(October 3, 2013: Good News! – the basement has been repaired! See: http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Naugatuck-Church-Rebuilt-After-Flood-226231281.html)
In early August, 2012, southern Connecticut was hit by a severely damaging rainstorm. Among the losses was the devastation of the basement and contents of Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Naugatuck. The space until then had been actively used by the parishioners and the Naugatuck community for events of all kinds, including a regular bingo night. Tickets from the bingo players had been one source of weekly revenue for the church. Although the extensive repairs required are gradually being made, it is unlikely that the hall will be usable until at least next September.
On April 20 a fundraiser night of comedy will be held for the church at Grand Oak Villa, Watertown. In the silent auction will be a signed copy of my book and three matted artworks from my project about the first Irish Catholic community who began Naugatuck’s Saint Anne’s Church. This mission church on Water Street was the precursor to the present Saint Francis Church.
From the semi-monthly masses at Nichol’s Hall, house masses, the first mass in 1857 at Saint Anne’s, through the church’s dedication in 1860 and installation of its first resident priest in 1866, the predominantly Irish parish of Naugatuck grew significantly with every year. By 1877 the need for a larger structure was acted upon with the purchase of property on Church Street. Ground was broken in 1882 for a beautiful Gothic structure with magnificent stained glass windows, many imported from France. The windows “form one of the handsomest collections of art stained glass to be found in any parish in America.”*
The last mass at Saint Annes’ Church was celebrated on August 19, 1883. The building was torn down fifty-six years later. Saint Francis Church, on 318 Church Street, was dedicated in 1890 and has been in continuous operation ever since. The church’s elementary school, begun in 1900, is now combined with the former Saint Hedwig School, which had been in existence since the 1920s.
I encourage all who can to attend and support the Saint Francis Church fundraiser on April 20!
[From the Old Sod to the Naugatuck Valley: Early Irish Catholics in New Haven County, Connecticut may be purchased in Connecticut at the Naugatuck Historical Society, the Mattatuck Museum and Quinnipiac University (Mount Carmel branch). In Baltimore it may be purchased at Loyola University Maryland and The Ivy Bookshop. Online it may be purchased from Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes and Nobel, and from me via Paypal or by check (P.O. Box 40211, Baltimore, MD, 21212).]
*Souvenir of the Dedication of Saint Francis Church, Naugatuck, Conn., November 30th 1890, Waterbury, Conn.: Malone & Cooley, Printers, 1890, pg. 16.
Happy Easter and Happy Spring to all!
©2013 Janet Maher / Sinéad Ní Mheachair
All Rights Reserved