Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

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.
• Goal—$450,000
• Pledged—$478,158
• % 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

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

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

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

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

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

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.)

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

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