Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Parishes step up participation in ACA

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

Investing in their faith and future

BRIDGEPORT—Putting two boys through Catholic school is a labor of love for Janet and Sergio Bran of Bridgeport. It’s also a sacrifice they’re willing to make because they want their sons to carry the gift of Catholic faith throughout their lives.

Eight-year-old Alexander and 13-year-old Sebastian are students at All Saints School in Norwalk. They have been able to attend with the help of donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal’s, Bishop Scholarship Fund, which provides essential tuition assistance for students in diocesan elementary schools.

“This is a big sacrifice for us, but we believe that in today’s world we are making the right choices and decisions. It’s easy for adults and kids to derail from our faith and from God, especially with social media. They need a good foundation and something they can grow with and never forget. If you don’t have that from the beginning, it’s harder to start when the you get older,” says Janet Bran.

Joe Gallagher, chief development officer of the diocese, says that the mission of the Annual Catholic Appeal in the most basic terms is to help people in the diocese—whether it’s putting their children through Catholic schools, feeding the hungry, working with the most vulnerable or providing faith formation to people across the diocese.

Gallagher says that without the ACA, the cost of Catholic education would be beyond the reach of many families, especially those with more than one child in school.

Both boys were enrolled at All Saints before the family moved to Bridgeport a few years ago, but they loved the school so much, they decided that no matter where they moved, they would continue the boys at All Saints.

Janet says the school feels like one big family, and she has nothing but praise for the staff and faculty particularly as they pull together during the COVID-19 crisis to deliver academic excellence in the framework of a faith based learning community.

“Our school is doing tremendous job and I really give credit to every single person on the faculty and in the school. I believe they’re doing everything possible to keep kids in school and to be safe. What I’ve seen is that we’re in this all together and everyone’s doing their best,” she says.

Janet says that COVID-19 has also had a negative impact on her family’s finances and on many other families from the school.

A self-employed bookkeeper, she has experienced the loss of business clients who have suffered or closed up in the downturn, and her husband Sergio’s work in wine and spirits sales has become more difficult and challenging.

She says that everything in the supermarket has become more expensive, and there are always unforeseen bills that make it difficult to make ends meet, while meeting the cost of tuition.

The financial assistance the family has received from the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund has made it possible for her and her husband to keep their son Alexander at All Saints.

“We don’t go out and spend money on what we don’t need. Our priority is education. We just learn to cut back on other things and we’re happy we can do this for the boys.”

She and Sebastian, who will enter high school next year, attended an open house at Notre Dame High School and loved the school and its many programs.

Janet says she is very grateful for the support of the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and even hesitant to ask because she knows that some families are in far greater need. But it’s a choice she and her husband have made and an investment in the faith and future of their sons.

“I hope that the boys will always be grateful for what they have and remember what we did for them by providing a solid faith-based education. We’re working hard for them so that they can have things we didn’t have and do better than we have. We want them to take the sacrifices we are making for them and put it to good use,” she says.

“Our schools play a major role in forming young people in the faith. They are safe, vibrant and academically excellent faith-based learning community. Contributions our donors make go directly to the families in need and they truly are a living legacy,” says Gallagher.

Gallagher says that last year, 1,456 students were awarded $2,798,800 in tuition assistance and more than $1.5 million was funded through the Annual Catholic Appeal, Bishop’s Scholarship Fund. With 2,546 families applying and a calculated need of $6,813,995, parents continue to rely on the fund to make Catholic education a reality for their children.

(If you haven’t participated in this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal, please make your gift online at www.2020ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849 or call 203.416.1470. Thank you for your support.)

By Brian D. Wallace

‘Emergency Funds’ seeks to raise $1.5 million

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has appealed to Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport to raise $1.5 million as part of the Annual Catholic Emergency Appeal because of an increased demand for services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused “continuing uncertainty and suffering.”

“In the past six months we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who came to our outreach programs seeking food, housing, educational assistance, psychological support and spiritual consolation,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Many have lost family members, found themselves without jobs, are suffering ill health and are unable to return to work or unable to meet their family’s basic needs. This human suffering will not end anytime soon. In many respects, it continues to grow.”

The appeal, which has as its theme “Love never fails,” taken from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, has raised $6.7 million since it began in February and has allowed the diocese to accomplish the following:

  • Serve an additional 700 meals a day at its soup kitchens and other non-profit nutrition programs and homeless shelters. Catholic Charities served more than 500,000 meals from March through August, almost three times the usual number.
  • Provide housing for more than 70 homeless individuals at a Shelton hotel where they receive three meals a day.
  • Meet the demand for counseling services at a time when depression and anxiety are on the rise.
  • Provide scholarship assistance and distance learning for all diocesan Catholic schools and students receiving sacramental preparation and religious instruction. This year has seen an increase of 800 students in Catholic schools.
  • Celebrate Masses and liturgies online through live-streaming.
  • Support hospital chaplains bringing Christ to patients and families who were often separated during this crisis.

Bishop Caggiano said the pandemic has affected the Church and larger community and that many people find they are in need of assistance for the first time in their lives. He expects there will be more difficult times in the months ahead.

“Suffering has taken its face in those around us,” he said. “Many have lost family members, found themselves without jobs, are suffering ill health and unable to return to work or unable to meet their family’s basic needs. This human suffering will not end anytime soon. In many respects, it continues to grow.”

He expressed gratitude to donors who have given to the appeal during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. “Over the last six months, we have seen so much need and suffering in our midst, but through your generosity, the Church has been able to respond generously and in many ways even heroically,” he said. “Given the extraordinary circumstances and the hardships many people are experiencing, the response to the appeal has been gratifying. The diocese has pulled together as a family and has shown a concern that has inspired me and made me proud.”

Joseph Gallagher, who was named chief development officer of the diocese in June, said, “I’ve been with the diocese for four months and have been struck by the overwhelming willingness of parishioners to respond during the crisis. I am very grateful to everyone.”

Gallagher emphasized the importance of the Annual Catholic Appeal, which meets the immediate needs of the diocese, as opposed to long-term needs covered by the We Stand With Christ capital campaign. He stressed that the appeal provides for the faithful in three basic areas—Catholic education, charitable services provided by Catholic Charities, and faith formation.

He said the success of the appeal is based on a partnership with parishes that are working to reach their goals. One of those parishes is St. Pius X of Fairfield, which achieved 111 percent of its goal.

When asked what the secret was, Father Samuel S. Kachuba, pastor, responded, “I did nothing. That’s the absolute truth. The most important thing is that people at St. Pius are extraordinarily generous. This is a parish that has folks who are committed to the good of the Church, and they recognize there are things that not only need to be done at the parish level but also need to be done at the diocesan level. There are people in need and there are causes that the Church must support—and they want to be part of it. The Annual Catholic Appeal provides them with the opportunity to be involved when they might not be personally.”

Father Kachuba said many of his parishioners are committed to the work of Catholic Charities and Catholic education. Some of them were graduates themselves or have children who attended Catholic schools.

“They want to see Catholic education thrive and grow, and they recognize that not everyone can afford Catholic school, so they are very willing to make those gifts so that Catholic education can be strong for others,” he said.

In addition, many St. Pius parishioners are involved with the work of Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport and other ministries and have seen firsthand the need that exists in the community.

“They recognize how blessed they are and want to give back,” Father said.

While the parish reached 111 percent of its goal, Father said he wished the rate of participation were higher. “We have a lot more people who participate in the regular parish offertory than who participate in the annual appeal, and that is always the biggest challenge for parishes—how to encourage more people to give.”

He believes the COVID pandemic inspired many to give sacrificially because they realized, “We’ve got to do something because the needs are significantly higher and greater than they have been in the past.”

He has also seen greater participation in the parish’s food drive. “In some ways, I suspect the pandemic has actually brought out the best altruistic characteristics that people have,” he said.

Pamela S. Rittman, director of development and the Annual Catholic Appeal, praised Father Kachuba for the success at St. Pius.

She also said that the diocese responded to the increased need by sending letters to donors, instituting a ministry video, social media outreach and wellness calls to parishioners. She thanked those who participated in the appeal, some of whom were first-time donors and others who made two gifts.

“With the challenges and uncertainty presented by COVID-19, we have found ourselves living in a world very different than it’s ever been before,” Rittman said. “The demand for services increased tremendously, and one thing for certain is our parishioners, in the most difficult situations, continue to reach out in compassion to one another and support not only those in most need, but the programs and services that provide for all ministry and school programs. We still need your help and are grateful for your sacrificial giving.”

By Joe Pisani

Bishop asks all to step up to support ACA

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is asking Catholics throughout the diocese for help in closing the $1.5 million gap between current Annual Catholic Appeal  (ACA) resources and the increasing needs of people as a result of the pandemic.

The bishop said in time of  unprecedented crisis and much uncertainty going forward, the need for basic services and other outreach provided by the diocese has doubled and in some case tripled.

In a new letter and video the bishop urged those who have not yet given to the appeal to join in the effort to help the diocesan family, and he expressed his appreciation for all those who have already given.

“Over last six months we have seen so much need and suffering in our midst. Through your generosity the Church has been able to respond generously and in many ways, even heroically,” he said, adding that he expects more difficult months ahead and is working to ensure the diocese will be able to respond.

“We had hoped that by the Fall this would be behind us, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” he said.

“Love never fails” is the theme of the appeal. It is drawn from the words of St. Paul’s in Chapter 13 of his first letter to Corinthians, “So, these remain: faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of them is love.”

The bishop said pandemic has affected every aspect of life in the Church and the larger community and that the ongoing impact of the pandemic is affecting many people around the diocese—many who have need help for the first time in their lives.

“Suffering has taken its face in those around us,” said the bishop. “Many have lost family members, found themselves without jobs, are suffering ill health and unable to return to work or unable to meet their family’s basic needs. This human suffering will not end anytime soon. In many respects, it continues to grow,” he said.

The bishop has consistently urged the faithful to pray for all those who have passed away or who are suffering from the COVID-19 virus and to be mindful of all those whose lives are struggling.

“Countless people are relying on you and me that we do not fail—that we come to them to help feed, clothe and accompany them in fear; that we each out to the young people in our schools, and to all those suffering from the isolation. We can help them find hope.”

The bishop said that diocesan ministries funded by the Annual Catholic Appeal continue to provide “truly lifesaving” service that accompany all spiritually during the difficult journey of the pandemic.

Catholic Charities has served over 500,000 meals from March through August—two to three times the number regularly served. Counseling services have increased as families and individuals have needed to address their acute anxiety and depression along with concerns for the future. Likewise Catholic schools have increased scholarship assistance and transitioned  to distance learning concerns over the future; and our school students successfully transitioned to continue their education on-line.

The bishop said that the ACA works in big and small ways to support so many good works and services throughout the diocese including faith formation, charity and education—the programs and services people rely on when they have nowhere else to turn.

While there are many challenges ahead the bishop said he remains optimistic because he witness the great generosity of the people of the diocese—their sacrificial giving, volunteering and personal charitable acts, and the depth of their prayers during the crisis.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances and the hardships that many people are experiencing, the response to the appeal has been gratifying,” said Bishop Caggiano. “The diocese has pulled together as a family and have shown a generosity that has inspired me and made me proud.”

“What I’m asking is that if you haven’t given and you have the ability to make a gift, please step forward now to help us reach goal. When we look back on the pandemic, it will be a legacy and witness to the level of caring and compassion in our diocese,” he said.

(Please use the enclosed envelope to donate to this year’s appeal as generously as your means allow. If you prefer, you may make your gift online at www.2020ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849.  Our generous donors are the hands of God reaching out to those in need; all donations of whatever amount will help us to help them.)

By Brian D. Wallace

Bringing Christ to the sick and dying

NORWALK—Every day, Father Paul Sankar, chaplain at Norwalk Hospital, sees opportunities for Catholics to come back to their faith. He encounters people who haven’t been to church in a long time, and while they lie in their hospital beds, it seems that Jesus is tugging at their sleeves.

NORWALK HOSPITAL CHAPLAINS (l-r) Father Marcel Saint Jean and Father Paul Sankar

“They say hospital walls hear more prayers than church walls,” Father said. “We see a lot of transformation, especially of Catholics who have not been to church in years. They see us, they talk to us, they receive Communion, and tell us they will return to church.”

Father Paul and Father Marcel Saint Jean, both chaplains at the hospital, bring Christ to the infirm and dying on a daily basis.

“There isn’t a greater way to serve the Lord than when I am helping a vulnerable person,” said Father Marcel. “This is evident when I am present in a room with a patient. What makes it so authentic is knowing I am seeing the Lord in that patient. As a chaplain, there isn’t a time when I am with a patient and not hearing the voice of Jesus resounding in my heart and ears saying, ‘I was sick and you came to visit me.’”

Father Paul, who has been a full-time chaplain at Norwalk Hospital for 12 years, is in residence at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Weston. Father Marcel, a part-time chaplain there for four years, serves at St. Joseph Church in South Norwalk.

“Their ministry would not be possible without the Annual Catholic Appeal,” said Father William Platt, pastor of The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes in Greenwich and Director of Hospital Chaplains for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Father Platt, who was a hospital chaplain for 25 years, said, “Our chaplains continued to serve with courage through this pandemic. They have had to navigate a wide range of hospital and nursing home protocols in regard to visitation and the last rites. They have done so with skill and compassion. The Catholic Church is the only faith group that provides chaplains to public institutions free of charge. It is something in which we may take pride, thanks to the ACA.”

Father Paul recalls the case of a woman who was dying of cancer and her family asked him to anoint her. He offered to give her Communion, but she resisted because she hadn’t been to church in a long time.

“I told her she could make a simple confession and receive absolution because God knows everything,” he said. “She did, and the whole family was crying and thanked me. Two days later she died. It was a very touching experience for me.”

The hospital setting offers many opportunities for people to renew their faith and come back to the Church, he said. So many Catholics have no parish and many are getting older and no longer practice their faith.

“We hospital chaplains visit these patients, and they are very happy to see us,” he said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they were restricted from visiting patients in their rooms and had to rely on phone calls and Zoom sessions to pray with patients who were isolated from their families. The Catholic nurses would often put them in touch with patients who needed prayer and encouragement.

Father Paul, who was a priest in India for 15 years before he came to the diocese, said he is appreciative to Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and the Annual Catholic Appeal.

Being a hospital chaplain is a special calling, he says, which requires a priest to be available whenever a call comes in. Training includes four units of a Clinical Pastoral Education program.

Recently, he received a call from a 75-year-old man concerned about his 70-year-old brother, who was a patient.

“He told me, ‘My brother was a good Catholic but stopped practicing his faith. Can you convince him to come back to the Church?’ He wanted a priest to give him the sacraments,” Father recalled. “He had no family except his brother. He grew up Catholic, but hadn’t practiced his faith in 30 years.”

Father went to see the man, who agreed to confession and then he received Communion. He was very happy and his brother was grateful to Father.

Father Paul’s work also brings him in contact with people of great faith, such as a 39-year-old woman with two children who was dying of cancer.

“Father, I am ready to die; pray for me if it is God’s will,” she said. She was able to deal with it because of her strong faith.

“I learn so much from the patients,” he said. “Sometimes they are like saints. Despite their sickness, they are happy. And those who know they are going to die want to be at peace with God.”

Father says the families of patients still call him, and occasionally he will meet someone in the supermarket who says, “Father do you remember me? When I was sick, you brought me Communion.’”

“It is a wonderful ministry to care for the sick, and to practice the Corporal Works of Mercy,” he says.

Father Marcel, who came from Haiti and was ordained in 1996 in the Diocese of Bridgeport, also served as chaplain in Bridgeport Hospital for four years in addition to several parish assignments.

“Chaplaincy to me is a call to compassion,” he said. “Through my visits and presence to the patients, I have learned patience, humility and kindness. No matter what they are going through, when I leave the room, I always hear these words: ‘Father, thank you for coming. You made my day. Please come back.’”

One of his patients was an elderly woman who was dying and haunted by guilt and hurt because she had been divorced and could not receive Communion. Father knew he had to put her at peace with Christ and help heal her troubled conscience.

“The only way to lift her up was to try to say what Jesus would say in a situation like that,” he recalled. “That day in her room she said, ‘Father, I feel I am being rejected by my own church.’”

“I told her, ‘You are a daughter of Abraham and a beloved daughter of God. Whatever happened in your past life, whatever made you feel guilty, God will not hold it against you.’”

Father Marcel heard her confession, and she told him it gave her the most peace and happiness she felt in a long time.

“I saw a luminous face, and her countenance changed after confession because she knew she was loved by God,” Father Marcel said.

From the time he was 3-yearsold, Marcel Saint Jean wanted to be a priest because of the example of his mother and the Redemptorist missionaries in his parish who built hospitals and schools and set a profound example for the people. He even grew his hair long to be like them, until his father cut it one night while he was sleeping.

As a boy, everyone in the neighborhood called him “Mon Père,” which is French for “My Father.” Although his mother nurtured his childhood vocation, his father directed him to study civil engineering, which he did for a time.

“But the Lord really spoke to my heart, and I remembered the example of those good priests,” he said. And he followed their example. In 2000, he led a campaign to build a school in Portau-Prince to give children an opportunity to succeed in life.

“All they need is a helping hand, and I am glad that I was that helping hand,” he said.

“Being a chaplain allows a priest to make Christ present in a tangible way to patients and their families through his compassion, his words of comfort and the sacraments,” he says. “It lets us follow the words of Jesus who said, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

By Joe Pisani

Retired executive reaches out to faithful, one phone call at a time

After retiring as director of sales and marketing for Eli Lilly and Company 15 years ago, Ford Lynch walked into the Catholic Center of the Diocese of Bridgeport looking for work…and he got it. Plenty of it.

“I was looking for some way to give back, so I went to see the head of development and asked, ‘Do you need any help? I’ll do whatever you want.’”

Lynch, a parishioner at St. Luke Church in Westport, has generously volunteered his services and done everything from working at the Thomas Merton Center to helping at the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence for retired priests. He has assisted pastors with the Annual Catholic Appeal and delivered materials throughout Fairfield County to the many charitable organizations the diocese supports.

“I do whatever I can,” says Lynch. “I deliver things to churches, driving around picking stuff up. Nothing is too big; nothing is too small.”

His latest project, which began several weeks ago, is a simple, yet powerful initiative on the part of the diocese to express its gratitude to the many people who have donated to the annual appeal.

Lynch sits at his desk at his home in Westport several days a week and calls parishioners from a list he has been given by the Development Office. Since he began, he has made more than 1,000 calls.

“I call up folks on the list and tell them, ‘This is a ‘thank you’ call for your support and to let you know that during the pandemic, the diocese is continuing all its programs,’” he said. “I call to thank them and tell them to stay healthy.”

The calls are not only thank you calls, but wellness calls. He asks parishioners how they are doing in the crisis and updates them on how the diocese is continuing its programs, such as online Masses, nutrition services providing increased meals, distance learning and children continuing their schooling, hospital chaplains with patients where families were unable to see their relatives, and faith and sacramental programs.

Many of the people he reaches out to have questions. Some even share the struggles they are facing during the pandemic, so Lynch reminds them of the services the diocese provides and urges them to look on the website and not hesitate to seek help themselves.

“I want to thank them, but also remind them that we are here for them,” Lynch said.

“I can guarantee them their money has been well-spent since I have seen it firsthand, from the soup kitchens to the Blue Ribbon schools, and the work the priests do,” he says.

People are encouraged by his phone calls and often write down the information about the services. They are also grateful for the recognition and to know the Church cares about them during this crisis. Others ask if he has any information about when things will return to normal in their churches. And still others share stories of their personal hardship.

“I hear all kinds of stories. Some say, ‘My business is falling apart. Or I’ve been furloughed. Or I’m going to lose my job. Or I’m afraid what will happen to me in the future,’” Lynch said. “We are facing something that has never been seen in 100 years.”

Lynch, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduated from the College of Pharmacy at Northeastern University, before starting his career at Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company. He has been a committed lifelong Catholic.

“I have always gone to church…always, always, always and still do now,” he said. “I felt this was an opportunity to help the Church and other people. Then, once I got into it and saw how the contributions were spent helping people in Fairfield County, it fortified my belief that it was worth my time to be doing this.”

(For information about the services the Diocese of Bridgeport offers, visit www.bridgeportdiocese.org.)

By Joe Pisani

Diocese names new Chief Development Officer

BRIDGEPORT—Joseph Gallagher of Armonk, New York, has been named chief development officer of the Diocese of Bridgeport. The appointment was made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, effective June 8, 2020.

Gallagher will be responsible for major gifts and planned giving programs and coordinating development and advancement efforts in the Diocese of Bridgeport including the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) and the completion of the We Stand With Christ capital campaign.

“Joseph Gallagher brings extensive experience in development and marketing in both the corporate and non-profit sectors along with an understanding of the role of faith in our society, especially when it is put into action to serve others,” said Bishop Caggiano. “We welcome his seasoned leadership as the diocese moves forward in its work of renewal and evangelization.”

The diocese is currently in the redemption phase of its successful $75 million capital campaign, which has funded the development of major Foundations in Faith, Education and Charity to address long-term needs. It also manages the Annual Catholic Appeal, which funds the major programs and ministries provided by the diocese each year.

“The faithful of the diocese have shown extraordinary generosity and a willingness to invest in the mission of the Church and in the future of our young people,” said Bishop Caggiano. “The stewardship of our resources requires the ability to develop an overall development plan and communications strategy that will advance all giving opportunities, and we believe Joseph Gallagher will provide direction and innovation as we go forward.”

Joseph Gallagher comes to the diocese from Manhattan College, where he has served as major gifts officer/advancement and as member of the capital campaign team since 2017.

Prior to joining the development field, Gallagher worked in the media business for thirty years in sales and marketing positions. Among his previous positions, he served as senior vice president of sales strategy & planning for Disney’s ABC Family Cable Network.

In the past he served as vice president, national sales for NBC Sports Regional Networks for NBC UNIVERSAL, where he managed national sales for eight sports networks. He also worked as General Manager of Ad Sales REELZCHANNEL, New York.

Gallagher made the transition from marketing to development in the not for profit sector in 2015, when he was named director of philanthropy for Carver Foundation. The Norwalk-based foundation raises revenue to operate after-school programs for more than a thousand students in unique partnership with the Norwalk Public Schools.

A native of Crestwood, N.Y., where he and his family were members of Annunciation Parish, he attended Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School of Communications and is completing work on a master’s of science, Manhattan College, School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Among his volunteer commitments he has been elected to Board of Fire Commissioners, North Castle Fire District Number 2, a post he has held since 2017. He has served on the board of the Easter Soccer Foundation in Greenwich and as a member of the development committee of Archbishop Stepinac High School. He also coaches youth sports, soccer and basketball and has run the New York Marathon twice.

Joseph Gallagher and his wife Julie have been married for thirty-three years and have four adult children. They are active members of St. Patrick’s Parish in Armonk, where he has been involved in development efforts for the parish and helped run the Teen Life group for ten years.

The Diocese of Bridgeport is comprised of 78 parishes located in cities and towns throughout Fairfield County. It includes 410,000 Catholics and serves people of all faiths through its schools, charities, and pastoral care programs.

(For information on its development programs and giving opportunities, visit www.bridgeportdiocese.org/support.)

Emergency appeal leads to strong response

BRIDGEPORT—Response to the emergency needs outlined in this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal has been strong, personal and encouraging, says Pamela Rittman, director of the ACA for the diocese.

The appeal, which was suspended in March as the pandemic closed down the state, was re-launched in a April 20 letter to the faithful from the Bishop Frank J. Caggiano urging people to give.

“I come to you in this emergency to ask for your help to ensure that the Annual Catholic Appeal, which has provided basic human services of food, shelter, education and counseling to many in the past can be maintained and, to the extent possible, be expanded to the many others who are facing real hardship for the first time in their lives,” the bishop said in his letter.

Rittman said that people throughout the diocese have heeded the bishop’s urgent call for help. The re-started campaign is nearing the halfway mark toward its $9 million goal to fund the major ministries of the diocese.

“We’re off to a very good start but we have a lot more work to do to reach our goal, and for this appeal to be a success, we need everyone to give whatever is possible. The bishop has spoken many times in the past about how we are one diocesan family. That is truer than ever as so many are struggling and concerned about the future,” she said.

Rittman said she’s very encouraged by a few trends in this year’s Appeal, including an increase in first-time givers and the growing number of people who are making a second gift to the Appeal as they become more aware of the needs and the overall diocesan response. “As we open the mail and read the many kind notes that accompany gifts, we are personally touched,” says Rittman. “Donors thank the bishop and diocesan staff for their service. I talk to donors who are empathetic about what we are all going through they tell me they want to support their parish and pastor and they continue to give.”

“These are unusual times,” said Rittman, “and now more than ever the ACA is responding to the emergency needs of people throughout the diocese. A strong response this Spring is crucial in our ability to provide resources to diocesan ministries in a time of crisis.”

Rittman said the response to the ACA has also been lifted by significant support from our leadership donors who want to ensure that diocesan ministries are available when most needed by the people of Fairfield County.

Rittman said the pandemic very quickly taxed diocesan and parish resources as more people needed help and services had to be re-designed to reach out to them.

Catholic Charities nutrition programs and soup kitchens reported a tripling of demand for meals in some locations and a surge in the number of families coming forward for groceries provided by its food pantries. The demand for counseling has increased due to anxiety and stress. Likewise, diocesan schools had to make a quick pivot to distance learning for more than 7,000 students in Catholic schools, and ministries such as the Leadership Institute made the transition to online marriage prep, faith formation and other training.

She said the diocese has been able to quickly respond to distance learning due to the support of a very generous donor who invested in new technology that provided the platform to implement. And past support from all donors to the Appeal’s programs and ministries now serves people in crisis.

To support the request for emergency help the diocese has released its second 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) video, “New Faces of Need.” The video offers a brief glimpse into three lives struggling with the pandemic; a man experiencing homelessness who relies on the New Covenant Center for food and to help rebuild his life; a mother who visits the food pantry to help feed her family and students from The Catholic Academy of Stamford who miss their classmates but are appreciative of the online learning provided by the school.

In the first video the bishop praises the heroic response of all frontline workers during the crisis and he noted that many people who never had to ask for help in the past have come forward to seek food and other assistance.

Rittman hopes the video series, filmed and donated by Brian Russell of Fairfield, demonstrates the impact of the coronavirus on every aspect of the diocese from sacramental preparation and ongoing catechesis to schools, charities and other ministries. The videos can be viewed at www.bridgeportdiocese.org.

“As the human toll from this terrible pandemic continues to increase in our midst, I am aware of the great suffering that a growing number of our neighbors are experiencing. Your generosity allows us to continue the mission of the Church and provide for these “new faces of need” in our midst,” said Bishop Caggiano in announcing the video.

(Please join those who have already given by using the envelope in this issue. You can also make a gift online at www.2020ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. All donations of whatever amount will help us to help those in need.)

By Brian D. Wallace

Bishop re-launches Annual Appeal

BRIDGEPORT—On April 20, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano sent a letter to the faithful throughout the diocese announcing the May re-launch of the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) and asking all to give as generously in an emergency situation.

The Appeal, which was launched in January, was temporarily halted because of the disruption caused by the coronavirus, which has led to the suspension of public Masses and the curtailment of all events throughout the diocese.

“In these days when we celebrate the promise of new life in Easter, I write to you now to ask your heroic help to re-launch the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal in a moment of extreme, urgent need,” said the bishop.

In his letter, the bishop praises the heroic response of people at all levels of society who have put their own lives at risk to provide emergency response, healthcare, food, pastoral care and other essential services in Fairfield County.

“I ask that you join the efforts of these heroes and heroines in responding to this emergency appeal. Your contribution will help to allow the Church’s mission to endure so that we can respond effectively to the spiritual, psychological and physical needs of our people.”

The bishop also indicates that during the crisis, many people have turned to the Church, and it has been able to respond because of the past generosity of donors who have given to the ACA and supported the core ministries that serve the needy throughout the diocese.

“I come to you in this emergency to ask for your help to ensure that the Annual Catholic Appeal, which has provided basic human services of food, shelter, education and counseling to many in the past can be maintained and, to the extent possible, be expanded to the many others who are facing real hardship for the first time in their lives.”

“In this hour of need, let us together become the living stones of the Church by loving and serving one another by building a bridge that will carry our sisters and brothers safely through this crisis. And let us do so joyfully in the name of the Risen Lord who has triumphed over sin and death and who will never abandon us.

Pamela Rittman, director of the Annual Catholic Appeal, said the re-launch of the 2020 Appeal will be divided into two major phases. Phase one will run from May 4 through July 15. The second phase, from September 6 through October 31, may be altered or eliminated depending on the initial response.

Rittman said that the ACA re-launch will also be supported by three videos that feature interviews with Bishop Caggiano and highlight people throughout the diocese who are in dire need and who have been hit especially hard by the financial repercussions of the coronavirus. The videos are being produced by Brian Russell of Fairfield.

Rittman said that now more than ever the ACA is responding to the emergency needs of people throughout the diocese and that a strong Spring response is crucial in providing resources to diocesan ministries in a time of crisis.

The bishop said that the challenges are considerable going forward, but he has confidence in the generosity of the faithful.

“As your bishop, I have seen first-hand your extraordinary generosity and I remain deeply grateful. Every time I have asked, you have responded with compassion, with sacrificial giving, and with deep and abiding faith in the Lord and the work of his Church.”

(Please use the envelope enclosed in this issue to make a donation to this year’s Appeal as generously as your means allow. You may also make your gift online at www.2020ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. All donations of whatever amount will help us to help those in need.)

By Brian D. Wallace

‘What we do for others, we do for Christ’

TRUMBULL—When Kelly Anne Murphy 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.”

She and her husband Dan share that ethic, and this year were named the vice chair couple of Renew 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, whose goal is $9 million. Members of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull, they regularly volunteer at Thomas Merton Center and St. Catherine Center for Special Needs, along with other ministries.

“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 6-years-old, which he describes as “pretty deep.” He must have done a good job answering them because today Alana is a senior at Boston College with a double major in philosophy and English.

The Murphys are committed to Catholic education. All four of their children attended St. Catherine of Siena School, where Kevin is a 7th-grader. Sean is a freshman at Trumbull High and Bridget is a junior at Fordham University, majoring in mathematics.

“Catholic education is very important because it reinforces what is happening at home,” said Kelly Anne, who is also a catechist for eighth-graders. Service was a fundamental part of their family life. “Whenever we were involved in different activities, we would bring our kids with us,” Dan said, “so they could see Mom and Dad in action with other families.”

Both daughters participate in programs that include tutoring children in the South Bronx and traveling to Lourdes with members of the Order of Malta to work with other volunteers hospitalers assisting the sick and infirm.

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 20 years of executive finance and accounting experience, is a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus and belongs to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The Murphys have seen firsthand the programs that benefit from the Annual Catholic Appeal. Kelly Anne is especially focused on St. John Fisher Seminary and Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence for retired priests because her uncle, Father John Conlisk, was a priest in the Diocese of Bridgeport. 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. We’re not in the line and we are blessed to be serving in the line.”

“Nearly eight out of ten families are living paycheck to paycheck nationwide,” Dan said.

“That means if the next paycheck doesn’t come in, people don’t eat and they don’t pay the bills to keep the lights on….We see families with young children and unless you’ve been there, you don’t understand that it is a much wider demographic getting services from Merton and the other programs in Fairfield County.”

The Murphys live less than five miles from the Merton Center and often bring their sons with them to help serve so they see the poverty that is so close to home, even in Fairfield County.

“The people who come in that we serve are our guests. That is the Catholic way of looking at it.

There’s no other way to view it,” Kelly Anne said.

“What we are able to do for our brothers and sisters, we are doing for Christ,” Dan said.

“To be part of the Annual Catholic Appeal and bear witness to all the works that are done on behalf of Catholic Charities is a privilege. You can serve in three ways—with your time, your talent and your treasure. The fact is you need all three.”

By Joe Pisani

Diocese launches 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal

BRIDGEPORT—“Renew” is the theme of the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) launched by the diocese in January.

“We speak of renewing the Church, and renewing the Church is a spiritual exercise,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “It is bringing hope where there may not be a message of hope. It is bringing faith into action in the lives of people in need. It is to mentor young people and show them a better way, which is the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This year’s ACA goal of $9 million will fund ongoing operations, programs and initiatives sponsored by the diocese to reach out to the poor and needy, educate and form young people in the faith, promote vocations, support retired priests, and create vibrant ministries that evangelize and serve all those in need in Fairfield County.

The bishop said most parishes throughout the diocese will be resuming the normal Annual Catholic Appeal, having completed the public phase of the “We Stand With Christ” capital campaign.

The capital campaign was an effort to provide for the strategic, long-term programs of the Diocese of Bridgeport by investing 50 percent of donations in endowments in three newly created foundations in education, charity and faith. These lay-run endowments will provide investment income that will make the ministries of the diocese financially secure for the future. The remaining 50% of funds provide for parish projects and improvements, many of which are already underway.

The bishop said that as successful as the “We Stand With Christ” capital campaign has been, the day-to-day needs and operating expenses of the diocese require the Annual Catholic Appeal to fund ongoing, day-to-day operations and unplanned needs.

“Those needs continue to grow and will never totally go away. However, my hope and expectation is that in the next few years, our Annual Catholic Appeal will diminish in the amount we will ask for and need. As the capital campaign endowments grow, we hope to reduce the yearly Annual Catholic Appeal parish goals,” he said.

During this period of transition to a new funding model, Bishop Caggiano has asked every parishioner to resume their yearly gifts to the appeal.

Last year, the annual appeal was suspended in many parishes because the capital campaign was underway; however, a portion of the gifts were designated to provide for yearly needs in the diocese.

Bishop Caggiano expressed his sincere gratitude to the faithful who gave to the capital campaign and urged them to help continue the renewal that has begun in “the healed and vibrant Church in Fairfield County.” He also asked that they join him in bringing a “message of reconciliation, of hope, of new life to our communities and to the larger community that we share with others of every faith and way of life.”

“We live in continually challenging times, but those challenges are opportunities to evangelize, to preach and to bring a message of hope, to do the works of the Church, to be faithful disciples in the world,” Bishop Caggiano said. “And so I thank you and I ask as always that you be as generous as possible, as you and I do this work of renewing the Church in hope of renewing the face of the whole world.”

Pamela S. Rittman CFRE, Director of Development and the Appeal, said, “When I think of ‘renewal,’ it reminds me of a fresh start. The Annual Catholic Appeal is just that—to renew or start again each year. Without the vital ministries the Appeal supports, we cannot continue to serve those in need and continue the Gospel message on a daily basis each year.”

She said that over the past two years, the diocese has worked to secure the future through a financial commitment made through the We Stand With Christ capital campaign for long-term, strategic planning that will serve future generations in perpetuity.

“Now, we continue with our annual commitment to the day-to-day funding for our ministries that the capital campaign does not provide for,” Rittman said, adding, “The faithful of Fairfield County have always been generous in their leadership, personal and financial resources at the parish and diocesan levels and we are grateful for their support and look forward to a successful 2020 Appeal.”

This year’s chair couple are Jason and Roxanne Melaragno of Holy Family Church in Fairfield and the vice chair couple are Daniel and Kelly Anne Murphy of the Parish of St. Catherine of Siena in Trumbull.

Parish chairpersons and pastors will launch the Appeal in January and the first letters will be sent out in February. The Appeal will be concluded by the end of June although gifts will be accepted through December 31, 2020, Rittman said.

People also may make a pledge by texting the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849.

(For more information or to donate please go to 2020ACABridgeport.com or call 203.416.1470.)

Snow Birds Gather!

NAPLES, FLORIDA—Connie Von Zwehl hosted over 120 parishioners from the Diocese of Bridgeport who reside in Florida during the winter for Mass at the Chapel of Angels at St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, Florida followed by brunch at Club Pelican Bay.

Msgr. Frank McGrath, former pastor of Saint John Parish, welcomed and led prayer for parishioners and friends of the diocese, and spoke about the vital work of the Annual Catholic Appeal before introducing Bishop Caggiano.

Connie shared thoughts on how she relied on the Sacraments, thoughts of her first Holy Communion and Confirmation, to help her after the recent loss of a loved one.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano highlighted the need to love our enemies at a time of division and strife. The Bishop also said that the recent “We Stand with Christ” capital campaign and the Annual Catholic Appeal continue to lead others to Christ and provide for those in need.

The bishop’s visit to Naples is always a highlight for Connecticut residents who live in Florida for the winter. During the reception, the guests asked many questions.

Pamela Rittman, director of the ACA for the diocese, said the Snowbird trip has become a yearly ritual that accompanies the launch of the annual appeal in the diocese, and it has been embraced by many who are eager to see the bishop and support the many programs and services sponsored by the diocese.

“The faithful who gather in Florida each year warmly welcome the bishop and diocesan officials,” said Rittman. “We’re very grateful for Connie’s hospitality and leadership, and for the generosity of this faith community and their ongoing support of the Annual Catholic Appeal.

“Renew” is the theme of this year’s Annual Catholic Appeal with a goal of $9 million, which will fund ongoing operations, programs and initiatives sponsored by the diocese to reach out to the poor and needy, educate and form young people in the faith, promote vocations, support retired priests, and create vibrant ministries that evangelize and serve all those in need in Fairfield County.

People may make a pledge by texting the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. For more information or to donate please go to 2020ACABridgeport.com or call 203.416.1470.

Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share

“There’s a joy in giving back if you have been blessed in terms of your own life,” says Msgr. Laurence Bronkiewicz, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield and chair of the Priest Advisory Committee (PAC) for the Annual Catholic Appeal.

While parishioners in Ridgefield tend to be blessed financially, Msgr. Bronkiewicz, who was raised in Norwalk and served at parishes throughout the diocese, says that hearts filled with the joy of faith are always eager to share their gifts with others. In their generous response, richness of faith counts for more than financial wealth.

“‘Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share,’ the title of this year’s appeal, is how parishioners respond in love and thanksgiving for the blessings they have received from God and want to give to others,” notes Appeal Director Pam Rittman, echoing his observation.

“The Annual Catholic Appeal reaches people who need help in their life journey in so many different ways,” Msgr. Bronkiewicz says. The appeal helps to fund ministries and programs and activities throughout the diocese, many of them far beyond the ability of any single parish.

“The most appealing piece for our people is the assistance offered by Catholic Charities,” he says. “We neighbor on Danbury, and our parishioners are involved in helping at the Dorothy Day shelter and Morning Glory breakfast program. A number of them are involved in making the Midnight Run to New York City, bringing down food and clothing—that’s especially needed in the winter months.”

St. Mary’s has also benefitted from the assistance of a number of seminarians over the years, and enjoyed the presence of James Bates, who was ordained to the priesthood this month, during his service as a transitional deacon. “We will have another seminarian this summer, Anh Vu, who is originally from Vietnam,” adds Msgr. Bronkiewicz.

St. Mary’s partners with St. Peter Parish in Bridgeport, and parishioners have shared projects together. Beyond that, St. Mary’s parishioners are aware of the wider world served by the diocese and areas of ministry that even their parish’s energetic outreach will never directly contact.

“When we talk about the Annual Catholic Appeal, we tell them ‘You’re touching lives you never meet, people you will never know and experiences you will never have.’ They respond to that,” says Msgr. Bronkiewicz.

“I’ve heard many reflections of the joy they experience knowing that they have had an impact. They realize that what they are giving is making a difference in someone’s life.”

In Ridgefield’s neighboring town to the south, Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton shows an equally generous response to the “Joy in Christ, Our Gift to Share” Annual Catholic Appeal.

“Peoples’ generosity comes from the recognition that they’ve been blessed,” says their pastor, Father Reggie Norman. Vice chair of the Priests’ Advisory Committee, he had previously been pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport. Although that parish lies in an inner-city neighborhood, its parishioners, too, responded to the blessings they have received.

“People are spiritually wealthy when they realize that God is working with them,” Father Norman says. They share that joy in every way they can. “Time and talent are just as valuable as treasure,” he says, noting that parishioners in both his former and his present parish are generous in every way.

The Annual Catholic Appeal assists ministries and programs throughout the diocese. “Sometimes the parishioners don’t know all the needs, or exactly what the diocese does,” says Father Reggie. The programs assisted by the appeal are many and varied. Future priests discern their vocation through St. John Fisher Seminary in Stamford and retired priests retain independent living at Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Retired Priests Residence. Chaplains bring the love of Jesus to nursing homes and hospitals. The Leadership Institute enriches the faith formation of adults. Young couples are prepared for marriage through the pre-Cana program, youth can take part in the Catholic Service Corps and the C4Y chorus, directors of religious education and catechists receive support and training, and the most vulnerable unborn and elderly have a voice through the Respect Life Office.

“We’re the universal Church,” says Father Norman. “People are happy to do their part. Ours is a culture of giving. It resonates with them and expresses the joy of their faith. They trust that their support will go where it will be most useful.”

There are a number of ways to donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal. Pledge envelopes are available at every parish, and may be placed in the Sunday collection. The appeal also offers the opportunity to make gift and pledge payments online. Some companies have a Matching Gift Program, particularly to Catholic Charities or to education in Catholic schools, including St. Catherine Center for special needs. It is also possible to make a charitable gift from a traditional IRA without having to pay federal income taxes on the distributions.

“It’s easy to make a gift this way, but please contact your financial representative for more information,” says Rittman.

(For more information or for assistance on donation opportunities, call 203.416.1479 or email 2018ACA@diobpt.org.)

Construir una comunidad de amor

“De una u otra manera, la Campaña Anual Católica es de un gran impacto entre todos los miembros de la parroquia”, dice Joel Aquino, miembro de la parroquia de San Benito-Nuestra Señora de Montserrat en Stamford.

“Es como nosotros”, dice su esposa Alexandra. “Nuestros hijos han estado en escuelas católicas desde pre-K3 y nuestro grupo de jóvenes ayuda en la despensa de alimentos, que va a la gente en necesidad. Tenemos un nuevo sacerdote en la parr-oquia, el Padre Abelardo, sólo siete meses de ordenado. Hace mucho con los jóvenes e invita a los padres a unirse a él. Todos nos beneficiamos de eso”.

Joel y Alexandra se conocieron cuando ambos estaban en el grupo de jóvenes de Nuestra Señora de Montserrat. En su apoyo continuo a las actividades de la parroquia, están siguiendo el ejemplo establecido por sus padres. “Vinimos a este país desde Guatemala, un jueves”, dice Joel; “el domingo, la fami-lia estaba en la iglesia. Nunca hubo un descanso o vacilación. Cuando estaba en el grupo de jóvenes, mi padre y yo éramos lectores en la Misa”.

“La parroquia siempre ha sido nuestra segunda casa”, dice Alexandra. “De alguna manera u otra siempre hemos estado activos en la parroquia”. La pareja ha sido facilitadora en las sesiones de Pre-Cana, y Alexandra se encuentra actualmente en el Concejo Parroquial. Ella también es parte del V Encuentro de Pastoral Hispana, un fenomenal proceso de actividad pastoral que está involucrando a los católicos hispanos en Estados Unidos y, por su ejemplo, a toda la iglesia, para llegar a aquellos que, en palabras del Papa Francisco, están en la periferia. El propósito es el de llegar a ellos y hablarles del amor salvífico de Jesús.

Siguiendo el ejemplo de sus padres, están animando a sus hijos a continuar esa tradición. Sus dos hijas han sido servidoras del altar en la parroquia, y su hijo podrá ser el siguiente.

“Una parroquia es una fami-lia de familias”, dice el Padre Gustavo Falla, párroco de las parroquias de Santa María y San Benito-Nuestra Señora de Montserrat. De la misma manera, la diócesis es una familia de parroquias, trabajando unidas. “Cuando nos unimos en la Campaña Anual Católica, fortalecemos a la comunidad, ayudando a otros, alcanzando a los más necesitados, proporcionando lo necesario a los sacerdotes ancianos y formando seminaristas para que se conviertan en futuros sacerdotes”.

“La Campaña nos permite ayudar a un nivel más grande”, añade Joel. “Va a fortalecer nuestras escuelas y programas de educación religiosa y actividades juveniles. Llega a la gente en necesidad, para alimentar a los que tienen hambre”.

Debido a que comprenden el valor de una comunidad que trabaja unida, la pareja aceptó aparecer en el video de la Campaña Anual Católica, en español. “Somos muy tímidos, en realidad”, dice Joel. Pero se dieron cuenta de que demasiadas personas no sabían de las muchas maneras en que la Campaña les ayuda a ellos y a quienes los rodean. “Es nuestra responsabilidad hablar.”

“La gente escucha acerca de la Campaña pero no siempre sabe por qué se le pide apoyar económicamente”, dice Alexandra. Ella espera que, una vez que conozcan los programas que la Campaña apoya, todos querrán ayudar en más maneras aún.

“El comedor comunitario y la despensa de alimentos en el New Covenant Center en Stamford ayuda a las personas en necesidad”, dice. “Queremos animar a la gente no sólo para asegurarse de que haya comida, sino para estar allí para servir la comida, para ser parte de la manera en que ayudamos a nuestra comunidad”.

Lo más importante de todo, Joel y Alexandra están de acuerdo, es que la Campaña ayuda a formar nuevos sacerdotes para el futuro de la iglesia. “Hemos tenido párrocos maravillosos”, dice Joel. “La razón por la que esta parroquia ha crecido tanto es por ellos. Hemos tenido grandes y maravillosos sacerdotes. La ayuda financiera para los seminaristas traerá más sacerdotes. Son la clave del futuro.”

La Campaña asiste en la educación de los seminaristas que entran en el seminario de San Juan Fisher, en la formación continua de sacerdotes activos y en el cuidado de los sacerdotes jubilados que viven en la Residencia Reina del Clero, de- dicada a Catherine Dennis Keefe. “La iglesia es un comunidad de amor”, dice Alexandra; “estamos tratando de construir una mejor comunidad. Esta es la forma en que agradecemos a Dios por todo lo que tenemos.”

(Para donar a la Campaña Anual Católica, comuníquese con Pam Rittman: prittman@diobpt.org o 203.416.1470. Usted puede hacer su regalo en línea en: www.2018ACAbridgeport.com.)

Build a community of love

“In some way or another, the Annual Catholic Appeal has a big impact on all the members of the parish,” says Joel Aquino, a member of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat Parish in Stamford.

“It’s like us,” his wife Alexandra says in agreement. “Our kids have been in Catholic schools since pre-K3. Our youth group helps at the food pantry, which goes to people in need. Our parish has a new priest, Father Abelardo, only seven months ordained. He does a lot with the youth, and invites the parents to join him. We all benefit from that.”

Joel and Alexandra met when they were both in the youth group at Our Lady of Montserrat. In their continued support of parish activities they are following the example set by their parents. “We came to this country from Guatemala on a Thursday,” says Joel. “On Sunday, the family was in church. There was never a break or hesitation. When I was in youth group, my father and I were both lectors at Mass.”

“The parish has always been our second home,” says Alexandra. “In some way or another we’ve always been active in the parish.” The couple has been facilitators in pre-Cana sessions, and Alexandra is currently on the parish council. She is also part of the V Encuentro Nacional, engaging Hispanic Catholics, and by their example the whole Church, to reach out to those who have fallen away and tell them of the saving love of Jesus and the Catholic faith.

As they carry on the example of parish involvement set by their parents, they are encouraging their children to continue that tradition. Their two daughters have been altar servers at the parish, and their son may follow in his turn.

“A parish is a family of families,” says Father Gustavo Falla, pastor of St. Benedict-Our Lady of Montserrat and St. Mary parishes. In the same way, the diocese is a family of parishes, working together. “When we join together in the Annual Catholic Appeal, we strengthen the community, helping others, reaching out to the needy, providing for elderly priests and forming seminarians to become future priests.”

“The appeal lets us help on a larger level,” adds Joel. “It goes to strengthen our schools and religious education programs and youth activities. It goes out to people in need, to feed those who are hungry.”

Because they realize the importance of the community working together, the couple agreed to be featured on the Annual Catholic Appeal Spanish-language video. “We’re really shy, actually,” says Joel. But they realized that too many people did not know about the many ways the appeal helps them and those around them. “It’s our responsibility to speak out.”

“People hear about the appeal, but they don’t always know why they’re being asked to support it financially,” says Alexandra. She hopes that, once they know the programs the appeal supports, they will want to help in even more ways.

“The soup kitchen and food pantry at New Covenant Center in Stamford help people in need,” she says. “We want to encourage people not just to be sure there is food, but actually be there to serve the food—to become part of the way we help our community.”

Most important of all, Joel and Alexandra both agree, the appeal helps form new priests for the future of the Church. “We have had wonderful pastors,” says Joel. “The reason this parish has grown so much is because of them. We’ve had great, marvelous priests. Financial aid to seminarians will bring more priests. They are the key to the future.”

The appeal assists in the education of seminarians entering St. John Fisher Seminary, in the continuing formation of active priests and in care for retired priests at the Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy retired priests’ residence.

“The Church is a community of love,” says Alexandra. “We are trying to build a better community. This is the way we thank God for everything we have.”

(To donate to the Annual Catholic Appeal, contact Pam Rittman: prittman@diobpt.org or 203.416.1470. You may make your gift online at: www.2018ACAbridgeport.com.)

(Para leer este artículo en español, vea la página 27.)