Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

Bishop Issues Sacramental Guidelines During Crisis

BRIDGEPORT– In a letter to priests issued today (March 18th), Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has updated sacramental guidelines and practices in response to the Coronavirus crisis. He offers further instructions and suggestions regarding the pastoral care of parishioners during this unique period of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis.

These directives take into consideration the March 16th order of Governor Lamont that in-person gatherings in the State of Connecticut must be less than 50 people, as well as the Bishop’s concern for the wellbeing of the clergy and lay faithful of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Eucharistic Adoration

Although no public Masses are currently being offered in the Diocese, the Bishop said it is important that churches, as much as possible, remain open during some portion of the day so that the lay faithful are given the opportunity to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and spend some time in quiet meditation. Most especially during this unsettling time, the Bishop wants parishioners to remain in close contact with Christ in the Eucharist and with their parish. 

He has asked each parish to offer Eucharistic Adoration on the Sundays when Mass is not available. Weekday Eucharistic Adoration is also permitted. Exposition will be simple and not include hymns or Benediction. Each individual Pastor will determine the scheduling and feasibility. The bishop recommends that parishes provide this opportunity for a suitable period of time each Sunday afternoon. Pastors must monitor attendance and make sure that the number of adorers present is less than 50 persons at one time.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

 Recognizing that a time of crisis can also be a time of personal conversion, it is our obligation to continue to provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation to those who request it. The Bishop has directed that parishes maintain their regular hours for Confession to the extent possible, but communal penance services are not permitted and, if already scheduled, will be cancelled.

An abundance of caution should be used when administering the Sacrament. Therefore, because they cannot be properly and uniformly disinfected after each individual Confession, the use of confessionals for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not permitted. Pastors are to designate another open space where Confessions can be heard.

Whatever configuration is used, Pastors should ensure that penitents have the option of confessing anonymously or face-to-face and that a distance of 6 feet (as recommended by the CDC) is maintained between the priest and penitent. One option, for example, is for priests to place themselves with their back toward the entrance door and set up two chairs, one behind them and one in front of them so that both options are available to the penitent. In such circumstances, Pastors should make arrangements to ensure that privacy is maintained.

In order to maintain uniformity and clarity, the Bishop has asked pastors to create signs in the vestibule of the church (or wherever the Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered) providing the information above and also instructing penitents to wait their turn for Confession in a way that avoids a line and leaves ample space between them and other penitents.

However, under no circumstances may any Confession be heard via telephone, the internet or any social media platforms. Confession of sins must always take place in person.

Because of the large crowds, it has attracted over the past three years, Reconciliation Monday, scheduled for April 6th from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM, is cancelled. Please inform your parishioners of this in a timely manner.

General Absolution

The Bishop has forbidden the use of General Absolution.

Anointing of the Sick

As much as possible, priests are encouraged to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as needed. When doing so they should observe prudence and common sense. Specifically, Bishop Caggiano has asked that the following directives be followed:

  • If a person has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus or if there is reason to believe that a person could have been exposed to it, priests should not put themselves at risk of catching the virus by administering the Sacrament without the proper protective gear.
  • Those who have been diagnosed with Coronavirus and who are in hospitals or nursing homes should only be anointed by the trained priest chaplains of each institution, and only if they are permitted to do so by the administration and health care professionals at each hospital or nursing home;
  • For the time being, in accord with canon 1000 §2 of the Code of Canon Law, whenever priests are ministering to the sick, including providing the Anointing of the Sick, they should use latex gloves or, in the absence of gloves, cotton swabs.,
  • Older or vulnerable priests should refrain from providing the Sacrament or visiting the sick or homebound until the crisis is clearly over.

The diocese will continue to work with the chaplains of hospitals and nursing homes to develop more detailed protocols should they be necessary.

Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of the Clergy Residence

Last week, out of concern for the retired priests who reside at Queen of the Clergy, Bishop Caggiano asked that no outside visitors except for health care personnel be permitted inside the building. Also, for the last several weeks the staff at Queen of the Clergy has been extra diligent in cleaning and disinfecting the Residence regularly and wearing protective masks and gloves when serving the needs of the priests.

Effective today, Bishop Caggiano has asked the residents of Queen of the Clergy for the next three weeks to remain inside as much as possible and to exit the building only for exercise or for essential appointments, such as visits to the doctor, banking or essential shopping. Furthermore, any residents in the building who must leave and reenter the building regularly for any reason have been asked to temporarily relocate during this period.

Other Information

The Connecticut March for Life, scheduled for Wednesday, April 15th, has been cancelled. The date for the 2021 March will be announced soon.

“Thank you for your continued patience and cooperation during this crisis. We continue to place our trust in Jesus, the Divine Physician, through the loving hands of Our Blessed Mother, and to pray for an end to this illness,” said the Bishop.

Unexpected time with the Lord

One of the unexpected consequences of the need for us to shelter at home and avoid all social gatherings is having a great deal of unstructured time in what is usually the busiest times of the year. For me, given my very busy pace of life, it is quite jarring to have so much time is now free from travel and ministerial obligations. I woke up this morning and asked myself: how can I best use this free time? Perhaps you have asked yourself the same question.

At a minimum, we now have extra time to spend in prayer each day- prayer that is sorely needed to seek eternal repose for the dead, to remember those who are sick and living in great fear, our health care workers who remain on the front lines of this disease, and for one another. We may never again have a Lenten season that affords us so much time to give to the Lord. Let us use this time wisely and well.

I would also suggest that you and I can revisit our Lenten promises and see if there are other things that we can do in our homes to prepare our minds and hearts for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery. For my part, I have added the daily practice of the Stations of the Cross, which gives me great comfort and consolation. To meditate on the Lord’s passion and death each day by praying the Stations reminds me that He is here with us, in this hour of suffering and fear. He will walk with us as we carry our own crosses, especially in this time of uncertainty.

We will be facing many challenges in the weeks ahead. However, we now have an unexpected time to spend with the Lord. It is a gift that we should not waste.

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

Coronavirus Danbury: Distance Learning Nothing New For Immaculate

DANBURY—Immaculate High School has moved its curriculum into the cloud, as they wait out concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus in southwestern Connecticut. Currently, the school is planning to teach everything online through March 27, beginning Monday.

“We are using multiple technologies to teach our students, and they will have full-schedule days from home,” Immaculate spokeswoman Janine Azzi told Patch. “Faculty has been preparing for this in advance in case such a decision was made. All activities have been canceled for these two weeks.”

Immaculate students are not alone, Azzi said. All Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport have been similarly prepared, and are currently online-only through the end of March.

“We are well-prepared for this type of distance education as we have been doing it for several years for bad weather days,” Azzi said. “We recently added new technology and video tools, and we have also been offering a Distance Learning math program to Catholic middle schools. This is a big advantage of Catholic schools.”

Academics are covered, but there are still some very important highlights of the high school experience that not even the internet can salvage in the Age of COVID-19.

“Our Gala and Spring Musical have been postponed,” Azzi said. “All other events both in and out of school up until April 1 have been canceled.”

Azzi says custodians have been deep-cleaning the school regularly, and 24/7.

By Rich Kirby, Patch Staff

In a time of crisis, food pantries remain open

BRIDGEPORT—As news continues to develop on the potential threat of the novel coronavirus to our area, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano has released multiple directives, along with the announcement of school closings and parish event cancellations.

With the closing of schools and programs throughout the diocese, there is a worry that some may be left without the resources they need.

“This is the time we need to be open to serve our clients, says Mike Donoghue, executive director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County. “We are ready willing and able to step up.”

In an effort to combat worry, below is a list of the food pantries in the area that are still in operation:

Catholic Charities

The Thomas Merton Center—
43 Madison Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604
203.367.9036
www.themertoncenter.org

New Covenant Center—
174 Richmond Hill Avenue
Stamford, CT 06902
203.964.8228
www.newcovenantcenter.org

In the community

Bridgeport Public Schools will open emergency food service sites during the school closure. The sites will be open Monday-Friday to provide breakfast and lunch to Bridgeport Public School students.

Visit www.bridgeportedu.net for locations and time schedule.

Blessed Sacrament Food Pantry—
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament
275 Union Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06607

With many overbuying supplies in order to prepare, some grocery stores are left with sparse inventory. For those who have more than enough, there is the potential to donate to these food pantries. Especially during the season of Lent, when almsgiving is at the forefront of our minds, what can we do to help those who may be most adversely affected by the current crisis?

Catholic Charities of Fairfield County is making sure that they are ready and available for their clients at this time. That being said, they are also keeping the needs of their employees and volunteers in mind, encouraging anyone in an at-risk situation to stay home.

Donoghue has expressed that Catholic Charities of Fairfield County’s programs are currently taking measures to try and set up more to-go options at their food pantries, as well as putting together wish lists of items that are needed. “We want to be a place where people in need can come,” says Donoghue.

In a message of hope, Donoghue expresses that Catholic Charities has received calls from many college-aged kids and those who are in good health, who are ready to help, offering their time.

“Usually in times of crisis, this is when the best of people come out,” Donoghue says.

In a recent Facebook post, Bishop Caggiano offers this prayer: This is a time when we must offer intercessory prayers for all those who have died from this disease, that they may rest in the Lord’s peace. We must pray for consolation for their families and loved ones during their time of sorrow and grief. Let us also pray for those who have been sickened by the virus, that they will soon recover, and for all those who are quarantined and are living alone and in fear. Finally, let us pray that this emergency may pass and that our love for one another will help us to make the right decisions to keep each other safe.

The Diocese of Bridgeport is continually monitoring the status of the virus in the Fairfield County community, consulting with health care professionals and experts when appropriate.

In response to the growing number of calls and concerns related to the Coronavirus and its impact on liturgical practices, the diocese has produced a special web page to offer the latest news, resources and information.

(People throughout the diocese can visit the website at any time for updates: www.bridgeportdiocese.org/coronavirus-resources-and-information.)

(For more information on Catholic Charities’ programs visit: ccfairfield.org.)

By Elizabeth Clyons

Catholic Schools close

  • All Diocesan/Diocesan Sponsored Catholic elementary and high schools will close for students effective March 13th and will tentatively reopen on March 30th. Schools will begin implementing their distance learning instructional plan on Monday, March 16th.
  • All school activities and trips are cancelled until further notice
  • While we tentatively plan to reopen March 30th, we will continue to monitor the situation with local and state health officials in order to reassess and determine our next steps
  • Click here for more information

“Reconciliation Monday” Cancelled

BRIDGEPORT—For the third consecutive year, the Diocese of Bridgeport will hold Reconciliation Monday during Holy Week.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation will be offered on Monday, April 6, in a total of 23 parishes throughout the diocese from 3-9 pm.

Thousands of faithful across the diocese turned out for last year’s Reconciliation Monday, which has become an opportunity for many Catholics who have been away from the sacrament to return to Confession.

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano established Reconciliation Monday in 2018, when he called for the Diocese of Bridgeport to join the New York dioceses in the observance, which was created in the joyful spirit of Pope Francis who said, “Now is the time to be reconciled with God. Staying on the path of evil is only a source of sadness.”

Many of the priests who heard confessions last year said they were encouraged by the number of people who were returning to the sacrament after a long time away.

The bishop said he is grateful for the pastors and parishes participating in Reconciliation Monday and he hoped that Catholics throughout the diocese would take advantage of the opportunity to experience God’s mercy at the beginning of Holy Week.

“In a world that prides itself in self-help remedies and is more comfortable in watching someone tell his or her sins on television rather than to a priest, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation provides a profound opportunity to be freed from our personal sins and to experience the healing love of Christ for you and me,” said Bishop Caggiano.

The bishop said many people have misconceptions about what Confession really is, or think of it as solely a spiritual exercise during which you tell the priest your sins.

“Rather, it is a profound encounter with the Lord Jesus, who through the words and actions of the priest, meets us in our sinfulness and forgives, liberates and empowers us with the Holy Spirit so that we can go forth and sin no more,” he said

Many people took to diocesan social media to encourage each other to attend confession, sharing their experiences from last year’s Reconciliation Monday. Diocesan social media users reported long lines of people eager to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Penance is an experience of the gift of God’s boundless mercy. “Not only does it free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. We are liberated to be forgivers. We obtain new insight into the words of the Prayer of St. Francis: “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.”

The bishops’ statement teaches that “With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God. “In him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).”

Priests will be hearing Confessions at the following locations on Reconciliation Monday from 3 pm to 9 pm:

Deanery A (Queen of Peace)
1. St. Andrew Parish: 435 Anton Street, Bridgeport
2. St. Ann Parish: 481 Brewster Street, Bridgeport
3. St. Augustine Cathedral: 399 Washington Avenue, Bridgeport

Deanery B (Mystical Rose)
1. St. James Parish: 2070 Main Street, Stratford
2. St. Lawrence Parish: 505 Shelton Avenue, Shelton

Deanery C (Queen of Martyrs)
1. St. Theresa Parish: 5301 Main Street, Trumbull
2. St. Jude Parish: 707 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe
3. St. Rose of Lima Parish: 46 Church Hill Road, Newtown

Deanery D (Our Lady, Queen of Confessors)
1. Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish: 46 Stone Street, Danbury
2. St. Edward the Confessor Parish: 21 Brush Hill Road, New Fairfield
3. St. Joseph Parish: 8 Robinson Avenue, Danbury

Deanery E (Seat of Wisdom)
1. Sacred Heart Parish: 30 Church Street, Redding
2. St. Mary Parish: 55 Catoonah Street, Ridgefield

Deanery F (Queen Assumed into Heaven)
1. Our Lady of the Assumption Parish: 545 Stratfield Road, Fairfield
2. St. Luke Parish, 49 Turkey Hill Road North, Westport
3.St. Pius X Parish: 834 Brookside Drive, Fairfield

Deanery G (Mother of Divine Grace)
1. St. Aloysius Parish: 21 Cherry Street, New Canaan
2. St. John Parish: 1986 Post Road, Darien
3. St. Matthew Parish: 216 Scribner Avenue, Norwalk

Deanery H (Cause of Our Joy)
1. The Parish of St. Cecilia-St. Gabriel:  1184 Newfield Avenue, Stamford
2. Holy Name of Jesus Parish: 325 Washington Boulevard, Stamford
3. Sacred Heart Parish: 37 Schuyler Avenue, Stamford

Deanery I (Mary, Mother of the Church)
1. The Parish of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Agnes: 4 Riverside Avenue, Greenwich
2. St. Mary Parish: 178 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich
3. St. Michael the Archangel Parish: 469 North Street, Greenwich