One of the duties that I was given as Vicar General in Brooklyn was to shepherd parish mergers. As you can well imagine, such work at times caused moments of both confrontation and dialogue. However, there was one conversation that I will never forget and for which I will be always grateful because of the lesson it taught me.

That evening I met with a small group of parishioners who worshipped at a Church that was in serious need of repair and scheduled to merger with its neighbor. After my presentation, the first person to speak was an elderly black woman who had been a parishioner of the church for over 50 years. She spoke eloquently and from the heart. She began by acknowledging that she had great respect for me (for she and I had met before) and she would cooperate with whatever plan was approved. But then she said, “Bishop, you may not realize this but my grandparents, when they came from the South, first went to the parish where you wish to send us now and they were told to get out because they did not belong, since the color of their skin was black. They came here and my family has worshipped here with acceptance ever since. Do you realize how difficult it will be for me to return to that parish, knowing the past hurt that the people I loved endured there?”

Her words broke my heart, since I did not know that terrible history. As I drove back to the residence, I could not imagine how any cleric or lay person could say such words to a fellow believer, or to anyone else for that matter? It left me unsettled for a very long time.

While much has changed for the better in the years that have passed, the complete elimination of the sin of racism remains a Gospel imperative- a mandate from the Lord of all life. We cannot fight the sin of racism in our world until we have done everything to eliminate its vestiges within our Church, especially where it endures in subtle, hurtful and sinful ways. To do anything less is to betray the Gospel.

As we celebrate this weekend in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., I will always be grateful to that wonderful woman, who opened my eyes to the need for us to face the truth of our past and to build a united future together in Christ.

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

“That they be one” (Jn. 17:21)

These four words of Jesus summarize what my heart desires for our Church as we go into mission near and far.

The unity that Jesus desires in this passage is for his followers to share in the unity that Jesus enjoyed with his Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the heart of discipleship because it is an invitation to share in a personal, eternal relationship with the Father, through Jesus, in the Holy Spirit. We are invited to share in the very life of God through the grace of adoption we receive in baptism and strengthened by sharing the Holy Eucharist, which is our Communion with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. To be one with God is the aim, mission and destiny of every believer. Our mission as disciples is to invite everyone to accept this invitation and to accompany them to deepen it each day.

Sadly, what I see in the life of the Church is growing acrimony, division and combativeness. Such tendencies do not lead to the unity that Christ invites us to enjoy. For how can we be united to Christ if we are dividing His Mystical Body, which is His Church? How can we have a relationship with the Lord whom we cannot see if we discard, fight against, refuse to dialogue or disrespect the members of His Body whom we can see? So I believe that the time has come to work for greater unity in our Church through a recommitment of respect, an attitude of welcome, a stance of listening, a desire to accompany and a commitment to speak the truth with merciful love.

I invite you to make greater unity in our Church and throughout society the hallmark of our mission in the months ahead. Since it is our Lord’s desire, what else do we need to act?

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

As the New Year begins in earnest, the question that seems to be on everyone’s mind is: where do we go from here? For the pandemic, which seemed to be diminishing through mid-fall, stubbornly refuses to end and the quest for a more normal return to life has been upended with the surge created by the Omicron variant. I know that many feel worn down by these last 20 months and yearn for a time when we can visit friends and family without fear and enjoy the simple blessings of life that we often for granted. I know our collective prayer is that the latest surge will be the final crescendo in this pandemic and that the spring of this new year will finally bring real relief.

However, the question remains. Where do we go from here? It seems like an odd question to repeat. However, I believe it is the most pressing question that we face. For the answer may be as simple as the question: to go out in mission and to serve those around us, in small and great ways. I recognize to suggest that we go out in mission may seem idealistic and unrealistic given the surge of infections around us. However, going out in mission does not necessarily mean to physically travel out into the world. Rather, you and I can go out in mission in our own homes and among our closest friends. In these cases, mission can take the form of compassion, patience and understanding with those with whom we live, many who are hurting as much as we are. It can mean picking up the phone to reach out to neighbors, fellow parishioners and friends, assuring them of our love, thoughts and prayers. Mission can also mean that we go out into the world prudently, carefully and courageously, connecting with people who feel abandoned or isolated, suffering from 20 months of anxiety and fear.

Whatever the pandemic brings, our mission is to be agents of healing and hope. That is our Christian mission. That is what the Lord is asking from us.

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

Allow me to begin by offering you my prayers and best wishes for a Blessed, Joyful and Healthy New Year.

Some pastors have made inquiries regarding a diocesan policy governing mask wearing in Church in light of the precipitous rise of Covid infections in our county. Given the absence of a state mandate that requires the wearing of a mask at indoor gatherings, I ask that you continue to follow all local guidelines regarding this question and other pandemic-related safety protocols, as we have done since the beginning of the pandemic.

Further, in general terms, the Diocese of Bridgeport is strongly recommending that people wear masks while attending Mass in interest of protecting others during the Covid surge. If you wish, please feel free to make this announcement at the start of Mass, as well as online on your parish websites. Also, I ask that you continue to make masks available for those who may have forgotten to bring a mask to Church for use during Mass.

Likewise, our people must be reminded that if anyone feels ill, shows symptoms associated with Covid infection or has serious health issues, they should remain home to protect themselves and their families.

By Most Rev. Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport

Here we stand once more, on the threshold of Christmas, constrained by the terrible presence of Covid-19 in our midst, and growing concerns about a new surge that is enveloping our area. While we can take some comfort in the fact that we now have important tools to battle the pandemic that we did not have at its start, especially the reception of vaccines and the proper use of masks, we still find ourselves in a place of uncertainty. After the hope and joy of springtime renewal and a return to normalcy, to be amid such darkness and despair again is particularly jarring.

Yet in the midst of this darkness, we receive the gift of Christmas, when the Church reminds us that everlasting hope came to us in Bethlehem. Born into poverty and unnoticed by everyone except poor shepherds tending their flocks, the Christ Child brings us hope and inspires his followers and people of good will to work for a more peaceful and just world. It is in this spirit of hope that I offer this reflection, mindful of the personal burdens that many are carrying because of the sufferings caused by the pandemic.

As I look at our own diocese, I see the light of Christmas at work in the generosity, service, and advocacy of so many people throughout the year. Our Catholic Charities will be feeding the working poor and homeless on Christmas as they do every day throughout the year. Our Catholic schools throughout the diocese offered heroic service by remaining open for in-person learning while advancing the education of our students. The generosity of donors both large and small provided emergency relief to individuals and families, while also maintaining core services. Our churches remained open for safe public worship, while avoiding communal spread of the virus.

To be certain, both in our diocese and across the country, we have been inspired by heroic and sacrificial acts that restore faith in one other. Yet we also see much that is deeply disturbing, especially in the rising homicide rates, traffic fatalities, altercations on airlines and in stores, and the fraying of our common bonds of civility both in public discourse and individual actions. The pandemic has also exposed the inequalities in our society that leave so many of the working poor and most vulnerable subject to personal, economic, and social hardships. While we may be far from agreeing politically on how best to find a solution, I think as people of faith, we can agree that the love of God compels us to love our neighbors, especially those whom the world has left behind, in the shadows of our society.

I believe Christmas is a blessed time to rediscover the power of the common good, that is, the common values that invite us to work together to bring healing to the world. Thankfully, Pope Francis’ writings resonate deeply with the notion of the common good. He makes it clear that every human person, and particularly every believer, has a personal responsibility to foster healing and seek unity and peace with our nieghbors.

In Christian revelation, we speak of God as a Trinity of divine persons, unified in perfect divine love since “God is love”. The communion (“common union”) we share with one another is meant to reflect this divine life in the world. We are reminded of who we are and the bond we share with every human being, of all races, cultures and backgrounds. This principle of communion is summarized in four simple words: “a call for inclusion”. It also reminds us of our obligation to sustain our common life and the care of creation that allows human life to endure. Further, in the Jewish scriptures, the invitation to communion is expressed in the notion of covenant. By offering a covenant to His chosen people, God binds Himself in love to His people despite whatever past infidelities may have occurred. The offer of His covenant is God’s everlasting and irrevocable invitation to share divine life with His Chosen People.

This Christmas, let our prayer be one of unity and healing. Let us put aside what divides us in our families, churches, communities, and country, and find the common ground necessary to protect the life and dignity of every person, to foster the health of nations, to affirm a global common good and allow all humanity to live in true communion. Let us mold our world to become a place where every human being, local community, and nation can live in prosperity and peace.

I pray that this Christmas will be a time of blessings and joy for you and your loved ones, and bring our world to greater unity and peace.

Note: this article originally appeared on and can be found here.

This week, on the Jesuitical podcast, hosts Zac Davis and Ashley McKinless speak with Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport Conn., who unpacks his understanding of what Pope Francis is after in calling for a “synod on synods,” and more broadly, what it means to have a church that listens.

Pope Francis greets Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., during a meeting with U.S. bishops from the New England States at the Vatican Nov. 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Listen and read an excerpt of the conversation below. The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

AM: Under Pope Francis, we have had a few synods around certain themes or recent regions: family, young people, the Amazon. But this one is a “synod on synodality,” which kind of sounds like a meeting on meetings. I imagine it’s hard to get people too excited about it. How would you describe the purpose of this meeting?

I think the synod is extremely important because what it really is, is debuting a new methodology of consultation. It’s really a reflection on who we are. It’s asking the church to take a step back and say: We all, by baptism, have a role in the church. The Spirit’s moving in all our hearts, and we all have a place and a role to play in discerning how the church addresses pastoral issues.

So this is the dry run for a new methodology that involves everybody, not just bishops. Everybody in the church has an opportunity to be part of it. It’s revolutionary in that sense. This is the largest attempt at human consultation in the history of the world.

AM: You said this is a test run for a new way of consulting as a church. How would you describe the old way, and what was missing from it? Why wasn’t it up for the times and the challenges we face right now?

I had the privilege of being a delegate to the synod on youth and young adults. And one of the most electric moments in the synod was when the young people themselves spoke, about their profiles of ministry and courage and perseverance. Now in that structure, I, as the bishop, am supposed to bring all those insights and observations to the larger gathering. But I’m always kind of filtering it because I’m not a young adult. But when anyone speaks for him or herself, it’s much more powerful.

So the difference is that the bishops will still be the deliberators with the pope as to how to respond. But now everyone has a voice to tell his or her own personal story. And I think it’s going to be wider, deeper, broader, more personal than what we have now.

ZD: Was that a moment of conversion for you in some ways, just seeing that happen in action at the synod on young people?

Absolutely. I think what animates Pope Francis in large part is this beautiful, basic theological idea of communion—that we’re all linked together, all humanity is linked together because we’re all made in God’s image and likeness. And among believers we’re linked together by grace and the Holy Spirit and in baptism. And so, we could disagree, we could even fight, but we’re all in this together to be partners in mission. We all have a role to play in preaching the Gospel and moving the mission of the church forward. So I think it is a concept that for young adults, in particular, resonates so deeply because no one wants you to speak for them.

AM: The instructions for this synod, specifically say that we shouldn’t only be talking to the most loyal parishioners, that the church wants to hear from everyone: young people, people on the margins of the church, maybe people who have left the church. What does the church have to gain from hearing those voices?

In my own life, people have said to me, “You know, bishop, you look terrible; you look tired; you look distracted.” And I’m not even aware that I am tired or distracted. So people outside the church perceive us in a certain way, [and] we may not even be aware of how we’re sending out the vibes that give them that perception. There’s a tremendous value in that.

ZD: What are these [synod] conversations about? Are we trying to just get a sense of people’s perceptions of the church, their interactions with it or what their opinion is on the teachings or ways of operating?

My sense is, if I read those documents correctly, the pope wants to hear people’s personal stories of faith. So where has the church been an aid in your spiritual journey? Where has it been a challenge or obstacle if you are not active in your life of faith, in the church? Where do you draw your spiritual sustenance? Where do you find your consolation? Where do you find your joy in life? So it’s more of an existential sort of question. If young people are leaving the church, which they are, where are they going and what are they doing with their basic desire to have a relationship with something far greater and more meaningful?

AM: You are clearly a fan of synodality and on board with this synod, but I don’t think everyone is as enthusiastic. For some, there might be some fear about what this could lead to. Pope Francis is not afraid of making messes, as he has said before, and this has the potential to be messy, when you have this many voices. What do you think is behind that fear, and what would you say to people who are not quite as on board as you?

I think it really comes down to a fear that the synod will become a congress, and we will be voting on or somehow influencing the things we believe in. And that is not what a synod is meant to be. I told our delegates: “This is not a congress. We’re not voting to amend things or to kick out this, that or the other.” But rather, it is a way, in the appropriation of one’s experience, to be able to discern an application, a deeper significance, that we did not necessarily recognize, for the things we believe.

If I may give you this image: When I look at the pictures of myself as a little kid, a fat little chubby kid from Brooklyn, right? And now I’m a fat, chubby adult, actually an early elder, in Bridgeport. It’s the same me, but there has been much development along the way. And that’s kind of like where I think people should get reassurance. This is not a free-for-all to change what we believe, but we can deepen our understanding of what we believe and apply it in more effective ways.

ZD: Are there some examples of some things that, in the way that we apply how we live out our faith, could change coming out of this?

I think much will change, and a lot of it is attitude, not so much doctrinal. We really do have among many good people this sense [that it’s] “Mass and I’m done.” But as a Christian, Mass is the fuel for the rest of the week so that you’re never really done. Baptism calls us to live our lives everywhere, whether it’s in the marketplace and the political arena, whether it is in social community life, whether it is in your parish, among friends, with your spouse, your children.

When you have a parish that’s not welcoming, something’s wrong, attitudinally. So as you listen to people’s stories and you listen to their sufferings and you listen to their heartbreaks and you do it in a way that you yourself are opening yourself up to what they’re saying, I’m hoping it will start converting hearts to say: “We’re in this together. I can’t go to Mass and not be concerned about who’s sitting next to me anymore.” This could have a profound change in the life of the church.

ZD: Part of this [synod] process is re-imagining the way that bishops themselves exercise authority—listening and teaching and the relationship between those two things. And from one vantage point, it is a giving up of the old way of doing things, the old way of having power in the church. What’s your thought on that? I imagine there have got to be some hesitations or reservations.

That’s really a profound question, I must confess, and I will give you a first glance answer [though] I need to reflect on that further, too. Here in the diocese [during the pandemic], when the obligation [to attend Sunday Mass] was reinstated, it didn’t really affect attendance. And part of it is because people are not motivated simply because this may be in obedience to a law. They’re coming because their heart is moved to come, which is the ideal. So for myself as a bishop, when I teach, I am painfully aware that I have to be effective in my preaching, in my teaching, because your simply saying it is not enough. We have to be inspirational and we have to give cogent reasons and we have to engage in dialogue to win people’s hearts and minds. No different than St. Paul did in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s no different than in that day.

If I could challenge myself: My witness and my example is more powerful than my words. And if I say one thing and I’m living something else, then young people, in particular, are going to say, “Come on. If you’re not walking the talk, stop already, we get it. We don’t need to hear this.”

AM: With the open listening the synod is inviting, you’re going to have different voices, and there are at some point going to be disagreements. Catholics have gotten kind of used to division in the church, unfortunately. I’m wondering if you have any advice about how to have hard, honest conversations without deepening those divisions?

It’s all the art of listening. Listening in the contemporary world is oftentimes confused with just biding your time till you can say something. But if listening is from the heart, then it’s always going to be challenging because you’re going to be reacting to what a person says and making the choice not to react externally. And it reveals your own heart to yourself: Why am I reacting this way? Why am I defensive? Why do I find this somewhat discomforting? It is a window into your own heart.

We’ve become tribal in the Catholic Church. Like in politics, you belong to a tribe and you go on social media and [think] I’m going to conquer and vanquish whoever doesn’t have to agree with me. And that’s all about the basic premise that it’s all about me and I’m the standard of truth and I’m going to fix the church. Christ saved the church! So when you say, what church are you saving?

In the end, it’s melting the heart. My prayer for the synod is that it will melt my heart more and all those who participate in it so that they can truly become empathetic to those around them. That’s how you can foster communion in a new way.

ZD: Some of our America colleagues called every diocese to see what they were doing for the synod. By early October, less than half have gotten a [synod] director appointed. We know there’s still a pandemic happening and there are challenges to go with that, but is it a lack of enthusiasm or something else going on here in the United States?

From my perspective, you invest in the things that you believe are going to yield the greatest fruit. And perhaps a bishop has decided that it won’t. But my experience is that the opposite is true. In 2014, when we had our diocesan synod, there were 3,600 interventions. And some of it was very painful because people were just so angry. And so this listening that I described before, I had to learn the hard way, but it has really kind of changed my whole perspective as a diocesan bishop on how you govern and how you prioritize and what you do. And I think this synod really is going to allow seeds to be planted in the hearts of people that could have a truly long lasting change on how we operate, how we treat each other and to start healing.

ZD: Can you say more about that experience of listening to people’s anger in the church? There are lots of people who are angry at the church, but to express that anger is itself, in some ways, an act of love, right? You’ve not given up on this thing. To be able to express anger and listen, what was that like? That had to be very moving and difficult.

It was certainly moving because you could see the genuine anguish in a lot of people. If you’re betrayed by a friend or a spouse, there are very little words to describe the pain that you experience. And to be betrayed by this spiritual parent is like having a dagger plunged into your heart. Many times people afterward, in the years to follow, they thanked me simply for being able to [express their anger], for there was nowhere else to say it, and that itself is healing. So for me personally, it gave me greater resolve to understand that part of my ministry is administrative but that administration is an act of love, too, because it should be designed in part to make sure that what we endured will never happen again, that people will never experience that level of betrayal again.

AM: Could you give some words of wisdom or advice to someone who’s listening to this conversation and thinking to themselves, “It’s great that the church is doing this, but I’m not the type of person they want to hear from or it’s not worth my time.” Why do you think they should make the effort to get involved at their parish or diocesan level?

I think in part the simple message is that we care and we want you to be part of it. As in any good family, we’re not going to leave you behind. We’re going to ask. And if you’re not ready, perhaps later on, we’ll ask again, because we love you, which is as simple as that. And if one can’t honestly say that, then that’s why the synod has to melt hearts, right? For all of us, if we have friends, relatives, neighbors, who are not involved in the life of the church, then it’s like having Sunday meal and not having your whole family, which in the modern world has become commonplace. When I was a kid, that was unthinkable. And when I went to Sunday meal, I didn’t always get along with my sister. Sometimes I wanted to wring her neck, and she certainly wanted to wring my neck. But we were still at the meal because I couldn’t imagine life without that.

So in a sense, what would I say to them? I say: Please don’t give up on us so much that we can’t still have a cup of coffee together and talk. Because at least for us, we need you and we want you. Once part of the family, you are always part of the family.


NEW YORK -Thank you Bob, for those kind words. Good morning, everyone. I am absolutely delighted to be able to join you today. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to offer some initial remarks and reflections to set the stage for what I believe is going to be a very productive and fruitful dialogue about the social gospel, about the Catholic social teachings that we hold so dear and Pope Francis’s particular call for inclusion. I believe this topic is of great significance for many reasons, not least of which my friends, I believe we’re living in a window of opportunity because given all of the dislocation caused by the pandemic, everyone now is comfortable with the notion that things need to change. And so we have this opportunity not simply to reevaluate our economic, social and political orders, but actually also to seek change so that it is not just more economically stable, but quite frankly, we’ll do what Catholic social teaching asks to respect the dignity of each human and to foster inclusion of a soul Pope Francis on the scene is the right man with the right voice at the right time, in this moment of opportunity to engage believers and people of goodwill in this project.

Click here to watch Bishop Caggiano’s full presentation.

And I speak not only of his prophetic acts and there are many of inclusion you could consider: erecting showers in the rotunda of St Peter’s or sharing his birthday breakfast with the homeless or going to Lampedusa or opening an office of Papal Charities. These are all prophetic acts, but I’m speaking about the very substance of his teaching of which you are all familiar. For example, his unwavering commitment to the dignity and needs of those who are excluded and vulnerable in the economic, social and political order to promote the common good and to situate individual rights within the common. Good to dare to say that we are all brothers and sisters echoing Francis of Assisi image, irrespective of culture, language, nationality, to reaffirm the importance of family and local communities as building blocks that will respect the dignity of individuals. And to extend this to an integral ecology, my friends, all of that is this call to inclusion.

And so what is my task before you today? I stand before you as a pastor of the church to do two things. First with your permission to kind of set the stage by reminding us generally of what Catholic social teaching is very briefly. And then to go a bit into that, which Francis is teaching us to unpack this call to inclusion and what that could mean for the conversation we have today. So our first task Catholic social teaching, I don’t think is an exaggeration if I were to say, if you ask the average Catholic, what it is that is Catholic social teaching, they would be hard pressed to figure out how to respond. I think they would point to the mandate of the gospel to be charitable, to love neighbor as oneself, but they would not necessarily understand the robust, sophisticated, and articulate vision of teachings that seeks to challenge all believers, to engage the world concretely precisely in this mandate of charity, Pope Francis is one of many in a long tradition that has articulated this.

And of course, most commentators would say modern Catholic social teaching began with Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo, the 13th and 1891. But the truth is the roots of Catholic social teaching began with Christian revelation with the teachings and ministry of the Lord himself in the apostolic tradition. As the church over the centuries has responded to circumstances, feudalism, industrialization, modernism, politics, war technology, globalization, and now the digital continent. So at its heart, my friends Catholic social teaching does what? It marries the evangelical mandate of love to will the good of the other with the demands of reason illustrated by the natural law, also informed by the social sciences so that we can find a concrete path to foster the dignity of every human person and the common good that binds us together. And that marriage, my friends is based on two other humanities that are central in Catholic thinking the unity of faith and reason that they complement one another or as to tradition says greats building on nature and the scriptural exposition of St. James, that faith is dead without good works.

Before we move to Pope Francis, allow me to other very, very brief, uh, premises. First, this, as you know, in Catholic social teaching, there are three fundamental principles and some other corollaries, perhaps traditionally seven. And yet we must understand that they all exist in creative tension with each other, that they are all necessary to fill in a comprehensive picture and they stand side by side because at times they are self-correcting right, they need to be. So give the image of a mosaic. You look at the pieces of mosaic, each of beautiful, but you don’t get the full beauty until you put the pieces together. And so part of our challenge is to put the picture together in this growing complex, complicated divided, and a world that seeks exclusion, how do we concretize in the messy life we live? How do we concretize this call of inclusion?

And the second is most obvious. It is precisely for all the reasons I just said, given the complexity, given the enormity of just the economic order and the political order and the social structure and hierarchies of our countries in the world, they will be legitimate disagreement among us, even in this room. I am hoping that we’ll come to the fore in our, in our conversation, legitimate disagreement on how to apply these principles concretely, but my friends that should never be a reason for us to shy away from the discussion. Pope Francis is no stranger to controversy, neither should we because of the import of what stints before us. So let’s turn to Pope Francis Pope Francis has made it very clear that it is a call to inclusion that animates much of his capable magisterium. I’d like to present a premise, a proposition, perhaps you may disagree, but it seems to me in the religious imagination, in the intuition that actually forms much of what Pope Francis is.

Speaking of, there is one principle, one basic theological fundamental principle that animates, what could otherwise be seen as just random or side-by-side observations. And in the tradition of the church, that fundamental principle is called colonial or communion, but it can be named in other ways, including a sense of social fraternity. And it is first and foremost, my friends, a mystery, not because we cannot speak of it, but because it is a reality that we enter into in response to what a divine invitation Communio is not a human construct alone. What is the invitation? The invitation is for all of us made in God’s image and likeness through the power of grace to enter into the very life of God who is himself, a communion in Christian revelation, a Trinity of divine persons bound together in love because God is love. And that unit that invitation into this life reminds us of who we are and reminds us of the bond we share with everyone of all races and religious traditions.

And it also reminds us of the obligation. We must sustain our common life, even in the respect and care of creation. In chapter one of Fratelli Tutti, I’m paraphrasing the Holy Father when he says there are no others, no them, only us who includes God. Allow me a scriptural diversion. Where does this come from? In the Old Testament, in the Jewish scriptures. It’s the notion of covenant that God binds himself to his people, even though they do not necessarily deserve it. And even though they are unfaithful, there is an unbreakable invitation to share his life and put those of us in the Christian tradition. We believe that that covenant is fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Because why? Not simply because he forgives our sins in his free sacrifice on the cross. But because in the outpouring of the spirit, he is the bridge into the very life of God. He is the bridge into an everlasting communion. And so if that is who we are, then that is shared, as I said previously, with every other human being, not by choice necessarily, but just as a consequence of who we are. In Fratelli Tutti, article 94, the Pope says only by cultivating this way of relating to one another, will we make possible a social friendship that excludes no one and a fraternity that is open to all.

So when the holy father speaks of inclusion, he is not speaking of something transactional. He is speaking of the very change of mentality and lifestyle, which is a fundamental reflection of who we are in Christ. We are to live that way because we should know no other way, how to live because of who we are. And we are impelled by that communion, that common union to redefine not only our personal relationships, but every structure that is over a human construct. Fraternal love and social friendship can be such an synonyms for the very reality I’m speaking about. So when this is applied in action, you will see Pope Francis constantly speaking about mercy, or you see my friends, the effect of living communion is mercy. It’s the living branch, so no one is left behind. Pope Francis speaks of Synodality as an essential part of the church’s life. What was he saying? Is that the journey of faith excludes no one, it’s not just the bishops who are asked to discern and listen, but all God’s people, even those who do not check Christian faith have a role in the discerning and listening because it’s the very fabric of who we are. And therefore there is a personal and communal obligation to look at the economic, political and social order through this lens.

Allow me to go deeper. I’m going to use the three fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching, perhaps to illustrate a bit more granular, what Pope Francis is teaching us. And if you recall St. John Paul II, in Ecclesia in America, article 55 says: “Her, that is the church’s moral vision in this area. Catholic social teaching rests on three cornerstones of human dignity, solidarity, and subsidiarity.” For the balance of my remarks, allow me to stop at each of those and break it open along the lines of what our holy father is.

Speaking of inclusion, human dignity, and the value of every human person, Pope Francis has made it clear that he reaffirms the dignity and value of unborn life, but he also has made it clear that that dignity and value extends to the marginalized, the vulnerable and the excluded in our midst, the human lines that have become invisible to the economic and political order around us. They are deserving of the dignity and protection. Not because we accord it, but because it is already inherent in every human person. In 107 in Fratelli Tutti, he summarizes it in one sentence. He says, “every human person has a right to live with dignity and develop integrally.” So who are the marginalized for Pope Francis, the physically poor, those who lack necessities of life migrants, whose dignity is challenged at the borders. The fourth chapter of Fratelli Tutti, dreams of a, a heart open to the world. He says the elderly, the uneducated, the refugee, those who are suffering from the effects of climate change, because it is a dignity. My friends clearly that exist in every stage in every season of life, never to be judged in a utilitarian fashion, universal that knows no distinction of politics or national boundaries, and one that has a preferential option for the very ones that otherwise have been left behind Pope Francis does not mince words. Does he?

He challenges the political economic and social order to include the excluded. For example, in Evangelii Gaudium, article six, I believe it is Pope Francis challenges, all governments to assure dignified, work, healthcare and education for all people. He also criticizes what he sees are the challenges. So for example, he speaks of the idolatry of money where he sees the human person because of the, some of the economic structures. We have a person is no longer an agent of economic life, but reduced to a center of consumption for profit. He speaks of the victims of a Neo liberal faith in an unfettered marketplace. Fratelli Tutti article 168, where he says that marketplace, that mistaken belief that the marketplace will solve all problems through. And I quote spillover or I quote trickle theories against those challenges. He speaks of an integral human development and in article 21, a Fratelli Tutti. He says this, some economic rules have proved effective for growth, but not for integral human development. Wealth has increased, but together with inequality and the result that, that there are new forms of poverty emerging. We see that here in Manhattan, just take a stroll down the street.

And in this dignity of the human person, he speaks of the essential role of the family and the local community, the family, particularly in Amoris Laetitia which itself was a document that was critiqued by some, but he holds dear and fast to this. So in the end, if you were to ask me, Bishop Frank, summarize all this in a sentence, I would put it this way for Pope Francis, the basic moral test for any society or the analysis of any personal behavior. Is this, how do we treat the poor? And marginalized is the measure to which we need to change. Second principle, human solidarity. I need not explain too much. It is the basis of the communio I spoke of, but there is this image that we have to remember, which is the common good, and allow me to offer a tangent.

And again, you may disagree and I welcomed the commentary, but we live in a time, particularly here in the United States where personal rights have almost been divinized and a discussion of the common good has been set aside. And the holy father says that’s a recipe for disaster because the one checks the other, they are in a delicate and creative balance and the common good needs to be articulated so that it is in fact held in common. And it would seem to me that one of the great challenges we have is precisely to do that in the context of this country, in this moment that we are living for Francis, this notion of advancing the common good, resonates very deeply in his, in his writings, at least in two ways, he challenges his listening listeners to understand the common good as essential in any conversation of an economic, political, or social order. And when he says the common good, he is speaking of long term common good for Fratelli Tutti article 176, when he says true statecraft is manifest. When in difficult times we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common. Good. Imagine, um, imagine in chapter five of Fratelli Tutti to the holy father, actually challenges us to rethink a better type of political order. One based on charity and fraternity, he calls it political love. Do you see a lot of political love in Washington?

We have a lot of work to do, and he speaks of this ideal of a fraternal society. And he says, it’s based on dialogue, which again, in our contemporary world, it is becoming harder and harder to do. In fact to the Hungarian bishops, which he just visited last week, he said, if we want the river of the gospel here also in Hungary to penetrate people’s lives and note the emphasis to lead to way more fraternal in solidary society, which is synonym for an inclusive society, the church needs to build new bridges of dialogue. And the Pope has been insistent on that for all believers. And then of course he speaks like he defeat human dignity does not mince words on the societal structures and the obstacles that prevent that the very opening chapter or Fratelli Tutti, if you read it is sobering. The topic is dark clouds over a closed world, kind of summarizes the theme.

He speaks of a new tyranny in Evangelii Gaudium, where he says, and allow me to quote this. He says, while the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so two is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by what he calls the happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, he goes on to say, they reject the rights of states charged with the vigilance of the common good to exercise, any form of control. And then he concludes a new tyranny is thus born; invisible, often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its laws and rules.

The last principal subsidiarity, my friends, you all know, as I do what that refers to is that the state or the larger entity should not assume the tasks that local entities and individuals can do for themselves. This basically is the conversation of personal responsibility and collective responsibility and how they are held in that creative tension. And the Pope has made it clear that every human person and particularly every believer has a personal responsibility to live this gospel and to concretize it in their lives. But there’s also a responsibility to, uh, to protect the common good. And so, for example, what we speak of personal property, the church has always held and Pope Francis also holds that every person has a right to own property, but that right is not completely absolute because he speaks of the universal destiny of all goods for tele to te speaks of the principle of the common use of created goods, that responsibility personally and collectively, always in dialogue. And that is why the care for God’s creation Laudato Si, which resonates in the hearts of so many young adults. He speaks of an integral ecology because the truth is, and perhaps you may disagree. If we are to address this global challenge, it is not enough for some to respond for some countries to respond for. If we do not all respond, they will be no lasting solution once again, individual or in district case state’s rights and the global common good.

So my friends, where do we go from here? In the Catholic tradition hopes from St. John Paul, the second, actually from Saint Paul, the sixth have been challenging us to become missionary disciples in the world. We can spend five hours trying to figure out the nuances of that. I want to leave you with this thought. If you and I are committed to engage the world around us. That is to be disciples in the world in mission, allow me to conclude by making the simple observation, Pope Francis has given us the roadmap with the principles of Catholic social teaching. In this understanding of this communio we share that can be summarized in the simple three words, a call for inclusion to allow the health of individuals in their dignity and the respect that is owed to them in the health of nations and a common good that can be global. You and I, my friends are being engaged by the successor of Peter to make this the centerpiece of our mission in the world. We are all sisters and brothers in this communio that casts us and asks us to go into the world and allow the world to beat the place where every human being and every local community and every nation can live in prosperity in peace. The roadmap is there. The question for you and di is simply this, are we ready to begin the journey? Thank you. My friends for your attention. God bless you.

By J.D. Long-García from
Pictured: Pope Francis greets Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., during a meeting with U.S. bishops from the New England States at the Vatican Nov. 7, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The Catholic Church has to do catechesis differently. That is why Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catechism, proposed establishing a new Institute for the Catechism during the bishops’ virtual meeting in June.

Through the institute, the subcommittee will work with publishers to update catechesis materials. Additionally, each year the institute will organize an in-person training conference and retreat for catechetical leaders.

The new approach, which draws inspiration from Pope Francis’ apostolic letter “Antiquum Ministerium” and the new Directory for Catechesis, will rely on an evangelizing catechesis that begins with an encounter with God, Bishop Caggiano told America. The proposed institute aims to help the church to bring catechesis to digital spaces, reach a more diverse church and reconnect with the disaffiliated.

Bishop Caggiano recently granted America a phone interview to discuss the proposal. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why do we need a new catechetical institute?

The subcommittee was created over 27 years ago by the bishops in response to a perceived need. The resources that would be made for catechesis needed some assistance to become much more in conformity with the catechism that had just been published [in 1992]—the universal catechism.

The concern was authenticity in the presentation of the faith, so that young people in catechesis have an opportunity to learn the faith. It was also an opportunity to engage publishers. At the beginning it was met with some bit of suspicion. But I’m very happy to say that I think the relationship between the publishers—and there are many—and the subcommittee has really become very positive, very collaborative.

Seems like a lot has changed.

A number of things. In the old days, if I can call them those, most of the resources that were used were printed texts that you bought and you used and passed on [to another person]. That’s not the case anymore. The electronic and digital platform has exploded, particularly with Covid. And we do not have the ability in the structure we have now to review digital and electronic-based materials. So if our goal is to be of service in the creation of these texts, we’re not capable of doing it within the current structure.

Some would say the church in the United States has also become a lot more diverse.

There is a tremendous vibrancy in the church and growth—particularly in young ages—among Hispanic and Latino families. And again, the original mandate had us only reviewing English-language texts. Twenty-seven or 28 years ago, the idea of serving our Catholics who are not principally English-speaking was seen as simply a matter of translation. We have finally come to the universal realization that that is not the [appropriate] response. It is really a question of inculturation of texts, and not just taking an English text and translating it into Spanish. [We have] to intuit the cultures, which are different in the Spanish world, so you can actually help pass on the faith in a formative way.

So the landscape has dramatically changed.

Are the growing numbers of ex-Catholics and nonreligious people also a concern for the institute?

Disaffiliation is growing. And therefore we have to address the question of how catechesis is done in a way that evangelizes as well. Catechesis invites people to an encounter with the Lord, not just explains what the encounter means. If you haven’t had the encounter, that reduces the study of faith to being like algebra. You learn it, you soon forget it. And life goes on.

The other two pieces, which were a surprise to all of us, are the new Directory for Catechesis—which gives a profound vision for catechesis that is charismatic—and the new [document from the pope instituting the ministry of catechist], “Antiquum Ministerium,” which is literally only a few months old.

So all of this has converged for us to say we need a whole new approach. And the institute is really going to be the incubator and will grow over time to address all of those issues in a coordinated, comprehensive way.

In the past, you have often referred to evangelizing catechesis. I hear you alluding to that again here. This seems to be a central aspect of what this institute is about.

Yes, absolutely. The Holy Father in the new Directory for Catechesis speaks of kerygmatic catechesis. We use a slightly different term, but it’s the same notion. We speak of “evangelizing catechesis.” In effect, catechesis is a privileged moment in a larger process that presumes encounter with the Lord, provokes the desire to know about the Lord, and then to be a witness and go out into the world and act as you believe.

To reduce catechesis simply to an intellectual function is to impoverish it. There are three human transcendentals: truth, beauty and goodness. Catechesis has to incorporate all three for it to be totally effective in breaking open the encounter so that it allows an integrated life and real discipleship.

Can you point to specific things that will change with this new approach?

Up to this point, we’ve been emphasizing the resources given to people to learn the faith. While we’re not going to abandon that at all, we also want to focus attention on those who are the agents of formation. So I draw the analogy: if I were 12 years old, and given the keys to a car, the car would be useless to me. I don’t know how to drive.

So the agents of formation are parents, what we call catechists. And then in some way, shape or form, it’s everyone. But the two principal groups would be your natural family and your ecclesial family—your parents and your catechist and clergy.

So we want to be able to form them so that they can effectively use the catechetical resources. So that’s a shift in emphasis. And with the [issuing] of the “Ministry of Catechist,” it’s just ideal. Talk about a moment of grace. The Holy Father is saying this is what we have to discern for the church. Well, I mean, everything just falls into place.

In terms of inculturated Hispanic catechesis, we hear a lot that our immigrant brothers and sisters aren’t as well catechized. But is the idea that it has to be done in a way that resonates with our culture?

Well, you see, I would dispute that, though. I would not add my voice to those that say [immigrants] are very poorly catechized. You look at the three transcendentals as pathways to the encounter with God…even my parents, who were themselves immigrants from Italy, there was a religious intuition that you don’t learn out of a textbook. You learn it from family and community. Which is a powerful way to encounter Christ.

Now, it could very well be that there’s a need left in the transcendental of truth to give language to that. Yes, absolutely. And can we do better? Absolutely. In part, we need to provide resources and materials that fit the cultural experience, so that they speak to people’s hearts.

But the fact is that many have already had that intuition [of faith] that comes through family and comes through community. One could almost argue that [Latino immigrants] are ahead of the game. Because if you don’t have that encounter, if you don’t have that intuition—I’m going call it an intuition of love to the person of the Lord in and through the church—then just intellectually studying the faith can convert some people, but the vast majority are just going to see it as an academic subject.

So I think there is a real contribution to be made, when we talk about inculturation, that it’s not a one way street. It’s a two way street. It has to be walked by everybody in the church to mutually learn from one another, because I think the Hispanic and Latino community has a lot to teach [the broader church].

It may go without saying, but a lot of Latinos do not speak Spanish, or at least they prefer English. So, in recognizing that, it seems like catechesis needs to push beyond translations?

That’s my situation. My parents were immigrants, but I was born in the United States. I did not grow up speaking Italian. And yet, what I just described to you happened to me—that religious intuition. Before I went to school, my mother didn’t teach me the Immaculate Conception or the Assumption. She taught me a love of Our Lady. Then when I went to school—I went to Catholic school—I learned. I had to relearn again and again and again.

I think for young people, and this may sound very strange for me to say, some of what has happened in the last 40 years is that we have so overemphasized the intellectual component of faith that we have lost the effectiveness of the paths of beauty. And I’m of the clear opinion that if you want to engage young adults, engage them in either the path of beauty or the path of goodness, and then they will naturally hunger for the path of truth. You won’t have to try to motivate them to learn the faith. They will want to learn it. But there has to be an encounter with the heart or with the hands, at least at the same time, to precede the encounter with the mind.

Sometimes today in the church we see works of charity and justice almost in a tension with evangelizing efforts. But if I’m hearing you correctly, you’re saying that they work in harmony with each other.

Without a doubt. It’s interesting—not that I want to sound as if I’m critical of what is going on, but it may come out to sound that way—when it comes to our outreach to teenagers, in a large part of the church we have taken the path of goodness and reduced it to service and service projects.

The classic transcendental of goodness is a virtue. It’s both a natural and supernatural virtue. And acts of service and goodness—whether they are the individual acts, which one could say are acts of charity, or the acts of systemic change, which are the acts of justice, have to flow not simply [out of a desire] to feel good [or] to make a difference, which is where some people may start. It should flow out of the life you have chosen, [one] that embodies in yourself the very goals you want to achieve by doing the good. Then people begin to mold themselves with grace to be true recipients of the Word.

And the path of beauty is also through prayer. You’re disclosing yourself to the truth in the spiritual life of prayer.

It’s got to be much more a question of a life stance than individual acts. And this institute is going to be looking at that, because we’re not just going to look at the intellectual. We’re also going to look at the affective. What are the desired outcomes in behavior that will measure whether or not a person is truly being formed?

We often hear Catholic schools prioritized, and I get that. But I also understand that most Catholic children are not attending Catholic schools. Do you believe that we can do a better job reaching children who are not in our schools?

Faith formation of [Catholic schools students and public school students] is going to be different because [in Catholic schools] you have the luxury of time. And formation works easier when you have more time with the person you want to form. I mean, it’s just logical.

But the same thing has to happen in both experiences. Can we do better in religious education? The answer is absolutely, yes, we can. But I think it goes back to my question of the agents. If the agents of formation recognize they are agents, and are given the tools, formation and accompaniment, then for the children who are in religious education, the involvement of their parents is as important, if not more important, than for children in Catholic schools.

They [those parents] will need to have much more of a formation of influence over their children, because the children in public schools are going to be [exposed to] formational experiences that are not always consonant with the faith—many times in opposition to the faith. So they have a distinct obstacle that they have to deal with if their children attend public education, that many times is running on an agenda that is not faith-friendly. It could be very much opposed to the Christian faith.

So the answer is yes [we can do better]. But to say we have to do a better job almost sounds judgmental of those doing catechesis now, and the truth is, in my experience, there are a lot of people trying their hardest to do the best they can.

The influence of the bishops isn’t what it used to be. The church as an institution has lost some of its credibility. Do you see that as part of the reason that we need a different approach to reach people?

Oh, without a doubt. But I would give it in more global terms. Allow me a theory, and it’s only a theory. If it is the case that we live in a culture that has prioritized and absolutized subjectivity, so that I’m the standard of truth, I’m the standard of what’s moral, and I’m the standard of what I decide is going to be good, I’m only going to be comfortable with dealing with people of like minds. So you go on social media, you create a tribe, you call it a community, and basically there’s open warfare. You see it now in the church, you see it everywhere. But if that is the premise, then an institution—whether it’s the political structures, economic structures, the church, organized religion—the institution and its leaders who would have at one time been nuanced differently are no longer nuanced differently.

So I have a problem with my pastor. I leave. My mother used to say to me, “Ships, pastors, they come and go. Jesus is here.” Because my mother intuited, and her generation intuited that there was some objective here, and that even those who are in leadership, whether they are good leaders or not, cannot take away [that objective].

But now we live in a world where that is not the case, where [the institution and its leaders] are convoluted because there isn’t something truly objective to which they are held responsible. And if that is true, then your premise is absolutely something that has to be dealt with by the bishops of the country and quite frankly, the leadership of anyone who is part of an organized community or institution.

If all that is even partially true, then the only way we can heal these divisions is to answer the question, “Why a church at all?” Why do I need a church for spiritual life? What is the compelling reason to say that a community is absolutely essential—and not a community of your own making, but a community that you are received in and receives you?

That is a fundamental question this institute has to address as almost the premise for having catechesis at all. Does that sound reasonable?

Yes, well, to me it does. It does often seem like we create communities, like you say, of like minds. We network with those with whom we agree and we don’t want to be challenged.

And it’s self enforced. And then you create a remnant. You create a fortress that you have to defend, and you defend it by becoming more pure in it; therefore, you become more extreme in it.

Ephesians 4 is the key to answering this question: to live the truth in love. Paul says that, in a time when Ephesus was a disaster. The same is true in our age. O.K., love is the central component of a community for it demands more [of] one.

Therefore, the crisis in leadership needs to be resolved with heroic and holy leadership. But as that is being played out, it should not affect a person’s seeking the truth in love within a community of believers that is living the truth that is both objective and real in Jesus Christ. But right now, that’s all convoluted.

Is there something I haven’t asked that we should have talked about?

I’d just appeal for patience. We are really talking about more than just process and procedure. We’re talking about a vision that could have huge implications if it was implemented in the lives of all of our dioceses. What we are launching is a roadmap, not a plan. As more bishops now get engaged, as more people in the field get engaged[and] we listen to one another, it will become clearer what has to happen.

So if someone’s imagining we’re going to have this settled in six months, I think that would be a mistake. As we devolved into the crisis, we will evolve into the solution. So I would ask everyone to be open to it, be patient with it and to participate in it.

Material from Catholic News Service was used in the introduction of this story.

BRIDGEPORT– “The profound challenge Christ leaves us is the understanding that we cannot develop a divine friendship with Jesus If we don’t do the same thing with the sisters and brothers around us,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said in his online Mass for the Sixth Sunday after Easter.

“Friendship is a lifetime project, a life of self-sacrifice and self-gift,” he said, adding that we are sustained in that challenge “by the gift of his death on the cross and the Eucharist.”

After reading the Gospel of John 15: 9-17 “13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” the bishop began his homily with a simple question, “What does it mean to be a friend?”

He said the answer may seem obvious, “but as in all things related to faith, the obvious answer isn’t the complete one… The Lord gives us a definition of friendship that is quite more challenging.”

Bishop Caggiano said when he recently visited 8th grade classes in diocesan schools, he was impressed by the answers the students gave to his question about friendship. The students told him that friends are people you can trust, people who are supportive and accepting, and people who show kindness.

The bishop said Christ set the model of true friendship in his willingness to forgive the disciples for their many faults, while also seeing their potential.

“Christ knew their brokenness, sins, their future betrayal, and yet he gave all to them, and he laid down his life for them– a friend to the end.”

The Bishop that Christ who is our savior, redeemer and Lord, is also a divine friend who walks alongside of us every moment of the day in our laughter and sorrow, doubts and confusion.

“And like any true friend, the Lord does not want us to lead a mediocre life, because our destiny is greater than that,” the bishop said, “and he helps us by giving his body and blood in the Eucharist and by the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The bishop said friendship is a true gift that opens us to an intimacy that we could not readily share with every person we meet. It is both a “sturdy shelter” and a responsibility.

“If we have a friend and we are afraid to tell the truth to that friend, is it really friendship? If we see a friend entering into destructive behavior and hold our tongue, is that a true friendship? If we socialize together and have lots of laughs and a friend starts to struggle and we begin to distance ourselves, is that true friendship?”

Perhaps friendship as the world understands it lacks the depth of what Christ challenges us to do, the bishop said. “Friendship is a gift that allows us to walk through life with a true companion, so that we may be faithful to our divine friend to the end.”

The bishop concluded his homily by asking us to consider the relationships we have with others and explore how they can be deepened and how they can grow, so that we might do what the Lord asks us to do: “In a broken, harsh, angry and divided world, the simple solution to all that the world is looking for is friendship.”

Before giving the final blessing Bishop Caggiano wished “all mothers, grandmothers, God mothers and foster mothers, a blessed happy and joyful Mother Day–a day well deserved.”

He also announced that in keeping with the Holy Father’s request that people throughout the world pray the Rosary to ask for the end of the pandemic and for the Blessed Mother’s protection and intercession, the diocese will join in the international effort at noon each day. To participate visit the Leadership Institute:

BRIDGEPORT– Doubt and fear are part of our fallen human condition, but obstacles to faith can be overcome by “readying our hearts” to receive the Divine Mercy that is there for the asking, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter.

In his weekly online Mass from the Catholic Center chapel, the bishop reflected on the Gospel of John (20: 19-31), when Jesus speaks to Thomas in the upper room. “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.’”

The bishop explained that the possibility Jesus would have risen in bodily form would have been difficult for the apostles to believe unless they saw it with their own eyes. Yet, “doubting” Thomas teaches us an important lesson about faith.

Because Thomas was not with the other apostles the first time Jesus appeared to them in the upper room, he wanted proof. But in a moment of faith he no longer needed to touch the wounds of the Risen Lord because he saw him through the eyes of faith.

“What does it mean to see the Lord?” the bishop asked.

He said the apostles had the privilege of seeing Jesus with their own eyes, but we are challenged to see the Lord in a different way, “through clarifying our vision and keeping our minds focused without distractions that can create doubt.”

The Bishop said he wonders what Thomas did in the week between the first and second appearance of Jesus.

“How much did his heart burn to see the Lord? Did he spend the time taking out the distractions and worldly presumptions, so that he was ready to see the Lord when he came?”

Likewise, we are challenged to ready ourselves by focusing on the Lord and his teaching, “and we will see him, and doubt less the more we see him,” he said.

The second obstacle to faith discussed in the gospel is fear. The bishop noted that even after being moved to joy by the Lord’s first appearance to them, the apostles remained locked in the upper room a week later because they were still afraid.

“They came to faith, but it did not move them to action,” the bishop said of their reaction to the first appearance. “The apostles didn’t yet have the power of Holy Spirit that came to them at Pentecost, so that they could do what they might not normally do with their own talent.”

Like the apostles in the upper room, we often lock the doors out of fear, rather than reaching out, reconciling, challenging or addressing a difficult situation, the bishop said. “We’re afraid “to write that letter, make that phone call, or confront someone we love with the truth.”

“The apostles unlocked the door when the Spirit finally came to them in Pentecost,” he said, adding that the same “Spirit is dwelling in our hearts. When fears make the best of us, we can ask for the grace to overcome them with His power, not with our power.”

“Today is Divine Mercy Sunday when we remember that from the side of the Lord flowed the blood and water, the sacrament of our regeneration and baptism, and the celestial food in our journey to heaven. How merciful to extend this bridge to eternal life, forgive our sins and give us the path to freedom.”

The bishop concluded by saying, “Along the way in that journey there will be times we will doubt like Thomas and be fearful like the rest of the apostles, but do not fear because God’s mercy is there to help us and see us through.”

After Mass bishop thanked all those who joined him for the online Mass and wished all a “continuing blessed, happy and joyful Easter, a 50-day celebration of the great gift which is the Risen Lord in our midst.”

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit:

This is Lidio da Silva. He and his wife, Marie, have three children, including one-year-old twins. The da Silva family are farmers who grow maize and beans in Timor Leste, which has the highest rate of child malnutrition in Asia. The lack of dietary diversity is one of the causes of this. To fight malnutrition, Catholic Relief Services offers a nutrition program in the country. Like any parent, Lidio and Marie want their children to have a healthy start to life. After attending the program, they changed what they eat as a family. In addition to eating what they grow, they now buy meat and fish once a month. When they have a little extra money, they purchase carrots, eggs, cassava, and pumpkin leaf from the market.

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

BRIDGEPORT — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano launched a diocesan-wide renewal Friday as he consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to the protection and intercession of St. Joseph, the Patron of the Universal Church, during this Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis.

The Bishop celebrated a Pontifical Mass on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at St. Augustine’s Cathedral while pastors throughout the diocese simultaneously celebrated Mass, linking the diocese together in prayer and purpose.

Describing St. Joseph as a husband, father and saint who exemplified the saying, “Actions speak louder than words,” Bishop Caggiano said, “You and I come here, my friends, not simply to ask for his help, not simply to seek his protection, but to follow his example.”

Calling the faithful to action, during his homily, he said: “My friends, no more words. We have had enough of the words. They have filled libraries. It is time for action, isn’t it? In this singular moment in the life of the Church, in this singular moment in the life of our world, now is the time we turn to Joseph to ask him to protect us, to guide us, to defend us, to inspire us to a mission that no longer needs words but faithful, humble, obedient action, for it is in our deeds that the world will see what Joseph saw. It is in our actions that the Lord will glimpse he who Joseph is carrying with his arms outstretched as a child, ready to stretch out his arms on the cross so that the love that he bore for us will set us free.”

The Mass culminated a week-long Novena to St. Joseph, calling upon him to intercede for the diocese during this year of celebration, proclaimed by Pope Francis in observance of the 150th anniversary of St. Joseph being named Patron of the Universal Church by Blessed Pius IX. The pope also issued an Apostolic Letter titled “Patris Corde,” (“With a Father’s Heart”) in order “to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”

The Mass launched a call to renewal that Bishop Caggiano announced in his pastoral exhortation, “Let Us Enter the Upper Room With the Lord,” issued on Ash Wednesday, which called for a personal and communal renewal of faith.

In his apostolic letter, Pope Francis describe Joseph as “a hidden presence” and “a man in the shadows.” Similarly, Bishop Caggiano observed, “Today we honor a man who has no directly recorded words in all of Sacred Scripture, and yet we come here to honor him as patron and guardian, defender and protector. Of all the members of the human race — second only to the Mother of God — to this man, this simple carpenter, was given a great mission: to protect and guard the Savior and Redeemer of all things and his Sacred Virgin Mother.”

Joseph accomplished the great mission he was given through the obedience that characterized his life and the humility that was the foundation of his spiritual relationship with God.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

“Joseph went about this great mission, going where he would not have chosen to go, in exile into Egypt, leaving family, occupation and language behind,” Bishop Caggiano said. “He did what the Lord asked — to take on his betrothed wife conceived of a child that was not his but he did it in obedience for he knew in his humility, it was not for him to understand God’s design. It was simply to say ‘yes.’”

Joseph was given the great gift of an intimate, personal and loving relationship with God, whom he was given to protect. This was the “wellspring of his power,” the bishop said.

The faithful of the diocese have also been given a great mission on the day of their Baptism, he said.

“Did you and I not also receive this great task to be the protector and defender of the Lord’s presence in the world?” he said. “That faith that binds us as a family, for each time you and I are out in the world, caring for the sick, the poor and the homeless, when you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

The mission of renewal that the diocese embarks upon is a “grave one,” he said. “You and I follow in the footsteps of the carpenter. We are given the mission to be the guardians of the Truth, who is the person of Jesus alive in our midst, here in this Mystical Body.”

Echoing the theme of his pastoral exhortation, Bishop Caggiano said that just as Joseph found power in his intimate relationship with God, we must do the same.

“For that reason my friends, I have invited you into that Upper Room to sit with the Lord, his foster son and our God,” Bishop Caggiano said. “To come to look into his face and his eyes, to see his tears in the faces of those around us, to learn to hear his voice in our hearts and spirits, to recognize how God is with us in communion and to receive his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity here as the foretaste of everlasting life. You and I will fail in our mission if we do not in equal way come to an intimate love and relationship with Christ.”

Even though there are no directly recorded words in Sacred Scripture attributed to St. Joseph, Bishop Caggiano said: “We know he spoke at least one, for in the passage we heard in the dream Joseph received, four verses later there is a simple sentence inspired by the Holy Spirit through St. Matthew, who writes, ‘He, Joseph, named him Jesus.’ For we know this man at least uttered one word. And that word is ‘Jesus.’ And that was enough for Joseph. Can we dare hope that it is enough for you and me?”

Following his homily, the bishop consecrated the Diocese of Bridgeport to St. Joseph, calling upon his intercession for the renewal.

While the pandemic has given new urgency to the bishop’s call, it is a theme he has sounded from day one: “When I first came to the diocese, in my installation homily, I spoke about my deep desire to build bridges to those who were seeking meaning and direction in
life. It seems to me that the time has come when we are all called to be bridge-builders to the people around us, leading them to Christ, for whom we serve as his ambassadors.”

The Synod discernment paved the way for renewal by building the foundation that will assist the diocese and its parishes in the work of recovery and revitalization.

While liturgies and other activities are planned for the year, the bishop made it clear that the call to the Upper Room is not a program, but an invitation to join him on “a spiritual journey, seeking the Lord’s grace to transform this time of suffering into a springtime of renewal for the life of the Church.”

Because of the uncertainty of the pandemic, he envisions the first part of the year as a time of prayer and intense spiritual preparation that will lead to more in-person missionary outreach in the fall—an active going out into the community by “ambassadors” to welcome all back and invite others in for the first time.

Bishop Caggiano believes there is a role for everyone because the renewal is based on personal prayer, reconciliation with Christ and reception of the Holy Eucharist—all within our grasp as members of his Church who believe faith can transform our lives and change the world.

By Joe Pisani

BRIDGEPORT— “Our God is an unexpected God, a God of surprises whose work and grace influence us in unexpected ways,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for “Laetare” Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Lent.

The bishop it’s an understanding we should “take to heart on this Sunday of Joy, the fourth Sunday in Lent,” when we consider the challenge of missionary discipleship in a world that may seem indifferent to faith.

In his homily Bishop Caggiano focused on the 1st Reading from 2 Chronicles (36:14-16, 19-23) in which Cyrus, King of Persia, surprised the Jewish people by allowing them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem years after it had been sacked and burned.

The bishop began by noting that we may all at one time or another be pleasantly surprised when a person has who formerly thought little of us, perhaps even refused to speak with us, unexpectedly offers a compliment that makes us feel better about ourselves and gives hope for a new beginning in the relationship.

The people of Israel may have had a similar feeling when King Cyrus permitted them to rebuild the temple, he said.

“There would have been precious little that would have prepared God’s chosen people for the unexpected reaction of Cyrus,” he said.

“The Lord had moved the heart of the ruler of a pagan nation who had no knowledge of Jewish law and no reasons to allow them to rebuild the temple, “ since they represented only a small fraction of his earthly empire, he said.

Yet the prayers of the Jewish people were unexpectedly answered by a king who allowed their temple to be rebuilt.

“Our God is a God of unexpected turns,” he said, “But what does it mean for you and me on this Fourth Sunday in Lent?

The story of Cyrus should give us courage and strength to go out in fidelity and bear witness to our faith, “when it’s easy and when it’s not, with those who receive you and those who do not.”

He said as Catholics “we have a tendency to constrict missionary discipleship to what is comfortable and familiar” where our faith is affirmed.

However, the story of Cyrus challenges us to plant the seeds of faith “anywhere and everywhere we go because we don’t know how God moves a human heart.”

“We should not be discouraged when we do not initially see the fruits of our labor ,” he said. Rather we should continue to plant the seeds of charity, fidelity and mercy in all those we encounter, even if they don’t seem to bear fruit.

“For those who take missionary discipleship seriously, How do you measure success? he asked.

The bishop said there was a time of bustling growth when the success of the Church was measured by the all of the new parishes founded, the number of people at Mass, and the many programs sponsored.

“We live in a different time now, don’t we. There are heartaches for you and me when we see relatives and friends, nephews, nieces and grandchildren who have fallen away from the practice of faith… We try to bring them back but don’t see those seeds bear fruit.”

The bishop said the story of Cyrus gives us a reasons to take a step back, gain perspective and find encouragement that the seeds of faith won’t be stillborn.

“Grace works in unexpected ways,” he said, suggesting that we cannot measure the success of the spiritual life by “that which occurs outside of us,” but rather, we should persevere in fidelity to what the Lord asks of us.

In our contemporary lives, it is important to give witness to the truth of Jesus and to encounter friends and family, neighbors and enemies alike and not be discouraged if they don’t initially respond.

“There will be a time and place of the Lord’s choosing,” the bishop said.

“If the Lord could move the heart of Cyrus to rebuild his temple, is is there any human heart at the end that the Lord cannot move?”

Following the final blessing the bishop urged all to join him and others throughout the diocese in the nine-day Novena of St. Joseph offered each evening through the diocesan website at 7 p.m. The novena will conclude on Friday, March 19 when the bishop consecrates the Diocese to St. Joseph in a special live-streamed, 7 p.m. Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral. The live-stream will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the bishop leading the Rosary.

The bishop also took the time to wish all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day this week. He said St. Patrick was a man of great faith “who showed us the unexpected ways that God works in our lives.”

The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit:

I remember waking up on April 25, 2015, to the news that the people of Nepal were hit with a devastating earthquake. I immediately prayed for them and for their recovery.
For the last five years, Catholic Relief Services has been helping those people recover. One thing you might find surprising, at least I did, was that CRS has helped to restore over 6 miles of trails around Manaslu mountain, a very popular tourist site. When the earthquake destroyed its trails, tourists stopped visiting and it disconnected villages that used the trails to connect – hurting the local economy. With the trails restored, tourists can return to Manaslu. Even better, it’s made travel easier for people who live along the path to connect with economic opportunities, helping this remote location to thrive.

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

BRIDGEPORT— At a time of growing anxiety in the face of the pandemic and social change, we can find strength and peace in the teachings of Jesus, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his online Mass for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In his homily the bishop reflected on readings from First Corinthians (7:32-25), “I should like you to be free of anxieties,” and the impact of Jesus’s teachings in Capernaum ( Mark 1:21-28, ), “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.”

“I should like you to be free of anxieties– How often have those words come to our lips” said the bishop, noting that we often seek to console friends and family members during times of stress and uncertainty.

He urged the faithful to accompany others during the pandemic, so they do not face their sufferings and fears alone.

Our anxieties can divert our attention from that which can bring us greater peace each day when we understand that “all manner of things will be well when we find the one who teaches with authority,” he said.

The bishop began his homily by noting that he and his nephew recently watched a Netflix docudrama called “The Social Dilemma,” which focused on the way social media is manipulating human life, particularly among the young who are dependent and even addicted to it, leading to anxiety in their lives.

The bishop said we all seem to struggle with anxiety at one time or another. However, in this time of Covid-19, many people are experiencing a crippling anxiety that is affecting their daily life and “becoming a burden too heavy to carry.”

“The Christian obligation is to care for those who are struggling with any form of mental illness, even compulsive, burdening anxiety,” he said, adding that people should seek professional help if necessary and not be held back by the stigma of mental illness.

The Gospel of Mark offers a clue to help us deal with the normal anxieties of life along with our deeper and abiding worries, he said. “The clue comes from St. Mark’s depiction of Jesus as one who taught with authority,”

‘What does that mean?. Knowledge can come from reason, experience or intuition—the deep and abiding awareness one has that what is before them is more than meets the eye,” he said.

The bishop said that the people of Capernaum had that intuition when they heard Jesus speak. They understood and believed that Jesus taught with authority, and that when he spoke, they heard the fullness of truth.

“That intuition in the rough and tumble of our lives struggling with normal anxieties is the need to go back and do what the people of Capernaum did—sit before the Lord and listen to that intuition in our hearts that he speaks with authority.”

The bishop said there are no questions that Jesus can’t t answer or wounds he cannot heal “because he walks with us in lightness and in darkness, and he has shed his blood so that our mistakes might be forgiven,… and we might not be enchained by sin but find new life.”

The bishop said our mission is to be messengers who can lead others to the one who speaks with authority and can heal them.

“Let us find the strength to sit at his feet and allow him to lead us ever more, step by step, day by day, into the peace he promises to all who follow him.”

Following Mass the bishop said he continued to pray for the people of the diocese and he invited all to join him in the weekly family Rosary, saying that “there is no better way to sit at the feet of the Lord and allow the Lord’s peace to take root in our heart.”

You are also invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 p.m. visit:
The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.