Put Out into the Deep

Thank You Bishop Caggiano

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The appointment of Bishop Frank Caggiano by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, as Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., gives me an opportunity to reflect back on his contribution to the life of the Diocese of Brooklyn over the past seven years since his Ordination to the Episcopacy, on Aug. 22, 2006.

Bishop Caggiano’s contribution to the Diocese has come through his leadership ability, which is something different than management skills. Leadership comes when a person is seen as understanding issues and is able to guide others to solve problems. Management sometimes can be focused to the needs of those who must operationalize new ideas and change. His ability to do this well proves the leadership of Bishop Caggiano, and it will be very useful to him in shepherding the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Two major programs were undertaken with his leadership here in Brooklyn and Queens, namely, Preserving the Vision and Christ Jesus, Our Hope.

Through Preserving the Vision, we began a planning process for our Catholic elementary schools. Major goals for this process included the assessment of the Catholic identity of our schools and academies; the establishment of the academies; expansion of marketing, public relations and development efforts for the schools; an emphasis on the increased use of technology; the creation of multiple partnerships with colleges and universities; and most importantly, the requirement that each school community complete and implement a strategic plan. A new form of governance was instituted, where multiple parishes sponsored one school; the pastors became members of the schools’ corporation and the board members of the schools were laity who assist in the day-to-day management of the school, working together with the principal. Almost one third of the schools in our Diocese have now converted to this model. We will continue with this process so that in the next two years, it is our hope that all of the schools in Brooklyn and Queens can be transferred to this new governance model which has proven effective, not only as a way of keeping our budgets balanced but also increasing the enrollments in our schools.

Christ Jesus, Our Hope began when we looked at the structures of the parishes of Brooklyn and Queens, their pastoral plans and the ability of each parish to function on an independent financial basis. Again, this program was completed in record time due to the work of Bishop Caggiano. Through his efforts, this program is now in its monitoring stage, so that each parish has a pastoral plan, as well as an economic plan to support that pastoral plan, enabling the Diocese of Brooklyn to look to the future and have stronger and more vibrant parishes. During this entire process, only three church buildings were closed, and approximately 20 parishes received more than one worship site.

It is wonderful that Bishop Caggiano’s installation as Bishop of Bridgeport will take place on the Feast of San Gennaro, Sept. 19. It is both the name day and birthday of his dear deceased mother, Gennarina Caggiano. The Bishop’s special and close relationship to his mother gave him a true insight into the care that we must exercise with our family members. In the midst of managing and leading the programs as mentioned above, Bishop Caggiano assisted his mother in her battle with cancer and her eventual death. I know of few people who would be able to accomplish what Bishop Caggiano did without losing his equilibrium during that difficult time.

The Diocese of Bridgeport has its own challenges, as every diocese does. The faithful of Bridgeport have been without a bishop for over a year and a half. We remember the horrible and unfortunate tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where so many children and teachers were killed. The healing process there, obviously, is not yet complete. One of Bishop Caggiano’s first agenda items is to meet with those families dealing with this unthinkable grief and to celebrate the Eucharist in that parish and assist them with the grieving process that needs to become a healing process.

The City of Bridgeport itself has experienced a terrible urban blight. The Cathedral of St. Augustine and the administrative offices of the diocese are located in that city. I am certain that Bishop Caggiano’s leadership ability will assist the civil community in trying to upgrade the living conditions of those who seem to be trapped in the city and also to deal with the educational issues. He will inherit a centralized school system, which seems operable in a smaller diocese with less schools. Bishop Caggiano will bring with him all of his wonderful leadership abilities to shepherd the people of Bridgeport.

In our own Diocese here in Brooklyn and Queens, I have appointed Bishop Raymond Chappetto as the Vicar General. In this role, he will exercise the full authority of the Ordinary of the diocese, in the absence of the Bishop or in collaboration with the Bishop, in making various decisions. Bishop Caggiano served a dual role of Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. Since Bishop Chappetto is currently the Vicar for Clergy and the pastor of the parish of St. Kevin, Flushing, taking on these two new responsibilities would be impossible.

Therefore, I have asked Father James Massa, currently a faculty member at St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie, N.Y., and teacher of Dogmatic Theology, to complete his work by the end of December, 2013 and join us in January, 2014 as Moderator of the Curia. Father Massa was an instrumental leader of the administrative work of joining together the theological faculties of Huntington, L.I., and Dunwoodie. To all appearances at this point, it seems that our joint efforts have proven to be very fruitful and beneficial to all at St. Joseph’s Seminary. I am certain that Father Massa’s administrative ability and theological background will be a great asset to the planning of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

In the interim, I, myself, will carry the responsibilities of the Moderator of the Curia. This past week, I met with the Episcopal Vicars and Secretariats and many directors asking them to rethink their goals and objectives in light of the New Evangelization. This past October, the Synod on the New Evangelization was held, and we now have a much clearer vision of the practical implication of the New Evangelization with the 48 Propositions, which were produced by the Synod itself. While we await the final document, there is much to consider about reshaping our goals and objectives as departments and as a Diocese to advance the New Evangelization.

As we know, the New Evangelization is truly an inspiration of the motto “put out into the deep.” It was Blessed John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter of the coming of the New Millennium who chose those words of Scripture, the words of Jesus, Himself, as He told His Apostles, “Put out into the deep…duc in altum.” This has been a constant theme and call for our Diocese. Hopefully, with new direction, the Diocese of Brooklyn will be able to implement the call to the New Evangelization.

Join me in prayer for Bishop Frank Caggiano, as he begins his Episcopal ministry in Bridgeport.

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