CV NEWS FEED // Parishes in the diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, are addressing their challenges as “one” by increased parish collaboration promoted by their bishop, and are already beginning to see positive results.
Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport has been hosting parish collaboration meetings for the diocese’ five churches since last year as a part of his pastoral initiative called the One. Caggiano introduced the One last year as “a vision of renewal in the diocese of Bridgeport,” especially “through a culture of evangelizing catechesis.”
Caggiano hosted the fourth of nine planned parish collaboration meetings on January 20, discussing both the importance of working together and addressing the parishes’ challenges, such as decreasing young adult attendance at Mass.
“We have to be able to address challenges that, quite frankly, are so big that no single parish can face them alone. And that requires collaboration across parish lines,” Caggiano said at the meeting, according to the Bridgeport diocesean newspaper.
“Collaboration does not mean that one parish becomes less important than another. It means that all get better. Ministry is more effective when we work together,” he added.
According to the diocesan newspaper, “collaboration is primarily taking place under comprehensive formation in discipleship,’ encompassing baptism, parish religious education, Confirmation, RCIA, and adult faith formation.”
Additionally, the pastors have staggered Mass times in each parish to provide the highest number of Mass times for parishioners on Sundays. The newspaper noted, “if a parishioner of one parish attends Mass at a different Stratford parish one Sunday, the pastors also agreed to redirect envelopes in the offertory basket to their respective ‘homes.’”
Caggiano explained that the meetings are helpful in part for the five pastors present, who are discerning the unique needs of their parishioners and the needs as a whole diocese.
“Your pastors have agreed to go off on their own for a day to reflect, to see what are the priorities they’ve heard from you and from me, [and] to be able to say, ‘These are the issues that we want to work on together,’” Caggiano said.
“We don’t simply want to do window dressing. We want to change the trajectory of the Church, the Catholic community here in Stratford. So it takes a bit of time and discernment,” he added.
At the January 20 meeting, a few people present voiced what they felt was the most pressing challenge in their parish: declining rates of Mass attendance for young adults.
In response, Caggiano “noted a startling statistic among this age demographic, who had been raised Catholic but no longer participated in the faith: the number one reason for that disaffiliation was perceived hypocrisy of Church leaders and higher-ups.”
“That is why, in my mind, The One is very important: we’re going to invite people, young people particularly, back to church, where I think they will sense that we mean what we say, and we live what we [say],” Caggiano said:
We have to create a culture, an environment, a place which is both physical and spiritual, where young people will say, ‘My goodness, look at that! They really do care for each other. They really do know their names, and they actually care for me. This may be worth it, because what I see over here, I’m not exactly sure if it’s worth it.’
For Caggiano, parish collaboration is “essential” for “their congregations to become missionary in their outreach and in their relationships with each other,” the newspaper highlighted.
“The truth is that every aspect of our lives needs to be shared,” Caggiano said. “That does not mean parishes will lose their identity. That is not the case. If anything, it will strengthen their identity, because we are a family within a family.”