By Carol Incarnacao-Schirm
BRIDGEPORT—For the second year, Foundations in Faith’s St. Francis Xavier Fund committee members joined with pastors and parish staff to celebrate the patron saint the fund by visiting some of the projects it supports on December 15.
Since 2020, SFX has partnered with a select group of nine churches in the Diocese of Bridgeport that reflect outstanding missionary outreach, exhibit strong leadership and are pastorally vibrant in spite of financial constraints. The financial and human resources provided by SFX aim to build long-term sustainable parishes.
The group gathered in the morning at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Bridgeport where pastor Father Skip Karcsinski and Peggy Fry gave a tour of the rectory and church buildings while the weekly food pantry distribution was underway. The church has received a total of $62,000 in grants since 2020, the greater portion of which dedicated to facilities and security upgrades critical for the continued success of the parish’s much relied upon missionary outreach.
Blessed Sacrament has become a hub of support for the community with its various outreach programs. In addition to the food pantry, Father Karcsinski and his network of volunteers and supporters provide winter coats, Christmas gifts, and a four-week summer camp, in addition to helping facilitate voter registration drives, health care insurance enrollment, community forums and more.
SFX grants contributed to facility improvements like the complete refurbishment of the church’s stained glass window, repair of its handicap access, and pavement of the parking lot. Furthermore, SFX grants funded the acquisition of metal chairs used in the various community gatherings and of a commercial refrigerator to store perishable items for the food pantry, as well as longer hour of operations for Blessed Sacrament’s summer camp, which is a welcome benefit to the community where most run only for half of the day.
Next, the group moved to St. Augustine Cathedral to attend Mass celebrated by Father Mollenhauer, rector of the Cathedral Parish. Following Mass, SFX founder Brian Young was keen on seeing the geothermal heating and cooling system being installed in the basement of the Cathedral, the first such system in the Diocese and a major project funded by SFX. The wells have been drilled and tested, now the final step is to hook it all up.
“It was fascinating to descend into the narrow, dark basement of the Cathedral, which is over 150 years old,” said Kelly Weldon, Foundations in Faith’s director. “It was like being in the catacombs. We found a team hard at work and a bit surprised to see us. The lead engineer proudly showed us around and explained how geothermal technology works, benefitting the environment and saving significantly on utility costs.”
Young described the geothermal system as “beyond impressive, and the real deal.”
With the installation of the state of the art geothermal system, the strategic plan for the St. Augustine Cathedral campus enters its second phase, which includes backfilling ground to correct the pitched land and water issues and the pouring of a new foundation wall.
The first phase secured the campus with a decorative perimeter fence, leveled the lower field, and repaved the parking lots. Future phases will include the creation of a family center and work study space for Kolbe Cathedral High School at Wissel Hall, as well as various facilities upgrades and a hydroponic farm to help feed students and families. By providing a beautiful and historic worship space, excellent academic programs, and much-needed family services, the diocese hopes the Cathedral campus will become a place of hospitality and a beacon of hope.
The last stop for the group was at Ceviche Palace restaurant where SFX collaborators enjoyed delicious Peruvian cuisine. The team was joined by pastors of other Bridgeport SFX parishes, including Father Mollenhauer, Father Alexis Moronta of St. George Parish, Father Rolando Torres of St. Mary Parish and Father Aberlardo Vasquez of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. All of them expressed their excitement over the recent SFX grants for new liturgical supplies, which very often are passed over to meet other needs in the parish.
The $6,000 to $10,000 grants acquired or refurbished liturgical supplies according to the specific needs of each parish: from monstrance to missalettes, vestments, candelabras and beyond. The pastors were also eager to discuss with SFX Committee member and Catholic Charities of Fairfield County CEO Michael Donoghue how to bring pastoral activities into the new Thomas Merton Center in addition to continuing to provide critical services like immigration, health care, and social services to families and parishioners of the churches in Bridgeport.
“This is what SFX is all about: partnerships, listening, and learning,” Weldon said.