Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In all parishes in Fairfield County, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Bridgeport. While it is the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Bishop Caggiano has asked that we use the Mass texts for the anniversary of a “particular church,” or diocese. While it is a word we often use, it may be useful to ask for a definition of the word “diocese.” Turning to the Code of Canon Law (canon 369), we find: “A diocese is a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a bishop for him to shepherd with the cooperation of the presbyterium, so that, adhering to its pastor and gathered by him in the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes a particular church in which the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of God is truly present and operative.” Canon 372 continues: “As a rule, a portion of the people of God which constitutes a diocese or other particular church is limited to a definite territory so that it includes all the faithful living in the territory.” To summarize, a diocese is all Catholics living within a defined geographical area, united under the leadership of a bishop who works with priests to minister to the pastoral and spiritual needs of the people. The Diocese of Bridgeport covers Fairfield County. We are one of the smallest dioceses in the country by area, but in the top 50 (of 193) by Catholic population (for example, there are more Catholics in the Diocese of Bridgeport than there are people in the entire state of Wyoming).
Every diocese is made up of unique parish communities. Two years after the Diocese of Bridgeport was established, Bishop Lawrence Sheehan established St. Pius X Parish on Oct. 25, 1955. Not only are we marking a special milestone anniversary for the Diocese – 70 years is nothing to sneeze at – this Wednesday is also our community’s birthday. Each parish community contributes to the life of the whole Diocese. Fr. Brendan and I are both native sons of the Diocese of Bridgeport. It was here in Fairfield County that our vocations to the priesthood took root, and it was in service to the Diocese of Bridgeport that God called us. Though we will likely never serve at our home parishes (Fr. Brendan comes from St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown, and I was raised at St. Mark and St. James parishes in Stratford), we are blessed to know those communities and to have received from them an excellent foundation in the faith. If every particular church (diocese) is a place where the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic faith is present and operative, then every diocese is meant to strive together for the same goal, namely, eternal life with Christ. Every parish becomes a community of the faithful that, united in faith, tends toward the same common purpose. May we as a parish, in union with our entire diocese, truly be united in the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Gospel and the Eucharist, and so enter one day into God’s heavenly kingdom.