BRIDGEPORT – Foundations in Faith has awarded a $400,000 grant to the Cathedral Parish of Bridgeport to help fund the installation of a geothermal system that will heat and cool the historic St. Augustine Cathedral in downtown Bridgeport.
St. Augustine Cathedral, which opened its doors in 1868, is the oldest church in the diocese, and it will be the first to be powered with geothermal technology.
“This is a most exciting and welcome development for the Cathedral Parish and the diocese,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano. “It is also an example of good environmental stewardship as called for by Pope Francis in his encyclical letter, Laudato si. The grant will have intergenerational benefits. I am grateful to the Foundation and to the donors who have supported this project that unites the diocese and helps support our Cathedral.”
The bishop said the Cathedral’s current heating and cooling system is in need of extensive and costly replacements that would disrupt use of the church and involve significant renovation.
The grant, awarded through the St. Francis Xavier Fund for Missionary Parishes, is the largest awarded in Foundations in Faith’s history. It is also the first multi-year grant the foundation has awarded.
According to Kelly Weldon, director of Foundations in Faith, the grant will distribute $200,000 per year over two years to St. Augustine Cathedral.
“This grant to fund geothermal energy at St. Augustine Cathedral is a gamechanger for the foundation and for the diocese as a whole,” she said. “This project is something that can bring a parish community together, young and old, to renew a commitment to being stewards of the environment. It’s evidence of the transformative work of the St. Francis Xavier Fund.”
Weldon said that many donors are excited about contributing to this groundbreaking environmental project for the diocese and that Foundations in Faith will welcome additional support for this and similar projects in the future.
Father Art Mollenhauer, pastor of the Cathedral Parish, said, “This will significantly improve the church’s long-term financial future. Energy costs currently account for a growing percentage of the parish’s budget, and switching to a geothermal system may reduce that by more than half. In addition to its operating benefit, the grant contributes to the overall pastoral vitality of the parish and the historical role it plays in the life of the diocese.”
According to Andrew Schulz, director of real estate for the diocese, geothermal heating and cooling is the best choice for St. Augustine Cathedral because it offers the lowest ongoing operating costs of all possible HVAC solutions examined.
“The installation is far less disruptive than a conventional system and will help preserve the historical beauty of the church. Geothermal is an innovative technology with the lowest carbon footprint and it will lead to long-term financial savings,” he said.
While this geothermal project is the first of its kind for a church in the Diocese of Bridgeport, similar projects have taken place in other corners of the country’s Catholic landscape. Notably, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York underwent a geothermal energy renovation, completed in 2017/ The Archdiocese noted that renewable energy projects and renovations are consistent with the mission of the Church and its life ethic through responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
geothermal energy, which is produced by heat in the earth, is considered renewable energy because of how long that heat can persist. Geothermal energy can last anywhere between 5,000 and 1 million years, making it a dependable source of energy.
But not only is geothermal energy dependable and long-lasting – it’s also clean. Geothermal energy produced 0.03 percent of the emissions coal does, and 0.05 percent of the emissions natural gas does.
While the grant from the St. Francis Xavier Fund helps offset some of the cost for the geothermal energy system, more support is needed to fully fund the project.
To learn more about the project, call Kelly Weldon at (203) 416-1392. To donate, visit foundationsinfaith.org, click “Donate,” and designate your gift to the St. Francis Xavier Fund for Missionary Parishes, or mail a check to the St. Francis Xavier Fund to Foundations in Faith, 238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06606.