Bishop Caggiano celebrates school’s 50th anniversary with special Mass

Some would call it a miracle — 218 children, ages 5 to 13, sat quietly and mostly still for nearly an hour. And it wasn’t in front of a screen.

Last Thursday, students, faculty and parents from St. Catherine of Siena School were rapt during an hourlong Mass led by Bridgeport Diocese Bishop Frank Caggiano, who made a special appearance at the Catholic school to mark its 50th anniversary.

In their crisp blue-and-white uniforms, kindergartners through eighth graders sang hymns and recited scripture with only minor fidgeting, their attention turned to Bishop Caggiano and his flowing purple robe.

“Boys and girls, good morning,” he said, addressing the congregation. “Now, even though it’s almost 60 degrees — so it feels like spring — in two weeks we’re going to be celebrating a feast day that has very little to do with spring. What are we going to celebrate in two weeks, two weeks from this very day?”

“Thanksgiving,” a tiny voice shouted.

“I’ll give you a hint,” the bishop said. “It has to do with Jesus.”

The students eventually caught on. Caggiano likened the gifts they receive on this holiday to the one he says they receive every day.

“There are children in other parts of the country and the world who don’t have schools to go to  and you have a wonderful school you go to,” he told them.

In his remarks, the bishop touched on St. Catherine’s golden anniversary. Founded in 1965 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, St. Catherine of Siena School — situated on a well-manicured parish campus off Shelton Road — is under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, which oversees all of Fairfield County. Caggiano has been bishop since 2013, having replaced William E. Lori, who is now the archbishop of Baltimore.

Several of St. Catherine’s faculty members have been with the school for more than half of its existence, including its pastor, Father Joseph Marcello, who was a student there in the 1980s.

“As you know, boys and girls, not long ago I sat where you sit today in St. Catherine of Siena School as a student,” he said. “Never did I imagine back then that I would be the pastor of this parish.

“As our patron St. Catherine of Siena said, 'If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.' This, my friends, is the mission of our school,” the pastor said.

Earlier in the day, Principal Peter Rodgers explained how his students had been looking forward to the bishop’s arrival.

“The kids are really excited,” he said, “We usually plan something like this four or five months in advance.”

For students, it was like welcoming a celebrity to church.

“Every single one of my friends got to touch his robe,” said Cameron Sojka, 11. “I want to shake his hand.”

Brendan Keogh, 10, recalled the bishop’s parting words to him: “I told him, ‘Nice job,’ and he said, ‘Thank you. I’m very proud of you.’”