Campaign hits $98 million, surpassing original goal

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano recently announced that the diocesan capital campaign “We Stand With Christ” has reached $98 million, surpassing its original goal of $75 million and making it the largest and most successful campaign in the 65-year history of the diocese.

“We Stand With Christ is an overwhelming success and a testament to the generosity of the faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport, along with the tireless efforts of our pastors and hundreds of volunteers,” Bishop Caggiano said.

The campaign, which began the fundraising phase a year ago after an eight-month planning phase, is still continuing. Of 59 parishes, 32 are actively working on the campaign, 10 of which will not start fundraising until 2020. The others are transitioning to the redemption phase of the campaign, which will entail collecting donations over the next five years.

The campaign has designated 50 percent of the funds raised for long-term needs of parishes, and the remaining 50 percent will be invested in diocesan ministries—Foundations in Education, Foundations in Faith and Foundations in Charity, three lay-run non-profits committed to Catholic education, faith formation and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

The We Stand With Christ campaign is led by Bishop Caggiano and a 26-member executive committee with the support of priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders, whose co-chairs are Brian Young of New Canaan and Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima.

At this point in the campaign, of the $98 million pledged, $30 million has already been collected. More than 13,000 people have made donations; 700 donors have each pledged more than $25,000; and ten have pledged in excess of $1 million.

Of the ten parishes that performed the best in achieving their goal, five were in Bridgeport. On average, the 12 Bridgeport parishes reached 110 percent of their goals—better than any city in the diocese.

“The We Stand With Christ campaign offers proof that people love their parishes and they are willing to make an investment in the Church and its mission even during these times of turmoil,” the bishop said. “For those who have not yet given, there is still time. Consider your donation an investment in the future of your parish and our diocese.”

He also praised the role of the pastors in moving the campaign forward and said they were the engines that drove the campaign, the spiritual guides and motivators. In many cases, they were also the ones who solicited gifts from the faithful, going out for meetings day and night to explain the needs of the parish and how the Foundations would benefit. Their efforts were augmented by the work of hundreds of lay and religious volunteers, who were fundamental to the success of We Stand With Christ. The donors, of course, were the ones who were instrumental in surpassing the original goal and hitting $98 million.

Now that the redemption phase has begun, the campaign office has set up systems to make payments on pledges. Organizers stress that there will be a cost savings if donors fulfill their pledges electronically, which will help the campaign save on printing, postage and processing fees. Each donor will be able to select the frequency and mode of their reminders to make payments.

Parish Projects

A number of parishes have already begun work on projects that are being funded by the capital campaign. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Danbury, which surpassed its goal, plans to add almost 90 parking spaces on parish-owned property to accommodate the large number of faithful who attend the six weekend Masses, according to the pastor, Father John Perez.

St. Margaret Mary Church in Shelton has completed work on its parish center, which will be dedicated by Bishop Caggiano in September. The center will have seven meeting rooms to accommodate catechism classes, parish ministries, community groups and church events. The parish reached 170 percent of its goal and as a result will receive 75 percent of the contributions above its initial target, said Father Ciprian Bejan.

Father Joseph Cervero, pastor of St. Patrick Church in Redding Ridge, said the campaign will help fund the renovation of the old St. Patrick Church built in 1880 and replaced by a new one in 2006. The renovations will provide a place for the youth ministry to meet, along with church and community groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Safe Rides.

At Christ the King Church in Trumbull, Father Terrence Walsh will be able to replace the roof on the school building and do smaller repair projects. He hopes to undertake a renovation of the sanctuary in the near future.

Father Frank Hoffmann, pastor of St. John Church in Darien, is preparing for the parish’s 125th anniversary next year, and the campaign has allowed him to do some deferred maintenance in time for the celebration, including repairs to the slate roof on the church, refinishing the wooden floors, replanting on the grounds and refurbishing the pathways and entrances. He also foresees the need for a new parking lot.

As the centennial of St. Roch Church in Greenwich approaches, Father Carl McIntosh said there are plans to repoint the stonework of the church facade and bell tower and repair windows suffering from water damage.

The three diocesan Foundations that will receive funds from We Stand With Christ are Foundations in Education, Foundations in Faith and Foundations in Charity. Each is overseen by a lay board and a third-party accounting firm that will provide a system of checks and balances.

There are nearly 40 lay trustees on the boards of Foundations in Education, Foundations in Charity and Foundations in Faith, the three non-profit initiatives begun by Bishop Caggiano as a result of the diocesan synod to address the needs of the Church in Fairfield County in the areas of education, charity and pastoral ministries.

At the heart of those Foundations are three independent lay boards, dedicated to their missions and committed to overseeing the funds entrusted to them.

Bishop Caggiano has pointed to the importance of lay leadership in the Foundations, emphasizing the professional expertise they bring, along with their commitment to their faith and a heartfelt desire to serve and further the Church’s mission in the diocese.

Foundations in Education has as its goal the transformation of the diocese’s Catholic schools through scholarships and faculty innovation and leadership grants. This year, Foundations awarded more than $2.7 million to 1,430 students—approximately 25 percent of those enrolled in 20 Catholic elementary schools in Fairfield County. In addition, Foundations will award $150,000 in innovation and leadership grants. Last year, 24 grants were awarded.

Foundations in Faith was established to further the diocese’s mission to support its pastoral ministries and programs in religious education, evangelization, support for priests, deacons and seminarians along with special-needs ministries.

Foundations in Faith succeeds the Faith in the Future Fund, a not-for-profit endowment fund created in 1996 as a result of a fundraising campaign with a goal to support both education and pastoral ministries of the diocese. Faith in the Future has supported these ministries and is poised to grow and continue this work as Foundations in Faith.

The John Paul II Fund for religious education and youth ministry is overseen by a board of 13 trustees who helped establish criteria for the grant applications.

Foundations in Charity will provide the impetus for new programs for Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, one of the largest private non-profit human services providers in Connecticut with 30 programs that offer food, housing, behavioral health, adoption, immigration and family support services to the needy and vulnerable of all faiths.

Bishop dedicates new parish center at St. Margaret Mary

SHELTON — Bishop Frank J. Caggiano celebrated a Mass of dedication at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church on Saturday, September 7 for the new parish center, praising the faith community for their generosity in the We Stand With Christ capital campaign, and Father Ciprian Bejan for his leadership and vision.

“As disciples of the Lord Jesus, we learn about the need to be generous,” he said. “And I come here to celebrate your tremendous generosity that has allowed the Sacred Heart Center to be built literally out of the ground. It is a testimony to your faith and your commitment to this parish and your commitment to your pastor for his great work and leadership as your spiritual father.”

Father Bejan said the new building, which was more than a year in conception and construction, has been named the Sacred Heart Parish Center because of the connection to St. Margaret Mary, a 17th century French Visitation nun who spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

“It is a nursery where the seed of faith can grow, a place for all parishioners, starting first with our children, who are praising God in their own way,” he said. “Our children, all parish groups and the people who will benefit from the new building are loved by God and dear to his heart.”

Since he was appointed pastor in 2014, Father Bejan recognized the need to build a parish center.

“Every parish has one, and we didn’t,” he said. For many years, the hall in the basement of the church was used for catechism classes by placing dividers through the room.”

The parish center was built where an outdoor pavilion had been. The seven meeting rooms will accommodate catechism classes, church events and parish ministries, including the Knights of Columbus, the sanctuary guild, the parish nursing program, the respect life ministry and groups for young people.

The parish, which has 850 families, had 35 percent participation in the capital campaign and reached $1.2 million, 170 percent of its $720,000 goal.

“These are hardworking people who are not rich people, and it was amazing the response to the campaign was so overwhelming,” Father said.

In his homily, Bishop Caggiano recalled a trip he made to Italy with his family when he was 6 years old for his uncle’s wedding.

“It was quite an eye-opening journey for me, being a city kid and winding up in a village on top of a mountain with a population of 2700 people. Going into the farms with Grandpa was a bit of a shock,” he recalled. His grandfather, who was one of 11 children, told him stories about farm life and the importance of working together.

“Families were big because the more hands you had, the more you ate,” he said. “Conversely, being left alone was a recipe for disaster, and Jesus understood this.”

Referencing the Gospel, he said that Jesus calls us to be willing to give up everything for his sake.

“When our possessions possess us, we have a problem, so the natural stance of anyone who follows the Lord is they must be willing to give—and I am not speaking of money,” he said. “How many of us in this church are willing to give up our opinions or our stances or our attitudes? How many in this church would be willing to give up their families, their children? These are not easy things to do. But the truth is we were born into this life poor, and we will leave it poor.”

He said the Lord’s message is a simple one: “Everything you have, I have given to you…and everything you need to give away, I will keep for you.”

“In the end, everything we give to the Lord, he will give back,” the bishop said. “We give it all to Jesus, and Jesus says, ‘In the proper time, I will give it back to you in a way where you will never have to let go of it again.’”

Pointing to the crucifix above him, Bishop Caggiano said, “You see, my friends, Jesus’ hands are extended and empty and nailed to the wood of the cross. He is holding on to nothing, even the most prized possession he had in his life, which was his Blessed Mother. By letting go of everything to his Father, he gained everything back. Every blessing, you, me and those whom he loved and all creation was given back to him as the savior, master and redeemer of all things.”

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Caggiano recalled a meeting he had with Father Bejan at the beginning of the capital campaign.

“Father Bejan and I had a heart-to-heart talk in my office and like any good priest who is also a new pastor, he said, ‘Do you really think we can do this?’ And I said to him then, as I said to him today, that a project like this is possible not simply because of your generosity, which is tremendous, but also because you have faith in your leader and trust the man who is asking to bring the vision to fruition. So I said, ‘Go for it!’”

He thanked the parish for its generosity and said, “You are just a wonderful community of faith, and, Father Bejan, we are all grateful to you for your leadership, for your vision, for your beliefs and for being a great spiritual father and someone we can trust.” The congregation gave Father a sustained standing ovation.

Father Bejan thanked the bishop for his support and said to the congregation, “We have accomplished something really great for our parish. I want to thank all of you for your prayers, generosity, sacrifices and great support that led to a fruitful and successful completion.”

“People noticed that I sweat a lot when I ask for money, but without those sacrifices, we couldn’t have accomplished what we have done here,” he said. “This is only the beginning of a great life and a great process, where we will try to grow in charity and faith and in worshipping God and serving one another. May God continue to bless us always.”

After Mass, several hundred parishioners followed the bishop as he blessed the new parish center, and then honored Father Bejan with a cake, marking his fifth anniversary as pastor. The ceremony was followed by the parish picnic.

“I have been blessed with a great parish,” said Father Bejan, who was incardinated into the Diocese of Bridgeport on the feast of St. Augustine in 2014. “The spirit here is special and the people have been very kind to me. The support has been great and a wonderful gift from God.”

Clarence Arsenault, one of the founders of the parish who went collecting door-to-door to raise funds to build the church, said, “When I retired I said I can’t sit home and watch TV so I got active in this church. I joined the men’s league, and the Knights of Columbus, and I feel like it’s home. Every time I set my foot ten feet from this door, all my problems are gone. This church is the answer to my life, and I am so proud of what we have done.”

St. Margaret Mary was established in 1963 by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, and the first Mass was celebrated in the gymnasium of Sunnyside School on River Road. The original parish school and church were sold to the city of Shelton in 1975, and a new church was erected and dedicated on June 27, 1976. On weekends, Father Ciprian is assisted by Father Raymond Petrucci and Father Nello Barachini, who hears confession, along with Deacons Jeff Kingsley and David Sochacki.

Hundreds celebrate as Bishop rededicates St. Rose of Lima Parish

NEWTOWN—More than 800 faithful filled St. Rose of Lima Parish as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano dedicated and blessed the recently renovated Church and grounds on the 160th anniversary of the Newtown parish.

Changes to the church include extensive interior renovations, the construction of a vestibule for fellowship with 33 stained glass panels that tell the story of Creation, a choir loft, a bride’s room and a Garden of Peace with four brass bells that were given to the parish by a Franciscan community in Maryland after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The bells honor the victims of that tragedy and 9/11, along with children who suffer from violence, and the military and first responders.

During the Mass and celebration including a reception under a large tent in the parish parking lot, the bishop paid tribute to its longtime pastor, Msgr. Robert Weiss, whose efforts in the diocesan capital campaign led to the major renovation—his legacy for the people he has served and loved in tragic and joyful times.

Addressing a packed church, with people standing in the aisles and vestibule, Bishop Caggiano said, “I am delighted to be here to join with you in prayer as we rededicate this beautiful sacred space, a space that would not be possible in its renovation without the remarkable leadership and dedication of Msgr.Weiss for which I am, and we all are, grateful.” Monsignor, who has been pastor 20 years, was given a sustained standing ovation from the congregation.

The multiphase project, titled “We Stand With Christ…An Invitation to Faith and Fellowship Project,” was made possible by almost 1000 donors who contributed $6.2 million. Their effort was part of the larger diocesan capital campaign, which has raised more than $90 million to date for the future needs of its parishes and three foundations for education, charity and faith formation.

The bishop also paid tribute to the parish and said, “This sacred, beautiful living space of dignity would not be possible without yourselves, the person who is sitting next to you, your generosity, your faith and your willingness to build a living temple to the glory of God so that generations to come can know He, who we know and love, as we come here to Calvary and in the mystery of grace receive the body, blood, soul and divinity of the only savior the world will ever know.”

Acknowledging the challenges the parish has faced, the bishop praised them for their faith and perseverance and said their example serves as a powerful evangelization that calls others to Christ in a darkened world.

“My friends, as beautiful as this space is, if you look to your neighbor, you will see someone far more beautiful. And in this community of St. Rose, in times of great darkness and challenge and in times of great triumph and joy, I have seen your beauty with my own eyes,” he said. “The remarkable thing about this parish is that the beauty in these walls is eclipsed by the beauty that is sitting in these pews and in a time of great challenge in the Church and even greater challenge in a world—where there are so many lost and lonely seeking a greater purpose —they can find Him here.”

Bishop Caggiano recalled a trip he made with his family to the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, when his young niece disarmed him with the question, “Uncle Frank, why did they spend all this money building this beautiful church when there are so many poor people in the world they could have fed?”

To which he promptly responded with the typical adult rejoinder, “Be quiet and don’t talk in church.” She repeated the question again outside and he was at a loss to answer her, he said. Only years later did he find a satisfactory response while he was studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

He said that during the Middle Ages, when the faithful could neither read nor write, the cathedrals served as “living catechisms, where a person could come and in that architecture be swept up in a transcendence they could not read in a book.”

“Every church unlike any other building made by human hands is a living thing,” he said. “It is meant to be the home of the Mystical Body of Christ so that in its structure, in its beauty, in its reverence, in its silence, each of us and all of us together may encounter the living God.”

Monsignor Weiss said that during its 160-year history, St. Rose of Lima Parish has faced trials and challenges, starting with the Civil War, but it has endured. In his message to the congregation, he said, “I stand today on the shoulders of the pastors, priests, deacons, religious and faithful laity who have made this a true community of faith for 160 years. This place of worship has guided parishioners through some of the most incredible moments in human history. It is and always will remain a place of faith and hope. I have never been more proud to be your pastor than I am today, and I thank God every day for each of you and your love and goodness.”

He thanked Bishop Caggiano for his encouragement in the parish project and recalled that at the outset of the campaign, his initial intention was simply to build a new parking lot. However, the bishop encouraged him to “build for the future and begin writing a new chapter” for St. Rose.

The parish thanked Bishop Caggiano, and as a sign of its appreciation for his leadership, he was given a reliquary with a relic of St. Rose of Lima, followed by a standing ovation.
At the conclusion of the dedication, Bishop Caggiano said, “When Monsignor came to me and spoke about his dream, I asked him to think bigger, and I did it with every confidence because remarkable things can happen when leadership is trusted and loved, and here at St. Rose, Monsignor, everyone in this church trusts you and loves you very much.”

In his comments, Msgr. Weiss thanked the many people who made the project a success. 

“The outpouring of good will is a testimony to the faith of the parishioners of Saint Rose, a parish that has truly made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout our 160 years,” he said in his message to the parish. “Our church has been a source of celebration, a place of consolation and a respite from the trials and challenges parishioners face in their everyday lives. Millions of prayers have been offered and thousands of candles have been lit to bring hope, peace, strength and continued faith and trust in God’s love for each of us.”

The renovations also include a bride’s room, a utility room, new entrances, and a new parking area. Saint Rose of Lima Church is located at 46 Church Hill Rd in Newtown.

(For more information contact: 203.426.1014 or visit the website at:

Parishes Look to Long-Term Needs

Father Terrence Walsh is happy the capital campaign is finally coming to a close for Christ the King Parish in Trumbull. The months of planning and fund-raising were successful, and the parish can finally put a much-needed new roof on the school building… for $50,000.

Father, who was named pastor 2-1/2 years ago, said that when he left his career in sales and entered St. John Fisher Seminary, he had never owned a home. “One of the first lessons I learned as pastor was that things break— and you have to fix them.”

With a 60-year-old parish that needs repairs to the physical plant, the We Stand With Christ Capital Campaign was just what Christ the King needed. The school building, which contains the parish hall, is used for everything from religious education to weekly Bible study, pancake breakfasts, pasta dinners, Catholic movie night and Confirmation faith nights.

Father also anticipates some smaller plumbing repair projects … and hopes that, in the near future, he will be able to undertake a renovation to the sanctuary.

The We Stand With Christ capital campaign has already raised more than $65 million of its $75 million goal, making it the largest and most successful campaign in the 64-year history of the diocese. In recent weeks, parishioners have been asked to make pledges that will benefit the long-term needs of churches and diocesan ministries.

The campaign is led by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and a 26-member executive committee with the support of priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders, whose co-chairs are Brian Young of New Canaan and Father Reggie Norman, pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Wilton.

The campaign has designated 50 percent of the funds raised, an estimated $37.5 million, for parish needs. The remaining 50 percent will be invested in Foundations in Education ($12.5 million), Foundations in Faith ($15 million) and Foundations in Charity ($10 million).

While a number of parishes will complete the campaign at the end of June, others will launch their effort in the fall and a number plan to start in 2020.

Father Walsh is confident that Christ the King will surpass its goal of $713,610 and he praises the parish community for its generosity.

“They understand the need and they recognize the importance of sacrificial giving,” he said. “It is a great testimony to them, and I am really grateful for their support … and positive about the future.”

He says the campaign also points to the need for the laity to be involved, adding, “There was no way I could have visited 1,000 families.” The campaign committee members were responsible for reaching out to fellow parishioners, answering questions and asking for pledges.

“Our committee believed in the campaign and they love the Church and our parish,” Father Walsh said. “They also understood the bishop’s decision and the importance of sustaining the Church even during these difficult times.”

Father Frank Hoffmann said that St. John Church in Darien is finishing up the campaign after having surpassed its goal of $1,762,000 and is now preparing to undertake its next major initiative—the parish’s 125th anniversary next year.

He was very pleased with the response to the campaign and said, “Every time I think of how we’ve gone past that number, it is like an alternate reality for me.”

For St. John’s, it means they will be able to complete some deferred maintenance in time for the anniversary celebration. The slate roof on the church, which some have said resembles an English country church, will be repaired. In addition, worn wood floors will be refinished, pathways and entrances will be refurbished, and there will be replantings on the grounds.

Another project he foresees is a new parking lot, which will carry a price tag of $300,000. Repairs, of course, are a common for a church that traces its founding to 1895.

In addition to the maintenance, Father Hoffmann hopes to direct some of the funds toward formation programs, a speakers’ series that would attract a community-wide audience, and digitizing decades of parish records.

Father, who has been pastor for five years, said the success of the campaign can be credited to the generosity of his parishioners and the efforts of committee members.

In recent months, he met with many families and said, “That was one added benefit to the process. Many people I visited I didn’t know directly. They were only names and faces, so this gave me a chance to meet them.”

At St. Roch Church in Greenwich, many parishioners are descendants of the families who built the church a century ago, and Father Carl McIntosh says their strong attachment to the church, along with their devotion to St. Roch, motivated them to participate in the campaign and consider the future needs of the parish as its centennial celebration approaches.

The church foundation was laid in 1920 by Italian masons with rock hewn from a nearby quarry, and in that basement, the first Masses were held so parishioners would not have to walk to Sacred Heart Church in Byram to attend Mass during the winter months.

The overriding need of St. Roch’s is to have the stonework of the church facade and bell tower repointed, in addition to repairs on windows affected by water damage.

Father expects the parish to reach its goal before the campaign ends and said some people have been very generous because they recognize the urgency of the maintenance project. The campaign, which has been going on for four months, recently entered its final phase. For the past few weeks, he has been reminding the parish of the importance of the campaign and plans to have envelopes in the pews to encourage last-minute pledges. He has said that everyone should contribute and no amount is too small.

After the campaign kicked off, he invited people to the rectory to discuss the prospectus, explain
where the money would go, and the detail the parish needs. “It was very well received,” he said.
He also expressed his appreciation for the executive committee, which worked hard to reach out to parishioners and then approach them for donations.

“The campaign committee did the follow-up and each team member had a certain number of parishioners they would meet with, and that went very well,” Father McIntosh said. “After I explained our needs, the parishioners were very supportive of the campaign.”

Father Cyrus Bartolome, who was installed as pastor of Church of the Assumption in Westport
on June 9, has begun assuming the responsibilities of his predecessor, Father Thomas Thorne, who retired.

Assumption surpassed its goal of $1.3 million and has a list of necessary renovations that will be completed in the coming months as it looks toward the celebration of its 150th anniversary in seven years.

“We are going to start the first phase of the renovations,” Father Bartolome said. “We have to repair the sidewalks because it is mandated by the town and for the safety of the people.”

The church has two steeples, both of which need to have the slate replaced. In addition, McGrath Parish Hall in the basement of the church will be renovated.

Parish faith formation projects will also receive funds from the capital campaign.

“It’s a great parish, and I am excited about being here,” Father Bartolome said. “I thank Father Thorne for making it an easy transition. There are things that need to be done, and I am learning as I go. So many people are willing to help, and so many people are dedicated to this parish. And I thank them.”

By Joe Pisani

Lay leadership is the heart of Foundations in Education, Charity, and Faith

Editor’s note: The $75 million We Stand With Christ capital campaign has raised more than $65 million and is the most successful campaign in the history of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

The campaign has designated 50 percent of the funds raised, an estimated $37.5 million, for parish needs. The remaining 50 percent will be invested in Foundations in Education ($12.5 million), Foundations in Faith ($15 million) and Foundations in Charity ($10 million).

What follows are the stories of trustees who serve on the independent lay boards and who will oversee the three Foundations and shepherd the funds entrusted to them.

Whenever Tom Kolenberg of Stamford reads the morning paper or watches the evening news and sees the unrest and division that afflict our country, he comes to one conclusion. Our true hope lies in the Gospel.

So while political leaders wrangle and debate, Kolenberg says he wants to bring the world closer to Christ and make it a better place for the hungry and suffering, for the impoverished and neglected in society. That is why he joined the board of Foundations in Charity, which has as its mandate helping put faith into action by providing services to the needy and vulnerable.

“I want to embrace and live the Gospel and change the outcome as much as I can,” he says.

Kolenberg is one of nearly 40 lay trustees who are on the boards of Foundations in Education, Foundations in Charity and Foundations in Faith, three non-profit initiatives begun by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano as a result of the diocesan synod to address the needs of the Church in Fairfield County in the areas of education, charity and pastoral ministries.

The foundations are made possible through contributions to the “We Stand With Christ” capital campaign, which will provide them with funds to support their missions into the future. At the heart of those foundations are three independent lay boards, dedicated to their missions and committed to overseeing the funds entrusted to them.

Bishop Caggiano has pointed to the importance of lay leadership in the foundations, emphasizing the professional expertise they bring, along with their commitment to their faith and a heartfelt desire to serve and further the Church’s mission in Fairfield County.

“In an age when the Church is seeking to engage lay leaders in more meaningful ways, serving as a director in these foundations allows competent and dedicated lay leaders to participate in a meaningful way in the ministries of the Church,” Bishop Caggiano said. “For that reason, I am deeply grateful to all the women and men who have volunteered to serve as directors in these foundations.”

Kolenberg is a first Vice President of Merrill Lynch in Stamford and he has served on boards for a variety of organizations, including the I Have a Dream Foundation, Catholic Family Services in Stamford, Malta House and Good Counsel Homes in the tristate region.

“Serving on a board is wonderful because you can make meaningful decisions that result in action, but as a board member you can’t serve effectively unless you’re actually in the trenches too,” he says. “Being at New Covenant House with the mothers who are suffering and looking in their eyes, you realize that Christ wants you to help them.” That requires making ourselves small, he says, just as the Creator of the Universe did when he washed the dirty feet of the Apostles.

The Gospel parable that most inspires him is the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, who sat at his gate, longing for the scraps that fell from his table. When they died, the angels took Lazarus to Heaven, but the rich man went to Hades where he was tormented. “Remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony,” Abraham told him.

“The rich man’s greatest sin was his neglect of the poverty and starvation right at his doorstep,” Kolenberg says. “Instead he went about his life of luxury and paid no attention to the suffering around him.” By giving only a portion of his wealth and setting it aside for the needy and neglected, the outcome would have been different. That’s what we are called to do, Kolenberg says.

Since 2016, Holly Doherty-Lemoine has been executive director of Foundations in Education, which awarded $2.5 million in tuition assistance for the 2018-2019 school year to nearly 1,400 students—approximately one in four.

The foundation is committed to strengthening and transforming Catholic education by supporting innovation in academic and extra-curriculum programs, fostering opportunities for professional development of school leaders and providing tuition assistance to families in need. All this is done in conjunction with her 18-member board.

“They bring a great level of expertise in many different areas, in all facets of management as well as educational and financial expertise,” Doherty-Lemoine says, noting that the board includes a former college president, a superintendent of schools, a corporate CEO, an expert in early learning, the founder of a venture capital firm, a former hospital president and executives from companies like Morgan Stanley.

“I can’t say enough about my board,” she says. “This is a lay board making decisions. We work very closely with them, and they are great advisers and are instrumental in decision-making in the areas of tuition assistance, innovation and leadership grants and donor-provided programs.”

One of those trustees is George Coleman, who for 24 years held leadership positions with the State Department of Education, including Acting Commissioner of Education. He currently serves as an Early Childhood System Development Specialist at Cooperative Educational Services and is an adjunct professor at Western Connecticut State University.

Coleman understands the importance of a good education. His daughter went to St. Rose of Lima School and then Immaculate High School before going on to Howard University and George Washington University Law School.

“I got on the board because I support quality education and definitely appreciate options being available to children and families,” he said. “And I appreciate the fact that a good faith-based education with attention to religious teaching and morality are also cultivated in a constant way.”

Foundations is working to advance a better Catholic education for future generations, he believes, by looking at areas in the system that needed investment, from preschools to high schools, along with the professional development of teachers. He has high praise for his colleagues on the board, who come from a wide range of professions and share the commitment to improving Catholic education and making it available to as many students as possible.

“I have been very fortunate in my career to be associated with high-quality leaders in the work I do, but I have to tell you that this board the bishop put together is phenomenal,” he said. They are exceptional in their devotion to the cause of Catholic education, their efforts to raise funds for new programs, their ability to raise consciousness in the diocese about the importance of the Catholic schools and their willingness to conceptualize a vision for the future.

But what most inspires Coleman is the role Foundations in Education plays in reaching the poorest parts of Fairfield County.

“They are reaching out to schools and families in Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk, and when I see the acknowledgement of the bishop and his willingness to invest in these areas, I am absolutely inspired…and that is when my faith is most vibrant,” he says.

As a young man, Coleman received a Catholic education. However, he notes, “When the Church had to retreat from the urban centers in the 60’s and 70’s, it left a tremendous void. When we think about the minorities and the number who depended upon the alternative of Catholic education, there is a sense, I think, the loss had a lot to do with the stagnation in those communities.”

Foundations in Education provides him “a lesson in Christian ethics that I am so attracted to.”

Kelly Weldon of Our Lady of Fatima Parish is assistant to the chairperson of Foundations in Faith, which was established to further the diocese’s mission to support its pastoral ministries and programs in religious education, evangelization, support for priests, deacons and seminarians along with special-needs ministries.

Foundations in Faith succeeds the Faith in the Future Fund, a not-for-profit endowment fund created in 1996 as a result of a fundraising campaign with a goal to support both education and pastoral ministries of the diocese. Faith in the Future has supported these ministries and is poised to grow and continue this work as Foundations in Faith.

Weldon, who coordinates the grant process for the John Paul II Fund for religious education and youth ministry, works with a board of 13 trustees who helped establish criteria for the grant applications.

“I was impressed at the level of depth they embraced when it came to the grant review process,” she said. “They were eager to get involved when it came to looking very closely at each application and they also wanted to understand what the parishes needs were. They are keen on understanding how we can build on them to foster innovation.”

Last October, when Bishop Caggiano asked Lorraine Carrano if she would be interested in serving on the board of Foundations in Faith, her immediate response was “Why me?” And he told her. Carrano, who has had a lifetime of service to the community and Church, received the St. Augustine Medal in 2016 for her service and dedication.

And the mission, the bishop told her, was something that has been a priority in her life—revitalizing parish life and pursuing the goal that Pope Francis has articulated of evangelizing and bringing people back to the Church one person at a time.

“The potential is huge for Foundations in Faith to help a lot of parishes that don’t have funds to get the programs they want,” she said. “And when people give to this foundation, it will stay there and enable parishes to do things they would normally not be able to.”

Carrano is a graduate of St. Vincent’s School of Nursing and Sacred Heart University. She had a diversified nursing career in hospital inpatient, critical care and outpatient settings as well as in the community as a school nurse. She also served as corporate vice president of Mission and Ethics at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and Health Services and is an affiliate of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

She and her husband Tom, who have two daughters and three grandchildren, live in Trumbull and are members of the St. Margaret Shrine community, which was her parish when she was growing up in the North End of Bridgeport.

Today, they are still active and help with many programs and events, including the annual St. Anthony Feast fundraiser. Carrano also serves as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, and is a member and officer of the Altar Guild.

She is particularly excited about the initiatives and programs that John Paul II Fund can support to revitalize a parish and help keep teenagers engaged in their Catholic faith after they make their confirmation…or bring back young people in their 20s and 30s who have fallen away.

“You have to be willing to accept some of changes going on because it is an evolution of the Church,” she said. “But the secular world continues to influence our people, and we need to pull them back and keep them grounded with a connection to the Church.” And that is a goal she hopes to achieve by her participation as a trustee on the Foundations in Faith board.

Al Barber, president of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, understands firsthand the stress that fundraising can have on an organization that does charitable work, which is one of the reasons he stands firmly behind the mission of Foundations in Charity.

“This is an absolutely great idea because if we do it right, it will take the fundraising pressure off of Catholic Charities, which can be a problem,” he says. “A lot of the directors of our programs have to be involved in fundraising, and that is not their skill base. What we are hoping for is a $10 million endowment for Foundations in Charity, which will fill in the gaps and let us do some exciting things.”

During his career, Barber had had a number of senior executive positions with GE, NBC, CNBC and other companies. In 2004, he was named president of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, one of the largest private non-profit human services providers in Connecticut with 30 programs that offer food, housing, behavioral health, adoption, immigration and family support services to the needy and vulnerable of all faiths.

As he likes to say, “We don’t do what we do for Catholics. We do what we do because we are Catholics.”

He is also excited about working with the board of Foundations in Charity, who he describes as “very smart people who are committed and energetic.”

“They will review where the money is most needed and provide appropriate oversight,” he says.

Barber’s colleagues credit him with having “a keen corporate administrative eye” after having spent almost 30 years in GE in nine different businesses.

(For more information on the “We Stand with Christ” campaign for the diocese, call 203.648.9050. Visit the web at Give online at: To watch the We Stand with Christ videos visit the diocesan YouTube.)

God Stands with the Forgotten

As I was reflecting earlier this morning on today’s Gospel, I realized that there is an interesting parallel between the birth and the resurrection of Christ. In both cases, the persons chosen by the angels to announce the presence of Christ are the very persons that society considered “outcasts”. In both cases, God reveals that those whom the world considers unimportant are actually His chosen messengers- far more important than those whom the world considers “important”.

Recall that at the time of the Lord’s birth, it was to the shepherds that the angels first appeared. In the time of Jesus, shepherds were often quite poor and looked down upon, since they spent their time with animals in the countryside. Yet it was to them that the good news of the Savior’s birth was first proclaimed.

Similarly, it was to Mary Magdalene that the angels in the tomb first proclaimed that the Lord had Risen from the dead. Once again, it was to a woman who had a sinful reputation among her neighbors that God chose to reveal the good news of Christ’s victory over sin and death. It was because of her persistent love for the Lord, that compelled her to stay at the tomb, allowed her to become as the Fathers of the Church called her, the “apostle to the apostles”.

Those whom the world believes are inconsequential, insignificant and perhaps a burden are the very ones who are honored above all others in the plan of salvation. The lesson is simple and clear: God stands with those whom the world wishes to forget.

If it is good enough for God to stand with the “forgotten”, who are we to do anything less?

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Standing with the Poor

According to Webster’s online dictionary, the definition of poverty is “the state of being inferior in quality or insufficient in amount.” If this is true, then every human being is in some sense “poor”, whether we consider either our sinfulness or that fact that no one is self-sufficient in this life. Each of us is in need of help from those around us, rendering us, in some sense, “poor”.

Despite this understanding of our general human poverty, it is undeniable that there are growing numbers of people who endure poverty because they are denied the basic necessities of life. These necessities include food, housing, medical care and employment that would allow them the resources to care for themselves and their families. Over the past few weeks, we have been reflecting on these many “faces of poverty” and how we, as a Church, are called to stand with the poor in our midst in concrete and effective ways. Such solidarity with the poor is never optional for a Christian, since it is a mandate given to us by Christ Himself. For as he reminded us in Matthew 25, “Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

As I reflect upon this divine mandate to stand in solidarity with the poor, a healthy recognition of our common poverty can help spur us into action to alleviate the concrete sufferings of our neighbor. More specifically, we can easily fall into the illusion that we are self-sufficient and not dependent upon our neighbor or even God for our basic necessities. This is both false and harmful. Rather, at a blink of an eye, at a moment when we least expect it, our poverty can become evident with a sudden diagnosis of disease, the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. On any given day, each of us can be only one moment away from joining the “least of my brothers and sisters”. And if this happens to us today, would we not want someone to reach out to us in our hour of need? And is we would expect such help to be given to us, why would we not be ready now to give the same help to those around us?

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Standing with the Sick

We have all faced times in our own lives or in the lives of our family members and friends when suddenly, often without warning, sickness or disease strikes. At such times, we are often filled with an avalanche of questions and a flood of emotions, especially when we are helpless to assist a person we love very much. At such times, the sick person experiences his or her vulnerability in a deep and profound way and needs to be reassured that they are not alone. Such reassurance can only come from those around them.

I remember when my mother was battling lung cancer, I accompanied her for every chemotherapy treatment she received at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. The doctors, nurses, and staff were simply outstanding in their care for all their patients, including my mother. Nonetheless, those months were filled with questions that I wished I could have answered for my mom and was simply unable to do so. Each day brought new challenges and questions. The only response I could have was to be present to her in a loving, reassuring way. My mother would often remind my sister and me that we are always in God’s hands. Hers was a faith that inspired my faith, despite her personal sufferings.

One day when mom was undergoing treatment, I went down to the cafeteria to get a snack. I accidentally pushed the wrong button on the elevator and found myself entering into the pediatric section of the hospital. Even after I recognized my mistake, I remained on the floor and was overwhelmed by the sight of little children battling cancers and at times, suffering so deeply. It reminded me of the Lord’s saying, “Let the children come to me”. I left that floor with a deep resolve to make sure that such children are never forgotten.

All who are sick, especially our children, need to be reassured, loved and supported in their hour of greatest need. And such support can only come from you and me.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Standing with Immigrants

As I have often shared in other postings, I am the proud son of immigrant parents who came to this country to seek a better life for my sister and me. This basic fact has shaped every aspect of my life, for which I am most grateful.

While I was growing up, my father would often tell stories of his youth which I often doubted, given the starkness and poverty that he described. It was only when I grew older and saw the very places that he described, long abandoned by my extended family because of their poor conditions, did I come to appreciate the hardships with which my parents grew up. What I took for granted as a child was for a luxury for my parents, including having a bathroom within the confines of their home. Escaping such poverty is understandable for anyone to aspire to achieve. To do it for the sake of another is truly noble.

Christ the Lord was no stranger to living as an immigrant. Recall that the Holy Family needed to escape the slaughter of the innocents at the hand of Herod, who was determined to kill the child he feared would become his rival. The Lord spent time as an immigrant and refugee in Egypt, along with Our Lady and St. Joseph, while the danger persisted. Of course, as God, all the world was His, as all the people of this world remain His. Yet, He was welcomed as a stranger in a foreign land.

As followers of the same Lord, despite our political differences regarding policy and how best to welcome the stranger in our midst, we are invited to stand with those sisters and brothers who are immigrating to seek a better life, freedom from poverty or safety from persecution. For my part, I have no doubt that I will do so, since my Lord was once an immigrant and so too was my family. For as Matthew 25 reminds us, to fail to welcome the least of our brethren into our midst is to fail to welcome Christ.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

SJPII Fund applications due April 15

BRIDGEPORT—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is excited to build upon the momentum established with the JPII Fund grant awards in 2018 by raising the bar with a deeper focus on Reimagining Faith Formation!

According to Bishop Caggiano, we will actively seek religious education and youth ministry programs that create “innovation so great we will be compelled to replicate it in other parishes.”

All parishes are welcome to apply for funding. The application due date has now been extended from April 1 to April 15.

Criteria: Grants may be used for projects in parishes within the Diocese of Bridgeport that strive to:

  • ·  Creatively energize faith formation
  • ·  Engage individuals/groups that have been underserved
  • ·  Enhance ministry to welcome extended family members

Funding: Grants in 2019 will range from $2,000 to $10,000

  • ·  April 15, 2019- Completed Applications are due (reflects two-week extension)
  • ·  June, 2019- Decisions about funding will be approved by the Foundations in Faith Board
  • ·  August 2019- Funding decisions will be announced and distributed to recipients
  • ·  September 25, 2019- Bishops Reception to congratulate all of the awardees
  • ·  January 15, 2020- Mid-year report due (template to be provided)
  • ·  May 1, 2020 -Final Report/survey due (template to be provided)

A small committee of Foundations in Faith board members and diocesan community representatives will review the submitted applications and make funding recommendations to the board at the annual meeting in June. Awardees will be notified once approved.

The new, improved and easy to use fillable form application can be found here: St. John Paul II Fund Application. Simply fill it out and click submit to send in your completed application. Application due date has been extended and are now due April 15, 2019.

(Please contact Kelly Weldon at with any questions.)

Standing with the Homeless

Gaius Plinius Secundus, a Roman philosopher better known as Pliny the Elder once said: “Home is where the heart is.” His point is simple. Home is meant to be a place shared with family and friends wherein we grow to appreciate our own self-worth, come to trust the fact that we are loved and where we are challenged in love to mature. As a physical location, it is also a place of memories- memories of meals shared, conversations spoken over a cup of coffee perhaps in the middle of the night and struggles faced and overcome with patience and love. For all these reasons, every person deserves to have a true home to share with his loved ones.

In light of all this, consider the plight and challenges faced by the millions of people in our world who never had a home or had their homes taken away from them. For example, there are children who are today born into homeless shelters, to join their parents who may have lost their homes due to unemployment, poverty or bad choices in life. Consider those who are refugees fleeing their homes because of war, violence, and persecution of all types, especially religious persecution. These people are forced to leave everything behind to escape being killed in the cross-fire of violence that they did not start. Also, let us ponder the plight of young people who have a physical home to live in but it is a structure that has no love, affection, encouragement or protection for them. For them, such a physical location may be more a prison than a home.

When we consider such suffering, it is our duty and responsibility as Christians to find ever more effective and personal ways to meet the needs of those in our midst who are homeless. They deserve what we often take for granted. Many cannot find a way out of homelessness on their own. Let us be resolved to help whoever wishes to receive our assistance, to find a place where their hearts can find a home.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s latest video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Standing with the Hungry

This past Tuesday at Mass we heard the famous passage in the Gospel of Matthew when the Lord taught his disciples the prayer we now call “The Our Father.” For many of us it is one of the first prayers that we learned as children and remains the one prayer that all Christians offer. It combines our praise and thanks to God the Father, while offering a series of petitions that remind us of our own poverty and need for God to meet our needs.

As I reflected upon the prayer, and in light of our commitment to stand by those who are hungry in our midst, I was struck by the fact that two petitions that form the heart of the prayer follow each other. They are: “Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The second petition reminds us that we will be open to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness to the extent that we learn to forgive others who trespass against us. I wonder if we should not hold ourselves to the same obligation when we speak of the need for our daily bread? More specifically, as disciples of the Lord, should we not be committed to give our neighbors their daily bread, if we wish to receive daily bread from the hands of our loving God? In other words, how can we wish to receive daily bread if we are not open to help others to receive their daily bread?

In a world in which poverty, hunger and homelessness is growing, if we wish to honor our loving God and to have our own needs met, I believe that we must redouble our efforts to become the hands and feet of God in the world to bring bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, shelter for the homeless and to feed our deepest hunger for daily bread by doing what the Father has asked from us.

 The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s latest video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Immaculate High School Receives Grant to Build Music Production Lab

DANBURY—Immaculate High School was recently awarded $6,909 in grant money to create a music technology laboratory, which will enhance its popular music education programs. Immaculate received the monies from a grant from Foundations in Education, a non-profit initiative that assists the Diocese of Bridgeport’s ongoing mission to support Catholic education in Fairfield County.

Niall Reynolds, Immaculate’s band director and music teacher, applied for and received the grant, which will allow the school to build a state-of-the-art Music Production Lab for the development of modern, cutting-edge music curriculum and coursework. The lab will consist of student workstations and new equipment such as iMac computers and professional software, keyboard controllers, microphones, headphones, mixers and speaker systems.

“The lab will emphasize the importance of creativity as an essential part of educating the whole student and help develop student confidence in their music abilities as well as creative potential. Student interest in music theory and writing and recording music has increased substantially, and this technologically modern lab will be a valuable tool for our young musicians,” said Mr. Reynolds.

Mr. Reynolds will also work with students to create portfolios in the lab for use in future career endeavors. “I want to change the prevailing attitude that music is mysterious, inaccessible and obscure — the Music Production Lab can remove the barriers of fear and anxiety that sometimes accompanies music education,” Mr. Reynolds noted.

Immaculate High School, ranked by Niche as a top ten best private college-prep high school in Fairfield County, has the highest student SAT scores of the Diocese of Bridgeport schools.

In addition to a college-preparatory academic program that offers over 33 Advanced Placement classes and a STEAM curriculum featuring advanced technology, a CISCO certification program, renovated science labs and engineering classes, Immaculate High School has an award-winning Fine Arts program, a student career internship program, athletic teams that have won SWC and State Championships, 44 clubs and a Campus Ministry program that instills faith, compassion and reverence for others. Community service is also stressed; in 2018 students performed 27,794 hours of community service. In the 2019-20 school year, Immaculate will be offering additional business courses as well as a Certified Nursing Associate program.

Immaculate High School is a private, non-profit Catholic college-preparatory institution serving students from 28 communities in Connecticut and New York. Founded in 1962, Immaculate High School allows students to focus on academic excellence, spiritual development, personal commitments and service to others.  Located in Danbury, CT, Immaculate High School is part of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s parochial school system.

Standing with Priests

During these difficult times for our good and faithful priests, who are often looked upon with suspicion by society because of the sins and crimes of other priests who have abused children, we need to pray each day for their strength, courage and perseverance. We must also find ways to encourage them, tell them how much we appreciate their sacrifices and generous service and ask Our Lady, the Mother of all Priests, for her maternal protection and care.

During an Ordination Mass celebrated by St. John Paul II on May 11, 2003, the Pope offered the following prayer for the priests he had ordained that day. I ask that you and I also offer this same prayer today for the tens of thousands of faithful priests throughout the world who serve as shepherds of the Lord’s flock during this time of purification and renewal in our Church:

“And, you, Mary, ‘Woman of the Eucharist,’ Mother and model of every priest, be close to these sons of yours today and throughout the years of their pastoral ministry. Like the Apostle John, they too welcome you ‘into their home.’ Help them to conform their lives to the divine Teacher who has chosen them as His ministers. May their ‘present,’ just spoken by each one with youthful enthusiasm, be expressed every day in generous adherence to the task of the ministry and blossom in the joy the ‘magnificat’ for the ‘great things’ that God’s mercy will, to work through their hands. Amen.”

 The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s latest video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?

Standing with Married Couples

One of the earliest memories that I have from my first assignment as a newly ordained priest occurred during a conversation that I had one morning at breakfast with my first pastor. That morning he offered me valuable pastoral advice that came from his many years of service in a variety of parishes. The topic was how best to support young couples who were preparing to be married.

In the midst of our conversation, he said, “Frank, make sure that when you meet with these couples, you help them to prepare for both their marriage and their wedding. For their wedding lasts only one day, their marriage is for life.”

I was struck by the simple truth of his observation. Over the years, in my own ministry with engaged couples, I have seen how easy it is for them to be swept up with the overwhelming demands of planning a wedding, forgetting to pray and spend time preparing how to live a life together as husband and wife. While the wedding is important, their marriage is the gift that God has given them for the rest of their lives. One of the Church’s primary missions is to help support couples as they journey through life as husband and wife, and with God’s grace, raise children into the world.

As a Diocese, we have implemented a revised Pre-Cana program that has been warmly received, in part because it asks couples to reflect upon the life they will live after their wedding ceremony is over. It is a life that is an increasingly difficult one to live, in a world that sees every commitment as transitory or open to revision. As we move forward, let us work together to find new, innovative and more effective ways to stand with our newlywed couples, to help them to live the beauty of their married life in Christ, one day at a time.

The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos! Do not miss Bishop Frank’s latest video: What Does it Mean to Stand with Christ?