Keys to fostering encounter with Jesus readily at hand, bishop says

| May 22, 2017 | 3 Comments

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, gives a keynote address at Spring Formation Day May 16 at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Parish leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis took a day for spiritual and ministry spring cleaning May 18.

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, presented three keys to fostering an encounter with Jesus in order to build credible faith communities. The bishop, who also spoke at the archdiocese’s 2016 Spring Formation Day, addressed challenges leaders in the Church face as he presented to 700 parish and chancery staff members at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove.

“The elements that we need to put together a credible witness in our contemporary world are literally before us,” Bishop Caggiano said.

Starting with sacred Scripture, he said God’s word brings people into personal contact with Jesus as the Lord did on the road to Emmaus. The bishop mentioned the rapid growth of a Scripture and teaching ministry for women in his diocese that grew from 135 people to 4,000 in 18 months. He said it happened because of their hunger for God’s word.

“Open the door of the power of Scripture to every member of your community,” Bishop Caggiano said.

From left, Dan Kohler, Amy Malley and Mariah Smith of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings react to a remark by Bishop Caggiano. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

He also emphasized the central importance of the Eucharist, “the source and summit” of the Catholic faith. The bishop said that both reception of Communion and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament also help people encounter Jesus because he is physically present in the Eucharist.

“He’s here on the altar — body and blood, soul and divinity — here for consumption, for adoration,” Bishop Caggiano said.

He also mentioned the value of making a spiritual communion with Jesus by saying a prayer to invite him into one’s heart if not able to receive Communion. The bishop pointed to St. Francis of Assisi, who felt unworthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, but who made many spiritual communions.

Bishop Caggiano also noted that the Church had her most rapid growth in the early years before a published New Testament, catechisms, buildings and other tools existed. The early Church simply had the Eucharist and a “sacrificial community of love,” the third key the bishop emphasized for building a credible faith community.

He said the modern world needs to see Catholics’ “love in action.” He called it the “litmus test of the 21st century.” The bishop said that love means willing the good of each person.

“If we’re going to truly become credible, then we need to invite every human heart to encounter Christ as we have encountered him,” Bishop Caggiano said. “No program can do that.”

He said the challenge of society’s indifference toward Jesus and the Church must be overcome one person at a time in the parish and beyond. The bishop said that indifference comes about because people “do not believe they are lovable.”

Bishop Caggiano also addressed the challenge of having truth and mercy meet in ministry. He said Catholics must uphold the truth and treat others with mercy.

“I would like to suggest that a true, credible community of faith is a community where mercy and truth kiss every single day,” Bishop Caggiano said.

In Bishop Caggiano’s second presentation of the day, he spoke of developing an enduring relationship with Jesus and effective leadership in ministry as “new Moseses.” Both Bishop Caggiano and Archbishop Bernard Hebda fielded questions afterward, ranging from the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation to using technology in ministry.

The archdiocese will have a video of Bishop Caggiano’s presentations and follow-up material at


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  • Paula Ruddy

    I was impressed by the palpable goodness in the room full of parish leaders, lay and ordained ministers. Inspiring. Though Bishop Caggiano was a moving speaker, I wished I could be in the same room with the same people and hear what they are thinking about what their parishioners need from the Church. Is there an opportunity for a meeting like that?

  • Paula Ruddy

    Bishop Caggiano cited a percentage of Catholics who do not believe in the “real presence.” I don’t recall the number, but I think he was citing it because it was alarmingly large. Shouldn’t that be a question under discussion among us? It makes a difference to what we are doing at Mass, what we are doing at adoration of the host in the monstrance, and the general orientation of our religious practice. I’d like to hear what the lay and ordained ministers think about the importance of that question.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    I find the venue for this talk quite ironic. St. Joseph the Worker is a church that was built and deliberately omitted kneelers. No one there kneels before God. It is a church in which the pastor still holds general confessions, where twice a year, everyone writes down a sin, comes up, tosses it in a basket and then is absolved. How could one even understand reconciliation when they never receive it? This is a church where the pastor instituted a bread ministry in which the bread is baked in the church (using leavening agents) tossed in the freezer for several weeks and then left to thaw and be used during the Mass.. Bread which is used for the Eucharist and is broke off to give to communicants. How could anyone there even believe in the real presence as “it” is stepped on and tracked out into the parking lot? I asked this pastor once if they had perpetual Adoration at his parish. He told me no, the families there worked and were busy and did not have time for that. I looked at how many social justice programs they had, over a dozen, and figured maybe they would be more effective if they had time to Adore the Lord. Doing good works is one hallmark of a Christian, but one needs to be first concerned about the heart and soul of a person and that starts in the church.

    The Eucharist is the center of our faith and should be the center and desire of our hearts! The percentage of Catholics who do not believe in the real presence is alarming and it is not going to change until the Archdiocese as a whole, each and every parish begins to teach reverence for Jesus present in the Tabernacle and upon the Altar. . How many people understand that one should be silent when they enter into the presence of God? Socializing in the main church before and after Mass is not worship. Having an overabundance of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist so that communion can be a five minute “ordeal” is not worship. Allowing EM’s to wear shorts and sports jerseys and jeans while standing around the altar before the priest has received, is not worship. Music that comes from the top 40 Christian stations instead of the Catholic Church, is not worship. Having the sign of peace turn into a chat session is not worship.
    Those who know Jesus is present and who love and adore Him in His house are the minority and are fully aware that no one wants to listen to them discuss what should be done to foster reverence. Yes, our hearts need to be changed, but actions speak louder than words on these issues and sadly, we do not see the actions and seldom hear the words.

    Not all parishes are guilty of all of these things that take away from the worship of God. Not every parish will be perfect because there is no such thing when it involves fallen human beings. I believe that many things could change if the leaders in our Archdiocese truly required each parish to institute the basics as laid out for Mass. The USCCB website is very clear about the use of Extraordinary Ministers. Why isn’t it followed? That is just one example. Let us truly be the Universal Church where we can walk into any parish and be allowed to worship the Lord as Catholics. Catholics who should know that Jesus is present in every Tabernacle. We are in the presence of God there more than any other place. We should be witnesses to that and that is what will draw others to the Church.

    I truly believe that people want to worship God and want to have that relationship with Him that carries them through every moment of their day. It starts with knowing that Jesus is present in the church and then acting accordingly.