2020 A Year in Review – Bishop Caggiano declares; Foundations in Faith has “remarkable impact on our Diocese in a short time”.
Foundations in Faith quickly shifted its energies and focus in 2020 to assist parishes and pastoral ministries in the Diocese of Bridgeport suddenly faced with significant financial challenges brought on by the historic COVID-19 pandemic.
As of December 2020, approximately $230,000 had been distributed to eleven parishes in phase I and phase II of a plan that is anticipated to include a phase III of pandemic related funding for 2021. Because churches had initially been closed, there were no regular weekly collections. Offertory money pays basic costs such as utilities, staff salaries, and groceries for priests. As a result, many parishes were being forced to take drastic cost-cutting measures, according to Kelly Weldon, Director of Foundations in Faith. At the same time, urban communities were hit extra hard with higher levels of unemployment and illness.
“We must be there for our brethren,” said Weldon.
The funds, distributed mainly via grants, came out of a new fund that was launched called the St. Francis Xavier Fund for Mission Churches (SFX). With the pandemic taking hold, Foundations in Faith launched the COVID-19 Emergency Fund within the SFX Fund. This emergency fund has helped the worst-hit parishes confront the crisis and continue operating.
The SFX Committee continues to strive to support vibrant urban parishes. It delivered financial assistance to purchase a boiler for Saint George Parish in Bridgeport, for instance, and new gutters to prevent further water damage due to a leak at St. James Church in Stratford. Also funded was the updating of 10-year-old technology for two parishes.
These parishes have strong pastoral and lay leadership.
“They are not mission churches; they are missionary churches! We are committed to strength-based approaches that partner with Pastors as they continue their outstanding ministries.” said Weldon, who was promoted early in the year to part-time Director of Foundations in Faith.
This effort was reflective of the Bishop Frank Caggiano’s belief that Foundations in Faith be a provider of stabilization to primarily urban parishes in the Diocese. The urban communities were and continue to be most harshly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
“I am pleased and very grateful to be able to say that Foundations in Faith has had a remarkable impact on our diocese in a short time,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Under the capable and creative leadership of Kelly Weldon, it has proven to be a great resource to our parishes and our people. In particular, the innovative St. Francis Xavier Fund has proven to be an invaluable resource during the pandemic, particularly as it has been able to assist pastorally vibrant parishes with financial challenges.”
Other major developments in 2020 included Andy Aoyama being named as the new Chairman and Joe Sindelar as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Their appointments also speak to the Bishop Caggiano’s wish that the Foundation be lay run.
Sindelar said the past year has been one of momentum and awareness, both on the development side with an increase in generous donors who have become aware of our efforts and the demand side with parishes in need reaching out for guidance and assistance. “What is truly exciting is the groundswell of generosity around the Diocese as people discovered such a meaningful way to level the playing field and help out our sister parishes,” he noted.
Weldon said the St. Francis Xavier Fund was blessed to have an enthusiastic group of committee members and a donor willing to designate funding not to the endowment but to seed projects immediately. Funding decisions were made in days, not weeks with a focus on being nimble and ensuring the process was not onerous on the Priests.
There was other vital work to do too. To answer Bishop Caggiano’s “Call to Action” to fight the sin of racism, Foundations in Faith funded initiatives that are part of its continuing work to foster anti-racism training at all levels of faith formation in the Church.
The impetus for the anti-racism training was also in part inspired by a 2018 pastoral letter, entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism,” issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Among the grants awarded to address these goals was a general operating support grant for $4,500 to The Leadership Institute to entirely fund a seven-part webinar series, “Conversations on Race” that engaged not only the faithful in the Diocese but people nationwide. Each webinar featured conversations with Roman Catholic Church leaders on how race relations can be improved in our homes, community, and the Church.
They were moderated by the Diocesan Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism, which the Bishop asked to develop strategic goals and practical steps to combat racism. Members include Weldon and Board Member Susan Stone.
One grant went to supporting Young Adult Catholics Against Racism to guide and work in tandem with the Ad Hoc Committee’s anti-racism efforts. Another grant went to fund a pilot project taking place at St. James in Stratford, one that will serve as a prototype for other parishes that is entitled “Open Wide Our Hearts – Conversations on Race.”
Meanwhile, important work continued on helping pastoral ministries. Of the nine funds that Foundations in Faith aims to support, five are active and they distributed the following:
St. John Paul II Fund provides funding to parishes and Diocesan organizations for innovative approaches to enhance religious education, youth ministry, and faith formation: Funds distributed this year include Program Support Grants for parish programs – $66,800; Youth in Action grants – $15,000; Mini-Grants – $6,000; General Support Grants – $22,500.
St. Charles Borromeo Fund provides funding to support the educating and forming of young men for the Catholic priesthood: A total of $95,000 has been distributed to St. John Fisher Seminary -$35,000; Redemptoris Mater Diocesan Missionary Seminary – $30,000; and Office of Vocations – $30,000.
St. John Vianney Fund provides funding for future care needs of retired priests who have faithfully served the people of God within the Diocese. $40,000 has been distributed to Catherine Dennis Keefe Queen of Clergy residence.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Education Fund provides funding to help keep tuition costs within Catholic elementary schools affordable: $175,000 was awarded to Office of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools.
St. Francis Xavier Fund for Missionary Churches provides funding for projects and capacity building opportunities to urban parishes that are deemed vibrant and vital to the Diocese yet are located in economically challenged areas resulting in disproportionate burdens: A total of $336, 500 has been distributed in the 2020 calendar year. COVID-19 Emergency Funding $230,000; Parish Immediate Need Support – $34,000; Capacity Building Technology Grants – $47,5000; Parish Capital Improvement -$25,000.
“I am deeply grateful for the investment our donors have made to Foundations in Faith,” said Bishop Caggiano. “I believe the returns will be with the Diocese for years to come and will continue to bless our young people along with all those who seek to deepen, celebrate and share their faith in a world that needs the healing presence of Christ more than ever.”
The year ended with much promise. Foundations in Faith received more than $25,000 from 60 donations on Giving Tuesday, held December 1st, to go to the SFX Fund, which in turn the Foundation is able to distribute to parishes. Additionally, the We Stand with Christ campaign contributions and pledges will ensure the funding continues for years to come.
To learn more or support Foundations in Faith visit www.foundationsinfaith.org or email email@example.com
By Meg McCaffrey