BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will celebrate the holiday of Juneteenth on Monday, June 19 at 6 pm at Blessed Sacrament Parish, 275 Union Ave. in Bridgeport. All are invited to attend.
The evening, sponsored by The Apostolate of Black Catholics of the Diocese of Bridgeport will begin with a Holy Hour from 6 pm to 7 pm. The program and reception will follow from 7 pm to 8 pm in the parish hall.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. In June 2021 President Joe Biden signed legislation that made Juneteenth a Federal Holiday.
Bishop Caggiano will offer a reflection during the program and will be joined by Father Reginald Norman, Episcopal Vicar for Black Catholics, and pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Wilton, and Janie Nneji who will also speak.
Janie Nneji, a member of St. Mary Parish in Ridgefield is a convert to Roman Catholicism, having been raised as a daughter of Presbyterian parents. She is an Usher and Greeter, Reader, Hospitality Lead, and member of the Black Catholic postolate and Diocesan Pastoral Council. She and her husband, Dr. Bernard Nneji, are the parents of four children.
“After the death of George Floyd, I dove into learning more about roots of structural racism in our society and within the American Roman Catholic Church and co-facilitated a parish discussion group based on Bishop Emeritus Edward K. Braxton’s pastoral letter, The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the Word Day of Peace 2015. My favorite mottos are ‘Be Bold, Be Catholic’ and ‘Baking fixes everything!’ she said.
Proclamations from every town in honor of Juneteenth will be presented to Bishop Caggiano during the ceremony.
The program will begin with African Drummers, ancestors dressed in Kente Cloth, a Gospel choir singing a medley of freedom songs, and liturgical dancers.
Juneteenth derives its name from Maj. General Gordon Granger of Texas, who, on June 19, 1865, issued the proclamation announcing that all slaves were free. A few months later, the 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the final four states not subjected to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation two and a half years earlier.
“The recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday is an important step in the continued healing of racial divisions in our country,” Bishop Caggiano said. “We must do all we can to root out the sin of racism and bigotry wherever it can be found. To do that, we must continue to study the causes of racism in all its forms and make a concerted effort to avoid this sin in the future.”
In July 2020, Bishop Caggiano formed a Racial Justice Committee, which continues to meet and offer suggestions to diocesan officials about formation and programming aimed at helping the faithful understand the role we all play in bringing about peace in our homes, our communities, and our country.
The observance is being planned and coordinated by Father Norman; Valerie Bien-Aime, Diversity Program Manager of the Diocese of Bridgeport; and the Black Catholic Apostolate including members Ina Mariano, Arlene Parks, Teri Carson, Debbie Sims, Jackie Soares, John Soares, Janelle Hemming and Karen Soares-Robinson. For more information contact Valerie Bien-Amie: Valerie.Bien-Aime@diobpt.org