Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport

Coordinates: 41°12′42″N 73°12′55″W / 41.21167°N 73.21528°W / 41.21167; -73.21528
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Diocese of Bridgeport

Dioecesis Bridgeportensis
Cathedral of St. Augustine
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryFairfield County, Connecticut
Ecclesiastical provinceHartford
DeaneriesQueen of Peace
Mystical Rose
Queen of Martyrs
Our Lady, Queen of Confessors
Seat of Wisdom
Queen Assumed into Heaven
Mother of Divine Grace
Cause of our Joy
Mary, Mother of the Church
Area626 sq mi (1,620 km2)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2020)
956,570 [1]
441,000 [1] (46.1 [1]%)
Parishes80 [1]
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedAugust 6, 1953
CathedralCathedral of Saint Augustine
Patron saintAugustine of Hippo
Current leadership
BishopFrank J. Caggiano
Metropolitan ArchbishopLeonard Paul Blair
Vicar GeneralRobert M. Kinnally
Judicial VicarArthur C. Mollenhauer

The Diocese of Bridgeport (Latin: Dioecesis Bridgeportensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical jurisdiction or diocese of the Catholic Church located in the southwestern part of the state of Connecticut in the United States. It is a suffragan diocese in the ecclesiastical province of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Hartford.

The Diocese of Bridgeport includes all of Fairfield County, Connecticut and has 82 parishes. Its cathedral is St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport. As of 2023, the diocese is led by Bishop Frank Caggiano.


The Diocese of Bridgeport is one of 195 dioceses in the United States. It is one of four dioceses in the Ecclesiastical Province of Hartford—the others are the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Diocese of Norwich and the Diocese of Providence.

The largest church in the Diocese of Bridgeport is St. Mary's Church in Stamford, built in 1928. Sacred Heart Parish in Georgetown was the home parish for American writers Flannery O'Connor and Robert Fitzgerald from 1949 to 1952 when O'Connor was living in Ridgefield as a boarder with the Fitzgeralds. ("The working day as we set it up that fall began with early mass in Georgetown, four miles away," Fitzgerald wrote.)[2]


As of 2023, the Diocese of Bridgeport had over 420,000 registered Catholics, 45 percent of the total county population.[3]

Other statistics from 2006:[4]

Leadership figures from 2011:[4]

Subsidiary Organizations from 2022:[5]

  • 76 parishes, four quasi-parishes and one shrine
  • The Sacred Heart Guild, Inc
  • 19 elementary schools and five high schools
  • Foundations in Faith, Inc.
  • Foundations in Education, Inc.
  • Foundations in Charity, Inc.
  • Bridgeport Diocesan Schools Corporation


While all the diocesan parishes offer mass in English, other languages are offered depending on the needs of a particular congregation. These include Brazilian, Latin, Creole, French, Igbo/Nigerian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.[6]

Several parishes also offer the Traditional Latin mass, particularly Sts. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Bridgeport, which offers mass in no other language.


The Catholic Church in Fairfield County, in Connecticut and in America faced ongoing challenges through much of its history as diverse immigrant groups struggled to acclimate themselves to American culture. Another early challenge came from deep suspicions among many (although not all) Protestants.

Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries[edit]

In the 17th and much of the 18th centuries, Puritan ministers in the British Province of Connecticut were vociferously anti-Catholic in their writings and preaching. They considered the Catholic Church to be a foreign political power, with Catholics only having loyalty to the Vatican.[7] Catholics were prohibited from buying land or running for public office without first publicly disowning their church.[8] This began to change with the onset of the American Revolution:

"In the summer of 1781, French Marshal Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau and his army marched through Connecticut, encamping in the Ridgebury section of Ridgefield, where the first Catholic mass [in Fairfield County] was offered. His troops were mostly Catholic and were ministered to by Reverend Fathers Robin, Gluson, Lacy, and Saint Pierre."[9]

After the American Revolution, between 1780 and 1781 in Lebanon the first Catholic "Mass was first celebrated, continuously and for a long period, within the limits of the State of Connecticut."[10] On June 26, 1881, St. Peter's Parish in Hartford celebrated the centenary of that first mass.[11]

The Connecticut General Assembly passed an act of toleration in 1784, allowing any Protestant to avoid paying taxes to support the local Congregational Church, provided that they could prove membership and regular attendance at another Protestant church. In 1791, the Assembly granted the same right to all Christians, including Catholics. However, the act had little practical effect for Catholics as there were no parishes then in the state.[12]

Nineteenth century[edit]

The first Catholic church in Connecticut was established in 1829 in Hartford. In 1830, James Fitton celebrated mass in Bridgeport in the home of James McCullough on Middle Street. From 1832 to 1837, James McDermot visited Hartford from New Haven. He said mass at the Farrell residence, also on Middle Street.[13][page needed] By 1835, the rector of the New Haven church estimated there were 720 Catholics in Fairfield County, with Bridgeport home of the biggest community, about 100 people.[14] McDermot was followed by James Smyth, also from New Haven.

In 1842, St. James the Apostle Church (Irish) was dedicated by Bishop Benedict Fenwick of the Diocese of Boston in Bridgeport. The town then had a population of about 250 Catholics. The church rector was given responsibility for small Catholic communities in Derby and Norwalk. Catholics in Stamford, Greenwich and other towns were ministered to by the Bridgeport rector and by Jesuit priests based at Fordham College in New York City.[14] In 1844, Michael Lynch, a former pastor in Waltham, Massachusetts, became the first resident priest in Bridgeport. His responsibilities included missions in Norwalk, Stamford, Danbury, Wolcottville, and Norfolk. The first Catholic church in Stamford, St. John's, was dedicated in 1851.[8]Thomas Synnott, pastor of St. James Parish, established St. Mary's Parish (Irish) in East Bridgeport in 1854. The first Catholic church in Greenwich was opened in 1860, serving Irish immigrants in the area.[15]

Synnott opened St. Augustine (Irish) Parish in Bridgeport in 1869. Sacred Heart Parish (Irish) was organized in 1883; until the church was ready for services, mass was held at the Opera House. In 1890, James Nihil purchased the Eli Thompson estate; the Board of Education allowed the use of the Grand Street School until St. Patrick's Church was ready for services. St. Michael's "Chapel of Ease" (funded and administered by Sacred Heart Parish) was constructed in Bridgeport in 1895; the Sisters of Mercy operated a school in the rear portion of the building. The diocese established several ethnic parishes during this period:

  • St. Joseph's (German)
  • St. Anthony of Padua (French)
  • St. Stephen of Hungary (Hungarian) in Bridgeport (1887)
  • St. John Nepomucene (Slovak), the first Slovak church in New England[16] in Bridgeport (1881)

In 1843, Pope Leo XIII split the Diocese of Hartford off from the Diocese of Boston, which had previously covered all of New England. The new diocese consisted of all of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The Bridgeport area would remain part of the Diocese of Hartford for the next 110 years.[17]

Twentieth century[edit]

Pope Pius XII erected the Diocese of Bridgeport on August 6, 1953, removing its territory from the Diocese of Hartford.[18] The pope named Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Shehan of the Archdiocese of Baltimore as the first bishop of Bridgeport.

During his tenure in Bridgeport, Shehan established 18 new parishes, built 24 new churches, and founded three high schools.[19] He also formed a Catholic Youth Organization, promoted vocations to the priesthood and religious life, and began parish ministry for the increasing number of Hispanic, Portuguese, and Brazilian immigrants.[19] In 1960, Shehan convoked the first synod of Bridgeport to complete the initial organization of the diocese and to establish a uniform code of practice and discipline for the clergy.[19] Shehan was named archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore by Pope John XXIII in 1961.

John XXIII named Auxiliary Bishop Walter Curtis of the Archdiocese of Newark as the next bishop of Bridgeport in 1961. As bishop, Curtis established the following schools in the diocese:

Curtis spent most of his administration implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.[20] During the 1970s, he oversaw the renovation of St. Augustine Cathedral and its re-dedication in 1979.[21] He established two nursing homes: Pope John Paul II Health Care Center in Danbury and St. Camillus Health Care Center in Stamford[21] The Catholic population in the diocese increased from 286,000 to 300,000.[21] He also founded the Fairfield Foundation, a nondenominational group that helps people in need in the county.[21] Curtis retired in 1988.

Pope John Paul II named Auxiliary Bishop Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York as the next bishop of Bridgeport in 1988. During his tenure, Egan oversaw the reorganization of Catholic schools. He also raised $45 million for diocesan schools through a fundraising campaign, "Faith in the Future." The diocesan Catholic Charities under his tenure, became the largest private social service agency in the county. To support the 12 Hispanic parishes in the diocese, he brought Spanish-speaking priests to Bridgeport from Colombia. Egan also established a home for retired priests and a school for children with special needs.

Twenty-first century[edit]

After John Paul II named Egan as archbishop of New York, the pope appointed Auxiliary Bishop William E. Lori from the Archdiocese of Washington as the new bishop of Bridgeport. While serving in Bridgeport, Lori refused to release the names of diocesan priests who were being sued for sexual abuse of minors. The US Supreme Court ruled against Lori in 2009 and the diocese was forced to release the names.[22] Pope Benedict XVI named Lori as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012.

Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Brooklyn was appointed by Benedict XVI as bishop of Bridgeport in 2012. One of Caggiano's first actions as bishop was to publicly announce the financial deficit incurred before his installation. He mandated that pastors serve six-year renewable periods at parishes and required that they submit their resignations when they turned 75, much like bishops did.[23]

In 2014, Caggiano convoked the 4th Synod of the Diocese of Bridgeport, the first in 32 years (themed "Building Bridges to the Future Together").[24] In an interview with America Magazine, Caggiano said that one of his first priorities as bishop was reaching out to the high percentage of Catholics in the diocese who no longer attend mass.[25] One of the major concerns that the synod focused on was the decline in mass attendance and sacramental reception as well as the need to bolster Catholic schools due to declining enrollment.[26] In 2018, Caggiano announced that liturgical norms and regulations in the diocese would be revised over the next four-year period as a result of discussions from the diocesan synod. Caggiano said that these newer regulations would "allow us to pray effectively and reverently as a Church" and would be the newest norms implemented since 1983.[27]

As of 2023, Caggiano is the bishop of Bridgeport.

Reports of sex abuse[edit]

In 1993, 23 lawsuits were filed against the Diocese of Bridgeport, alleging sexual abuse by priests. The diocese settled all 23 claims in 2001.[28] Five priests were suspended from the ministry.[28]

Kieran Ahearn of Bethel was arrested in January 1993 on charges of indecent assault on a minor. While on a ski trip to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, he brought a 16-year-old boy to his motel room. Ahern said the boy approached him, saying he had run away from a state school; Ahearn said he brought the boy to the motel to counsel him.[29] Ahearn was acquitted of sexual abuse, but convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.[30] He was sentenced to two years of probation.[31]

In May 2001, John J. Castaldo of Stamford was charged in New York with the attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor. He was accused of sending sexually explicit messages to a police investigator posing as a 14-year-old boy.[32] He pleaded guilty and received one weekend in jail and five years of probation.

Paul Gotta was arrested in 2013 and charged with sexually abusing a teenage boy. He forced the boy to strip naked and performed sexual acts on him. However, the sexual abuse charges were dropped as part of a plea deal. The diocese removed Gotta from ministry in 2013. In 2017, Gotta was convicted of having another teenage boy purchase thousands of rounds of handgun ammunition and giving that boy explosives. Gotta was sentenced to nine months in prison.[33]

In November 2014, the diocese revealed a list of 14 clergy with credible accusations of sexual abuse of children.[34]

In May 2014, Bishop Caggiano removed John Stronkowski from his post at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church in Shelton, citing absenteeism.[35] He was not re-assigned to another post. In June 2016, citing credible accusations of sexual abuse, Caggiano suspended Stronkowski from ministry.[36]

In October 2018, the diocese released a report of financial settlements with abuse victims. The majority of the cost of settlements (approximately 92%) was provided through the sale of diocesan property, insurance recoveries and other co-defendants.[37] The diocese paid approximately $52.5 million to settle 156 abuse cases dating back to 1953.[38] In March 2019, ten additional names were later added to the original 2014 list.[38]

In October 2019, former Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert Holzberg released the results of his investigation, commissioned by Caggiano, into the diocese's handling of accusations of sexual abuse by its priests. Holzberg found that Bishops Shehan, Curtis and Egan consistently failed to fulfill their moral and legal responsibilities.[39] Holzberg described Egan as taking a "dismissive, uncaring, and at times threatening attitude toward survivors"; he characterized Egan's behavior as "profoundly unsympathetic, inadequate, and inflammatory".[39] [40] Holzberg's report accused 71 priests of sexually abusing 300 children since 1953.[39][41] However, the report praised the reforms made by Bishops Lori and Caggiano to combat sex abuse; Holzberg compared their tenures to that of their three predecessors as "a tale of two cities."[41]

In January 2020, Jaime Marin-Cordona of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Danbury was arrested and charged with three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, three counts of risk of injury to child and three counts of illegal sexual contact.[42] [43] He was accused of grooming and sexually abusing two boys starting in 2014. He pleaded not guilty to all nine charges.[43] In 2022, Marin-Cordona was convicted of sexual assault and sentenced to one year in state prison.[44]


Bishops of Bridgeport[edit]

  1. Lawrence Shehan (1953–1961), appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Baltimore and subsequently succeeded to that see, created cardinal in 1965
  2. Walter William Curtis (1961–1988)
  3. Edward Egan (1988–2000), appointed Archbishop of New York and subsequently created cardinal in 2001
  4. William E. Lori (2001–2012), appointed Archbishop of Baltimore
  5. Frank J. Caggiano (2013–present)


Primary and secondary level[edit]

The Diocese of Bridgeport sponsors 32 regional elementary schools (with 9,974 students), including All Saints Catholic School in Norwalk and five diocesan high schools (with 2,627 students). Two other Catholic high schools in the diocese are directed by religious communities. Altogether, these schools educate nearly 14,000 students (2,500 of whom are minorities and 1,700 are non-Catholics).[4]

High schools[edit]

*Independently operated with approval of the diocese
**Closed in 2020 due to dwindling enrollment

Higher education[edit]

These three institutions have an enrollment of approximately 11,000 students:

  • Fairfield University – Fairfield
  • Sacred Heart University – Fairfield
  • St. Vincent's College – Bridgeport

Social services[edit]


The Diocese of Bridgeport sponsors nursing homes in Danbury, Stamford, and Trumbull It also operates eight Bishop Curtis Homes for the elderly in Bethel, Danbury, Greenwich, Stamford, Fairfield, and Bridgeport.

Catholic Charities[edit]

"Catholic Charities of Fairfield County, with 25 program offices throughout the county, provides the largest private network of social services in southwestern Connecticut," according to the diocese.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d [1], "Diocese of Bridgeport" page from the database, accessed June 10, 2018.
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, Robert, "Introduction," p. xiv, "Everything That Rises Must Converge," (Farrar, Straus & Giroux: New York), nineteenth printing, 1978
  3. ^ a b Shanabrough, Erik (2015-02-19). "Diocese of Bridgeport". Diocese of Bridgeport. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  4. ^ a b c [2] "At a Glance" Web page of the official Diocese of Bridgeport Web site
  5. ^ Carney, Dan (2015-10-27). "Audited Financial Statements". Diocese of Bridgeport. Retrieved 2023-05-18.
  6. ^ "Mass Times". Diocese of Bridgeport.
  7. ^ DiGiovanni, the Rev. (now Monsignor) Stephen M., The Catholic Church in Fairfield County: 1666–1961, 1987, William Mulvey Inc., New Canaan, Introduction: Catholic Roots in Fairfield County, page xxiv, hereafter DiGiovanni
  8. ^ a b "Parish History". The Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  9. ^ [3] Lori, Bishop William E., "Happy Birthday, General Rochambeau!" article (part of Lori's regular column) Fairfield County Catholic, July 15, 2006, accessed July 27, 2006
  10. ^ Right Rev. Thomas S. Duggan, D.D., The Catholic Church in Connecticut, 1930, p. 13
  11. ^ Duggan, p. 14
  12. ^ DiGiovanni, p. xxiv
  13. ^ O'Donnell, James H. (December 15, 1900). "History of the diocese of Hartford". Boston : D.H. Hurd Co. – via Internet Archive.
  14. ^ a b DiGiovanni, p. xxviii
  15. ^ "History of St Paul Parish". St. Paul Roman Catholic Church. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  16. ^ O'Donnell 1900, p. 264.
  17. ^ DiGiovanni, pp. xxvii–xxviii
  18. ^ Racial Justice Among Top Goals of Cardinal-Designate; Archbishop Shehan Called Well-Read, Energetic, Priestly, Scholarly, Tactful, Toledo Blade, January 25, 1965. Page 22.
  19. ^ a b c "The Bishops of Bridgeport". Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport. Archived from the original on May 30, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  20. ^ a b c "The Bishops of Bridgeport". Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.
  21. ^ a b c d Barron, James (October 23, 1997). "Walter W. Curtis, 84, Bishop Of Bridgeport for 27 Years". New York Times.
  22. ^ DeGeorge, Vincent. "Can Baltimore's archbishop bring accountability to West Virginia's Catholic Church?", The Baltimore Sun, December 5, 2018
  23. ^ Brian Roewe (May 27, 2014). "New Bridgeport bishop reaches out through simplicity, dialogue". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  24. ^ "Our Bishop: The Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano", The Cathedral Parish
  25. ^ Salai SJ, Sean. "Church Reform from Below: An Interview with Bishop Frank Caggiano", America, July 27, 2014
  26. ^ Brian Roewe (September 11, 2014). "Ahead of diocesan synod, Bridgeport bishop returns his residence to seminary". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  27. ^ "Bishop Announces Revision Of Liturgical Norms". Diocese of Bridgeport. October 17, 2018. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  28. ^ a b "Diocese of Bridgeport". August 10, 2011. Archived from the original on 10 August 2011.
  29. ^ "Priest Pleads Not Guilty New England News in Brief, Boston Globe, January 22, 1993". Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  30. ^ "Priest Gets Acquitted of Molestation Charge, Hartford Courant, March 8, 1994". Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  31. ^ "Conn. Priest Avoids Jail in Encounter with Boy, 16, Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe, March 10, 1994". Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  32. ^ "Priest Faces Charge In Internet Sex Case". The New York Times. 2001-05-26. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  33. ^ Perkins, Julia (2019-03-31). "Connecticut priest accused of sexual assault also helped teen build pipe bomb". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 2023-07-18.
  34. ^ Shanabrough, Erik. "List Of Credibly Accused Diocesan Priests & Accused Religious Order Priests Who Served In The Diocese Of Bridgeport". Diocese of Bridgeport.
  35. ^ "Statement of Bishop Caggiano, June 25, 2016" (PDF).
  36. ^ "John Strongkowski" (PDF). Diocese of Bridgeport. June 25, 2016. Retrieved July 18, 2023.
  37. ^ "Financial Report, Diocese of Bridgeport" (PDF).
  38. ^ a b "Bridgeport Diocese Shares Names of Accused Priests and Financial Data of Settlements on Church Sex Abuse Claims".
  39. ^ a b c Altimari, Dave; Blanco, Amanda (October 1, 2019). "Bridgeport Diocese report on sex abuse among priests blames former Archbishop Edward Egan; nearly 300 individuals allegedly abused by 71 priests since 1953". Hartford Courant. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  40. ^ "Edward Egan becomes the ninth archbishop of New York in 2000".
  41. ^ a b White, Christopher (1 October 2019). "Bridgeport abuse report blasts Egan for 'clear message of unconcern'". Crux. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  42. ^ Baker, Kendra (January 31, 2020). "Former Danbury priest accused of sexual abuse released on bond". NewsTimes.
  43. ^ a b Baker, Kendra (March 23, 2020). "Danbury clergy sexual abuse case continued to April". NewsTimes.
  44. ^ McKiernan, Terry (2022-10-27). "Former priest sentenced to one year in jail in Danbury molestation case -". Retrieved 2023-03-19.

External links[edit]

41°12′42″N 73°12′55″W / 41.21167°N 73.21528°W / 41.21167; -73.21528