FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 30, 2021)—On the eve of the feast of St. Ignatius (July 31) The Diocese of Bridgeport and Fairfield University—one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States—are celebrating a strategic partnership that supports pathways to higher education, and a platform for access to the University’s resources for the people of the Diocese and the greater Bridgeport community.
The partnership titled “Pathways to Higher Learning,” consists of ongoing projects and joint initiatives, some of which are already underway, and others that are in the planning stage, and are expected to be announced more formally later this year.
The project is one of the University’s targeted initiatives during the current, special Ignatian year which will extend to July 31, 2022. The year was designated the Ignatian year by the Superior General of the Society Arturo Sosa S.J., and began on May 20, the 500th anniversary of when Ignatius the soldier was injured by a cannonball in the Battle of Pamplona, a moment that lead to Ignatius’ conversion and ultimately to his discernment of his spiritual vocation, and hence to the foundation of the Society of Jesus.
“Catholic education has transformed lives in our community and across generations by forming and informing students to lead faithful, productive and fulfilling lives,” said The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. “At a time when we are more aware than ever about the work that needs to be done to make our institutions and opportunities more equal and inclusive as a society, we welcome this partnership with Fairfield University.
The bishop said that Fairfield University’s Jesuit tradition of academic excellence and its commitment to reach out to the diverse communities of Fairfield County is a major resource that can help students discover higher education opportunities and reach their potential.
Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD said that the University has worked with the Diocese through ongoing learning, mentoring, and service opportunities.
“As a Jesuit Catholic institution, Fairfield University is an expression of an almost 500-year tradition dedicated to the life-transforming power of education. We believe that by working together with community partners such the Diocese, we can have a significant impact and raise the level of educational access and achievement in our region, and further fulfill our promise as 21st century university.”
The Diocese’s Catholic Center at 238 Jewett Avenue will serve as a hub for the University’s work in Bridgeport and partnership with the Diocese. Current initiatives include The Bridgeport Tuition Grant program, which provides full-tuition scholarships for eligible students whose family incomes is less than $50,000 a year; the Community Scholars Program that offers full-tuition scholarships for top-performing students, including those from diocesan schools; and the Aquinas Fellowship Program, which provides tuition support for diocesan teachers to attend graduate programs at Fairfield University.
The University also holds a Financial Aid Night and a College Planning and Preparation Workshop to help families in the diocese plan for and apply to college. Since 2008, through the University’s Center for Social Impact, hundreds of University students have worked with diocesan partners such as Caroline House, Catholic schools, and the Thomas Merton Center to support program delivery through community-engaged learning courses and research projects.
Finally, the University is in the process of developing programs to serve students from Bridgeport next summer, to broaden their access to educational opportunities. The programs currently being explored include locating writing camps, science camps, and engineering camps at the Diocese’s Catholic Center in summer 2022.
Among other programs, Fairfield University and the Diocese of Bridgeport have also worked together through Fairfield’s Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality, which provides spiritual direction to students and members of the community of all faith, and parishioners throughout the diocese.
More than 2,100 students are currently enrolled in Catholic high schools throughout the diocese, and nearly 5,000 students are enrolled in the 19 elementary and middle schools, and one special needs school. The Diocese also provides religious education to almost 22,000 public school students who are enrolled in the 77 diocesan parishes in Fairfield County.
The Diocese of Bridgeport includes more than 460,000 Catholics in Fairfield County, Connecticut, representing 45 percent of the total population. Geographically it encompasses all of Fairfield County. In addition to its schools the diocese sponsors a wide range of programs and services including Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, The Cardinal Shehan Center and the McGivney Center for inner-city children in downtown Bridgeport, and two of the state’s largest soup kitchens through Catholic Charities, the Thomas Merton House of Hospitality in Bridgeport; and the New Covenant Center in Stamford.
Media Contact: Susan Cipollaro, firstname.lastname@example.org, 203-254-4000 ext. 2726