Click here to launch the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal Review that first appeared in the March 2022 issue of Fairfield County Catholic.
Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT
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, 2022BishopsAppeal.org 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: www.faithformationreimagined.org.)
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 2022Bishopsappeal.org 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, www.2022BishopsAppeal.org 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 www.2022BishopsAppeal.org; 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, 2022BishopsAppeal.org 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.”
BRIDGEPORT—The 2021 ARISE Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) has passed the 50 percent mark with $5 million pledged on its way to the overall $8.1 million goal to fund the critical ministries and ongoing programs of the diocese.
“The response is well ahead of last year and is very encouraging on many levels” said Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese. “I’m very grateful for our donors, the leadership of our bishop and pastors and for the overall generosity of the people of the diocese.”
In addition to lowering the ACA goal this year as a result of the success of the We Stand With Christ capital campaign, the diocese has also shortened the time for the campaign. The goal is to bring the ACA to a close by the end of June.
Gallagher said he believes that the faithful have responded to the words of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano that this year’s appeal is crucial because of the need to reach out to those still suffering from the pandemic, while also helping the diocese to move ahead in its renewal efforts.
In announcing the Arise theme of this year’s appeal in February, the bishop said “We arise by standing together in prayerful hope to strengthen the mission of the Church which we form, a people of the light in darkness, a people of hope despite challenge.”
“I pray that, as we go forward, we will not lose this unique moment to aid our sisters and brothers in need, and place our Church on the path of growth and renewal,” the bishop said who issued a diocesan “Call to Renewal” in his recent pastoral exhortation, “Let us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”
Gallagher said that in addition to the overall amount collected and pledged to date toward the goal, he is very pleased to see the level of participation. The number of donors to the ACA is up considerably.
“Participation is up dramatically across the diocese and that’s a very positive trend,” said Gallagher, who noted that some parishes have already seen a sixty percent increase in the number of those who are giving.
“That’s a significant increase coming out of the pandemic and a very positive signal about the faith and generosity of the people of the diocese. Both large and small donors are eager to support the bishop’s plan for renewal and continue to help those in need.”
Gallagher said that people who contribute to the ACA understand that as donors they are also beneficiaries because the appeal reaches into every aspect of life in the diocese by making so many charitable, education and faith formation programs possible.
Among last year’s highlights were the more than 1.1 million meals served to the poor and food insecure through Catholic Charities, and more than $2.7 million in financial aid given to Catholic school students through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. The appeal also supported counseling and mental health services that have helped people get through the pandemic.
Pam Rittman, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, said one noticeable change to campaign this year will be the timing of in-pew weekend.
Rather than all parishes conducting the in-pew on the same weekend, the bishop has given pastors the discretion to conduct the in pew on a weekend that works best for them. Envelopes will begin arriving in parishes on April 30, and all in-pew will be held by the end of May, she said.
“It’s a very hopeful time because many people have been vaccinated and have begun returning to Mass in person,” said Rittman, who noted that people often prefer to make their pledge during the in-pew weekend.
However, those who are unvaccinated or concerned about returning to Church, can make a gift online or use the envelope enclosed in Fairfield County Catholic.
Rittman said she believes the pandemic stirred a deeper understanding of the role the Annual Catholic Appeal plays in the diocese, because the services it provided last year touched the lives of so many people—many of them who never needed help before.
“When the need arose to feed more people, bring the sacraments to hospitals and convalescent facilities, expand scholarship support to students whose parents lost their jobs, and improve communications to make online Masses possible, the ACA was the vehicle for this emergency response,” she said.
(Gifts can be made securely either on-line on the Annual Catholic Appeal website: 2021ACABridgeport.com donate page tab or by texting the word, APPEAL to 475.241.7849 on a smart phone or calling 203.416.1470. ACA gifts can be mailed to the Catholic Center at 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606.)
By Brian D. Wallace
BRIDGEPORT—The “ARISE” 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) is off to an encouraging start with $2.9 million pledged toward an overall goal of $8.1 million in support of Bishop Frank J. Caggiano’s “A Call to Renewal” along with ongoing programs and ministries.
The 2021 ACA moves forward at a hopeful moment with the arrival of vaccines and many parishioners beginning to return to in-person Mass around the diocese.
“I come to you with real, joyful hope because as this pandemic begins to recede, you and I are given this wonderful opportunity, creatively and imaginatively, to set our Church on a path of growth by offering new initiatives and new opportunities to engage our youth and welcome people back to Church.”
The bishop said he is particularly grateful for those who have already generously given to the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal, which is both looking forward to the future, but also working to address the ongoing needs of those who have been left behind as a result of the pandemic.
“This is not the time for us to turn our backs away from those in need,” the bishop said. “For the need remains urgent, and many suffer from the effects of this pandemic and will continue to do so for a long time as we work to recover.”
Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, said this year’s ACA will provide the financial resources for many of the initiatives outlined in the bishop’s recent Pastoral Exhortation, “Let Us Enter the Upper Room with the Lord.”
“In his Pastoral Exhortation the bishop has issued a “Call to Renewal,” which includes the designation of Centers of Mercy and Centers of Eucharistic Adoration to enable all to deepen their faith, said Gallagher.
Likewise, orientation and training has already begun for men and women of all ages throughout the diocese who are interested in becoming “Ambassadors,” who will share their faith with others and go out into the community later in the year to evangelize in person.
Planning is also underway for the development of four pastoral centers focusing on family life, Catholic culture and sacred arts, young adult entrepreneurship and evangelization in order to move the diocese forward in renewal.
“The seed money for these new and exciting programs will come from the ACA, and it will support the renewal efforts, “said Gallagher.
In describing “A Call to Renewal” Bishop Caggiano said it is not a formal process or program but a series of opportunities for people to deepen their faith, serve others and go out into community to address the needs of our entire family of faith. “We can become ambassadors of Christ in the world,” he said.
Pam Rittman, director of the ACA, said that in addition to supporting the bishop’s “A Call to Renewal,” the ACA continues to fund the major diocesan ministries and services available to all people in the diocese throughout the year.
“As a Catholic community we care deeply about the vulnerable and underserved parishioners within the Diocese of Bridgeport, many of whom are members of our inner-city churches and have been hardest hit by the pandemic,” she said.
Rittman said the need for nutrition, counseling and immigration services through Catholic Charities has remained elevated throughout the crisis while some parishes have required emergency support. Many families throughout the diocese have depended on the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund to support their choice of Catholic education for their children and because of the pandemic, there has been an increase in enrollment.
“The bishop has taught us that those in need are our brothers and sisters, and we must work to help them to feel welcome in our Church as part of our diocesan families. We need to stand with them and accompany them,” she said.
Rittman said the ACA is an opportunity for the people of the diocese to invest in the future of young people and the vibrancy of the entire faith community, while also continuing to support essential ministries that do the work of feeding and sheltering the poor, reaching out to the elderly, and serving all those who are vulnerable and troubled.
She added that a new revenue sharing plan allows each parish to designate their over goal funds to a specific ministry or diocesan mission program, another parish facing financial hardship, or for their own parish general operating needs. Each pastor, along with their parish council and finance committees, determine where the funds will be directed.
“We’re asking people to give according to their means at a time when there is much need, great hope and a shared vision for the future, and we are grateful for each and every gift no matter what people give,” she said.
Donations may be made by using the envelope in this issue or online at: www.2021ACABridgeport.com. You may also donate by texting the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849 to make your pledge. Please visit the website to view the 2021 Appeal video and learn more.
For the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, the following provides a correction to the figures for St. Thomas More Parish.
• % over goal—+6.3%
The diocesan Development Team would like to thank the parishioners of St. Thomas More for their commitment to supporting the ministries of the diocese.
By Brian D. Wallace
BRIDGEPORT—For both the Melaragnos and the Murphys, leadership of the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal, the pandemic has been a time for noticing and stepping up to address the great need in the Diocese of Bridgeport.
“Many people are asking for help at a time when help isn’t as readily available,” explained Roxanne Melaragno.
The 2021 ACA theme is “Arise” and people around the diocese have truly “arisen” to the challenge during this difficult time, although the need is still great.
Roxanne and Jason Melaragno, parishioners of Holy Family/St. Emery Parish in Fairfield continue as chair couple for this year’s appeal and have been serving in leadership roles within their parish and at the diocese. Kelly Anne and Dan Murphy, parishioners for St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Trumbull, continue a second year as vice chair couple.
Kelly Anne and Dan Murphy shared their experiences of volunteering at multiple food drives this summer. The couple volunteered at St. Catherine of Siena, St. Lawrence, the Thomas Merton Center and New Covenant Center, just to name a few.
“We learned that we need to direct generosity properly so that it reaches those in need,” shared Kelly Anne, referring to an experience at Blessed Sacrament Food Pantry in Bridgeport. “Many people that benefit from the food pantry come by on foot, so bulk items are often too heavy for them to carry.” Kelly Anne explained that with each food drive, the volunteers learned more and more about how to be intentional when it comes to donations.
“The manner in which we do outreach is different,” she said. “We have to be cognizant of what people’s needs are.”
“My experience volunteering during the pandemic has opened my eyes to what others really need and how we can meet those needs in new ways.”
The Melaragnos noticed how enthusiastic people were about being able to return to Mass. From early-March to mid-May, public Mass was not celebrated in the diocese due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it was a great sacrifice for many, especially those who watched a relative or friend fall ill, buried a loved one, or remained in isolation, the effort was in order to observe the state’s shelter at home order and save many lives.
On May 11, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced a gradual return to public Mass to begin later that month. The Melaragnos explained that although virtual Masses were a wonderful addition and a way to keep people connected during the height of COVID-19, the return to public Mass was indeed an occasion for much joy.
“People realized how much they missed Mass,” shared Jason Melaragno.
At their home parish of Holy Family/St. Emery, they noticed that the goal was to take precautions to help people feel as comfortable as possible returning to Mass—that even included the addition of a Holy Water dispenser.
The Murphys also remarked that it was comforting to see people gradually returning to public Mass, and at their home parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, all available seating has been filled since the middle of the summer.
That being said, the Murphys are very grateful for the ability to livestream and attend virtually, especially for the elderly or those at high-risk. Their hope is that parishes can continue to reach out to their parishioners via livestream.
The Murphys also praised the many opportunities that have become available for virtual group prayer and reflection. “More people are praying the Rosary virtually than ever before,” remarked Kelly Anne.
The Melaragnos praised the efforts of the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport to make sure staff and students were safe while still delivering instruction, and dispelling fear through transparent and hopeful messaging. The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, funded through the ACA, is there for students who may not have the ability to receive Catholic education otherwise, a cause that is of great importance to the chair couple.
“As we look towards 2021, the need will continue, but we are both eager to see how the ACA will be able to help people,” said Jason.
He explained that he and his wife’s focus for this year’s appeal is participation. He hopes that participation can be at 100%, even without a specific dollar amount, in order to more readily help those in need. “We see that as an opportunity to both display their Catholic faith and enhance their faith.”
“We can call on donors to act heroically,” said the Murphys. “With the help of the ACA, we hopefully will get back to something vaguely better than normal by continuing to learn and through people engaging with their faith in different ways.”
(To learn more about the 2021, Arise, Annual Catholic Appeal or to make a gift, please visit 2021ACABridgeport.com or call 203.416.1470. Thank you for your support.)
BRIDGEPORT—“Arise” is the theme for the 2021 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA), which launches in all parishes on February 27-28, as the diocese looks toward renewal in the coming year.
Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said he chose the “Arise” theme in gratitude for the many faithful who have truly risen to meet the challenge of caring for others during the pandemic and because he’s hopeful about the new year.
“As I’ve prayed and continue to pray for you and for your loved ones and for the mission of our Church, there is a single word that the Lord has put on my heart, and that word is, ‘Arise,’” he said.
In the new “Arise” ACA video, the bishop said that during the past year “our hearts were troubled, or our families threatened, and our neighbors and friends have suffered at the hands of this invisible menace in our midst.”
“Yet we have come together in hope and encouragement for one another and for our sisters and brothers in need and we have made the Lord’s presence real to them and to one another,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano said with vaccine distribution and the state’s recent easing of restrictions on church capacity and other activities, “We’ve come to a moment when we can dare to hope that we begin to see the first lights of a new dawn.”
The bishop said he is particularly concerned for “ those in our midst whom this pandemic has ravaged so deeply.” And he urged the faithful, “to not leave anyone behind, most especially those who are suffering, have lost homes, have lost jobs and even have lost hope.”
Joe Gallagher, Chief Development Office of the diocese, said this year’s goal is $8.1 million, 10 percent less than last year due to the success of the We Stand With Christ Capital Campaign and will allow the diocese to maintain works of charity, pastoral ministry, education and catechesis.
“Last year in the midst of a historic health crisis, we were blessed by the extraordinary generosity of the faithful throughout the diocese, the sacrificial work of our campaign co-chairs and the leadership of Bishop Caggiano, who has been tireless in his advocacy for serving the most vulnerable among us while celebrating our faith in a time of great hardship and anxiety,” said Gallagher.
Gallagher said that those who gave to the Annual Appeal last year helped to bring the mercy of Christ to people who suffered immediately from job loss, hunger and psychological stress as a result of the pandemic, and who needed immediate help through Catholic Charities and other ministries.
The Emergency ACA also helped churches and schools to safely remain open while also supporting online Masses, remote learning when necessary and other emergency measures.
Many also stepped up through the worst months of the pandemic and supported their parishes and the diocese in unprecedented ways in addition to making their gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal.
While a gift to this year’s ACA will continue to support Catholic education, Faith formation, vocations, retired priests, Catholic Charities and other ongoing ministries, this year’s campaign will fund programs that have grown out of the needs that emerged during the pandemic
Pamela S. Rittman, director of Development, said that the 2021 ACA will help the diocese move forward after the difficult months of the past year. “The vaccine is here and we are inaugurating much needed and innovative initiatives in our diocese, which are giving people hope and inviting them back to church,” she said.
ACA funds will support the bishop’s plan for a Year of Eucharistic Celebration and Renewal through the dedication of Centers of Mercy and Centers of Eucharist in various parishes throughout the diocese.
Rittman said that additionally, a new sharing formula makes it possible for over-goal funds to be used to address critical needs within a parish, or to be allocated to a neighboring parish or specific diocesan mission.
(Please participate in this year’s, Arise, Annual Catholic Appeal by giving as generously as your means allow. To make a donation online at www.2021ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. Donations of whatever amount will help us to help those in need. Thank you for your support.)
The 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, While the historic health crisis of 2020 impacted everyone, the generosity of the donors to the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal enabled the Diocese of Bridgeport to expand services to meet the spiritual and daily needs of individuals and families, many of whom lost their jobs. We are grateful for the support of all those who participated. The 2020 “Renew” Annual Catholic Appeal raised $8,047,988 on a goal of $9 million dollars. The Appeal makes it possible for works of charity and pastoral services, faith and ministry and education and catechesis to continue each and every day. Thank you to our donors, pastors and priests, staff and volunteers who work tirelessly during the Appeal. Likewise, we extend our gratitude to the pastors and parishioners of the “We Stand With Christ” Capital Campaign for meeting and exceeding their capital campaign goal and meeting 100 percent of their Annual Catholic Appeal goal.
By BRIAN D. WALLACE
During the COVID-19 lockdown, Father Norbert Siwinski O.F.M., pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Bridgeport, discovered parishioners he never had before—from all over the world.
As part of his strategy to reach out to his faith community through Facebook and live-stream Masses in English and Polish, he touched many more people worldwide.
“Now, I have two parishes—in Bridgeport and our online visitors,” he said. “It’s so nice for me, like a big family. There are people from Texas and Arizona, where they don’t have Polish-speaking parishes, who come to pray with us.” Not to mention visitors from as far away as Lithuania, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia. In fact, the St. Michael Facebook page has 1,000 followers.
The enthusiasm he brings to his job as pastor for the past two years is evident. He came to America after being the pastor of a German church outside Cologne for 14 years. Father, who is half Lithuanian and half Polish, grew up in Poland.
A year ago, St. Michael’s celebrated its 120th anniversary, and for most of that time, it was a Franciscan-run parish, which today attracts visitors from all over the state, including German-speaking people who come to Father for their confessions. The only other German-speaking priest is in Boston, he says.
Father Norbert is especially proud that his parish raised more than 80 percent of its goal for the Annual Catholic Appeal.
“It was a really hard year for our parish because of COVID-19, and we had to find new solutions,” he said. “We couldn’t celebrate in the church, so I started doing Facebook live-streaming every day with evening Mass and prayer services. We are a Polish-American church, and this has become a meeting place for Polish-speaking people and many visitors come to be with us online.”
St. Michael’s also has a YouTube channel with sermons and songs, which Father calls, “a piece of home for Polish people in America.”
“For me, the Annual Appeal is very important; it is part of our identity,” he said. “While we are a Polish-American family, we are also part of the diocese. We have our own traditions and liturgy, but we belong to the Diocese of Bridgeport.”
Participation is key
Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, said that over 11,270 generous donors have made over 13,700 gifts to the appeal, raising $7 million.
Gallagher said that Mass attendance restrictions with the limited ability to attend services in person is effecting the Appeal performance in dioceses across the U.S.
“Many dioceses are seeing a 30 percent reduction in the overall goal achievement, we have achieved 77 percent of the goal and it continues to grow,” said Gallagher who believes the response has been above the national average because of the bishop’s leadership during the crisis.
“Participation is key, not just for this year but for the future,” says Gallagher. “Our bishop has made it clear that we’re all in this together and that we’re facing extraordinary needs. There is still time to join those who have responded to the bishop’s call and given so generously,” he said.
For Gallagher who joined the diocese in August, this year’s ACA is his first and he says he is encouraged by enthusiastic response by donors and the parishes who are nearing or have already achieved goal. He said the leadership of pastors is one of the most significant factors in a parish’s response to the ACA.
St. Elizabeth Seton, Ridgefield
Father Joseph Prince, pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Ridgefield, who will be celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest next year and 25 years in his parish, believes his faith community has an astute awareness of the mission of the universal Church.
“It’s not only that we think and care about our own needs in the parish, but our people also stand up to help meet the needs of the people in the universal church,” he said. “They are always generous and ready to contribute in any way possible. They are just lovely people.”
Father, who was ordained in India and served three years in that country before coming to America, said his parishioners are very active in charitable works and they volunteer regularly at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House in Danbury. They also have an active outreach in the community, collecting coats and clothes for the needy, contributing to food panties and conducting a Christmas gift drive for Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport.
“They are always looking to help people and extend Christian charity to others,” he said.
St. Elizabeth Seton Parish raised more than 82 percent of its goal in the Annual Catholic Appeal. Father said, “I just really want to thank my people for their wonderful love and affirmation of my ministry in the parish and give special thanks to Bishop Caggiano for all he has done.”
Despite the limits on Mass attendance and the need to live-stream, Father said that the offertory is holding steady and many people are giving online or through the mail.
Reflecting on the role of the parish priest during times of crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, “We are always there for them. Before every Mass and after every Mass, we greet people. We are present in their lives and always ready to serve them in any way possible.”
St. Margaret Mary, Shelton
Father Ciprian Bejan, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church in Shelton, applauds his parishioners for raising 113 percent of the parish goal in the Annual Catholic Appeal.
“They are very generous; they give generously even though they are not wealthy people,” he said. “And they understand the importance of giving.”
Father said that he conducted a silent appeal. “With COVID-19 and the restrictions, I didn’t really push too much, but I mentioned the appeal to them.”
The success was gratifying, and he attributes it to their appreciation and understanding of what the appeal does.
“During the past two years, I mentioned its importance and what we do and how much can happen when we join our resources on the parish level with the diocese,” he said. “They were made aware about the good things the Catholic Church does with our money.”
He said his parishioners are also very generous with their time in charitable activities and volunteer work in the area.
“We made people aware that in addition to helping others in need throughout the diocese, they also come back to the parish,” he said. “And while COVID-19 has been challenging, with their generosity, we have been able to cover our expenses and parish life continues to move forward without having to worry about the lack of resources.”
St. Margaret Shrine, Bridgeport
Deacon Don Faust, administrator of St. Margaret Shrine, said he is constantly overwhelmed by the generosity of those who form the community of faith at the shrine located about a mile from the Catholic Center in Bridgeport. Presently, the Shrine has achieved 99 percent of its goal with nearly a 30 percent participation rate, one of the highest in the diocese.
“They’re just unbelievably generous, no matter what we ask for,” said Deacon Faust, who is grateful and proud of the response he and Father Giandomenico Flora have received as they’ve presided over the revival and restoration of the Shrine, which now draws visitors from all over the region.
The deacon is also quick to share credit for the Shrine’s high participation rate with super volunteer Angelo Cocco.
“He is just so devoted to the ACA and puts his heart into it. Angelo speaks at all of the Masses, and he is really one of the reasons for our success.”
Deacon Faust said that St. Margaret Shrine has developed into a caring and diverse worship community with about 375 people attending Mass each weekend. Masses are held outside when the weather permits and in the Shrine’s small chapel.
One other reason for success is the empathy of people for each other and an awareness that many are in need.
“We have a number of people who are suffering, even here at the Shrine. When we determined our goals last year, we allotted additional money for outreach to help with tuitions, gifts cards, and the Food Bank. As a result our people know the importance of the ACA and its ability to reach others throughout the diocese, and they’re committed to supporting it.”
Pamela S. Rittman, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal for the diocese, said the demand for services increased significantly during the COVID-19 crisis, and it continues today because of job losses, homelessness, the death of loved ones and the need for counseling.
“This is where the Annual Catholic Appeal is so important,” she said. “A gift of $5, $20 or larger, no matter the amount, makes a difference.”
Rittman said “When we think about Thanksgiving and what we are grateful for and when we look forward to Advent and Christmas in these challenging times, remember there are many people who are in worse situations, who depend on the diocese for their daily meal, for online Masses and prayer services, and for faith and formation programs. Parents of children who receive tuition assistance from the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund or who are now in need of funding receive help from the Appeal. It is a vital ministry to assist our parishioners and community as Christ calls us to do so.
Please help Bishop Caggiano assist our neighbors and friends and a make a pledge at www.2020ACABridgeport.com, text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849, or call 203.416.1470 and someone will help you make your special gift. Does your company participate in a matching gift program? Your gift may be doubled or tripled. Please call the Development Office at 203.416.1312 for instructions on how to make the most of your generosity.
By Joe Pisani