Bridgeport’s Bishop Caggiano appoints laywoman to lead parish

Bridgeport’s Bishop Caggiano appoints laywoman to lead parish December 10, 2018

This is a first for the diocese — and, perhaps, a sign of more change to come in Bridgeport and elsewhere.

Via Crux: 

Less than two months after serving as delegate in the Bishops Synod on Youth which called women’s leadership within the Church “a duty of justice,” Bishop Frank Caggiano has established a new leadership model in a Connecticut parish, appointing a woman to serve as parish life coordinator.

The appointment of Dr. Eleanor W. Sauers, which was announced on Sunday in a letter to parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua in Fairfield, Connecticut, grants Sauers decision-making authority over a team of priests who will be responsible for sacramental ministry.

“We are at a very particular moment in the history of our Diocese, and indeed, within our Church,” Caggiano wrote to parishioners. “As I travel throughout Fairfield County, it has become apparent to me that many lay women and men are seeking new ways to serve their parishes, and, in collaboration with the clergy, to create vibrant and thriving communities.”

He went on to note that the appointment was the first of its kind in the diocese of Bridgeport and added that it has support in canon law.

Sauers, who holds a Bachelors degree from Emmanuel College in Boston and a master’s degree and a Doctor of Philosophy from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education, had already taken on an extended leadership role within the parish following the untimely death of its former pastor who died at the age of 59 in March.

Caggiano said his decision to appoint Sauers comes after a period of discernment, which included two meetings with the leadership of the parish.

“Her responsibilities, as it is with any priest or deacon appointed as Administrator, is to work with the parish community to develop and foster its pastoral vision and mission,” he wrote. “She will continue to be present to the parish in times of celebration and sadness. Her education, formation, and experience makes her professionally, academically, and spiritually ready for this role.”

Read more. 

Bishop Caggiano’s letter to the faithful is below:

Dear Parishioners of St. Anthony of Padua:

It has been nearly nine months since the untimely death of Father John Baran, your beloved pastor. In the months that followed, I am grateful that the parish has continued to move forward because of the deeply rooted ministry and strong involvement of the laity developed during Father Baran’s time as pastor. I have also spent a great deal of time in prayer and discernment, which included two meetings with the leadership of the parish, to discern who should follow Father Baran as your pastoral leader.

We are at a very particular moment in the history of our Diocese, and indeed, within our Church. As I travel throughout Fairfield County, it has become apparent to me that many lay women and men are seeking new ways to serve their parishes, and, in collaboration with the clergy, to create vibrant and thriving communities.

That is why I have made the decision to appoint Dr. Eleanor W. Sauers as Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, effective January 1, 2019.

Working with a team of priests who will provide the sacramental ministries at St. Anthony, Eleanor will have decision-making authority in the parish. She will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of the parish, as she has done so capably over these last months. Her responsibilities, as it is with any priest or deacon appointed as Administrator, is to work with the parish community to develop and foster its pastoral vision and mission. She will continue to be present to the parish in times of celebration and sadness. Her education, formation, and experience makes her professionally, academically, and spiritually ready for this role.

The role of a Parish Life Coordinator is one that is supported in Canon law. My decision to ask Eleanor to take on this model of ministry, the first of its kind for a lay woman in this Diocese, is based on several factors.

  • The uniqueness of this parish community;
  • My deep appreciation for the work that Eleanor has already done here; and
  • The precedent in other Dioceses across the country for this model of pastoral leadership.

Your responsibility, as the community of St. Anthony of Padua, will be to support Eleanor, the priests who will provide the sacramental ministries, and the lay leadership of your parish.

I want to take a moment to thank all those priests who have supported this community through Father Baran’s illness and over the last nine months since his death. A very particular thank you must be extended to Father Michael Boccaccio who has served here generously, in addition to his other role in the Diocese as Director of the Propagation of Faith.

I pledge to you my support for Eleanor and for your parish. I have every confidence that Eleanor will build upon the good work of Father Baran and will help this community to thrive and grow into the future.

Please join me in praying for Eleanor as she steps boldly into a new role as Parish Life Coordinator of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. Be assured of my continued prayers for each of you, and your wonderful parish family.

With kindest personal regards, I am

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Frank J. Caggiano
Bishop of Bridgeport


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