Today the Vatican announced that Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, currently auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Brooklyn, has been appointed bishop for the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bishop Caggiano will succeed Archbishop William Lori, who was named archbishop of Baltimore in March 2012. Rocco Palmo observes that the Bridgeport diocese has been the longest-standing episcopal vacancy in the US.
The Diocese of Bridgeport’s website has some biographical information about the new bishop:
Bishop Caggiano entered Yale University in September, 1977, as a political science major. After further discernment, he transferred into Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception in January, 1978. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy in June, 1991. … At the end of this brief period of secular employment, the bishop began his major seminary studies at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 16, 1987 in the chapel of the Immaculate Conception Center in Douglaston, Queens.
…In August, 1991, Bishop Caggiano was assigned to the North American College with residence at the Casa Santa Maria to pursue advanced studies in dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He was granted a doctorate in Sacred Dogma in May, 1996 after successfully defending his dissertation.
… During his time as pastor, the bishop also taught a number of theology courses at numerous Catholic universities, including the Staten Island campus of Saint John’s University and Saint Joseph’s College.
In June, 2002, Bishop Daily appointed Bishop Caggiano as the Director of the Permanent Diaconate Office. … In 2004, he was named by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio as Vicar for Evangelization and Pastoral Life, which includes the Diaconate Formation Office, the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, the Liturgy Office, the Pastoral Institute, the Office of Faith Formation, the Pastoral Planning Office, the Saints Peter and Paul Spirituality Center and the San Vincente de Paul Centro de Evangelizacion.
Rocco Palmo highlights some of the particular challenges the Diocese of Bridgeport has faced in the last year and a half or so:
Already tarred before the opening by several high-profile cases of sexual and financial misconduct among the presbyterate, the sede vacante saw the arrest and indictment of Msgr Kevin Wallin, a former bishop’s secretary and rector of St Augustine Cathedral, on Federal meth-production charges. The counts dating to a leave of absence Wallin took from 2011 – during which time he likewise ran a pornography and sex-toy shop – the fallen cleric pled guilty to the charges in April, and was sentenced to 11 to 14 years in jail.
Along the way, the steady drip of the case made for a headline as memorable as it was unsavory when, in January, a Connecticut Post lede blared “Sources: Cross-dressing meth priest liked sex in rectory” atop fresh disclosures. Another Bridgeport priest, Michael Jude Fay, died in Federal prison in 2009 while serving a 37-month sentence for embezzling $1.3 million from his monied Darien parish, the stolen funds – first noticed by a diocesan audit – found to have been spent fueling ahidden life of decadence.
Were the vacancy and the scandals not enough to test the diocese’s nerves, an even more brutal blow came last December with the massacre of 20 young students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the quiet village of Newtown. Amid the horror of the second-largest mass shooting in the nation’s history, the dedication of the community’s pastor, Msgr Bob Weiss, amid the strain of the moment became a widely-cited rallying point for the shaken community.
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