Dr. Sauers Installed as St. Anthony Parish Life Coordinator

Pictured: Eleanor Sauers (right) is congratulated by a parishioner during a reception following the Mass.

FAIRFIELD— In a joyous and solemn moment on a beautiful winter morning, Dr. Eleanor Sauers was installed as Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.

The Celebration of Canonical Appointment followed the bishop’s homily in which he said that responding to the beatitudes as individuals and faith communities will move the Church forward during a time of crisis and challenge.

Parishioners filled the Church and stood in the aisle for the 11:30 am Mass concelebrated by Bishop Caggiano, diocesan priests who have served the parish, and members of the Fairfield University Jesuit Community who were also commissioned to provide Sacramental and Liturgical ministries.

Both Dr. Sauers and the Jesuit ministry team took the same oath to be faithful to the teaching of the Church on faith and morals and to submit to the leadership of the bishop and the Pope.

Though the Parish Life Coordinator role has been employed in other dioceses across the country, Dr. Sauers’ appointment marks the first time that it has been used in the Diocese of Bridgeport and she becomes the first laywoman to oversee the daily administration of a parish in the diocese.

The bishop said that Eleanor Sauers has lived her life in the spirit of the Beatitudes and in seeking personal holiness. “Working with Father John, you have served the people of St. Anthony well and will now “care for the life of the parish, day in and day out.”

In her remarks to the congregation, following her blessing by the bishop, Dr. Sauers mentioned that her installation follows almost 17 years to the day that she began working with the parish’s late pastor, Father John Baran, who passed away last March. She began working with Father John as director of religious education and pastoral Minister in 2002.

The bishop began his homily by noting it is a difficult time in the life of the Church with many people angry and disappointed.

Dr. Sauers is interviewed by News12 at the reception following Mass.

“Being faithful to the Lord has never been easy and now it has become more difficult,” he said referring to the abuse crisis and also to a society that has become more materialistic and polarized with little respect for human life.

“We are meant to be an alternative to a world that promises little and delivers even less,” he said, noting that current materialistic ideology reduces people to consumers and enslaves people with various addictions.

“As followers of Christ, we must see the world differently. Power is not found in money or status but in the exercise of love. The Gospel is the path forward, and the power of the Beatitudes gives us hope.”

The bishop said the challenge of a parish is “to become a real family of brothers and sisters who put Christ first and whose lives are intertwined” in faith, service and compassion. “All must share in collaboration and joyful witness.”

He said that “the Church will be reborn, renewed, transformed and purified” when its leaders and faith communities live in the mind of Christ and the spirit of the Beatitudes.

Dr. Sauers said that when she first started working with Father Baran, she never had any idea her life would unfold in the way it has and she thanked the bishop for having faith in her and the parish.

“I stand before you humbled and honored,” she said. “I will be forever grateful for the faith you have placed in this community.”

She said she has been overwhelmed by the goodwill and offers of help she has received since the bishop announced her appointment.

Photos by Amy Mortensen

Recalling the leadership of Father Baran and his commitment to creating a welcoming parish community, Dr. Sauers said that Father Baran understood that “people without a vision perish.” She said her leadership model is based on respect, mutuality, collaboration and listening.

“In the Christ-centered journey we are taking together, we will encourage people to grow into whole and holy persons,” she said. Her reflection was greeted by a standing ovation.

The soaring music for the service was provided by Frank Macari, director of music and the St. Anthony Choir along with composer and musician Dan Schutte. The bishop and others processed in to “All are Welcome” with “City of God” sung as the closing hymn.

Dr. Sauers has a master’s degree and Ph.D. in religious education from Fordham University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Emmanuel College. While at Fordham, she was named to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She is an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, where she teaches a course in Christian spirituality and is a board member of the Center for Catholic Studies.

In her new role, Dr. Sauers will have the decision-making authority for the parish and be responsible to Bishop Caggiano. She will work with the Parish Council and the community to develop a pastoral vision and mission, in addition to overseeing the day-to-day operations and administration of the parish, including its financial management and strategic planning. She will also be responsible for recruitment, training and management of employees and volunteers and work with the Jesuit sacramental ministry team that will serve the parish.

(St. Anthony of Padua is located on 149 South Pine Creek Road in Fairfield. For further information visit the website at:

Click here for Dr. Sauers’ address to the St. Anthony congregation.