BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Newly installed Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport told his new flock to “leave no one behind” and build bridges with non-Catholics and those who have left the Church.
“Leave no one to fend for themselves. Leave no one to be tossed into the shadows of our parishes, schools, neighborhoods and homes,” Bishop Caggiano said at his Sept. 19 installation Mass. “All have been called; all must be served; all must be strengthened in faith, hope and love.”
“For just as all earthly bridges are made up of stone, earth and mortar, the spiritual bridges God creates in us are made up of living spiritual stones — that’s you and me,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano, 54, formerly an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brooklyn, was installed as Bridgeport's bishop during a Mass at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Conn., attended by more than 1,200 people. The Diocese of Bridgeport has a population of more than 925,000 people, of whom almost 411,000 (44%) are Catholic.
Archbishop Henry Mansell of Hartford concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Caggiano, while Archbishop Carlo Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read the letter from Pope Francis appointing Bishop Caggiano to head the 60-year-old diocese.
Cardinals Timothy Dolan and Edward Egan, the present and former archbishops of New York, attended the Mass, as did Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn and former Bridgeport bishop, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore. The 101-year-old archbishop emeritus of Newark, N.J., Peter Gerety, also attended.
In his homily, Bridgeport’s new bishop said Catholics must begin by strengthening their own unity and serving the body of Christ in their own way. They must love one another and “serve those in greatest need,” including the poor, the sick, the disabled, the lonely, the unborn, those who “live in fear in distress” and those “who have given up hope in life.”
“Every human life is precious, needed, must be cared for,” Bishop Caggiano said.
Bishop Caggiano, who was born to Italian immigrants in Brooklyn in 1959, reflected on the unifying power of bridges in both his native Brooklyn and in his new hometown of Bridgeport. He said the mission of Catholics is about “strengthening and building spiritual bridges in our midst.”
He said God has built a “spiritual bridge” into every heart and invites everyone to unite with him and to “experience his liberating love, to be transformed.” He added that God loves each person “despite the sins and shadows that lurk in every human heart.”
Bishop Caggiano told Catholics to “have the courage to build new bridges to all who have left our community of faith and to all who sincerely seek the face of God.”
He said many of those who no longer practice their Catholic faith “struggle with broken hearts,and perhaps broken trust,” and they need a “bridge of love and mercy and compassion.”
“Let us resolve together this day to invite them home, one person at a time. Let us not be afraid to listen to their concerns, to offer them anew an invitation to come and to join us in worship of the Lord,” Bishop Caggiano said. “The time for them to come home is now.”
He especially reached out to young people, calling them “the future of the Church.” He pledged to listen to them and to “harness your energy, your enthusiasm, your joyful optimism,” so that every young person who is struggling or seeking hope and joy will “find it here in the Catholic community of faith.”
The bishop said that constructing spiritual bridges will not be easy. He cited problems such as isolation, secularism, indifference to human life, the dominance of technology and the “many competing voices that claim to lead us to happiness and truth.”
Despite this, Bishop Caggiano was hopeful.
He said, “I believe with all my heart that when God’s mercy is offered to anyone who is afflicted, burdened, lonely or lost, such a person will leap forward and take the hand of the Lord and cross the bridge with his grace.”