Diocese to honor Naydens, Barbers for years of service

BRIDGEPORT—This Thursday evening the Diocese of Bridgeport will honor Al Barber and his wife Gina for their years of service to Catholic Charities, along with Denis and Britta Nayden for their longtime support of the diocese’s charitable mission.

“We will be blessed and fortunate to recognize and honor two remarkable couples who have left a lasting impact on the diocese in their caring, their generosity and their leadership. Their concern for others has respected and supported the dignity of so many in our diocese. We look forward to the evening to express our sense of gratitude and appreciation,” Bishop Caggiano said.

A reception in their honor will be held Thursday, August 26, at Bishop Caggiano’s residence in Trumbull and is being jointly sponsored by Foundations in Charity and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, the two organizations which Barber led.

Al recently announced his retirement as executive director of Foundations in Charity, a position he held since it began two years ago, following 16 years as president of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County.

“In his years of service, Al has been the face of charitable works throughout the diocese,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Under his stewardship, Catholic Charities began many new ministries, especially services related to hunger, housing and mental health in support of the marginalized in Fairfield County. Gina has been a tireless volunteer at the St. Catherine Center for Special Needs as well as the Thomas Merton Center and St. Camillus Center in Stamford.”

Denis and Britta Nayden have been “tremendous supporters of Catholic Charities and the diocese for many years,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Last year, they gave a $100,000 matching grant to Foundations in Charity, and their long-term support of the St. Catherine Center for Special Needs has provided educational programs for children and adults with severe physical and emotional disabilities, who might not otherwise have such opportunities.”

The special education school in Fairfield provides an alternative for children whose needs were unmet in other settings, said Helen Burland, executive director. The Academy expanded to include an adult service program, beginning in 2015, which provides a continuum of services for young adults who have completed their formal education.

“Britta and Denis Nayden were among the founding donors who brought to life the dream of a safe, loving and supportive learning environment for children with special needs. Their early and steadfast commitment helped shepherd us through the early years and led to a vibrant mission,” said Charles Chiusano, chairman of Saint Catherine Center Board of Directors. “They fully embrace the call to care for God’s most vulnerable as they continue to provide philanthropic leadership for Saint Catherine Center as we embark on a significant expansion project. We are grateful for their continued support.”

Denis Nayden spent almost 27 years at GE Capital Corp., ultimately becoming Chairman of the Board and CEO, where he was responsible for 20 separate businesses, $555 billion in assets, and 90,000 employees in 35 countries. He has gone on to lead several international companies since leaving GE Capital.

Over the years, Al Barber has been front and center, supporting Catholic Charities, whether speaking at a parish to promote the mission, introducing a speaker at a celebrity breakfast or auctioning off anything put in front of him.

He graduated from Holy Cross in 1967, joining GE in the finance training program and spent the next 27 years in nine different businesses. He served at GE Capital and as the CFO of NBC, becoming the first president of CNBC in 1990.  He left in 1994 and became CEO of Bingo King, the largest provider of bingo products in the world. After several other corporate positions, he was appointed the president of Catholic Charities, where he served for 16 years. In 2019, he became the first executive director of Foundations in Charity.

Gina has spent years as a dedicated volunteer in many diocesan ministries.  In addition, she has become a diocesan statue restorer and welder of beautiful metal crucifixes.

At the August 26 reception, the Catholic Charities of Fairfield County Fund will be launched. Conceived by Bishop Caggiano and the Board of Trustees of the Foundations in Charity, it will allow donors to identify a particular area of work or mission within Catholic Charities, which they wish to support, or even the organization itself and all of its ministries now and into the future, according to Anne McCrory, the chair of Foundations in Charity Board, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created to support the work of charitable ministries.

Accepting foundational gifts for both endowment and current needs, the fund will also provide an ideal option for donors considering estate planning , McCrory said.

“We have heard from many of our supporters who are giving to the agency now that they also are looking for options to support Catholic Charities after they are gone,” Mike Donoghue, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Fairfield County emphasized. “In addition, this fund will allow many long-term residents of Fairfield County who are now living elsewhere to support Catholic Charities in their planned giving. The Catholic Charities of Fairfield County Fund is ideal for this purpose.”

For more information about the reception at the Bishop Caggiano’s residence in Trumbull on August 26 to honor the work of Al and Gina Barber supporting the mission of charitable works, as well as the support of Denis and Britta Nayden to the diocesan ministries, go to the Diocese of Bridgeport website at: or the Foundations in Charity website at: