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

GREENWICH—Paula Summa and Jim O’Neil of Greenwich, the newly named 2022 Vice Chairs of the Bishop’s Appeal, have accepted their leadership post because of their desire to help young Catholics and their commitment to Catholic education.

Their belief in Catholic education led them to say, “yes,” when they were asked to be the vice chair couple of the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal, which has the theme “A Bridge Home,” inspired by the vision Bishop Frank J. Caggiano articulated in his Pastoral Exhortation, “Let Us Go Forth.”

“This theme is meant to highlight hope and renewal underway in our Church and our lives,” Jim O’Neill said.

A central focus of the appeal is the young people of the Diocese of Bridgeport, who confront many challenges in modern society and need the support of the Church to navigate them.

“I’m encouraged by what the bishop wants to do with respect to children and young people,” Jim said. “We live in a world where many families are dealing with so many competing activities that you wonder when they have time to even do their homework. There aren’t enough hours in the day to engage them.”

Developing programs for younger generations is fundamental to this year’s appeal. “We have to figure out how to do it,” Paula, who is a catechist of St. Paul Parish in Greenwich, where she and Jim are parishioners said. “How do we communicate the faith and make it resonate?”

The Bishop’s Appeal, formerly the Annual Catholic Appeal, highlights hope, renewal and evangelization. It will invest in services to engage people in their faith by offering opportunities for discipleship, in addition to helping those who are struggling. The goal of the appeal is $8.1 million, which is the same as last year. Each parish will be allowed to determine how funds are used that are raised in excess of its goal.

“Paula and Jim bring a wealth of knowledge from their professional and personal lives; they are passionate about the bishop’s vision to build a bridge and bring people back to their faith. They especially care about reaching and inspiring our youth and young adults who will carry on the Gospel and we look forward to working with them and exploring new ideas,” said Pam Rittman, director of development and the Bishop’s Appeal.

“Paula and Jim were instrumental in helping St. Paul Parish exceed its 2021 Appeal goal by 32 percent and it made perfect sense to ask them to take on an expanded role for the 2022 Appeal” according to Joe Gallagher, chief development officer for the diocese. Paula and Jim say it is crucial to have greater participation in the Bishop’s Appeal and for Catholics to realize we are one faith community, with needs that extend beyond our parishes.

Jim emphasized the importance of expanding the participation in the appeal and said: “We have to cast a wider net and get more people to participate in the life of our Church, to follow Jesus’ words and his mission. We do wonderful things, but I think we can do better.”

Both Paula and Jim are products of a Catholic education, which has shaped their lives. And it is an experience they want others to share.

Paula grew up in Port Chester, N.Y., and attended Holy Rosary School, where she was taught by the Salesian Sisters and later the Sisters of Charity at the Academy of the Resurrection in Rye.

“I am a product of a generous donor who gave me a full scholarship and he never wanted me to know who he was,” she fondly recalls. “I’m sure I wasn’t the only one and that he did it for multiple people. I was always curious about him. Why would he pay for me to go to school?”

“We came from different backgrounds, but we all had one thing in common,” she recalls. “We were engaged in the faith. Academically, the quality was fantastic, and so was the character of the students and the people we interacted with. It was very different from what I would have experienced in public schools. We all shared the same value system. It was an all-girls school, and we weren’t shy to assume leadership roles and became successful in different professions.”

Jim attended Our Lady Queen of Peace School and was taught by the Presentation Sisters and later the Irish Christian Brothers at Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island. That experience defined him and created lifelong friendships and a strong value system.

“Both my parents are no longer with us, and I wish I had the opportunity to thank them for making the sacrifice to send me to Catholic school. It was such a great experience. In those days, parents had to spend $25 a month to send kids to high school, and it was a challenge. So how can we help out now, to whatever extent we can, when tuition is much higher? In today’s world, it’s a struggle for parents to send their kids to a private Catholic school.”

Jim is a non-practicing CPA, a 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 the non-executive treasurer and board member of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. Currently, he serves on the finance council of Saint Paul Church and the finance committee of Foundations in Education.

Paula has had many years of experience in various financial and general management positions at IBM. She held positions as CEO of IBM Digital Sales and CFO posts in IBM’s Global Geographic Units and Global Financing, Latin America Unit and Small and Medium Business Units, as well as other financial executive roles. She has a bachelor of arts degree and a master’s 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 she was recently named to the Board of Trustees of Foundations in Education.

(As we begin the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal, A Bridge Home, thank you for your support. To make your gift or learn more, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.)

By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT—“A Bridge Home,” is the theme of the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal which launched in all parishes at the end of January. The appeal is the major source of funding for ongoing diocesan ministries and new initiatives to unify the diocese and celebrate the faith.

“I am very grateful for your support this past year as we met the needs of our sisters and brothers whose lives were upended by COVID-19, especially the poor in our midst. This was possible because of your faith and generosity,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in a letter that has gone out to parishioners across the diocese.

“In my recent December Pastoral Exhortation, “Let us Go Forth from the Upper Room,” I proposed a three-fold mission to teach and preach the Gospel with clarity and conviction, transform our local communities into spiritual families united in faith, and to create bridges to those persons who feel neglected by the Church or whom the world considers, ‘outcasts,’” the bishop said.

This year the bishop is asking the faithful to continue the work of renewal in the diocese by supporting new initiatives that engage the young, invite people back to Church, and celebrate the truth and beauty of the Catholic tradition.

According to Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, this year’s Appeal goal of $8.1 million remains unchanged from last year and will support these 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.

“A Bridge Home” is the theme—highlighting hope, renewal and evangelization in our diocese, and it asks people to build bridges to one another in a way that supports unity and reaches out in service to all those in need,” Gallagher said.

This year’s appeal will also continue the successful “Parish Partnership” in which each parish will determine how to utilize any funds that are raised over the appeal goal set for the parish. Last year, many used their over-goal funds to partner with parishes that are pastorally vibrant but financially challenged.

Gallagher said a new Bishop’s Appeal Advisory Committee has been created to replace the Pastor’s Advisory Committee (PAC). This new committee consists of pastors and lay representatives and will be chaired by Father Paul Murphy, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Darien. Additional members of the new committee include Father Jose A. Vasquez, Father Henry Hoffman, Father Luke Suarez, Brian Young, Mary Jo Dyer and Patrick O’Keefe.

“I would like to thank the prior chairs, Father Reggie Norman and Father Mike Jones for their many years of service to the PAC and for agreeing to serve on the new advisory committee,” Gallagher said, who noted that the advisory committee will provide strategic advice regarding the Bishop’s Appeal.

Pam Rittman, director of the Bishop’s Appeal, said that “A Bridge Home” is a call to missionary discipleship, and to support new initiatives including the expanded Institute for Catholic Formation, a resource center that will invite, engage and connect people of all ages to our parishes; 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.

The 2022 Appeal also helps to support the more than 200 men and women Ambassadors who are now going out to the community to welcome people back to Church. A second cohort of Ambassadors will be commissioned this year.

“The appeal invests in services that continue to engage those in their faith and build a strong bridge to so many who are struggling. Now it is more important than ever to support our bishop’s mission to reunite our Church, affirm our faithful and welcome others back,” Rittman said.
Pledges can be made online at; or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849.

TRUMBULL—In a divided world, Dan and Kelly Anne Murphy, the chair couple of the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal, see an opportunity for Catholics to build bridges to one another and the community after two challenging years of a global pandemic.

They are urging the faithful to support Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s vision by building “A Bridge Home.”

“That theme is meant to highlight hope and renewal underway in our Church and lives,” the bishop said in his December Pastoral Exhortation titled, “Let Us Go Forth from the Upper Room.”

Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, said he is grateful that the Murphys accepted the Bishop’s Appeal leadership challenge, and he’s looking forward to partnering with them. “We’ve been blessed by the faith and dedication of our past chair couples, and both Dan and Kelly Anne are adding to the proud tradition within our diocese,” he said.

The Murphys believe the campaign offers the diocese an opportunity to bring healing and hope to families, friends, neighbors and others who are weary from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will also help reunite the Church, reaffirm our faith and welcome others back.

“We speak of the Body of Christ, and we have to gather all our resources and bring people back who may be on the other side of an obstacle,” Kelly Anne said. “We need to work on our formation by knowing and understanding what we believe. For example, many Catholics don’t believe in the True Presence. We have to get back to our roots and also reach out to people in need.”

The Murphys, who are members of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, served as the vice chair couple in the previous two campaigns and have been active in ministries in their church and the diocese.

“There is nothing more important than serving our Lord, and it has become more evident to me, with the pandemic, that a lot of people took a pause and a break,” Dan Murphy said.

“But our faith is one of community, and we need to do this together. It’s not done in isolation; we have to bring people together, particularly in our divided world.” In his letter, Bishop Caggiano outlined three tasks that will be the focus of the appeal: to teach and preach the Gospel with clarity and conviction; to transform local parish and school communities into spiritual families united in faith; and to create bridges to people who feel neglected by the Church or who the world considers “outcasts.”

The Bishop’s Appeal, formerly the Annual Catholic Appeal, highlights hope, renewal and evangelization, Kelly Anne said. It will invest in services to engage people in their faith by offering opportunities for discipleship, in addition to helping those who are struggling. The goal of the appeal is $8.1 million, which is the same as last year. Each parish will be allowed to determine how funds are used that are raised in excess of its goal.

“We are blessed to have the Murphys step into the role of chair couple for the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal after serving as vice chairs for several years,” said Pam Rittman, director of development and the Bishop’s Appeal. “Their leadership, deep faith, and roots in volunteering through their parish and diocesan ministries provides the foundation to inspire others.”

  • Among the initiatives the appeal will sponsor are the Institute for Catholic Formation to ensure young people stay connected to the life, mission and ministry of parishes, along with a new mentoring program called “The Bridge” Center for Young Adult Entrepreneurship, which will provide resources and mentorship to young adults for growth in their Catholic faith, while making an impact on their local communities.
  • The Sacred Heart Guild will support programs centered on Christ in the arts and evangelization by focusing on the beauty and truth of the Catholic tradition. The guild will seek to inspire through pilgrimages, workshops, concerts and talks that celebrate Christ in the arts, including sacred music, painting, architecture and literature, with particular attention to the needs of young people in our diocese, the bishop said.
  • Other ministries supported by the appeal include the St. Catherine Center for Special Needs and the Ambassador program, which assists parishioners in welcoming back those who have stopped attending Mass or left the faith.
  • The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund provides tuition assistance to nearly 1,300 students at diocesan Catholic elementary schools annually. In addition, it helps seminarians who are discerning their calling in preparation for the priesthood at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia and Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Stamford, while providing assistance to men in formation to the diaconate.
  • The Seton Collaborative offers expertise to diocesan schools and parishes by focusing on efficient and effective operations. Retired clergy receive support to live in dignity at the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy Residence.

The Murphys have seen firsthand the programs that benefit from the diocesan appeal. Kelly Anne is especially focused on Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence because her uncle, Father John Conlisk, was a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

She and their son Kevin, a freshman at Fairfield Prep, recently participated in a food distribution project at the Thomas Merton Center in which some 2,000 people lined up to receive food provided by the Church of Latter-day Saints in Utah.

She still recalls the first time she volunteered at the Merton Center. “I was on the line, scooping out the food and trying to interact with the guests, and I looked across at these people and thought any one of us is two steps away from being in that line, and it hit home that we were really blessed,” she said. “We’re not in the line, and we are blessed to be serving in the line.”

She believes that many people are eager to support the charitable works of the diocese through Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

When Kelly Anne talks about the good works the Church does, she recalls her grandmother Margaret Conlisk, an immigrant from County Mayo, who like many others came to America from Ireland and brought their faith with them. They took jobs as housekeepers and laborers and lived lives centered on Christ.

“My grandmother always said that you never miss anything you give to the Church,” Kelly Anne recalled. “You went to Mass and put your money in the basket…and it better not jingle.”

“Our parents raised us in a Catholic house and it has carried on down the generations,” said Dan, who admits to becoming fully immersed in the faith after their oldest daughter Alana started asking theological questions at sixyears-old, which he describes as “pretty deep.”

The Murphys are members of the Order of Malta and also volunteer during the organization’s annual pilgrimages to Lourdes for the sick, visiting the shrine to Our Lady.

Dan, a CPA with more than 20 years of executive finance and accounting experience, is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus and belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

He and their son Sean, a junior at Trumbull High School, are on the Welcome Team of St. Catherine of Siena, and Kevin is a master of ceremony at the parish.

The couple also has two daughters—Alana, a graduate of Boston College, who is getting her master’s degree in English at Fordham University, and Bridget, who is working on her master’s in teaching at Fordham while teaching math at Cristo Rey High School in New York City. All four Murphy children attended St. Catherine of Siena School.

(As we begin the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal, A Bridge Home, thank you for your support. To make your gift or learn more, please visit, or text the word, APPEAL, to 475.241.7849. If you have questions, please call 203.416.1470.)

The following is a message from Bishop Frank Caggiano:

We have had good news lately with the full re-opening of our churches and the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions allowing us to return to more active and engaged lives. It is a time to offer praise and to express gratitude for the good work by so many during the suffering and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.

It is also important to remember that during the darkest hours of the pandemic, the ministries funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal represented the compassion and mercy of Christ in our parishes and the larger community.

I wish to thank all of those who have given so generously over the past year to help their brothers and sisters in need. I am deeply grateful to our donors who through their generosity looked after all those who were vulnerable.

We need to raise $1.5 million to reach our $8.1 million goal

Gifts to the Appeal make it possible to:

  • Provide over 1.3 million meals each year, 10,000 counseling sessions and housing assistance through Catholic Charities
  • Award over $2.7 million in financial assistance for Catholic education through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund; and scholarships to 85% of students in the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport
  • Ensure on-going programs in faith formation and long-term Eucharistic Renewal

There is no better way to support this vision going forward than to join 11,000 donors who have given to Arise, the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal. Your gift reaches every aspect of diocesan life, from serving the neediest to strengthening our parishes and building up the entire Body of Christ in Fairfield County.

Let us pray together that the summer months ahead will be a time of full recovery and return to all that is good in life, and that we all truly come home to the Lord in our Father’s house and in our service to others. Thank you for your support.

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Please make a gift to the 2021 Appeal to support the works of charity and pastoral services, education and catechesis and faith and ministry.
We are grateful for your generosity.


MONROE—The response of the parishioners of St. Jude Parish in Monroe is emblematic of the hope and generosity of Catholics throughout the diocese who contribute to the appeal, which funds essential ministries, programs and agencies that deliver pastoral care and human services where they are most needed.

It took less than a month after the appeal began on February 27, for St. Jude’s to met its goal of $84,600. Parishioners were inspired by the leadership of Father Henry Hoffman, pastor, and his Annual Appeal team, who provided parishioners with an understanding of how important the campaign is in supporting programs, which no single parish can provide on its own.

Father Hoffman began working on a plan in mid-February with Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, and Deacon Patrick Toole, episcopal delegate for administration. He later met personally with the parish’s biggest donors. Then, Gallagher launched the campaign at all the parish’s Masses at the end of the month. A comprehensive website was developed to explain the goals and benefits of the appeal.

Gallagher said, “I was honored to be invited by Father Hoffman to help kick off the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal. I was immediately struck by the strong leadership offered by him and the lay leaders at St. Jude. The diocese is very appreciative of how the parish of St. Jude actively and generously supports the vital ministries, including Catholic Charities, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, seminarian formation and care for our retired priests.”

Father Hoffman’s efforts were augmented by those of the other members of the parish ACA team — Rich Lane, parish council president; Norma and Doug Bissell, co-chairs for the St. Jude appeal; and Deacons John Tuccio and David Flynn. The team launched the appeal in mid-February using the theme of Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The co-chairs spoke at every Mass on March 6 and 7, and their message was simple —“Many are in need, many who helped can’t help this year and may need help. We all need to help where we can.”

“Our message was delivered to everyone, including the children,” Norma and Doug Bissell said. “To our adults, we emphasized the online process, and for the children a ‘PENNIES FROM HEAVEN’ bucket was placed in the lobby.

“St. Jude Church is blessed to have wonderful parishioners who are sacrificing to help the ACA and their neighbors in need,” the Bissells said. “We are profoundly thankful to those parishioners who have taken us this far.”