.

Monsignor Weiss also emphasized the importance of supporting retired religious. He is especially aware of that need, he joked, now that his own retirement approaches.

Since COVID, the number of people participating in the annual appeal has declined, he said.

“Unfortunately, we tend to rely on a few to reach our goals, but we really have to encourage people to participate beyond the smaller average who are doing now,” Monsignor Weiss said.

His parish went over its $60,000 goal last year by $53,000 because of generous donors.  strong participation – 497 parishioners at St. Rose of Lima contributed to the Bishop’s Appeal, more than any other parish in the diocese.

“But it’s really important that we work on achieving a higher percentage of donors in all our parish communities,” Monsignor Weiss said. “Every dollar makes a difference. We aren’t necessarily asking for $5,000, but that you make a donation within your means.”

Paula Summa and her husband Jim O’Neill were asked to be co-chairs this year, stepping up from their previous role as Vice Chair Couple for the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal. They describe themselves as retired “former IBMers, who try to help the Church in any way we can.”

“‘One in Christ’ is what it’s about,” Summa said. “It is one Church, which means we have to be concerned with not only what takes place at the parish level but beyond. The Bishop’s Appeal is necessary to achieve that goal.”

O’Neill believes the theme of the Appeal calls to mind our profession of faith in the Nicene Creed, which defines us as “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” He encourages Catholics to look beyond the borders of their parishes and support the Appeal, which funds programs and ministries for education, retired religious, seminarians, and other initiatives that provide works of charity, formation in faith, education and catechesis.

Summa and O’Neill, who are products of K-to-12 Catholic education, have a special passion for programs “that provide opportunities for our children to be in a safe, nurturing environment that instills the values of our faith,” pointing out that those who receive a Catholic education are more likely to attend Mass as adults.

“Catholic education helps promote the Church of the future, which is very important because we live in a secular world that is hostile to our faith,” Summa said.

O’Neill believes Catholic education is preparing “the farm team for the future.”

“Faith formation is also valuable because it trains people in other ministries — from lectors to catechists — at the parish level,” he said.

Having spent time with the retired priests at The Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence in Stamford, the couple praised them for the pastoral work they continue to do and point out that most of the so-called “retired priests” are still as active as when they served in parishes.

“The Bishop’s Appeal helps these people who gave their lives to serve us,” Summa said.

Similarly, the Appeal helps the Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Missionary Seminary of Bridgeport, where young men are in formation for the priesthood.

This year, the couple is committed to increasing participation in the Appeal because there are 8,000 fewer donors than there were several years ago.

“If those 8,000 people gave $100, that is 27 cents a day or $8 a month, it would raise an additional $800,000,” O’Neill said. “It’s not only the money, it’s the involvement. We are the ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,’ so let’s all work together and get in the boat and row.”

They expressed appreciation to the nearly 15,000 people who supported last year’s Appeal and asked for their continued support. In addition, they applauded the ten parishes that exceeded their goal and shared the benefits with other needy parishes in the diocese.

“They didn’t put it in their pocket,” O’Neill said. “They were willing to help other parishes who have a difficult environment. They were looking beyond the borders of their parish.”

While they acknowledged that we are living in an inflationary and recessionary time that is challenging, they stressed that those in need are confronting even greater challenges.

“If we can increase participation and give a little more — to the extent that we can —we are helping those who are less fortunate,” he said.

Summa has many years of experience in various financial executive and general management positions at IBM.  She has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting as well as an MBA in accounting and finance from Pace University. She was a member of the Pace University Lubin School of Business Advisory Board and Executive-in-Residence. She is currently a board member of Foundations in Education and serves on the Finance, Audit and Innovation and Leadership Committees.  At St. Paul Parish, she is an extraordinary minister, catechist, reader, Finance Council member and board member of Greenwich Chaplaincy Services.

O’Neill is a non-practicing CPA, member of the Knights of Columbus, retired IBM financial executive and board member of Atradius Trade Credit Insurance. He has a BBA in accountancy practice from Pace University and an MBA in finance from Columbia University.  He served as non-executive treasurer and board member of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam.  Currently, he serves on the Finance Council of St. Paul Parish, the Finance Committee of Foundations in Education and assists at Kolbe Cathedral High School. Both Paula and Jim are members of Legatus.

Commenting on this year’s Appeal, Pamela S. Rittman, director of the Bishop’s Appeal said: “When we give through the Bishop’s Appeal, we are taking part in what Christ asks each of us to do, to care for one another, to be a light and witness of Christ’s love, and to assist those who are continuing to spread the Gospel. Our diocesan programs are focused exactly on these goals. Our Lord blesses us each and every day, so let us continue to assist him by making the means available to fund vital programs. We are grateful for each and every gift, so please know you are making a difference in the lives of people you may never meet.”

BRIDGEPORT—The 2022 Bishop’s Appeal, A Bridge Home has raised over $7.1 million and is at 88 percent of its $8.1 million goal to support vital new initiatives while continuing to feed the hungry, reach out to the most vulnerable, foster vocations and so much more to promote the life of faith in our diocese.

Over 12,700 parishioners have made a gift and in a recent video Bishop Frank J. Caggiano thanked all those who have given and asked those who have not yet participated in the campaign to consider making a gift.

“If you haven’t yet given, please join others who have already been so generous. It is important that we all participate. Christ urges us to come together as one family to help each other and those in need. Your gifts will give the Church the resources it needs to lead its healing mission and be a shining light of faith and service in Fairfield County,” he said.

The bishop said he is grateful that so many individuals and families have stepped up and given sacrificially to help others.

To date over 12,700, I moved this up and took this paragraph with the statistics out.

Pam Rittman, director of the Bishop’s Appeal, said that as the diocese nears its goal, it’s important to remember Bishop Caggiano’ s words about “building a bridge home for those who haven’t found their way back to the Church or who have not yet found the Lord.” She said through our friendship to our sisters and brothers in Christ and those we meet and interact with each day; we are helping to build the bridge in our Christian community.

“The bishop instructs us that the mission of the Church is to build vital and engaging communities of faith that draw others by their personal witness, compassion and charity. He has challenged us as one family in faith to build bridges to those who have questions, who may feel unwanted or left behind, and who are suffering and in need of our help,” she said.

Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, said that making a gift by June 30 will send a strong message of support for the renewal efforts outlined by Bishop Caggiano and will help the diocese make its goal.

“The response to this year’s appeal has been very encouraging. I am grateful to all of the donors and to our leadership team. Kelly Anne and Dan Murphy, our chair couple, and Paula Summa and Jim O’Neill, our co-chair couple, who have worked tirelessly to build support for the Church’s mission of charity and evangelization,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher said a gift to the Bishop’s Appeal is an “investment in hope, renewal and evangelization” because it has an impact on so many lives in the diocese:

  • 1.3 million meals served to the working poor, homeless and food insecure served by Catholic Charities houses of hospitality.
  • 10,000 counseling sessions provided to help individuals and families cope during a time of crisis and uncertainty.
  • $2.5 million in tuition assistance for families seeking a Catholic elementary school education for their children.
  • Faith formation programs that encourage and inspire youth and young adult leadership and bring others back to the faith.
  • Funding for promising initiatives include diocesan Ambassadors, The Bridge, a mentoring program for young adults, and the Sacred Heart Guild, which will celebrate and inspire through the truth and beauty of Catholic tradition as discovered in sacred arts, music and culture.
  • Support for our seminarians and senior priests who continue to joyfully minister in our parishes.

Rittman said she expects parishioner donations to continue and is grateful for their generosity every year. They understand that supporting our diocese as well as their parish is part of their personal commitment to the Church in providing for its spiritual and material needs every year.

To make your gift online, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.

NORWALK—A chance meeting followed by an unexpected lunch date in college led Mariana Martins to refocus on her faith. “This is what I’ve been meant to do,” said Martins, who also spearheads efforts for the Young Adult Ministry at St. Edward the Confessor in New Fairfield. Martins is a social worker for a non-profit organization in Fairfield County.

“I want to build something here,” said the recent college graduate with a master’s degree from Sacred Heart University. Martins said she wants to help grow the faithful young adult community where she lives and works in Fairfield County. Although her faith journey reads like a roadmap with many detours, each turn was directing her home to the Church.

Martins, whose family is from Portugal, said she was brought up in a very Catholic household where prayer, confession and praying the Rosary were as much a part of life as any other routine daily activity. She said college life changed that.

“When I went to college, I was still practicing but not to the degree I was before,” she said, noting demands of daily college life including an expanding social calendar and other obligations left little time for her to focus on her faith. “I got distracted; I became worried about other things. I was not practicing as much,” she admits.

Martins joined a sorority in her sophomore year at Western Connecticut State University and saw her campus involvement and activities increase. The following year she met missionaries from Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) who participated in a meet and greet at the university. After speaking with a female missionary of her own age, she learned about the Newman Center. The two exchanged numbers and Martins was invited to join a bible study hosted by the group.

“For a month and a half, I said, ‘I’m busy,’” but persistence from her new friend paid off. “I finally decided to go one night, and it was completely eye opening. It was the sower and the seed story. Are you in the rich soil or on the rocks?” “That day I was like, “Wow! I’m really not where I need to be in my faith.” She decided to stick around and learn more.

Sometime later, “I was having a rough day and getting lunch when who did I see, the missionaries and people from the Newman Center. They invited me back to the Newman Center to have lunch with them and we talked for a bit.” That conversation led to another invite, this time to a trip to Indianapolis, Indiana for a conference. Martins, leaped at the chance to travel with her new friends. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to see another state.”

After registering, and in preparation for the conference, she started attending bible study more regularly. “It completely changed my life,” she said. “At that time, I really hadn’t encountered young adults that were practicing the faith and out doing other things too,” she said. “The way they were living out their faith, was very attractive to me.”

Martins was so moved by the experience she decided to merge her two worlds and started her own bible study specifically for Greek life members. During her senior year at university, she also became the president of the Newman Center. “Everything fell into place because I believe God wanted me to have all of that,” she said, adding that other members had similar experiences. “We don’t want to leave the world. We want to live in it, and practice our faith,” she said.

She witnessed how her openness about her faith made others more comfortable to do the same. “They would talk about bible study at Greek life events, prioritize praying more often and participate in adoration.”

Graduation in 2020, amidst a pandemic, perplexed her with a question about purpose. As the baton was passed for leading the Newman Center and career choices were looming, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Sacred Heart University. Martins made it her mission to find other people her own age that were practicing their faith and living it out.

She turned to her foundation and her home parish, St. Edward the Confessor, and reconnecting with Father Nick Cirillo, pastor, who she also knew from her days at the Newman Center, opened the doors to getting to know Father Tim Iannacone and Father Robert Wolfe as more than just parish priests. A meaningful friendship in faith was born. “I never really had a conversation with them until that day,” she said. “They are like the coolest priests ever!”

Through the guidance of the two young priests, the young adult ministry at the parish, which focuses on addressing the needs of those between the ages of 18-35, has grown. There are more than a dozen active young adult ministries throughout the diocese. These programs are made possible and supported by the entire Diocese of Bridgeport through the support of the Bishop’s Appeal.

The theme for the appeal this year is “A Bridge Home,” highlighting hope, renewal and evangelization throughout the diocese. The Appeal invests in services that continue to engage those in their faith and build a strong bridge to many who are struggling.

“Mariana is a prime example of someone who has found a ministry and taken on a leadership role in that ministry,” said Father Iannacone. He said her work with the core team of people organizing the events has helped increase awareness and attendance at the group’s activities and in the parish.

“Parishioners have seen all the good work coming from this ministry and all the young adults coming to Mass,” Father Iannacone said. “They can see their money at work,” he said referencing how, “the Bishop’s Appeal not only helps the diocese, but it in turn, helps the young adult ministry as well.”

Iannacone said contributions from the Bishop’s Appeal and organizations such as Foundations in Faith have helped the Young Adult Ministry at St. Edwards meet the needs of the young community and foster growth. The group has many opportunities for fellowship with a spiritual component, with unique themed gatherings such as Hawaiian night, trivia night and an upcoming karaoke night. Those types of activities have a strong appeal for the younger generation emerging from college life, where organizations such as the Newman Center at Western Connecticut State University help build a bridge to a faith-filled future.

“We are welcoming people into a place where Christ is dwelling in fellowship with one another,” said Angelica Bakhos, program coordinator for the Offices of Campus Ministry and Vocations.

The Newman Center, named after its patron John Cardinal Newman and supported by the Diocese of Bridgeport through the Bishop’s Appeal, seeks to help recognize, develop and cultivate the gifts of all God’s people at the Danbury campus by creating a space where the “why” questions of life can be explored and answered more fully.

Bakhos said weekly dinners hosted at the center are open to faculty and students to help encourage fellowship. Plans for a talk series and other social events are in the works. “The funding from the diocese really helps us accomplish the unity and mission within the diocese and within Fairfield County,” Bakhos said. Some of the funding helps support efforts to provide everyday items such as toothbrushes, deodorant or tissues to help students feel more comfortable, she said. Funding also helps provide for food pantry bags for students on the go looking for a quick meal.
Good conversations fostered by fellowship help connect people to their desires for God whether they realize they have a need for him or not, Bahkos said. “We want the Newman Center to be their home away from home,” she said.

BRIDGEPORT—Chris Green has been serving as director of Religious Education at St. Paul Parish in Greenwich for five and a half years. The program currently consists of just over 300 children. Green also covers Baptism preparation at the parish.

“I love serving the families of St. Paul and feel blessed that God sent this opportunity to me,” said Green, whose main role is supporting the parents of the parish family in their role as the first and most important educators of the faith. “I cannot think of a higher honor,” she said.
Green explained that she sees God in each of the children she encounters, which has strengthened her own faith more than she ever imagined it would. “Each unique family has its own distinct needs and being of service to them is a blessing. From baptism preparation to the years beyond Confirmation, I want to be there for them.”

Green said that the most important way she can serve parishioners is to be as prepared in her role as possible. She credits Father Leszek P. Szymaszek, pastor of St. Paul’s for his support with faith formation programs at the parish, as well as the diocesan Institute for Catholic Formation and Dr. Patrick Donovan, who serves as executive director.

“Father Les is always available to meet with the classes and offer the sacraments, which is such a blessing,” said Green. “The students really enjoy the time he devotes to them, and he is always available to answer their questions and mine.”

Green praised the Institute for Catholic Formation for offering many opportunities for growth for DREs and catechists who Green calls “the heartbeat of any faith formation program.”

“The workshops the Institute provides for the parish faith formation leaders are so valuable—from youth ministry training, to online LEAD classes, to workshops on the most important topics facing the Church today, they are there to support you.”

Green said that Dr. Patrick Donovan has been a particular help in that he has instituted twice monthly “check-ins” that all the parish faith formation leaders are invited to attend via Zoom. “This has fostered a real sense of community that was sorely lacking,” said Green.

“The Bishop’s Appeal supports ALL of these programs and without these funds those of us in daily and personal contact with the parishioners of the Diocese of Bridgeport would not have much support in our positions and therefore not fully be able to spread the message that Christ commanded us to spread,” Green stated.

Elaine and John Iannarone of St. Jude Parish in Monroe began volunteering with diocesan marriage formation approximately ten years ago. Until March of 2020, they facilitated and presented at in-person sessions. When the program pivoted to Zoom sessions due to the pandemic, the Iannarone’s adapted their format as well.

The couple has been involved in various marriage preparation programs since 1984. They were a presenting couple for two years at Catholic Engaged Encounter and served as diocesan coordinators. They were also involved in the Sponsor Couple Program, an in-parish program for engaged couples at St. James in Stratford.

“We believe strongly in marriage formation and feel called to minister to the engaged,” shared Elaine. “Early on in our marriage, and to this day 40 years later, our own marriage formation program had a powerful impact guiding our marriage in a healthy direction keeping us focused on how to live a sacramental marriage daily. We know first-hand that a good marriage formation for an engaged couple can make a major difference in their marriage.”

Elaine said that working with the engaged in this capacity helps her and John spiritually by strengthening their sacrament of marriage. “It gives us a chance to awaken the couples to Christ alive in their daily lives.”

Elaine also shared that the programs offered through the Institute for Catholic Formation help her and her husband grow spiritually. She enjoys how they are easily accessible, especially those that strengthen marriage and prayer.

Joanne Santulli and her husband, Deacon Bill, have been involved in both marriage preparation and RCIA at St. Aloysius Parish in New Canaan for about ten years.

“As a leader in our parish’s RCIA process, we help those who are thinking about converting to the Roman Catholic faith,” explains Joanne. “It’s a process that takes place gradually. Participants learn the truths and values of our faith in an open and welcoming environment over many months. We go to Mass together and discuss the scriptures. We walk on their journey with them for a while.”

In marriage prep, Deacon Bill and Joanne help couples who are embarking on a new life journey together to understand the dynamics of their relationship with each other and with God. “Many are stressed with planning their wedding, working full time jobs and adjusting to a life that involves their spouse’s family,” she said. “Marriage prep helps them think about how they will handle all these things now and in the future, and how their spiritual life needs to be a big part of it.”

Joanne said she feels very blessed to have the opportunity to serve in these roles. “I learn from the participants and their questions. It deepens my faith and inspires me to learn and be more involved. In community we learn from one another.”

“As I pray for the future of engaged couples and those participating in RCIA, I also ask God for the grace and wisdom to inspire them,” she said.
Joanne reflected on this year’s Bishop’s Appeal theme “A Bridge Home.” “Faith formation is crucial to the future of our Church,” she said. “We need to build bridges and feed all Catholics of every age with opportunities to deepen their faith. That is done through a variety of modalities which are funded by the Appeal.”

Joanne sees the value in the faithful participating in parish events, volunteering to serve in different ministries, reading online courses and articles, and helping the disadvantaged and needy.

“We need to bring young couples back home to the Church,” said Joanne. “Marriage prep is one of those bridges, and RCIA is another huge program in faith formation. We need to help one another hear the call of God and decipher what God is calling us to do.”

“Formation programs provide the tools through a variety of means to grow and present the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith,” said Pam Rittman, director of development and the Bishop’s Appeal. “In addition to the Sacraments, these programs are life giving for family and community building. Your gift to the Appeal helps countless individuals discover and continue their relationship with the Lord. Thank you for helping them along their journey.”

(The Diocese of Bridgeport is committed to providing current, engaging faith building programs that help every person in our diocese. Gifts to the Bishop’s Appeal make it happen. Be sure to check the Institute of Faith Formation website for programs and ongoing events at:

BRIDGEPORT—As a kid growing up in Port Au Prince, Haiti, Férry Galbert knew the Mass in creole and had the desire to become an altar server. One could say that God placed the call on his heart early on, but Galbert would not realize that until many years later.

In 1997, Férry and his family moved to the United States, and their first parish was the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford. It was there that he was first able to become an altar server and “be close to where Jesus comes down at the altar,” he shared. It was also there that he was exposed more to the contents of the faith. Monsignor DiGiovanni, pastor, and Father Paul Check, parochial vicar, encouraged him in his faith journey. After receiving confirmation, Galbert began working as a data register and assistant at the parish, where he was exposed to many of the daily goings-on of parish life. “The procession toward priestly vocation was a big journey with the Lord and with the faith,” shared Galbert, “and a lot of that was in conjunction with the exposure I had through working at the parish.”

During this time, Férry was taking classes at Norwalk Community College. Like many young people, he wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Through his work at the Basilica, Férry learned that he had a desire to serve the community and to be with people when they needed it most. This desire led him to become a registered nurse. He began working at Stamford Hospital, and it was around that time that his call to the priesthood became more prominent.

“I started wondering about the fundamental questions of life,” Galbert said. At the hospital, he saw people at their most vulnerable. He saw all types of people at their best and worst, and the questions that he heard priests discussing came back to mind. “We are always yearning for more,” shared Férry. “Our hearts are restless. We are constantly seeking new things and experiences, and the message of the Gospel is contrary to that,” he said. Galbert explained that that is the reason people struggle so much, because our hearts are made for the infinite, and find a sense of peace being oriented to Our Lord.

“I was being called to a greater conversion,” said Férry, who was yearning for his spiritual side even while working. “The Lord was dropping hints,” he said. His spirit of evangelization was always there, he just had to find the right path through which to fully realize that.
The lay faithful at St. John’s played a significant role in encouraging Férry toward the priesthood. They would encourage him to pray about it, and slowly the Lord began to work on his heart. Through his work at the parish, Galbert was able to see good and holy priests working together, namely Msgr. DiGiovanni, Father Paul Check and Father Terrence Walsh. Their love and reverence for the Lord, their example of Spiritual Fatherhood and their love for the Church and the faithful made an impact on Férry’s own journey. “They had a genuine love for Jesus,” said Galbert. “They were able to give of their lives and express the love they had for their community.”

Férry also credits his parents for introducing him to the idea of “self-giving.” His parents worked hard to provide a good life for their family. They prayed together, prayed the Rosary, and he still remembers his mother waking him up for Mass on Sunday morning. “Everything we encountered in Haiti,” shared Férry, “showed my parents’ self-sacrifice, giving of oneself for another.”

As Férry’s calling become more prominent, he began to question whether he was worthy and whether he would be happy. “As the Lord worked through my own heart, I saw there had to be more; I wanted to see what the Lord had in store for me,” he said. “I began to see how the Lord was using the mundane experiences of my life to point me in the right direction.”

In January of 2017, Galbert entered the seminary. “The seminary is instrumental to formation,” he said. “It is where we learn about the faith and how it applies to us today and shows us how to be human.”

When Férry first entered the seminary, he explained that he initially worried about how he was going to support himself financially, and he even requested to continue working in the summer. Férry mentioned his gratefulness for those who donate to the Bishop’s Appeal. “It allows the men to mentally rest, rather than worry about the financial aspect of things and focus on their studies instead.”

Thanks to those who donated to the Bishop’s Appeal, Férry was able to put financial worries aside and fully engage himself in the life of the seminary—which is a full one!

The men begin their day with morning prayer, which includes a Rosary or meditation and Liturgy of the Hours. They then gather for breakfast before class begins. With a short break after class, they then gather for noon Mass. Every Tuesday, seminarians participate in a formation talk, which covers topics such as pastoral issues, dealing with finances and the impact of scandal in the Church. Formation is both pastoral and intellectual, making sure seminarians are well-grounded. After class on Friday, the men have time to themselves, though often there is a get-together, ministry, or talk for them to take part in on the weekends.

Férry mentioned that those who make donations to the Bishop’s Appeal are investing in the Kingdom of God by helping men who are laying down their lives to become agents of the kingdom. “The Church needs to support its members in order to effectively live the Gospel, and that is part of how we live and function as human beings.” He referenced John 13:35: “Jesus said, ‘By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

The theme of this year’s Bishop’s Appeal is A Bridge Home; it offers “hope” and Férry offered a message of hope to all the faithful. Reflecting on his experiences both in Haiti and in the hospital setting, Galbert said that sickness and death are not the end. “The hope is that we are not alone. Jesus Himself said it, ‘I am with you until the end of times’ (Matthew 28:20).” “His Spirit is in the Church,” said Férry, citing the many ecclesial movements filling the Church with life. “We have to allow Him to work in our lives, allowing him to anoint every part of our lives for his glory.”

As he continues his journey in the seminary, Férry’s greatest prayer is to become closer to the Lord so that he can become an instrument for Christ.

“We are in such need of hope,” he said, “we give ourselves because Jesus Christ exists, he conquered death and only by staying close to Him can we move forward.” “I hope to acknowledge that we are on this journey together; there is enough suffering in the world—we need the Lord, and we need one another; the first face of Christ is through the next person we meet.”

(When you make a gift to the Bishop’s Appeal, you help support young men discerning their call to the priesthood who will serve as future Shepherds of our Catholic faith. To make a gift and learn more please visit or call 203.416.1470. Thank you for your generosity.) n