Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

June 25, 2022

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The historic United States Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe vs Wade will be remembered as a moment of recognition and obligation; recognition that the court’s decision will save untold innocent, unborn lives, and a reminder of our common obligation to reach out to pregnant women and children in need of our help.

Many faithful in our diocese have worked tirelessly over the years to provide a courageous witness in the public square to the rights of the unborn and the sanctity of human life. Their actions have been heroic and prophetic, and I am deeply grateful for their commitment.

Now through much sacrifice, advocacy, and prayer we have arrived at a place where we can move forward and build on this achievement by doing all that is possible to safeguard the lives of the most vulnerable among us. The work ahead to build a true culture of life must be shared by all of us, and it must be done with compassion and civility.

We are blessed to have many pro-life initiatives in our diocese. Through programs such as Malta House, Project Rachel, 40 Days for Life, and other efforts, we have been able to encourage and support women who choose life, and to provide shelter and other services to them during and after pregnancy. Likewise, our Project Rachel ministry works to bring healing and forgiveness to those who chose abortion. Yet much more needs to be done and we will be seeking ways to increase our pastoral and social services.

At this historic moment, let us offer our thanks and gratitude that our prayers and hard work have been answered.  Let us also remember that our Catholic faith has been consistent and unwavering in its belief that all human life must be protected and safeguarded from the moment of conception to natural death.

As we are encouraged by this long-awaited ruling, let us also acknowledge that our country remains divided and wounded. May this also be a time of reconciliation where all people of good will can find common ground to build a truly just and life-giving society.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano,

Bishop of Bridgeport

 

As I watched in horror at the scene unfolding in Texas, I, like so many other Americans, was deeply shaken by the senseless loss of life and our continuing inability to protect our children and so many others from gun violence.

Once again we are confronted with images of those bearing the unspeakable pain of losing a child, a classmate, a parent, or a friend. We have become bystanders to an ongoing national tragedy that shakes our faith in our institutions and in ourselves.

In the Diocese of Bridgeport, we are all too familiar with the pain and anguish of losing children in such a senseless act. We stand in prayerful solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Uvalde. May our Lord cling to them in their brokenheartedness, and our Mother Mary wrap them in the mantle of her comforting love. Likewise, we remember our Sandy Hook parents who had so much taken away from them, yet continue to work to safeguard all children in our society from the kind of gun violence that has once again disrupted so many lives and families.

I pray that in the days to come, as we rally around our brothers and sisters in pray and solidarity, let us also resolve ourselves to do whatever is necessary to take common sense steps at preventing this tragedy from occurring again.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.

At this most troubling and distressing moment I would like to send my condolences to the McGrath family, and I urge all across the diocese to unite in prayer for the McGrath family, for members of the Fairfield Prep community, and for all those affected by this sudden loss and unthinkable tragedy. The incident is under investigation, and there is much we do not know about the circumstances. However, we do know it has left a deep and lasting trauma for the families and for the Fairfield Prep students and many others who must  deal with their grief and shock in the coming days.  They will need much prayerful support and guidance to move forward. Though we are shattered by this heartbreaking news, now is the time to be strong in our faith and resolve to lift up all in our prayers and our compassion.

(This op-ed was written by Bishop Caggioano for Hearst Newspapers and appears in papers today throughout Fairfield County)

At first glance at the news and the state of our world, it may seem challenging for any of us to sing the songs of alleluia this Easter morning. As we celebrate the feast of Easter in which Christians believe that the Lord Jesus broke the chains of sin and death, we may struggle in a very particular way to see the signs of such new life in our broken world. Where are the signs of Easter in the midst of so many tragedies and such profound suffering?

Pictured: Bishop Frank Caggiano administers ashes to 5-month-old Paschal Emejeamara and his mother, Maria, during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral, in Bridgeport on March 2, 2022. Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

If we reflect upon the larger world, we need look no further than the atrocities and humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Ukraine. Innocent men, women and children are suffering unspeakable torture, fear, suffering and death at the hands of invaders waging an illegal, unjust and criminal war. I need not describe the scenes we have seen in real time since I am certain that they have burned themselves into our memories perhaps for the rest of our lives. So this Easter, we can ask, where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain?

Likewise, we can look closer to home and try to make sense of the rising tide of violence in our communities and streets. To see the recent attacks in a Brooklyn subway station– the same one that I traveled through all the years I attended high school–the scenes of wounded young people, a chaotic stampede and senseless violence and injury perpetrated upon innocent bystanders who were simply going about their ordinary lives is shocking and deeply unsettling. Once again, we can ask, where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain?

My dear friends, if we have the courage to search again within these scenes of pain and suffering, we may begin to see the signs of Easter where we least expected to see them.

For whose spirit does not gain hope and encouragement at the many Ukrainians who are valiantly and courageously fighting to protect and defend their neighbors and friend in their time of greatest need? How can we miss the many acts of courageous, sacrificial love that have been offered to those in need as members of our common human family? While we often cannot in a direct way enter into the struggle for freedom and justice in many parts of the world, our prayers, resources and advocacy can help make a profound difference in rolling back the waves of evil that threaten our sisters and brothers. These, my friends, are the signs of Easter’s victory over sin and death.

So too closer to home, as we reflect upon the courageous acts of assistance given to strangers on a subway, who for those brief moments loved each other as brothers and sisters, or the protection and aid given by first responders to all those fleeing from the random shots of a gunman, here too we can see the signs of Easter’s victory over sin, chaos and death.

We celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death as a twofold invitation offered to all who believe in Him, carry his name as Christians or seek to live a life of good will. Easter invites us to follow in His footsteps to realize our final victory over sin and death in the glory of Heaven. However, it also challenges us to work for the victory over sin in the countless moments of our everyday lives.

We should also find hope in the understanding that Passover and the Muslim celebration of Ramadan have come together during this Holy Week as people around the globe unite in prayer and reverence, while lifting up their hopes, lives and voices to ask God’s protection and favor despite a world of travail and suffering.

While we cannot stop destruction when someone choses to be an agent of sin and death, we can serve as Christ’s hands, eyes, feet and heart in the world, and do what we can, despite the cost, to claim His victory wherever we can. It is in such acts of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, accompaniment, assistance and peace-making that we show the world that Christ is truly risen, alive in our hearts and leading us forward to share the signs of His Risen life with every person we meet.

Where are the signs of Easter’s promise of new life among so much pain? They are waiting for you and me to show them to the world.

I am delighted to announce Reverend Monsignor Thomas W. Powers has been appointed Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome beginning in the new academic year.

Monsignor Powers is eminently qualified for leadership of the College; not simply because of his past distinguished service in Rome and as adjunct spiritual director at the seminary, but also by temperament, openness of mind and heart, a sense of fairness, and a compassionate understanding of the challenges people face in their lives and families. He also brings scholarly knowledge of the international Church and its traditions to his role in leading the education and formation of the next generation of priests.

Those of us who have had the good fortune of working with Monsignor Powers are aware of his integrity, loyalty, courage and intellectual gifts. He has lived his life sacrificially for the Church and its people.

On a personal note, Monsignor Powers has been invaluable to me in his role as Vicar General. I will miss his discernment and judgement, the fraternity he brings to our priests, and his service as a collaborator in our efforts to renew the diocese. Most importantly, I am always inspired by his personal prayerfulness and commitment to leading a life of holiness.

As Monsignor Powers begins this new ministry in service of the Church, may the Lord continue to abundantly bless him!

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies. 

As we begin the second week of Lent, the Church reminds us to embrace fasting and abstinence as essential spiritual practices during this time of penance and conversion. We know that the purposes of fasting and abstinence include divesting ourselves from unhealthy attachments to our possessions, deepening our spiritual hunger for Christ and to seek repentance for our sins.

As a child, I remember being taught by the Dominican sisters that fasting had another worthy purpose. The sisters asked us to remind our parents to set aside whatever money was saved by what we chose to eat on days of abstinence and fasting for donation to the poor. This allowed the spiritual work of fasting or abstinence to have a direct charitable effect.

Given the continued suffering endured by the people of the Ukraine, allow me to suggest that we donate whatever we “save” from our fasting and abstinence to help feed our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine. I can think of no better way to show our solidarity with the people of that war-torn country, as well as help us to grow in our spirit of gratitude for the blessings we sometimes take for granted. Such donations can be sent directly to CRS, the USCCB or any other worthy charitable organization.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies. To learn more about how Catholic Relief Services is helping our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, please click here.

As the humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine continues to deteriorate, we must redouble our efforts to pray for the restoration of peace and justice in that war-torn country. As believers, we can add this intention to our daily personal prayers in whatever way we think best.

However, we also have an opportunity to join our prayers for peace and justice with other Catholics throughout the world. An international group of lay leaders from different nationalities are arranging a 24 hour prayer chain that encompasses the entire world by asking the people of each country to stop and pray for the people of the Ukraine at a commonly, designated time. For ourselves in the United States, the hour chosen is 7:00 pm each evening.

May I ask that you make every effort to stop and offer this intention each evening sometime between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm. You can offer whatever prayer you wish in whatever format you choose. The goal is to create a solidarity of prayer throughout the world. Such solidarity will be a powerful spiritual weapon against tyranny, evil and sin.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies. To learn more about how Catholic Relief Services is helping our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, please click here.

As the humanitarian catastrophe in the Ukraine continues to worsen, I call upon all the clergy and faithful of the Diocese to stand with our sisters and brothers in the Ukraine with our prayers and financial support.

The USCCB Committee on Eastern Europe has asked that a collection be taken up in all the parishes of our country, asking people to give generously so that the humanitarian needs of the people of the Ukraine, especially the nearly 1,700,000 refugees who have been forced from their homes to seek shelter in neighboring countries, can be meet. In our diocese, the collection was to be taken up either this past weekend of next weekend. It is not too late to give even if the collection has been taken up in your parish. I am sure that you can contact your pastor and ask that your donation be added to what was already collected. Please be as generous as you can to help provide water, food, temporary shelter, portable hygiene kits and blankets to those who face a desperate and unknown future.

Catholic Relief Services is on the ground in the Ukraine, as well as neighboring countries, cooperating with Caritas International, to meet the needs of those caught in the midst of this unjust and criminal war. You can donate directly to CRS in support of their work in the Ukraine in the following ways: Donate online: support.crs.org/Ukraine; by phone: 1-877-HELP-CRS and by check: Ukraine Response, Catholic Relief Services, P.O. Box 17090, Baltimore, Maryland 21297-0303.

I also ask that we join our prayers together to ask for justice and peace to be restored in the Ukraine. A number of parishes around the Diocese are sponsoring periods of Eucharistic adoration or prayer services for these intentions. Please consult your parish’s bulletin and those of your neighboring parishes and make whatever effort you can to offer our prayers for our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies. To learn more about how Catholic Relief Services is helping our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, please click here.

As the world continues to watch the horrors unfolding in Ukraine, and our media is consumed by images of war and strife, I echo the call of our Holy Father for prayer and for peace. I ask that all of us take serious and dedicated time to pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, for those of Ukrainian descent who are watching the country and people they love be subject to violence, for an end to violence and bloodshed, and for peace in our world.
 
I also ask that you join me in prayer for the Ukrainian Catholics here in Stamford and throughout the country as they face this disaster unfolding with relatives and friends in the midst of the conflict.
Finally, Pope Francis has asked the faithful around the world to make March 2nd, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and prayer for an end to this conflict.
 

As the Holy Father prayed earlier this week: May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies. To learn more about how Catholic Relief Services is helping our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, please click here.

As we ask how the gift of prayer can bless our Lenten journey of conversion, we must begin by recalling that prayer, prayers and prayerfulness are related but distinct realities. So if we wish to grow in our prayer with God, let us try to understand what they mean and how they are related.

Prayer is the “communication” that flows from our personal relationship with the Lord and gives expression to our desire to deepen our awareness of His presence in our lives, to share with Him our deepest concerns and desires, and to strengthen our commitment to serve Him. Prayer is an aspect of our relationship with Christ, wherein we speak with Him and He speaks with us. Such “speaking” does not always involve spoken or mental words. Rather, just as spouses can intuit what the other is thinking or feeling, prayer is establishing a relationship where we commune with Christ on the deepest levels of our life. As such, developing a true life of prayer takes a lifetime to realize.

An important tool in our life of prayer is reciting prayers, that is, formulas that have been developed over the centuries designed to raise or minds and hearts to God. Jesus Himself taught the prayer that is known as the “Our Father,” to be a tool that helped those who use it to express our love of Our Father in heaven, while sharing with him our desires and hopes. However, we must remember that reciting prayers alone, without the proper open disposition of mind and heart to God, will not achieve their true divine purpose.

Finally, the state of prayerfulness is the attitude that allows us to see God in every circumstance of life. We slowly learn to recognize His love and support in every moment of every day, especially when the world does not see Him. Developing an attitude of “prayerfulness” allows us to fulfill the command to “pray always”, that is, not to recite prayers in every moment of life (which would be impossible to achieve) to be attune our eyes, minds and hearts to see God in our lives at all times (which is possible and necessary for us to remain faithful disciples in the world). Given all this background, we can ask:

How faithful am I to set aside time to commune with God in prayer each day? In silence? As a priority in my life?

Do I recite prayers each day but do not sit in silence long enough for God to speak to me? Do I recite prayers only to fulfill an obligation?

How often do I challenge myself to see God’s presence throughout my day? In difficult moments? At times when no one else can see Him?

If you and I reflect on these question during the upcoming days of Lent, it will be time very well spent.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.

As we continue our reflection on the growing scourge of violence in our communities, we need to ask a question: Why is this happening now? A simple glance at news articles and commentaries reveal that there is no shortage of reasons being cited for this increase. Among them are the effects of Covid, the rise of mental illness, the influence of gangs, the growth of illegal guns that are falling into the hands of criminals, the increasing use of drugs and alcohol and the effects of violence becoming more prevalent in all forms of media. It is reasonable to assume that all of these factors play a role in this epidemic of violence in our cities and neighborhoods. The long list also makes clear how difficult it will be to eradicate violence from our midst. It will be a project that will demand perseverance and determination for years to come.

From my vantage point as a leader of faith, I also feel compelled to add one more hidden factor to the list mentioned above. It is the spiritual disease of placing ourselves at the center of our lives. While we can call this tendency egotistical, selfishness, or simply pride, our culture has glorified and perpetuated an unbridled preoccupation with getting what we want, when we want it and on the terms that we want.  Society speaks to us in many ways, consciously and unconsciously, that the only thing that matters is me. And while in most cases people can control their reactions (more or less) when they cannot get what they want, for some people, it can easily lead to a violent reaction against whomever or whatever stands in their way. For if violence is the use of power to overwhelm your opponent, it is no mistake that violence has increased in our world at the same time that an attitude of self-centeredness has taken center stage.

The first act of violence narrated in Sacred Scripture is the episode of Cain killing his brother Abel. How sad it is to consider that not much has changed since humanity left Eden.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.

We all know that our words matter. What we sometimes forget is that the words we choose, even with the best of intentions, may not always convey well what our true sentiments may be. I recently learned this lesson during a question and answer session that followed a talk that I gave to faculty members of a high school. The interchange that transpired between me and one of the faculty members was a moment of great grace that has helped me to see how my words need to become more sensitive in respecting our racial diversity.

During my remarks, I said that it was my hope that we become blind to the color of each other’s skin, so that we could see one another with the eyes of Christ and not the world. My intent was to say that the color of our skin should not influence how we treat each other with love and respect. Interestingly, the faculty member who spoke is a woman of color and in a gracious and thoughtful way challenged me to think again at what I said and how it did not convey well what I meant to say. She asked me to consider a world where we can see and acknowledge the different colors of our skin and that the color would make no difference! We should not become blind to the color of our neighbor’s skin. Rather, we should celebrate our diversity and love without distinction. She knew what I meant to say and thanked me for it but asked me to say it in the future with different and better words.

Becoming sensitive to the needs of those around us is a life time project. I am grateful to this woman of faith and to the Lord that I can continue to learn.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.

It was sight that was deeply moving to see. Yesterday at noon I was able to watch the reception of the body of Police Officer Jason Rivera at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for the start of his wake. It was a somber, dignified and poignant moment to see so many officers from around the country paying tribute to a 22 year old officer who died in the line of duty because of a wanton, senseless and violent attack without provocation or reason. It is heartbreaking to ponder the pain and sorrow that his newly wed wife of three months, his mother, family and friends are experiencing today at his funeral and for months to come. It is a tragedy that is only compounded by the awful and sad fact that we will see the same sight next week when his fellow officer Wilbert Mora is laid to rest at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, shot alongside his friend in the same attack that took both their lives.

As I watched the scene, I sensed within me a simmering anger that comes from the fact that violence has become a normal part of life in our country. While we shed tears and grieve for those who have died, both in the line of duty and in our neighborhoods and streets, we seem paralyzed to do anything to stop it. Let us consider how many people, especially young people, have died because of gun violence in our cities and suburbs. Many times the victims of such reckless hate are innocent bystanders, who become victims of serious injury or death simply because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. What does that say about our society? Our common values? Our future as a country?

The time has come for all of us to be brutally honest, to look deep within our hearts and to unmask the root causes of such violence. Strengthening our laws and assisting people who are struggling with mental illness, homelessness and despair will help. However, our faith teaches us that only by converting hearts can each of us, especially those who are angry, troubled or lost, find true peace. In the coming days we will reflect together on how our faith can lead us forward in hope.

May Officer Rivera, Officer Mora and all those who have died as victims of violence rest in the peace of Christ.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.

I am very grateful to everyone who posted comments and raised questions about my exchange with the woman whose grandparents were ostracized from the very parish into which her local parish was to merge. As I mentioned, the conversation was life changing for me because it painfully illustrated the deep wounds created by institutional racism, even in the life of our Church.

A number of people have asked about the “ending of the story”. Did the parish close and did this wonderful woman have to go to the new parish? The answer is yes and no. More specifically, the merger of the two parishes did move forward but the local church remained open as a worship site of the new, larger parish. Soon after this arrangement was finalized, I was appointed as bishop here in Bridgeport.

Continuing my reflection on the incident, there is another spiritual lesson that I have come to appreciate with greater clarity. It is the inescapable legacy of our decisions, whether for good or evil. While we usually do not consider the long term consequences of our actions, we can see clearly that our decisions can have long term consequences upon the lives of those around us. For example, whoever it was that told this woman’s grandparents that they “did not belong” because of the color of their skin, I wonder if they had any idea of the hurt that their sin would have both on the persons that were standing before him but also on generations to come? The words took just a few seconds to say and the hurt lasted for many, many years.

When we make sinful decisions, we are responsible not only for the immediate effects of our actions but also their long term consequences. Perhaps we need to start reflecting upon this spiritual reality when we are tempted to easily excuse ourselves when we sin. For while we may wish to convince ourselves to believe that our sins do not create long term damage, but in fact they do.  And when we stand before God, we will have nowhere to hide when we will be rightly held responsible for those consequences.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly homilies.