NORWALK, Conn. — In his second State of the Diocese remarks, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said church life among Fairfield County's Roman Catholics remains “vibrant” but faces areas of “challenges and concern.”
Some of the Diocese of Bridgeport’s greatest strengths are its social programs, Caggiano said in his speech last week at All Saints School in Norwalk.
Over the summer, the diocese completed its expansion of its New Covenant Center in Stamford from 2,000 to 8,000 square feet. The center, which serves the hungry and homeless, is one of the largest soup kitchens and food pantries in Connecticut.
The diocese’s schools also offer an impressive number of scholarships and generous tuition assistance to students, he said.
Of all the applicants seeking elementary school tuition assistance, 65 percent of their financial needs — a total of $4.2 million — have been met, according to Caggiano.
“That is an extraordinary figure,” he said to the auditorium filled with parishioners.
The Bridgeport Diocese has also served a sizable number of preschool children: It taught 175 3- to 5-year-olds in its Room to Grow program.
“This, my friends, is all good news,” Caggiano said.
Work to support victims of natural disasters continues, Caggiano said, with the diocese still assisting 600 families affected by Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the Connecticut coast in 2012.
“We still continue to meet these needs because there is no where else where those needs would be met,” Caggiano said.
But while the diocese has many successful programs, it does face many challenges, he said. Attendance at Mass has decreased since last year, for example.
But part of the reason behind the decline could be that only 71 of 82 parishes have reported their attendance numbers, Caggiano said. Nine of the 11 missing attendance figures are from some of the the diocese’s largest parishes.
Baptisms have also decreased, but Caggiano cautioned the audience to not draw conclusions and to “peel back the onion.” New immigrants to the county might have already had their children baptized, for example, he said.
Moving into the future, the Bridgeport Diocese has released an app to communicate with parishioners. The bishop has also been receiving social media training from John Grasso, a tech-savy 20-something and social medial leader for the diocese.
The bishop’s Facebook page has 3,864 likes — a three-fold increase over last year.
And there will be no shortage of future social media followers.
With 460,000 registered Roman Catholics in Fairfield County, Caggiano said, “We are probably one of the most Catholic regions in the whole United States.”
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