NORWALK—Hundreds gathered at St. Matthew Church on Saturday to witness and welcome Bishop Frank J. Caggiano preside over the installation Mass of the church’s new pastor, Father Jeffrey Couture.
“We are living in an extraordinary moment in the life of St. Matthew’s family,” Bishop Caggiano said. “We come here in great joy as the parish family of St. Matthew to pray for Father Couture as he officially begins his ministry as your pastor.”
Pastor Jeff, as he is known by many, stepped into the role following the passing of beloved Pastor Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski, Jr., who had shepherded the church for 26 years. Msgr. Orlowski, whose priesthood spanned over 40 years in the Diocese of Bridgeport, passed away unexpectedly in December.
“It’s humbling and hopeful,” said Father Jeff, as he greeted the congregation after Mass. “I’m following one of the best pastors.”
The pageantry of the Knights of the Columbus ushered in the bishop and Father Jeff at the beginning of Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi.
During his homily, Father Jeff made three promises to the congregation. He promised that as their shepherd he would gather and protect them and nourish their spiritual needs.
He said he will reach out to those that have strayed from the Church and bring them back to the fold. He also said he would protect those entrusted to his care with prayer and guidance.
“I will preach the truth, even if it is truths that are not popular,” he said, then added in his characteristically light-hearted way, “I’ll just blame the bishop.” To which the bishop quipped, “Then it goes back to the pastor,” a moment that was met with applause and laughter from the congregation, fitting for the joyous occasion.
Thirdly, Father Jeff said he wants to continue the bishop’s initiative to revere the Eucharist.
“I will bring the sanctity of the Eucharist, that true presence and teaching in everything I do, to you,” said Father Jeff, who also announced that perpetual adoration will soon be available at the church.
Father Jeff thanked the congregation for being so open and welcoming to him in the weeks leading up to this day.
“It is the great legacy of (Msgr. Orlowski’s) ministry, that this parish thrives,” said Bishop Caggiano, adding that when he was contemplating who would be best to continue the good work at St. Matthew parish, Father Jeff was an obvious choice to honor the legacy of Msgr. Orlowski and build on it.
“He’s a man of joyful heart. A man who loves to laugh and smile,” Bishop Caggiano said. “He is filled with zeal and energy and passion. I know you are in very good hands.”
Father Jeff’s family agreed.
“He puts his heart and soul into everything he does,” his mother Judy Couture said. “I’m very proud of him.” A sentiment echoed not only by both his sister Michele and brother Chris, but by those in the congregation that have had an opportunity to get to know him.
“I couldn’t miss this (Installation Mass),” said parishioner Bonnie Baron, as she waited in line after Mass to greet and congratulate Father Jeff. Baron, a parishioner at St. Matthew’s for more than 50 years, lost her husband just two days after Msgr. Orlowski died. She said Father Jeff comforted her and helped her through a very difficult time.
Parishioner Kathy Cossuto was introduced to St. Matthew Church more than 45 years ago through her husband, who has been a member of the parish since he was a child.
“I want Father Jeff to feel welcome,” she said. “I want to encourage him and support him. Monsignor would have wanted that too.”
Many well-wishers stayed after Mass to offer congratulations and support to Father Jeff. It was also an opportunity to partake in refreshments and for fellowship among parishioners who may not have seen each other during the pandemic.
Bishop Caggiano counseled Father Jeff and told him that one of the most fulfilling things for a priest, is to be a pastor.
“We pray that God will bless you with many years of happy and joyful service and ministry here at St. Matthew,” Bishop Caggiano said.
“I promise you I will do the best I can,” Father Jeff said. “I’m not perfect but I will do everything I can, to do the best I can.”