Diocese leader talks Pope Francis, synod, Election Day and Thanksgiving

The Diocese of Bridgeport and its leader, Bishop Frank Caggiano, have both reached pinnacles of action over the last few weeks. The Diocese of Bridgeport includes most of Fairfield County.

The diocese-wide synod came to its formal conclusion in September with a Mass held at Webster Bank arena. The bishop also helped welcome Pope Francis on his visit to the United States and was in Washington for his historic address to Congress.

He reflected on both to The Darien Times as well as provided thoughts on Thanksgiving as a time of passing on blessings, and what all should keep in mind for Election Day.

Pope Francis visit

Bishop Caggiano  called the pope’s visit a “tremendously spiritual success on every level.”

“We certainly garnered the attention of everyone. I think his message was very well received. He brought a sense of unity, especially when he addressed Congress,” the bishop, who watched from the House of Representatives, said.

The Pope addressed Congress on Thursday, Sept. 24, the first pope in history to do so.

“It was amazing and also in many ways a symbol of what it should be all the time — the implicit challenge of ‘Why are we not able to dialogue despite our differences?’” Caggiano said.

“The crowed was so enthusiastic — a lot of great came from it and a lot of great is still coming from it,” he said.

Following the pope’s visit to Washington D.C. and a talk with House Speaker John Boehner, the speaker announced his intention to resign his position. Some speculated whether Pope Francis had impacted Boehner’s decision, given he appeared emotion during the pope’s address.

Caggiano said while he could not say, only speculate, his sense was “a decision was mulling in his mind for a long time, and after his discussion with the Holy Father, he realized he needed to do what his heart was telling him to do. But this is all speculation.”

Another meeting raised some controversy when news broke that Pope Francis had a private meeting with Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who had been jailed after defying a Supreme Court ruling to issue gay marriage licenses, saying it was a religious conflict.

Some expressed disappointment in the media, social and otherwise, that the pope, who some say has brought the Roman Catholic Church to a much more modern position of openness and acceptance, would meet Davis.

Again, Caggiano said he could only speculate on Pope Francis’s motivations.

“I don’t know. I am not certain who arranged the meeting. He met many people privately and I am not sure whether he had a role in it,” he said.

“I think, in the end, what motivates the Holy Father is to reach out and build bridges among people, and perhaps that was the motivation,” he said.

Synod

The diocese-wide synod recently concluded and the bishop described it as a “great success.”

“Success is a generic way of saying I’m grateful we were able to collaborate with the leadership of the church,” he said.

Almost all of the mandates for the future of the church were met with an almost unanimous support. The mandate with the least support still included an 89% vote of support.

The synod, which began last September, was made up of 400 delegates, including the Bishop and was characterized by Caggiano as a blessed time when leadership comes together to face challenges and chart a course to answer them.

The intended function of the State of the Diocese was to address the immediate challenges faced by the Catholic Church. As such, these challenges represent the necessary work that needs to be completed before the Synod can operate to its ends. Bishop Caggiano analogized it to a house being built last September.

Mandates were varied. The most supported mandate was the creation of a leadership institute to give adults a chance to learn and grow in their spiritual life, and discern what gifts and talents they have to take up leadership in the church. Those already in leadership would support those learning. It would also include a formation of support for clergy. Another mandate was the creation of a Catholic Service Corp. for young people to put them out into service.

“The delegates understood the challenges and found common ground. They wery very different people and were able to do that,” Caggiano said.

Another part of the synod’s success was the enthusiasm it generated.

“I’m working as fast as I can on these intitives with a genuine sense of seizing the moment. I’m going to do whatever I can to help people to do that,” he said.

The bishop said the final Mass of the Synod, held at Webster Bank arena in Bridgeport in September, was “beautiful” and had 8,000 attendees.

“It was multicultural, festive, joyful and it was reverent,” he said.

Those who missed the synod process have not lost the opportunity to get involved. Caggiano said he is keeping the working group intact. And he said that now is the time for those interested to get involved, as he gets the discussed initiatives into action.

“We worked with 300 people, I want to bring in tens of thousands over time,” he said.

Those interested can contact Patrick Turner, the associate director of the synod.

Election Day

As Election Day approaches, Bishop Caggiano said “regardless of anyone’s political parties or leanings, all reasonable people agree the time has come for elected officials to put the nation’s best interest over personal good.”

“Sometimes people stand on principals with less noble motivations than the principal itself,” he said.

“The country needs people to work together to achieve what we can to solve the problems before us,” he said.

“It’s not ‘I have to have it my way or it’s not good enough.’ You can’t hold people to your standard of perfection. We can always build on what we do,” he said

Caggiano said politicians up for election should reflect and be ready to put the common good above their own personal gain.

“Every citizen, when voting, should discern if the person they are entrusting the leadership to is putting the greater good over themselves,” he said.

“In the end, political service is not about self-gain, the people come first,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Thanksgiving

While we are all thankful at Thanksgiving, Bishop Caggiano said we need to become “more intentional” with our thanks.

“Human nature means we take for granted what we have. At Thanksgiving, we think about the blessings we have as individuals, as a community and a country. Despite the problems we have, we are still enormously blessed,” he said.

“Once we recognize our how blessed we are we have an inherent obligation to pass them on. They are not given to us only for our sakes but the sakes of others,” Caggiano said.

He said Thanksgiving is a perfect time to make a choice not to help once a year, but to make it a lifestyle. Catholic Charities is one way for those looking to give back to donate.

He also said New Covenant Center in Stamford is one of the largest soup kitchens in Fairfield County and will serve many Thanksgiving dinners. Person-to-Person of Darien/Norwalk is also seeking donations for Thanksgiving for those in need. Other options include the town’s Human Services Department and any local church.

The bishop will hold a State of the Diocese talk on Thursday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m. at All Saints School in Norwalk.

More info: bridgeportdiocese.com

 

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