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email: contact@votfbpt.org

** Final meeting on May 18th ***
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See all the Synod reports here.

We cordially invite you to join us for our final gathering
on Thursday, May 18th at 7:30 p.m.
at the First Congregational Church on the Green, Norwalk
 in recognition of

“KEEPING THE FAITH: VOTF 2002-2017”

We will be taking you along on a trip that will recall
our beginnings, how we came about, and the people
who made our courageous journey happen.

We will remember events such as February 2003
when we became incorporated as VOTF in the Diocese of Bridgeport
 and enlisted a parishioner of St. Jerome, Brien O’Reilly,
to draw up a logo for our affiliate
.

Please join us and bring your memories of conferences, meetings, picnics,
friends you have made and lasting friendships we know will endure.

Hope to see you on the 18th.

To print this document, click here.

Report on the Final Post-Synod Session- April 29, 2017

Jamie Dance

The final Synod session opened with a morning prayer. Patrick Turner welcomed the delegates and gave us an outline for the day. He reflected on the Synod process from the initial Listening Sessions in the vicariates to the opening and closing of the Synod, mentioning all the diocesan language groups, youth, parishes, religious, and others involved in the process. The Synod mission statement, “To foster personal conversion and deepen each disciple’s relationship with the Lord Jesus in community with the Catholic Church”, was recalled and formed the basis for our work together. Ten principles were our guideposts for this work: continuity, subsidiarity, accompaniment, sharing and collaboration, evangelical outreach, unity in diversity, creativity, empowering the young Church, accountability, and transparency. In recounting this process, Patrick Turner urged us to see how far we have come and what remains to be done.

Patrick Donovan, Chair of the Catechetical Task Force, next reported on the efforts made toward renewing faith formation in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Their executive summary will be published in its final form in September. However, Patrick did break down their major findings: 1) There is no single “persona” to define a “typical” parish, 2) Nearly twice as many parishes report decreased student enrollment overall (45%) versus those that report an increase (25%), 3) Where enrollment is increasing, in nearly every case it is due to a direct action by the parish in creating/revising programs or parish clergy taking an active, outreach role. A preliminary report, entitled “An Invitation to Lifelong Formation”, detailed “Indicators” and “Recommendations” for effective infant Baptismal preparation, pastoral ministry in early childhood, childhood, First Communion preparation, Confirmation preparation, early and older adolescents, adults, new members (RCIA), marriage preparation, and families. It is a very comprehensive report that details a broad range of issues associated with life in parishes. Donovan said that the focus of catechetical instruction can be summed up in the pillars of Catechism: Profession of Faith (Creed and Sacred Scripture), Celebration of the Christian Mystery (Liturgy and Sacraments), Life in Christ (Personal and Social Morality), and Christian Prayer. This leads to the six tasks of catechesis: knowledge of faith, liturgical education, moral formation, learning to pray, education for community life, and missionary discipleship and service. Expectations of the parish communities and what parish communities should expect from their members was briefly discussed. That too will be part of parish conversations to understand that each plays an important role in the life, mission, and ministry of a faith community.

Bishop Caggiano next offered thoughts on our Synod journey, and asked Synod delegates to recall personal high points. Many offered their opinions, ranging from the listening sessions, to the opening and closing Masses. Bishop then asked, “Where will we be in ten years?” He answered his own question by replying that it will depend on how well “we connect the dots- people not programs.” Bishop will begin to assess how well parishes have implemented the diocesan plans for renewal by making pastoral visits to all the parishes. He will meet with parish officials and challenge them to explain where they are, starting in September. It is important, he says, that the whole diocese be empowered.

Patrick Turner then introduced the next steps in the diocesan plan, and enumerated the already approved initiatives (some on-going, others done): establish the Diocesan Strategic Planning Committee, begin the Comprehensive pastoral Planning Process, establish the Catholic Service Corps, establish the Leadership Institute, create the Council of Religious and Diocesan pastoral Council, implement a Presbyteral Assembly focusing on measures to help priests to live healthy and holy lives. Patrick Turner also listed the approved proposals (some now done): re-establish the Diocesan Liturgical Committee, revise the diocesan sacramental guidelines and diocesan pastoral handbook, strengthen marriage preparation and outreach to couples and those who are separated/divorced, create family life centers, strengthen outreach for priestly vocations, and create a catechetical task force.

Bishop Caggiano ended our Final Post-Synod meeting by recalling the three lessons that he has learned through this process. He said that he has always been impatient, wanting things done now, not later. But the Synod and its implementation have changed him. Now, he says, “Things are done in God’s time, not Frank’s.” A sense of trust has been enkindled, and allows him to surrender to the Lord. Next, he said was “Not in my way, but God’s way,” a lesson from Our Lady. Finally, Bishop said he is “in shock and awe of God’s blessings” and reminded us of the importance of testimony in our prayer lives. With that, he wanted to end by giving us some very good news: the Diocese of Bridgeport will soon be debt-free!

The meeting was adjourned at 11 a.m. in order for delegates to attend a Mass in honor of St. Catherine, the patron saint of the parish where our Synod convened.

To print this document, click here.

VOTF VALEDICTORY

Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Bridgeport announces its intention to disband after its final meeting in May. Its aging members are no longer able to continue their work of reform and renewal.

In the wake of the crisis of priestly sexual abuse, VOTF was formed in 2002 with the desire to be “a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church.” Our three goals are: “to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse; to support priests of integrity; and to shape structural change within the Catholic Church.”

Believing that when one part of the Body of Christ, the Church, suffers, all the members also suffer, we wrote to Bishop William E. Lori in June 2002 expressing our desire to collaborate with him and the priests of the diocese in restoring the image of the Church, so badly tarnished by this scandal. In response Bishop Lori, through his representatives, on August 12, 2002 falsely accused us of adhering to doctrines contrary to the orthodox teaching of the church, and prohibited us from meeting in our parishes. All our subsequent efforts to enter into dialogue with him were ignored.

Contrary to Bishop Lori’s attempt to blacken our reputation, our members are faithful and courageous Catholics concerned for the well-being of our Church. Our members have served and continue to serve our Church and our parishes as eucharistic ministers, lectors, catechists, liturgy planners, ushers, pastoral and finance council members, and so forth.

As members of the People of God, sharing in the sense of the faith, according to the Second Vatican Council, we concluded that we had a duty to speak out about priestly sexual abuse and the cover-up by our bishops, and the other issues facing our Church today. Fortunately, the First Congregational Church on the Green in Norwalk, in a wonderfully ecumenical gesture, opened its doors to our meetings.

Since our founding in 2002 we have developed a program of Christian Formation for Adults without parallel in the Diocese of Bridgeport. Since August 2002 we have gathered monthly to listen to and support survivors of priestly sexual abuse and also to hear and engage in dialogue with distinguished theologians from the Catholic Colleges and Universities in the metropolitan area. Also, in collaboration with Paul Lakeland, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies at Fairfield University, we have convened an annual conference since 2003 with such notable theologians as Richard McBrien, David O’Brien, Francine Cardman, John Baldovin, S.J., and Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza.

As VOTF’s third goal is to enable the faithful to participate in the governance of our Church, we developed Five Proposals for Structural Change: the Election of Bishops; the Role of the Faithful in Choosing their Pastors; Diocesan Pastoral and Finance Councils; Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils; and the Right of the Faithful to Own Church Property.

After the Connecticut courts unsealed records relating to priestly sexual abuse and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Bishop Lori’s appeal, we composed a dramatic presentation of those records, entitled “Bless Me, Father, For I Have Sinned!” Its purpose is to give voice to the voiceless, the children who were molested, and to offer them a measure of compassion that our Church long denied them. It also holds accountable not only predatory priests, but also our bishops and their subordinates who, in their zeal to avoid scandal, failed to protect the little ones among us.

As we now give VOTF honorable interment, we can take pride in our accomplishments. We have kept the faith and changed the Church. As our declining energy prompts us to close this chapter in our lives, we turn to the younger generation to take up the task of reform and renewal. When the changes that we seek come, as indeed they will, we can rejoice in having helped to bring them about. From the perspective of future ages, we will be recognized in that company of reformers who changed the Church.

To print this document, click here.

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