Calling the Diocese to New Beginnings

January 2014

Each New Year, we find our hearts are filled with gratitude and hope. When we reflect upon the events that marked the year that just ended, we cannot help but give thanks to the Lord for all the blessings, graces and joys that He has given us and our families. For myself, I am deeply grateful to the Lord Jesus for His merciful love and His deep and abiding presence in our lives.

I am also grateful to all of you for your kindness and gracious welcome as I began my ministry as your shepherd.  It has been an exciting and challenging three months for me, learning as much as I can about our diverse and complex diocese while at the same time striving to open my heart to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. For if each of us learns to discern and follow the will of God, our lives will know peace and our work will bear great fruit.

The New Year is also a hopeful time because the Lord gives us new opportunities to address the challenges we face both personally and as a diocese with confidence.  Some of those challenges are not new: Too many young people no longer find a spiritual home in our Church. Far too many baptized Catholics have become indifferent to their faith and see no need to worship with us on Sundays. Many families are hurting and seek healing.      Many Catholics long to learn more about their faith and do not know where to turn. Too many of our sisters and brothers know much about the Lord Jesus but do not know him personally as Lord and Savior. What they seek is a personal encounter with Christ, but often they do not know that they can best find Him in the community of the Church.

Likewise, modern communication has created great opportunities and risks in our lives. While social media has given us unprecedented access to friends and family around the world, its unbridled use can also create great isolation, loneliness, and detachment, especially among young people whose lives are being radically transformed by the very technology that was meant to help them.

Finally, the diocese and many of its institutions face growing financial challenges. As a result, we must tailor our programs to meet the needs of our mission and ministry—a task that is not easy and always causes fear and anxieties.

It is indeed a long list of challenges. However, we must not fear! I have every confidence that the Lord will grant us the grace, knowledge, strength and courage to meet these challenges and find new, innovative and exciting ways to foster His mission and Church in the world.

However, in order to move forward, leaders on every level of the Church’s life must work together in a true spirit of dialogue and collaboration. Clergy, religious and laity must discern together the pressing issues that we face. We must prayerfully seek to understand what each of these challenges mean, identify creative ways by which we can address them and seek the courage to do what the Lord will ask of us. It is a task for which I now ask your help and support.

More specifically, it is my plan to convoke the Fourth Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport to begin in the fall of 2014, so that all God’s people in Fairfield County can seek the Lord’s grace to foster the long-term spiritual and pastoral renewal of our diocese.  Historically the Synod process convenes “the Christian faithful of a particular church who offer assistance to the diocesan bishop for the good of the whole diocesan community” (canon 460).

By means of the Synod, we will have the opportunity through prayer and study to develop a pastoral plan for the diocese. The last such Synod was held in 1981, and much has changed in the 32 years since.  For this reason, I believe that the time has come to gather as a diocesan family and work together to meet the challenges we face in our own time.

In the weeks ahead you will receive much more information regarding the nature, work and structure of the Synod. For now, because of its importance as the start of a new chapter in the life of our diocese, I ask that you pray each day that our Lord will guide all who will organize and prepare for its start. May the Synod bear great fruit to the honor and glory of our Lord and deepen our love and service of one another.

Please be assured of my daily prayers for you and your family. May this New Year bring blessings, renewal and hope to all.