In the Vineyard :: September 27, 2014 :: Volume 14, Issue 18

The Bridgeport, CT Diocesan Synod
By Jamie Dance, VOTF-Bridgeport
A Vespers Service at Saint Augustine’s Cathedral in Bridgeport on Friday, September 19, officially marked the opening ceremony of Synod 2014 and the one-year anniversary of Bishop Frank Caggiano’s installation. Attended by almost 700 people, the service included hymns, psalms, scripture readings, and a homily by the bishop. The official commissioning of more than 350 delegates to the Synod was pronounced with these words:

“Bless the members of the Synod and give them gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and fear of the Lord. Commission them to go forth and be the new prophets of Your divine plan for the Diocese of Bridgeport.”

This Synod is the fourth to be held in the Diocese, and the first in 34 years. Participating are 400 individuals, predominantly laity. VOTF-Bridgeport is well represented in the delegate pool, with three of our board members nominated by the Bishop and another board member nominated by his parish.

In preparation for the Synod, Bishop Caggiano conducted Listening Sessions in the five Vicariates, and among the youth and the Latino/Hispanic community. It was an amazing display of humility and respect on the part of our Bishop. No subject was off limits and all were heard.

Bishop Caggiano followed up these sessions with his first State of the Diocese speech on September 9. Statistics relating to finances and debts, Mass attendance, school enrollments, cemetery funds, and administrative challenges were laid out for all to see in a PowerPoint presentation.

Included were data that the Diocese had previously not divulged during the Bishop Lori administration. The most noteworthy comment of the evening came when the (enormous) total Diocesan debt was revealed. Bishop Caggiano said, “This does not scare me.” He has a plan and the energy to see the process through.

Bishop Caggiano inspires respect and confidence, and encourages us to understand that we all are in this together, becoming a healthier and spiritually rich community as a result. He refers to this presentation as “checking the foundation of the house before we can build on it,” meaning the work of the Synod.

The Bishop’s central plan for the Synod revolves around four elements: empowering the young Church, building communities of faith, fostering evangelical outreach, and promoting the works of charity and justice. He assures us that “every challenge can be overcome with prudent and measured planning and that nothing and no one can stop Christ’s mission and the Church moving forward.”

The first General Session of the Synod opened on September 20 with almost 400 delegates in attendance. Bishop Caggiano set the tone for the day when he told delegates, “This is a day of all questions and no answers. We need to saturate ourselves in the data and suspend judgment about solutions.”

The leaders of the four commissions (representing the four elements mentioned above) spoke to the statistics and challenges facing the Diocese. A discussion period followed each report, and as in the Listening Sessions, attendees were offered the chance to comment and ask questions on the topics. Several times, Bishop Caggiano urged delegates to “dig deeper, ask more questions and get to the root of the problems.”

Deacon John DiTaranto, chair of the “Empowering the Young Church” commission, gave the first presentation. “Catholics who leave, leave early,” he said, pointing out that 48% who leave the Church do so by the age of 18. That number jumps to 79% by the age of 23.

Bob Rooney, chair of the “Build up Communities of Faith” commission commented that the three communities of faith—the parish, schools and the family unit—are “interconnected,” and the Church needs to do more to strengthen them. He said that changes in the American family are here to stay and the Church “must figure out how to adapt to this new reality.”

Father Peter Towsley, chair of the “Fostering Evangelical Outreach” commission, said that as society’s values become more secular and less Christian, we must “bring the Gospel to the streets and bring Jesus Christ to the marketplace.” Finally, Michael Tintrup, chair of the “Promoting Works of Charity and Justice commission, told the delegates that poverty is the root cause of many of the problems in Fairfield County including homelessness and mental illness.

This first session was a seven-hour introduction to the issues and problems that face the Diocese of Bridgeport. Many more hours of research and study will ensue before we begin the process of discernment when the Synod resumes at the second General Session on November 15.

 (This essay is based on personal notes and Diocesan and published reports.


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