Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

“Building Bridges” of Healing During the Pandemic

June 1, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Pentecost Sunday, as we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Pope Francis reminds us, “The Spirit is peace in the midst of restlessness, confidence in the midst of discouragement, joy in sadness, youth in aging, courage in the hour of trial.”

As the human toll from this terrible pandemic continues to increase in our midst, and I read the prayer requests from our live-streamed Masses, I am aware of the great suffering that a growing number of our neighbors are experiencing. They need our collective help.

Now more than ever the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) allows us to continue the mission of the Church and provide for these new faces of need in our midst. In the last few months, support of the ACA has allowed us to:

  • serve an extra 700 meals a day at our soup kitchens and other local non-profit nutrition programs and homeless shelters;
  •  move 70+ homeless individuals into a Shelton motel where they receive three meals a day;
  • meet the demand for counseling services during a heightened time of depression and anxiety;
  • provide distance learning to all diocesan Catholic schools and students who remain active in their studies; and teach faith and Sacramental preparation;
  • celebrate Masses and liturgies online;
  • support Hospital Chaplains and deacons on the frontlines where they are bringing Christ to patients and families who are in crisis and often all alone.

I am deeply grateful for your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal and I ask for your help so we can continue to provide essential services and comfort for those in need during this emergency appeal. To make your gift, please visit www.2020ACABridgeport.com. You may text the word APPEAL to 475.241.7849. If you have already made your gift, thank you.

Please be assured that you and your family remain in my prayers with the hope and love of our Risen Lord.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop Announces Phase II Return To Public Mass

May 29, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with great joy that I would like to announce that our parishes will be able to resume public worship inside our church buildings beginning the weekend of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (June 13th and 14th). In those parishes that are ready to follow our established norms, the celebration of weekday Masses, Funeral Masses and Nuptial Weddings within our Churches may also resume after the weekend of June 13th and June 14th.

As you know, we began the outdoor celebration of public Mass in the diocese on May 21, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. I am pleased to report that this first phase of re-opening has gone very well with a growing number of parishes now offering outside Mass both seated and in parking lots.

These Masses have been offered in a manner that health officials consider the safest ways in which to congregate by practicing social distancing, and the same policies will be in effect as we begin to celebrate Mass within our Churches buildings. While the challenges are considerable when congregating in an indoor location, we are confident that by following public health recommendations, we can come together for Mass in a manner that is as safe or safer than in other public gatherings.

I recognize that the last few months have been a most difficult time for all of us. I am grateful for your patience and prayers during this unprecedented moment in our history. I very much appreciate the great sorrow and loss felt by many who have longed to return to Mass. We will also need to live with continuing uncertainties about the course of the pandemic and its full impact on our society. However, I believe that it is also the right time to move forward in hope and faith, while taking all necessary precautions and safeguards to protect life in our community as we resume public worship within our Churches.

In order to do so, we will observe a few fundamental principles. First, I will continue the dispensation of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass for all those who are vulnerable or concerned about their health or the health of loved ones. For this reason, I encourage all parishes to continue to live stream the celebration of Mass, while public worship slowly resumes. In addition, for those who choose to come to Mass in our Church buildings, we will maintain strict social distancing of at least six feet, frequent sanitization of common areas, the use of hand sanitizers and face masks for all in attendance, and the continuation of many of the previously published liturgical norms issued for the celebration of outdoor Masses.

One issue of supreme importance is the permissible seating capacity of every Church building. Each Church’s seating capacity must be determined by following strict social distancing requirements. This means that the seating capacity in every Church will vary depending upon its size and configuration. To do otherwise would be to potentially put one’s neighbor into harm’s way—a danger that we must avoid in order to remain faithful to our fundamental Catholic belief in the sanctity of every human life.

A complete list of the extensive guidelines recommended to pastors and parishes regarding this next phase of planning will be posted on our diocesan website at: www.bridgeportdiocese.org on Monday, June 1, 2020.

In order to accommodate as many parishioners as possible to the celebration of Sunday Mass, parishes will also be permitted to continue to offer Masses outdoors and simulcast a Mass that is celebrated in the Church to other locations (either indoor or outdoor), provided that all appropriate guidelines are adhered to in these auxiliary locations.

As we take this next step with great anticipation, let us remember that our common sacrifice has had one prime motive: to follow the mandate of the Lord of Life to protect, defend, and keep safe every human life. We best honor that commitment to life and those who have lost their lives in the pandemic by ensuring the safety of our neighbors.

To be certain we face many challenges as a Church and a society in the coming months, but as we gather around the Lord’s table together, we can take assurance that the Eucharist will sustain us.

I pray that the Lord Jesus will bless you and your families and that even in the midst of this crisis you find time to enjoy the summer.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Guidelines for the Celebration of Mass Indoors
Click here to learn more

Bishop Announces Gradual Return to Public Mass

May 11, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the joy of Easter, I wish to announce the good news that in consultation with the pastors of the Diocese, we will be able to begin the outdoor public celebration of Mass on May 21, the Ascension of our Lord. This is the first step in a process that will remain consistent with Governor Ned Lamont’s call for the gradual reopening of the state in a way that safeguards public health and safety. It is my hope that the reopening of our churches, which represents phase two in our planning process, may be possible soon.

Before I outline some of the proposed details for the first phase of plan, I wish to express my sincere thanks for your patience, perseverance and fidelity during this most difficult time, when public Masses were suspended. While it has been a great sacrifice for all of us, especially those who have watched a relative or friend fall ill, buried a loved one or remained in isolation and even fear, I believe that observing the state’s shelter at home order has saved many lives. On behalf of all priests of the diocese, permit me to say how much we have missed you and look forward to welcoming you back home to your parish homes.

We have also been reminded that in our darkest hour, the Lord did not abandon us.

Our planning process assumes what most health experts have told us that the threat of the COVID-19 virus will be with us for some time. Whatever we plan must avoid a possible relapse in the progress we have made to eradicate this silent killer from our midst. As a result, we will move forward in a gradual, systematic and responsible manner to resume public worship safeguarding the health and safety of our clergy and faithful.

Further, the obligation to attend Sunday Mass will remain dispensed for the time being while we slowly resume the public celebration of Mass. This is recognition of the fact that seating will initially be limited at each celebration of Mass due to the state’s requirements for social distancing and other health mandates. It also recognizes that the elderly, who are most vulnerable, should consider remaining sheltered at home for the time being. For this reason, my hope is that each parish will continue to live stream the celebration of Mass while public worship slowly resumes.

The first phase in our plan to resume the celebration of Mass with the faithful is optional in nature and will remain in effect until Church buildings and other indoor venues can be safely reopened for worship. For those parishes that wish to offer Mass outdoors, one of two possible formats can be used. The first format will allow those who attend to be seated on chairs that will be arranged with proper social distancing. Individual outdoor seating up to 50 people. The second format will allow those who attend Mass to remain seated in their cars. The number of cars that can participate in an outdoor Mass will depend upon the size of the parking lot, the need to distance cars six feet apart from each other and allow for the safe exit of any car in case of an emergency. The outdoor venue and format for Mass will be designated by each pastor.

In order to ensure an orderly process for the celebration of Mass outdoors, a series of guidelines have been established that details many of the concerns that need to be addressed, including the use of a parish reservation system either online or over the phone for each Mass, the creation of detailed norms for the distribution of Holy Communion in a safe manner and other liturgical considerations. These norms will be posted on our diocesan website and I invite you to read them at your convenience. In addition, I ask that you consult your parish website for more detailed information about your parish’s potential participation in this first phase of planning.

Finally, I have asked each pastor to draft a parish plan for this first phase of planning to ensure that the particular needs of his parish are properly addressed. The guiding principle behind all such planning is to ensure the safety and health of our faithful and clergy, while preserving the sacredness of our liturgy and worship.

As we take this first, hopeful step forward, I pray that the Lord Jesus will continue to bless you and your families in this time of enduring challenge. Let us look forward in joy and gratitude to worship and to celebrate our Lord’s blessings once again together as a family of faith.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

 

General Guidelines for the Resumption of Public Mass
Guidelines for the Celebration of Mass Outdoors

Guidelines for the Reception of Communion

Bishop extends Public Mass Suspension

BRIDGEPORT—The extension of the suspension of the celebration of public Masses in the Diocese of Bridgeport will now continue through Wednesday, May 20, 2020.

In an April 21 memo to all pastors and priests, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced that in the interest of the health and safety of the faithful and consistent with the April 10 executive order of Governor Ned Lamont limiting public gatherings, the suspensions will stay in place through May 20.

The bishop told pastors that he is working with a small committee tasked with implementing a plan for resuming the public celebration of Masses in phases once the State begins to loosen restrictions on public gatherings. He will also consult with all the Pastors before releasing a plan for resuming liturgical celebrations in the presence of the lay faithful as soon as it is safe.

“I am grateful to those Pastors who are continuing to provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, live-streamed Masses, open periods for prayer inside the church and Eucharistic Adoration,” he said.

Since the suspension of public Masses, the diocese has live-streamed Masses celebrated by Bishop Caggiano, and most parishes have been able to live-stream Masses and prayer services to parishioners. The diocesan Leadership Institute has also live-streamed a novena and the Divine Mercy Chaplet in addition to making other prayer resources available.

In the absence of public Masses, the bishop has urged the faithful to deepen their sense of “spiritual communion” with the entire Church and to intensify personal prayer in addition to joining the live-streamed liturgies.

The bishop said that funerals and weddings may still be celebrated in churches outside of the context of Mass, as long as fewer than 50 people are in attendance and proper social distancing is maintained.

Since the State will likely require the use of face masks even after large gatherings are once again permitted, the bishop asked pastors to consider providing masks, where possible, for the clergy, ministers and lay faithful when public Masses resume.

The bishop first suspended the celebration of public Mass in the Diocese of Bridgeport, effective March 16, 2020. That suspension was to be in effect through April 30, 2020. To view live-streamed Masses and find other prayer resources, visit the diocesan website and social media at www.bridgeportdiocese.com.

Emergency ACA: “Build Bridges” of healing during the pandemic

April 20, 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When I began my ministry as your bishop nearly seven years ago, I spoke of the need to build bridges between people. I suggested that each of us is a “living stone” in the bridge that Christ wishes us to create to provide healing and service to our neighbor, especially those in need. Little did I know at that time of the personal and extraordinary challenges that we would all face in our families, parishes and community as a result of the terrible COVID19 pandemic that has upended our lives.

While I am grateful for all who have helped “flatten the curve” and done what was asked by our health officials to help save the lives of the most vulnerable in our midst, the numbers we hear in the media can easily mask the names, faces and stories of the tens of thousands of people who are living in grief for the death of a loved one, struggling against the grip of a faceless enemy, living in fear and isolation, or for the first time facing the prospect of not having enough money to buy food, medicine or pay their monthly rent or mortgage. What the future holds has not been this uncertain in years but the challenges we will face will endure long after the coronavirus has been tamed.

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

I come to you in this emergency to ask for your help to ensure that the Annual Catholic Appeal, which has provided basic human services of food, shelter, education and counseling to many in the past can be maintained and, to the extent possible, be expanded to the many others who are facing real hardship for the first time in their lives. I recognize that some of you are now among those who are facing these hardships. For this reason, I am asking all those who can to give as generously as possible, so that our Church can be there to assist you and your family.

We have seen many faces of heroism in those who have served on the front line of this crisis: doctors, nurses and emergency medical personnel who risk their lives to serve the sick; police, firefighters and first responders who go wherever they are needed; grocery workers and gas attendants who help provide us with the necessities of life. They deserve our deep gratitude, respect and prayerful support.

Added to these heroes are the chaplains in our local hospitals and nursing homes who are serving the most vulnerable, including those infected by the virus; our teachers who continue to teach our children online despite the tremendous workload this creates; our pastors who have reached out in creative ways to connect people to the Lord and one another in a time when faith and hope are needed to help us to persevere.

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

Please make a donation online to this year’s Appeal as generously as your means allow at www.2020ACABridgeport.com or text the word APPEAL to 475-241-7849. All donations of whatever amount will help us to help those in need.

As your bishop, I have seen first-hand your extraordinary generosity and I remain deeply grateful. Every time I have asked, you have responded with compassion, with sacrificial giving, and with deep and abiding faith in the Lord and the work of his Church. In this hour of need, let us together become the living stones of the Church by loving and serving one another by building a bridge that will carry our sisters and brothers safely through this crisis. And let us do so joyfully in the name of the Risen Lord who has triumphed over sin and death and will never abandon us.

With every best wish and prayer this Easter, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

P.S. If you have already made a gift to the 2020 Annual Catholic Appeal, thank you, your steadfast support is truly a blessing in this time of need.

Click here for Bishop’s live-streamed Holy Week Masses

BRIDGEPORT—Please join us for live-stream of Bishop Frank’s Holy Week liturgies.

Easter Sunday

Livestream of the Easter Vigil

Mass of the Passion of the Lord  on Good Friday

View Stations of the Cross  on Good Friday

Mass of the Lord’s Supper on this Holy Thursday

Chrism Mass


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I invite you to join me online as I celebrate Holy Week and Triduum liturgies from Saint Augustine Cathedral. All the liturgies will be live-streamed on the Diocesan website (www.bridgeportdiocese.com). This is a wonderful opportunity to gather with me in prayer as we ask the Lord’s blessing during these trying times. The schedule is as follows:

Chrism Mass: Thursday, April 9 at 10 am
Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Thursday, April 9 at 7 pm
Stations of the Cross: Friday, April 10 at 12 noon
The Passion of the Lord: Friday, April 10 at 3 pm
Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: Saturday, April 11 at 7 pm
Easter Sunday: Sunday, April 12 at 8 am

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

Bishop’s live-streamed Holy Week Schedule

BRIDGEPORT—Please join us for the first live-stream of Bishop Frank’s Holy Week liturgies.

Livestream of the Passion of the Lord
Join us live for Stations of the Cross
Holy Week Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Live-stream of this year’s Chrism Mass.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As you are aware, I recently had to make the very difficult decision to suspend all public Masses during Holy Week, given the continuing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the health restrictions requested by state and local authorities.

The inability for us to gather together in our parishes and for diocesan liturgies has been a great hardship and loss for priests and laity, particularly as we enter the most sacred and solemn mysteries of the Church during Holy Week and Easter. In that absence, I have urged all to deepen their private and family prayer and seek out ways to be in spiritual communion when we cannot receive the sacraments. The response throughout the diocese to Nine Days of Prayer, live-streamed Masses, and other resources has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging.

For this reason, I invite you to join me online as I celebrate Holy Week and Triduum liturgies from Saint Augustine Cathedral. All the liturgies will be live-streamed on the Diocesan website (www.bridgeportdiocese.com). This is a wonderful opportunity to gather with me in prayer as we ask the Lord’s blessing during these trying times. The schedule is as follows:

Chrism Mass: Thursday, April 9 at 10 am
Mass of the Lord’s Supper: Thursday, April 9 at 7 pm
Stations of the Cross: Friday, April 10 at 12 noon
The Passion of the Lord: Friday, April 10 at 3 pm
Easter Vigil in the Holy Night: Saturday, April 11 at 7 pm
Easter Sunday: Sunday, April 12 at 8 am

During this period of “Eucharistic fast,” it is my hope that we will more than ever be united in solidarity with each other and the universal Church. Please know that I will continue to pray for you and your family. I also hope that you find consolation in knowing that your continued support for the Annual Catholic Appeal (ACA) has enabled core diocesan ministries to bring the mercy and love of the Church to so many during this crisis.

Knowing “that all things work for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28), we daily entrust ourselves to the care of the Lord and the protection of our Blessed Mother. At the same time, we eagerly await the day when the doors of our churches are open again and we are able to worship at Mass together in person.

May the Lord grant us the grace we need to persevere, to remain steadfast and to grow in faith, hope and love.

Sincerely yours in Christ,


Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport

No public Liturgical Celebrations during Holy Week

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano announced today that there will be no public Liturgical Celebrations for Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter.

The Bishop said he made the decision based on the restrictions and recommendations issued by public authorities and the need to safeguard the lives of those who are most vulnerable.

“Unfortunately, given the continuing spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and the restrictions placed upon all of us by State and local authorities, I am sorry to inform you that there will be no liturgical celebrations in the presence of the lay faithful for Holy Week, the Triduum and Easter this year,”

In his memo issued to pastors and priests today, the bishop recommended live-streamed Masses and liturgies during Holy Week, and he issued a set of guidelines for the private celebration of Mass by priests.

Earlier this month the bishop temporarily suspended all weekday and Sunday public Masses celebrated in the presence of the lay faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport through Friday, April 3. That date has now been extended to April 30.

“At that time, it was my deep hope that the suspension could be lifted before Palm Sunday,’ the bishop said, noting that the health crisis continue to persist.

The bishop is encouraging all pastors to celebrate the Easter Triduum liturgies this year, even though the lay faithful will not be able to physically gather for the Masses.

“To the extent possible, all liturgies should be live-streamed so that the lay faithful can participate in real time,” he said.

In order to observe social distancing, no more than five priests, deacons and musicians will be present at the taping of each Mass.

Noting that parishes will be unable to distribute palms on Palm Sunday, the bishop instructed pastors that palms should be blessed at the private Mass they celebrate.

“Blessed palms can be distributed at a later date that will be designated; tentatively Pentecost Sunday, so all parishes can distribute blessed palms on the same day,” he said.

The celebration of the Chrism Mass will take place as scheduled on Holy Thursday, April 9, at 10 am at Saint Augustine Cathedral. It will be celebrated only in the presence of the Vicar General, the priests who live at the Cathedral Parish, as well as a Master of Ceremonies and a musician

The Chrism Mass will also be live-streamed so that the clergy, consecrated men and women and lay faithful throughout the diocese can participate electronically.

The Blessing of Oils will take place during the C hrism Mass, and the sacred oils will be maintained for safe-keeping and made available to parishes at a later date when they can be safely distributed, the bishop said.

In response to the Coronavirus crisis, priests will add the following petition for the end of the pandemic to the Special Intentions: “Let us pray, dearly beloved, for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic that afflicts our world, that our God and Father will heal the sick, strengthen those who care for them, and help us all to persevere in faith…

The priest will then pray, “Almighty and merciful God, source of all life, health and healing, look with compassion on our world, brought low by disease; protect us in the midst of the grave challenges that assail us and in your fatherly providence grant recovery to the stricken, strength to those who care for them, and success to those working to eradicate this scourge. Through Christ our Lord.”

All Easter Vigil Masses will also be celebrated in private this year, and the diocese and most parishes will live-stream them to the faithful. Parishioners should visit their parish websites for more information in the coming days.

Regarding the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which is completed at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Easter sacraments for the Elect and Candidates will be postponed throughout the Diocese to a later date, most likely during a celebration of the extended version of the Vigil of Pentecost.

Baptized candidates who were to be Confirmed, receive First Holy Communion and make a Profession of Faith at the Easter Vigil will be received into the Church at any time after public Masses resume in the Diocese and candidates are ready, he said.

The bishop thanked pastors and priests for all that they are doing to reach out to people and to bring creative solutions forward at a time when people cannot gather publicly for Mass.

“Please know how deeply grateful I am to all of you for your continued cooperation and leadership during this extraordinary time in the life of the Church and the world, and be assured of my daily prayers,” the bishop said.

(In the interest of public health and safety, all Masses will be celebrated in private with only priests and deacons in attendance. Please visit the diocesan website for live-streaming and later viewing:  www.bridgeportdiocese.org)

Bishop Frank’s Letter to the Faithful

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Who among us could have imagined just a few months ago that our global society would be confronting such a crisis as the Coronavirus pandemic? In these days, who does not feel our collective vulnerability and personal frailty? This is a time when fear and even panic can overtake us, in part because we have far more questions than answers.  As Christians, we must resist such fears. Rather, we must respond with prudent actions rooted in charity for our neighbor, seeking to protect the most vulnerable among us, heeding the recommendations that have been mandated by civil authorities and to plead for God’s mercy that this scourge will end quickly and that the lives of our sisters and brothers throughout the world will be spared.

In Matthew 8:23-27, we recall the day when the apostles sailing in their boat were suddenly caught in the middle of a great storm that threatened their survival. Their immediate reaction was one of fear and panic. Yet, when they called upon the Lord, He heard their pleas and commanded the winds and the waves to be still. My friends, this is our time, in the middle of a great storm, to cast away our fears, turn to the Lord and to ask for His grace.

In order to protect the lives of the faithful and our priests, I took the extraordinary measure to temporarily suspend public Masses in our diocese. I understand the deep spiritual hardship that this absence has created in the minds and hearts of many. Yet, recognizing that our Churches have served as places of refuge in times of need, we will do all that is possible to see that our Churches remain safely open for private prayer, for Exposition of the Eucharist, and to serve as places to seek solace with the Lord.

I also invite you to use this time we now spend at home to prepare more diligently for the celebration of the Easter Mysteries.  Personally, I have begun to pray the Stations of the Cross each day, since they powerfully remind me that the Lord always walks with us, helping us to carry our own personal crosses.

In my conversations with our priests and people in the past weeks, I am humbled to see their resolve, goodness and readiness to help all those in need. Please be assured that you are remembered in my prayers as I ask for your prayers during this difficult time. We will get through this together and continue the work of renewal in our lives.

As Christians we know that suffering will always be a part of our life. We understand and accept this mystery at the foot of the Cross of Christ. Yet we also know that the Lord suffered and died so that we might live and share in His victory over fear, suffering, and death itself. We are never alone in our sufferings. Christ is here to lead us along paths unknown to victory and life.

This is the time to do as Jesus commanded: to be brave despite fear, to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of others, and to pray. Especially pray. The health and life of so many now hang in the balance. Pray for miracles both medical and spiritual. Pray for the conversion of many hearts. Pray for an end to this scourge in our midst. Pray that the Lord will see us to safety and renewed life. In Him.

Entrusting each one of you to the loving care of our Blessed Mother, I am

Sincerely Yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano

Bishop of Bridgeport

 

Bishop suspends all public Masses until Friday 4/3

BRIDGEPORT—Effective this evening at 8 pm, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has mandated that all weekday and Sunday public Masses celebrated in the presence of the lay faithful are temporarily suspended in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The temporary suspension will remain in effect until Friday, April 3. You will receive a confirmation or revision of that date on Monday, March 30.

Beginning this Sunday, Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Caggiano or Monsignor Thomas Powers, Vicar General,  will be available on our Diocesan Website (www.bridgeportdiocese.org) or on diocesan social media channels (www.bridgeportdiocese.org/dobsocial/home).

The bishop’s decision was made in response to the March 15, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation that, for the next 8 weeks, any in-person gatherings of 50 people or more throughout the United States be cancelled or postponed. Governor Lamont today followed that directive and has limited crowds to less than 50 in the State of Connecticut.

“With those standards now in place, out of concern for the common good of ending the spread of the Coronavirus and for the wellbeing of the clergy (many of whom are older and at greater risk) and the lay faithful of the Diocese of Bridgeport, I would like to inform you of some important new directives that will be binding throughout the diocese,” the bishop said today in a letter to all priests and diocesan officials.

“Please know that I do not make this decision easily. However, this is an extraordinary—and, in some ways, unprecedented—time in the life of the Church, the country and the world, and it requires extraordinary action to ensure the safety of those whom we serve. I appreciate greatly the cooperation of our pastors in communicating this decision to parishioners in a clear and pastoral manner. May we continue to place our trust in Jesus, the Divine Physician, through the loving hands of Our Blessed Mother, the bishop said.

Churches may remain open for private prayer at the discretion of the Pastor. Some parishes will also begin live streaming of Masses, and the diocese will publish that information on its website. The diocese will continue to provide updates and the latest news on its website: www.bridgeportdiocese.com and on Facebook and other social media.

Bishop temporarily suspends Sunday Mass obligation

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has temporarily suspended the obligation to attend Sunday Mass in response to the Coronavirus crisis. However the public Mass schedule of parishes will continue throughout the diocese.

In a letter issued today (printed below) to all clergy and diocesan officials, the Bishop indicates he has taken the action of “so that anyone who may be fearful of becoming ill or of spreading illness, especially healthcare workers, caregivers to the elderly or infirmed or parents with young children, may have peace of mind in knowing that, with this provision, they do not commit mortal sin if they choose not to attend Sunday Mass”

The Bishop requests that those who decide to refrain from attending Mass on the Sundays during the next three weeks “treat the Lord’s Day with the honor it deserves and try, to the best of their ability, to view Mass online or to make time to read the Scriptures for the day.”

In brief, the Bishop’s letter contains the following directives: (Click for Spanish version)

  • Beginning this Third Sunday of Lent (March 14-15) through the Fifth Sunday of Lent (March 28-29), the bishop is temporarily dispensing all Catholics of the Diocese of Bridgeport from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Although the Bishop has suspended the Sunday Mass obligation for the next three weeks, the public Mass schedule of parishes will continue. As we move forward, Pastors, administrators, and lay parish coordinators will be required to follow any ordinances or mandates published by legitimate local authorities, who have been entrusted to protect the community at large. If you have any questions about parish events or liturgies, please contact your parish directly.
  • The bishop repeated his strong suggestion that non-liturgical, social events scheduled to take place in the immediate weeks ahead at parishes or diocesan institutions, especially those at which the elderly may be inclined to participate, be postponed or cancelled.
  • Beginning today, Friday, March 13, 2020, all diocesan schools and academies will be closed for a period of two weeks.
  • All parish Confirmations that are scheduled to take place before Easter Sunday will be rescheduled to a later date.

Bishop Issues Further Coronavirus Directives

As you have certainly heard by now, the first cases of Coronavirus connected to the State of Connecticut have been reported and linked to Fairfield County. Now that the virus has been identified within the Diocese of Bridgeport, I feel it is not only prudent but necessary to issue some updated directives to those I issued last Tuesday.

Before addressing the directives, I want to inform you about some diocesan events that have been canceled or will be rescheduled due to the Coronavirus:

  1. The Mass of Anointing and Healing scheduled for Saturday, March 21st will be rescheduled. The new time, date and place will be announced shortly.
  2. The Annual White Mass and Brunch scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd has been canceled and will not be rescheduled for this year.
  3. The Mass of Hope, Healing, and Reconciliation for Survivors of Sexual Abuse scheduled for Sunday, March 22nd will be rescheduled. The new time, date and place will be announced shortly.

Beginning immediately, I am mandating that the following policies be implemented for all parishes and Catholic institutions in the Diocese until further notice from the Office of the Bishop (I am including the directives from last week here for clarity):

  1. Offering of the Precious Blood of Christ is to be suspended at all Masses. Priest concelebrants should receive the Precious Blood by intinction. Assisting deacons will not receive the Precious Blood. Be sure to have low-gluten hosts available for those who have an allergy and normally receive only the Precious Blood.
  2. The Sign of Peace is to be exchanged without physical contact. You may invite parishioners to use some other gesture (e.g., a nod of the head, a smile or a spoken greeting) or omit entirely the call to exchange the Sign of Peace.
  3. For the celebration of Confirmation, the Sign of Peace will be exchanged between the Bishop and the confirmandi without a handshake. Photographs will take place in church immediately after the celebration of Mass and will include only the Bishop, the confirmandi and their sponsors.
  4. Parishioners are not to hold hands during the Our Father, if that is the practice of the parish.
  5. Holy Water fonts are to remain emptied and sanitized.
  6. Make sure that handrails, restrooms and the tops of pews are properly disinfected and that hand sanitizer is available at all church entrances. Also, have hand sanitizers available near the sanctuary so that all Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and priest celebrants can purify their hands immediately before and after distributing the Eucharist.

In addition, I am recommending strongly that Pastors consider the following:

  1. Before the distribution of Holy Communion, suggest that your parishioners consider receiving the Host in their hands and not on the tongue. Also, you may want to encourage those who are feeling ill or those who may have come in contact with someone with flu-like symptoms or have come to know that they had contact with someone in the last 14 days who has subsequently developed flu-like symptoms to refrain entirely from receiving Holy Communion. Instead, as is the practice of the Church, one can make an Act of Spiritual Communion at the time others are receiving. (The Act, which can be offered for all those who have died or are suffering from Coronavirus, can be a simple prayer, such as, “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.  Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.”)
  2. Consider postponing or cancelling non-liturgical, social events scheduled to take place in the immediate weeks ahead, especially those at which the elderly may be inclined to participate. As important and life-giving as some of these events can be for a parish or institution, looking out for the well-being of others is of primary concern.
  3. As people of faith, we want to place this entire crisis into the hands of the Lord. It is fitting, therefore, that the Universal Prayer at Masses include a petition to ask God’s mercy for those who have died from the Coronavirus, His healing for those suffering from it and His protection for all others against it.
  4. Remind your parishioners that if they are exhibiting flu-like or cold symptoms, they are not obliged to attend Sunday Mass. In fact, until there is more information about the Coronavirus and its spread, one should out of charity avoid public events if experiencing such symptoms. Also, the elderly and those with underlying physical conditions that would make them more susceptible to the Coronavirus are not obliged to attend Sunday Mass.

Thank you for your cooperation in implementing these measures.