Today (February 9) Dr. Cheeseman issued the following letter as a response to the State Department of Education.

Download the PDF version of the letter or read below.

Dear Parents,

I am writing today as a follow up to my message on February 7th regarding the mask mandate. In addition to the reasons stated in my letter, the decision to move to mask optional was made with the recognition that parental choice is foundational to our schools as we recognize the importance of parents as the primary educators of their children. While some may disagree with me, I truly believe moving to mask optional is in the best interest of our students.

As many of you have heard by now, I have been asked by the state to rescind my decision (Letter from state) as it stands to be in violation of pending legislation. Yesterday, it was announced that, the Executive Order of Governor Lamont will be extended beyond February 15th by an act of the legislature, which will result in an announcement by the Commissioner of Health to end the statewide mask mandate on February 28th. Decisions to extend any mask mandate beyond the 28th would then rest with local authorities (thus allowing us to make the decision). Because the Executive Order includes private schools, we would be in violation of the law if we were to end our mask requirement next week as I had hoped. While we make this decision under protest, we will postpone our transition to a mask optional policy accordingly.

Notwithstanding our decision to comply with the extension of the Executive Order by the legislation, I must express my sincere concerns with the position taken by the legislators to extend an Executive Order that was originally put in place during a time of extraordinary national crisis. There are legitimate concerns as to whether this legislative act, as it relates to private and religious schools, is within their authority.

To summarize our position:

  • We agree with Governor Lamont that now is the time to give discretion to Superintendents on this issue;
  • We believe that the extension of his Executive Order by the legislature is an overreach;
  • Including non-public schools in such legislation threatens the established relationships between Church and state;
  • We stand behind the principle that parents are the primary educators of our children; and
  • We seek to protect our right to make decisions without the constraints of the public education systems.

In short, the current legislation gives the state Department of Education increased control over Catholic schools and this sets a dangerous precedent.

I know many of you may be disappointed. I call on each of you, as well as our neighboring dioceses and leaders in faith across our communities, to recognize this infringement and join in the public discourse by standing up for the rights of parents and leaders in private religious schools. Recently, a parent advocacy group was formed in the Diocese and I encourage you to get involved as there are genuine religious liberty issues to consider with the recent legislative action—issues that we will continue to monitor and seek change where necessary. The debate goes well beyond masks and it is important that your voice is heard on these important matters.

As a result of your cooperation and commitment, we have had tremendous success over this pandemic keeping our schools open safely without any communal spread or transmission of the virus among our children, families and staff. For this we are extremely proud. It was our independence from the public school directives that allowed us to maintain an outstanding educational experience for our children throughout this pandemic.

In the past few days, I have heard from many of you, and I want to thank you for your support and ask for your understanding over the next two weeks. Together we have brought this important issue to statewide attention, and there is much more to say. While there may be genuine differences of opinion, we all want the best for our children, and we believe that preserving Catholic school independence is a challenge we enthusiastically accept both now and in the future.

May God bless you and may Our Lady shower us with Her blessings as we work together in service to Christ.


Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Bridgeport

Yesterday (February 7) the following letter was issued to parents from Superintendent Steven Cheeseman concerning the mask mandate.

Download the PDF version of the letter or read below.

Dear Parents:

This afternoon, Governor Lamont held a press conference indicating that the statewide mask mandate would no longer be in effect and that mask choice would be determined at the local level. He “recommended” February 28th as the date to make this change. Although the Governor “recommended” February 28th, I have chosen to end our mask mandate on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. Therefore, starting Monday, February 14th, Diocese of Bridgeport Catholic schools will move to a Mask Optional policy. This change comes in response to the decline in the number of confirmed cases and the strong vaccination rate among faculty, staff and eligible students. It also reflects the lower positivity rates in children.

As we make this change, please note the following:

  • We recognize and support the recommendation of the CDC regarding student masking, but Diocesan schools will move to a mask optional environment effective February 14, 2022.
  • Masks may be required on buses, as transportation is provided by the district and they may require them.
  • Our schools are no longer conducting contact tracing nor excluding potential contacts.
  • Those individuals who test positive WILL continue to be excluded from school.
  • We recognize and respect mask choice. Everyone should be treated with kindness and respect whether they choose to wear a mask or not.
  • Students will not be segregated, nor will they be separated by any barrier regardless of mask choice.
  • Our schools will be open to parents and visitors as appropriate.
  • Students may be required to wear masks on field trips if the venue requires it.
  • It is imperative that parents act responsibly and keep kids home if they are sick or experiencing any covid-like symptoms.
  • We reserve the right to reverse this decision on a school-by-school basis should there be a spike in cases within the school or local community.

Let us pray that we continue moving closer to normalcy. May God bless our school communities with good health and may Our Lady shower us with Her blessings.


Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Bridgeport

Yesterday (August 4) the following letter was issued to parents from Superintendent Steven Cheeseman concerning the upcoming school year, 2021-22.

Download the PDF version of the letter or read below.

Dear Parents,

I hope this letter finds each of you enjoying some relaxation during these warm and humid summer days. My letter today is a follow-up on my earlier message that indicated our desire to return to a near normal school year which included being mask optional.

While I am not ready to retract any of my earlier statements, I cannot remain oblivious to the latest trends and the uptick in positive Covid-19 cases. We most likely will be riding a roller coaster as new variants of the Covid-19 virus come and go. We must carefully monitor these trends and respond appropriately to the resulting ebb and flow created by these variant cycles.

My office has been inundated with e-mails and calls from concerned parents voicing their opinion on the masking issue. In these communications, there is a clear sense that a return to normalcy for their children is the goal for the school year.

This is certainly an issue that can be viewed from several sides. We are a system of 25 schools and about 7,000 students across Fairfield County and the facts around vaccination rates or virus infectivity rates are different in various parts of the Diocese. This makes supporting a “one size fits all” decision a difficult one.
Some facts are very positive:

  • Nearly 90% of our Diocesan teachers and staff are fully vaccinated.
  • There is an over 70% vaccination rate in Fairfield County among those eligible to receive it and more 12-15 year olds are receiving the vaccine daily.
  • There is limited transmission among young people and those infected have mild symptoms.

We are awaiting more concrete information from the State as to what might be “mandated” for all schools in September and beyond. In the meantime, I am offering the following recommended guidelines to schools as they prepare for their opening:

  • School-wide Masses and assemblies should resume
  • All extracurricular activities, including athletics should resume
  • Computer labs, libraries, and Innovation zones should reopen
  • Quarantines should be limited to the unvaccinated who were in close proximity to the Covid-19 positive person
  • Water fountains can be used for bottle filling
  • Minimum 3 feet of physical distancing is required indoors for all classrooms and activities
  • Daily wellness checks, which can include temperature checks should continue
  • Frequent handwashing reminders for students should continue
  • Disinfection and cleaning of high-touch/high traffic areas should continue
  • Those eligible for vaccination should be encouraged to receive it
  • Required mask use when distancing is not possible,
  • Specifically, masks must be worn:
    • To and from school on the bus
    • In the hallways
    • In large group settings where distancing is not possible, i.e. Mass, Auditorium
    • By all visitors to the school building
    • In close contact in the classroom, i.e. Science lab partners, small group learning
  • Masks may be optional:
    • Outside
    • In the classroom once students are seated and spaced appropriately

It is important to note that Principals may need to tailor these recommendations to fit the realities of their school and township (i.e., a classmate has a compromising health issue, the town has low vaccination rates or the town has high rates of infectivity, etc.) There may be a need to revisit these recommendations based on trends or State public health mandates.

In the coming weeks, I will continue to monitor the data and communication from the CDC, and the State Public Health Agency. I will communicate any updates when necessary.

Let us hope that these weeks are filled with good health and safety. Let us all be vigilant so that our young people, particularly those under 12 who at present are not protected by vaccines, can return to school with all the joy and enthusiasm that a new year brings.

May God bless each of you and may Our Lady shower her blessings on our Catholic school community.


Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano remembered all those who died of COVID-19 and the living who continue to grieve them during a solemn and spare Vespers service Friday night on the solemnity of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

After processing into the St. Augustine Cathedral led by the parish altar-servers, all wearing masks, the bishop said that we are still struggling with the pandemic, something that we wish never had happened and hope that it will never happen again.

The Service of Remembrance was attended in-person at the Cathedral and also live-streamed online. Parishes throughout the diocese joined in the commemoration by conducting evening prayers to commemorate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and remember those who died during the pandemic.

During the service, Father Juan Gabriel Acosta, pastor of the Cathedral Parish, read the names of the nearly 40 parishioners who have passed away from COVID-19 over the last 16 months.

In his homily, the bishop said that when the virus first started to take lives, we didn’t even have a name for what we now know as coronavirus or COVID-19.

“Tonight we remember those who died of this insidious virus, and those who are mourning and still feel the grief and pain and suffering of their loss. We are people of hope. We lift up the dead to God’s mercy and the living to his consolation and strength,” he said.

The bishop said “the hidden killer has taken the lives of more than 3.5 million people across the globe, each with its own face and name and personal history. Each and all were precious children of God and made in his image and likeness.”

On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the bishop said that the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross “gives meaning and purpose to our own suffering. We believe in a savior who has walked before us in his own suffering.”

One of the most difficult burdens for many during the pandemic was that they could not hold the hands of those they loved who were alone and frightened, the bishop said.

He praised the doctors and nurses who were by the side of dying patients and said the Lord was also with all those who suffered.

“The gentle shepherd was there with them in their struggles and pain and until their last breath. When we couldn’t go to them, he did. He is also there sitting with the grieving and he gives them the courage and strength to keep living.”

The bishop said we will all ultimately “enter into the same mystery of death with hope” in the Sacred Heart of Jesus “who suffered for us, so our own suffering would not have victory over us.”

After his final blessing and before the recessional the bishop stopped to pray before the statue of the Blessed Mother.

The evening service included the chanting of Psalms, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and a reading from the Letters of St. Paul, “We were dead in our transgressions.”


Watch the replay:

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has announced new guidelines that will remove most COVID-19 restrictions as the faithful return to in-person Mass.

Those who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask during Mass, and the Churches will return to full capacity without the need for social distancing.

The new guidelines follow the release of the May 10 letter by Bishop Caggiano, Hartford Archbishop Leonard Blair and Norwich Bishop Michael Cote formally lifting the depensation from Sunday Mass obligation and calling all Catholics in Connecticut back to in-person Mass beginning the weekend of May 22, with the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost.

The loosening of restrictions was made possible by recent developments including new CDC guidelines and Governor Ned Lamont’s announcement that vaccinated residents of Connecticut are no longer required to wear masks indoors after May 19th, 2021.

“It is time for us to come home, It is time for us to come together as a family of faith,” the bishop said. “The obligation to come to Mass rises and finds its fulfillment in love,” said the bishop, who issued detailed revised guidelines for the return to communal worship and the reception of the Eucharist,

Bishop Cagginao said the revised diocesan guidelines are meant to answer the questions of the large number of people who are expected to return to in-person Mass over the coming weeks and to clear up any confusion about what to expect. In a memo to pastors and priests, he outlined the following response:

  • For those who are fully vaccinated, they are no longer required to wear a mask to attend Mass or any other liturgical or social function held on parish property.
  • In an abundance of safety, pastors are encouraged to remind those who are fully vaccinated that they are free and welcome to continue to wear masks if they choose to do so.
  • All those who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks when attending Mass or any other liturgical or social function held on parish property.

The bishop noted that while there is no way for the diocese or a parish to enforce the mask requirement for the unvaccinated, he asked pastors to remind parishioners that this obligation “is borne from our commitment to protect human life, transcends the mandate of the state. It flows from our very belief in the Lord of life, who commands us to protect, defend and respect all human life, from natural conception to natural death.”

Among the highlights of the new guidelines, parishioners will no longer have to register for Mass, and all pews will be available for seating because social distancing is no longer required by the state. The congregation will also be able to join in singing.

Communion will only be distributed under one species in the form of the consecrated host and may be received either in the hand or on the tongue based on the choice of the communicant.

Confessionals may return to full use though proper ventilation is strongly encouraged. Likewise, social distancing will no longer be required at weddings and funerals, and outdoor Masses will be permitted to continue throughout the year.

On the weekend of May 22, the faithful will also notice the return of Church of Missals in the pews, printed bulletins, along with holy items, cards, and books. The exchange of the sign of peace is optional. If parishioners exchange of the sign of peace, then it is recommended that the sign of peace must be a non-contact gesture (bow).

In announcing the end to most restrictions, the bishop emphasized that the diocese will not drop it guard of the hard earned progress to protect lives. Churches will be sanitized, He has also made it clear that those who are already sick, who need to quarantine and have other serious health conditions, and their caretakers are excused from the obligation.
The new guidelines are reflect the success of the vaccination effort, which have led to decreasing hospitalizations throughout the state.

All Parish or Private functions must follow state guidelines, and there are no additional restrictions for these events beyond what the state mandates.

The CDC defines a person fully vaccinated 2 weeks after the second Moderna or Pfizer shot and 2 weeks after the single Johnson & Johnson shot. It is still recommending wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, specifically buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but fully-vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, “except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”

Updated list of Mass and sacramental guidelines

May 17, 2021 memo from Bishop Caggiano regarding mask use at Parish Liturgies and Events

NORWALK — An in-person stations of the cross service returned to St. Matthew Church on Friday, about a year after Easter celebrations were held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Parishioners of St. Matthew Catholic Church proceed with their annual outdoor stations of the cross in recogntion of Good Friday, April 2, 2021, in Norwalk, Conn.

This year, the church’s Good Friday celebrations were held both in-person and virtually, according to the church’s website. An outdoor stations of the cross was held at noon at the church’s grotto despite the 30-degree weather, a liturgy with communion was held indoors at 3 p.m. and an indoor stations of the cross at 7 p.m.

Reservations are still required for all Masses and services at St. Matthew. Congregants are asked not to sing and are required to wear masks at all times.

Additionally, the church is still operating at limited capacity. All 150 seats for Friday afternoon’s liturgy were booked, as well as all indoor Easter Sunday masses.

St. Matthew administration anticipates the weekend’s services will be well-attended despite the restrictions, the church’s administrative assistant Mare Yannetti said.

“Social distancing will be in effect and mask-wearing, but people are very excited and things are looking up,” Yannetti said.

Published in

Photos by Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

March 4, 2021

People should feel free in good conscience to receive any of the vaccines currently available (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson) for the sake of their own health and the common good, which requires the prompt vaccination of as many people as possible.

This guidance is in accord with what has been stated by both the U.S. Conference of Bishops and the Holy See in Rome. At the same time the Church continues to advocate for the creation of vaccines that do not rely on cell lines derived, even remotely, from abortion.

BRIDGEPORT—The State of Connecticut has removed the cap of 100 people for indoor religious gatherings, making it possible for larger churches in the diocese to expand their capacity at each celebration of the Mass.

Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 10 on Thursday, February 4, removing the previous cap of 100 people for indoor religious gatherings. Under the modification of the state mandate, restrictions on religious gatherings have been eased to permit indoor capacity of up to—but not to exceed—50 percent.

In a memo to all priests, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano welcomed the modifications and emphasized that the easing of restrictions must be accompanied by maintaining existing safety protocols including wearing masks and providing seating that observes recommended social distancing—six feet of space in all directions between individuals or groups not from the same household during a liturgical celebration.

While larger churches in the diocese will be able to include more people at Mass, smaller church structures will likely not benefit from the expanded capacity change because they lack the space for adequate social distancing between pews.

The bishop said that in effect, this change means that every Church building will have its own, specific “maximum” capacity number dependent upon the actual seating capacity of the building. For most parishes that can seat people in every other pew, maximum capacity will likely range between twenty and twenty-five percent because of the social distancing restrictions that remain in place.

“If we wish to be successful in our future attempts to invite more people to return to Sunday Mass, it is imperative that we do everything in our power to maintain the safety of our people,” said Bishop Caggiano as he thanked pastors and priests for their patience and cooperation.

The Connecticut Catholic Conference, representing the Catholic dioceses of the state, issued a statement welcoming the expanded capacity policy.

“We view this new lifting of the cap on attendance at worship as an important step forward welcoming back more of our faithful to Mass and the sacraments. Freedom of religion is the most sacred of our God-given and constitutional rights… At the same time, we remain firmly committed to ensuring that all steps are taken to promote public health and safety.”

The Catholic Conference statement pointed out that Infections and related problems in Catholic parishes have been minimal due to the commitment to safety and the hard work of all concerned.

BRIDGEPORT—Given the pandemic, the blessing of throats, usually administered on the Memorial of St. Blaise (February 3) will look a little different this year.

In order to ensure public safety the blessing of the throats will not be offered to individuals using candles, wrote Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general in a recent directive.

Instead, he said, a priest or deacon may give the blessing to all by extending his hands, without crossed candles, over the people while saying this prayer of blessing, “Through the intercession of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr, May God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The blessing will follow the homily and universal prayer during Mass, or, for pastoral reasons, it may take the place of the final blessing of the Mass.

“The blessing of throats is one of those great rituals in the Church that invites us to connect our rich history of the saints with everyday life,” said Dr. Patrick Donovan, director of the Leadership Institute. “Like Ash Wednesday or Palm Sunday, it’s also one of those days when people who struggle to practice their faith on a weekly basis seem to come forward for the blessing.”

Dr. Donovan shared a personal story of why this particular feast day means a lot to him: “This year will be different and I, for one, will miss the feel of the wax candles against my throat,” he said. “My grandfather, father, and brother all died from esophageal cancer and I’ve already had two surgeries to keep it at bay.”

“While we are a people of faith, we also understand that science is not anathema to our beliefs,” explained Dr. Donovan. “This year, there is a greater risk of passing the coronavirus from person to person and the candles themselves could be a contagion. The blessing will still be a blessing and I pray that St. Blaise will intercede on behalf of all of us, but it’s also an important reminder that we must pray—and work together—to end the pandemic.”


Throughout the coronavirus crisis, there have been countless “next-door saints,” as Pope Francis describes them. They include volunteers working with their parishes and Catholic Charities, who responded to the increased demand by the needy who were homeless, jobless and without food. They include priests in hospitals, nursing homes and churches who ministered to the sick and the dying. Some of them, following the example of St. Charles Borromeo, walked through their neighborhoods or flew above Fairfield County with the Blessed Sacrament, offering prayers and blessing to abate the COVID pandemic.

Msgr. Gregory J. Fairbanks, a church historian who is Dean of the School of Diaconal Formation at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Penn., says that during plagues and pandemics, heroism has been a common characteristic demonstrated by followers of Christ. And these periods of crisis have proven to be the times “when the greatest saints are born.”

“Christians have tried to do their best to minister to those who were suffering and didn’t have anyone else to take care of them,” he says.

An example within his own community occurred a century ago during the Spanish flu of 1918, when 300 seminarians from St. Charles assisted at area hospitals and helped bury many of those who died in their homes in Philadelphia.

The Spanish flu in some ways rivaled the medieval plague. Many of the victims woke up in good health and were dead within 24 hours because their lungs filled up with fluid and they suffocated. Health experts believe the flu infected up to 500 million people, or a third of the world’s population.

Philadelphia was the epicenter of the flu in America, Msgr. Fairbanks says, and its spread was accelerated by a large gathering at a war bond rally downtown. A week later the number of deaths spiked.

“The real problem was people were dying in their homes because the hospitals were full, and there was a nurse shortage,” he said. “And because the grave diggers couldn’t keep up with the number of burials, bodies were piling up in rows at the city’s cemeteries.”

The new archbishop of Philadelphia mandated that religious go into the city and that the sisters and priests care for the poor and help in hospitals. He also asked the seminarians to dig graves in the cemeteries, and they all volunteered. One or two seminarians died from the flu.

“The city was not ready for a crisis of that magnitude, but the Church came out big and was later recognized by the city and the state for how well it responded,” Monsignor said.

He uses that example in his classes to remind seminarians that they are descendants of “a long tradition of caring for the poor and the sick and the downtrodden.”

A century later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 seminarians from St. Charles continued the tradition by helping to feed the hungry in Philadelphia through the private organization Caring for Friends, while six others handed out food to the homeless at the Hub of Hope shelter.

This January, four seminarians from the Diocese of Bridgeport will begin studies at St. Charles and join 149 others from dioceses across the nation.

Msgr. Fairbanks of St. Charles Borromeo seminary

“When we look back in Church history, we see men and women who stood up in times of great trial and turmoil and made a difference,” Msgr. Fairbanks said. “They really showed that their faith could lead them through the difficulties of their times, whether it be plague or great periods of war or whatever the cause.”

Early Christians helped victims of the Antonine Plague in the second century, during the Plague of Cyprian in the third century and the Plague of Justinian, which began in 542 CE.

In the fourth century, when another plague spread across the empire, Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, wrote: “In the midst of such illness, the Christians alone showed their sympathy and humanity through their deeds.

Every day some continued caring for and burying the dead, for there were multitudes who had no one to care for them; others collected those who were afflicted by the famine throughout the entire city into one place, and gave bread to them all.”

During the 16th century plague in Northern Italy, Archbishop of Milan Charles Borromeo told his priests, “Do not be so forgetful of your priesthood as to prefer a late death to a holy one.”

He made them increase the number of Masses, which were celebrated outside, and erected 19 pillars throughout Milan to show where Mass was held every morning. Catechism classes were conducted on street corners, and priests heard confessions in the doorways of homes and brought Communion to the faithful on Sundays. There was public prayer and penance, and three times a week, the Archbishop walked through the city barefoot with a penitential cord draped around his neck. Every day, he went to the leper house to administer the sacraments. He gave last rites to the dying and baptized newborns.

One Capuchin friar said of him: “He fears nothing. It is useless to try to frighten him. He exposes himself to much danger, but so far he has been preserved by the special grace of God. He says he cannot do otherwise — indeed, the city has no other help and consolation.”

Three centuries later, Servant of God Fr. Patrick Ryan, whose cause for sainthood is before the Vatican, showed heroic virtue in fighting the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878. The pastor of Saints Peter and Paul parish in Chattanooga, Tenn., he died at 33 after refusing to leave when the virus swept through the city. Instead, like St. Charles, he stayed and ministered to the sick and dying in one of the poorest neighborhoods. On his grave is the epitaph, “The just shall be in everlasting remembrance.”

During the Spanish flu pandemic, Fr. James Coyle, pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham, Alabama, saw the city’s churches shuttered after the governor ordered schools, houses of worship and theaters to close to prevent spreading the flu.

However, Father Coyle continued to write sermons and columns, which were published in the Birmingham News, and offer encouragement to his flock during the pandemic.

In a column that appeared October 1918, he wrote: “Indeed, the times are out of joint. Holding as we do with firmest faith a belief that to many is folly — that Holy Mass is Calvary continued, that our sins when repented sincerely and confessed are washed away, that the Holy Eucharist is the true, real substantial Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of God’s Son — small wonder that deprived of these we hope and pray fervently the epidemic will soon pass away, that our churches may once more be thrown open to our devout worshippers. Darkness is over the face of the city. May there soon be a fiat lux — ‘Let there be light.’”

(The above report is Part II of a three-part series by Joe Pisani on “The Church during plagues and pandemics.” Part 1 offered a look at how the Church of today’s pandemic and the Church that coped with the plague are united in their faith and attempts to safeguard life. Part III will reflect on “Standing with Christ during the Crisis.”)

(Read the updated status of Bishop Caggiano published Sunday, January 3, 2021.)

The Diocese of Bridgeport announced today that Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Bishop Caggiano is asymptomatic and feels well. However, he will observe a 10-day quarantine consistent with CDC guidelines. As a result, he will not engage in public ministry or attend any previously scheduled events during this time.

Because his ministry takes him to different parishes throughout the Diocese, Bishop Caggiano has been undergoing weekly testing as a safety protocol. His weekly test on Monday, December 28 yielded a positive result (of which he learned on Wednesday, December 30) and he immediately went into quarantine.

On Wednesday, December 30, Bishop Caggiano was re-tested with both the PCR test and the antibody blood test and he is awaiting results.

Bishop Caggiano was tested at the COVID-19 testing site located at Queen of Saints Hall in the Catholic Center, at 238 Jewett Avenue in Bridgeport.  The Diocese partnered with Progressive Diagnostics, LLC of Trumbull, a clinical medical laboratory, in response to the urgent need for more testing sites in Fairfield County. Working with Progressive Diagnostics, the Diocese has opened additional test sites at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton and at Immaculate High School Retreat Center in Danbury. (New sites are expected to open soon.)

The test sites are open to the general public. For information on Progressive Diagnostics test sites and appointments throughout Fairfield County, contact:

Diocesan COVID-19 Policy: The Diocese has consistently followed and often exceeded all state and local recommendations and has also added a registration feature to Mass attendance, so that congregations can be notified if any who attended a service later becomes aware of a positive test. As a result, to date, there is no evidence of communal spread as a result of anyone attending Mass in the Diocese. 

The Diocese asks for prayers for Bishop Caggiano and for all those throughout the Diocese who are afflicted by the virus, those who have lost loved ones, and for the many people suffering from anxiety related to the pandemic.

For more information, updates, and a complete listing of Diocesan public health and safety measures in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, visit


WASHINGTON (CNS) — While confusion has arisen in recent days in the media over “the moral permissibility” of using the COVID-19 vaccines just announced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna, it is not “immoral to be vaccinated with them,” the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ doctrine and pro-life committees said Nov. 23.

Bishop Kevin J. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, and Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, addressed the issue in a memo to their brother bishops.

A copy of the memo was obtained by Catholic News Service Nov. 24.

“Neither the Pfizer nor the Moderna vaccine involved the use of cell lines that originated in fetal tissue taken from the body of an aborted baby at any level of design, development or production,” the two prelates said. “They are not completely free from any connection to abortion, however, as both Pfizer and Moderna made use of a tainted cell line for one of the confirmatory lab tests of their products.

“There is thus a connection, but it is relatively remote,” they continued. “Some are asserting that if a vaccine is connected in any way with tainted cell lines, then it is immoral to be vaccinated with them. This is an inaccurate portrayal of Catholic moral teaching.”

Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann cited three Vatican documents that “treat the question of tainted vaccines”: the 2005 study by the Pontifical Academy for Life, “Moral Reflections on Vaccines Prepared from Cells Derived From Aborted Human Fetuses”; paragraphs nos. 34-35 in the 2008 “Instruction on Certain Bioethical Questions” (“Dignitatis Personae”) by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and the 2017 “Note on Italian Vaccine Issue,” by the Pontifical Academy for Life.

“These documents all point to the immorality of using tissue taken from an aborted child for creating cell lines,” they explained. “They also make distinctions in terms of the moral responsibility of the various actors involved, from those involved in designing and producing a vaccine to those receiving the vaccine.

“Most importantly,” they added, “they all make it clear that, at the level of the recipient, it is morally permissible to accept vaccination when there are no alternatives and there is a serious risk to health.”

In a Nov. 21 statement, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, Mercy Sister Mary Haddad said CHA ethicists, “in collaboration with other Catholic bioethicists,” used the guidelines released by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life in 2005 and 2017 on the origin of vaccines and “find nothing morally prohibitive with the vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech (Pfizer’s German partner) and Moderna.”

She also said CHA “believes it is essential that any approved COVID-19 vaccine be distributed in a coordinated and equitable manner,” because COVID-19 “has had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income communities, persons with preexisting health conditions, and racial and ethnic minorities.”

CHA encouraged Catholic health organizations “to distribute the vaccines developed by these companies.”

Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann did not point to any specific media outlets claiming the moral unsuitability of the vaccines. However, after Pfizer and Moderna announced their vaccines, at least two Catholic bishops warned against using them, saying they are morally tainted.

On Nov. 11, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that results of a large ongoing study show its vaccine is 95% effective; the vaccine is already being manufactured and has been since October. Five days later, Moderna said preliminary data from its phase three trial shows its coronavirus vaccine is 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Pfizer and Moderna are applying to the U.S. Food and Drug administration for emergency approval of the vaccines, which would quickly pave the way for distribution of the vaccines. The FDA is to meet Dec. 10.

On Nov. 16, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland of Tyler, Texas, tweeted the Moderna vaccine “is not morally produced. Unborn children died in abortions and their bodies were used as ‘laboratory specimens.’ I urge all who believe in the sanctity of life to reject a vaccine which has been produced immorally.”

In a Nov. 18 video posted on his diocesan website and subsequent interviews with local media, Bishop Joseph V. Brennan of Fresno, California, weighed in on the vaccines, saying: “We all want health for ourselves and for others. We want to promote that also … but never at the expense of the life of another.”

In May, the Trump administration launched Operation Warp Speed, the moniker of its initiative to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to Americans as quickly as possible. The program has funded the manufacturing of six promising vaccine candidates, two of which are the ones announced by Moderna and Pfizer.

As soon as the FDA approves their vaccines for distribution, Operation Warp Speed hopes to distribute 300 million doses around the country by January. Because Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines involve two shots per person, this would be enough to immunize 150 million Americans.

Other COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon include one being developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University.

Like Bishop Rhoades and Archbishop Naumann, John Brehany, director of institutional relations at the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, said a recent interview on the “Current News” show on NET TV, the cable channel of the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were not themselves produced using cell lines derived from aborted fetal tissue.

He expressed “great respect for Bishop Strickland,” calling him “a bold courageous witness to the faith,” who is saying “some true things about issues that go back decades in pharmaceutical research and development,” in the production of vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and other diseases.

But in the case of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Brehany emphasized, any connection to aborted fetus cell lines is extremely remote.

For Dr. Robert Tiballi, an infectious disease specialist in Chicago and a member of the Catholic Medical Association, this indirect use raises an ethical issue for Catholics.

“The fetal cell lines were not directly used in the Moderna vaccine, but they were indirectly used several steps away from the actual development of the vaccine,” he told “Currents News” in a separate interview.

Any such cell lines were derived from tissue samples taken from fetuses aborted in the 1960s and 1970s and have been grown in laboratories all over the world since then.

In its 2005 study, the Pontifical Academy for Life said Catholics have a responsibility to push for the creation of morally just, alternative vaccines, but it also said they should not sacrifice the common good of public health because there is no substitute.

“Catholics can have confidence if there is a great need and there are no alternatives, they are not forbidden from using these new vaccines,” Brehany told “Current News,” but he added: “There is much the church calls us to do in seeking out alternatives and advocating for alternatives.”

Catholics “need to provide the urgency and advocacy” to get pharmaceutical companies to understand there are alternatives to using fetal cell lines to develop vaccines, “so they can see the need for this,” he added, echoing the Pontifical Academy for Life.

A case in point is the decision by Sanofi Pasteur to no longer use an aborted fetal cell line in producing its polio vaccines, a move recently approved by the FDA.

Sanofi is one of the companies currently developing a COVID-19 vaccine by utilizing “cell lines not connected to unethical procedures and methods.” Inovio Pharmaceuticals and the John Paul II Medical Research Institute are other such companies.

By Julie Asher | Catholic News Service

BRIDGEPORT–  With a second wave of the coronavirus beginning to take hold across Fairfield County, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has updated health and safety protocols for the Diocese of Bridgeport.

In a memo to all clergy issued today, the bishop noted that several cities including Bridgeport, Danbury, and Stamford have reverted to the state’s Phase 2 reopening guidelines in response to a growing positivity rate and an increase in hospitalizations.

The Bishop announced that if a parish is located in a city or municipality that has returned to Phase 2, then the following guidelines are in effect:

1. Mass and Liturgical Events
a. Indoors limited to 25% of capacity, no more than 100 people total
b. Outdoors limited to 150 people total

2. Non-liturgical Gatherings
a. Indoors limited to 25 people
b. Outdoors limited to 100 people

The bishop said there are no other changes to the most recent diocesan liturgical guidelines.

In addition to limiting capacity, masks, proper social distancing, and frequent sanitization are essential.

The bishop thanked pastors and priests for their continued leadership and support of diocesan COVID-19 protocols during this challenging time.

BRIDGEPORT—Students began returning to Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Bridgeport this week for in-person classes and the start of a new school year.

Even through their tiny masks you could see the excitement on the faces of the elementary school children who were happy to see their teachers and friends once again after months of lockdown as a result of the pandemic.

Many of the twenty-five diocesan elementary and high school schools have different starting dates and some have staggered openings to better acclimate students to the safe return to class, but most schools will be filled with students and fully operational by the end of next week.

Among the first to return to school were the students of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Huntington and Notre Dame High School in Fairfield.

In Danbury, where a recent uptick in the virus delayed school openings, students are expected to return to class next week along with students enrolled in St. Aloysius of New Canaan, St James in Stratford, and St. Mary, Bethel.

The re-opening was made possible by months of planning and preparation for the return to in-person classes throughout the diocese, said Dr. Steven Cheeseman, superintendent of schools.

Dr. Cheeseman asked for prayers for all of the students, faculty and school communities in the coming weeks. “This will be a year like no other, but we can face it together and make the best of it.”

Just prior to the reopening, Dr. Cheeseman addressed parents, students and the school communities in a video that provided an overview of the extraordinary steps taken for a safe and measured re-opening during the pandemic.

Photos by Amy Griffin

“I hope you are all excited to finally get new school year underway and God willing this will be the first step in our return to a sense of normalcy,” he said from his office at the Catholic Center.

Over the next few weeks Dr. Cheeseman will complete his visits to every school to ensure compliance, to share best practices and to run through every possible scenario related to the re-opening and ongoing challenges.

Dr. Cheeseman said that the main concern shared by members of his leadership team and administrators faculty and parents throughout the system has been “ the safe return of over 6,500 students to our diocesan schools.”

While the schools have moved ahead with in-person classes, the diocese has also provided distance learning options for families who prefer to keep children at home through its online academy. At present, more than 150 students are enrolled in the academy: (

Dr. Cheeseman said the schools are also prepared to move ahead with hybrid plans if that becomes necessary as a result of a spike of the virus in a given school.

Any future decisions to close a school or to make a transition to a hybrid model and full distance learning will be made on an individual school basis .

“The decision will be made in consultation between the school administration, the Office of the Superintendent in consultation with the bishop, and the Health Department from the township within which the school is located,” he said.

Factors in the decision if has to be made will be based on state guidelines and include the number of confirmed cases in the specific school and the ability of the school to mitigate risk of virus spread, he said.

Catholic schools have been able to move forward with in-person classes while many public systems can’t because they have been able to meet very strict protocols developed in compliance with CDC and state guidelines for reopening schools, Dr. Cheeseman said.

“While all educators agree that students should be back in school to ensure learning and to provide appropriate socialization opportunities, not all public schools are able to meet the State and CDC requirements to bring students back full time. In most cases it has to do with the size of the school population, the space available and the ability to schedule teachers.

“Thankfully we do not face the same issues. The smaller size of our school populations and the mission driven zeal of our teachers and administrators have allowed us to be flexible in our planning, to use space and instructional time creatively and to create school environments that are healthy, safe and nurturing.”

Put simply, we are able to open because we can meet, and in many cases exceed, the requirements and guidelines of the CDC and the State of Connecticut.

As a result of the ability to provide in-person classes, Dr. Cheeseman said that many of the schools have seen an increase in enrollment and a growing number of inquiries from public school parents.

While Dr. Cheeseman is confident that the schools can meet and even exceed government safety requirements, he says that as a parent as well as a superintendent and a parent, he approaches the school year with a sense of caution even as he is excited about the return to the classroom.

Although the intense and comprehensive planning by the diocese has become a model for other school systems, Dr. Cheeseman said he still loses sleep at night because of uncertainty about the pandemic.

“No matter what we do, we can’t answer every question because we don’t know what the future holds.”

However, he feels the schools are ready after “a tremendous amount of preparation and planning and the amazing work of principals” to implement the safety protocols.

(The superintendent’s office has created a COVID-19 hotline (203.209-2894) and email address ( to answer any questions that parents have. The schools office has also released a list of Frequently Asked Questions (download here) that offer detailed information on a variety of topics. The full re-opening plan for diocesan elementary and high schools is available online: