First St. Mary’s Church

The picture of a proud Irish Mary Collins Stanley with her three boys Bill, Jim and Chick, taken over 100 years ago.

Plaque sponsored by Philip J. Shannon

Located at the intersection of Central Avenue & North Main Street

Once upon a time in Norwich, Irish immigrants fled to American to escape the “great hunger,” the Irish potato famine. Before the famine, many Irish had already settled in Norwich in this area now known as Greeneville. They built shanties along the railroad tracks in what they termed “Twomeyville,” and they earned the title of “Shanty Irish.” They were employed in great numbers to build the Norwich & Worcester Railroad. The Irish brought with them Catholicism, and in the early 1840s, Father James Fitton held Mass among the shanties, for there were few permanent building.

By 1843, the Irish Catholic population had grown sufficiently to require a church. The first Roman Catholic Church in Eastern Connecticut was in this very structure, consecrated in 1845, and remains a tribute to the settlers of Greeneville and the first St. Mary’s parish. By 1853, the Catholic population had increased to over 4,000, and St. Mary’s Church could no longer accommodate the many parishioners.

It was the Irish Catholics from Greeneville who funded the construction of St. Patrick’s Church, which is today St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This building was built to serve the first Catholic population in Norwich. Later, the Irish who fled the famine established themselves in their new world, Norwich. The Irish immigrant population later built for William Greene, about 1842, the mills in Greeneville where many were employed. Thereafter, the shanty town, “Twomeyville,” was officially known as Greeneville.

A Norwich native and parishioner of St. Mary’s, the Very Reverend William P. Brady was ordained and said his first Mass in this original St. Mary’s Church. He later went on to become President of St. John’s College in Brooklyn, New York.

St. Anthony’s Chapel

St. Anthony

Plaque sponsored by the Cape Verdean Community of Norwich

Located on 70 Central Avenue

Inside St. Anthony

Once upon a time in Norwich… Saint Anthony Chapel is rededicated to the memory of Joseph Candido Delgado born in 1882 on the island of Sao Nicolau, Cabo Verde and died June 1967. The chapel, a life-long dream of Joseph C. Delgado, was originally built and dedicated in 1926 at 165 Talman Street in Norwich to pay tribute to the patron Saint Anthony of Padua.

“I had a day dream one day and I saw the chapel and built it according to the picture which was presented to me at that time” –Joseph C. Delgado

St. Mary’s RC Church the Parish of the Cape Verdean Community of Norwich and the Delgado Family join with the Cape Verdean community to dedicate this chapel as a symbol of faith on this Twenty-ninth day of April 2006.

Sacred Heart Church

First of three churches at the present location to bear the name Sacred heart.

Located on 156 Providence Street, Taftville

Taftville is a proud mill town. For generations its inhabitants arose and went home to the clanging of the bell at the gigantic Ponemah textile mill. But, for the village’s large Roman Catholic population, the community’s soul is found in its church bell.

The first Mass was celebrated in Taftville on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973. Fitting, since the village that was largely to become French Canadian was first settled by the Irish, escaping famines in the homeland. Fitting, too, that Mass was said in Wequonnoc School, which was owned by the mill that brought Canadians to Taftville by the thousands in search of a better life.

Fire on a Sunday morning, April 29, 1956.

Four years later, a small church was built by the hard work of its parishioners. It was the first of three churches at the present location to bear the name Sacred heart in the small village. The first, dedicated in 1900, was little more than a basement with a roof. It was the very foundation for a major Romanesque church that took 16 years to build.

Sadly, that edifice was destroyed by fire on a Sunday morning, April 29, 1956. The uncontrollable blaze burned for 4.5 hours, consuming everything but the baptismal font at the bell tower.

A scant two years later, the present Sacred Heart Church was dedicated. A modern-looking church even a half-century later, the house of worship at the corner of Hunters Avenue and Providence Street is till the center of spiritual life for Taftville’s active and changing Catholic population.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Plaque sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. James P. Cronin

Located on 213 Broadway

Once upon a time in Norwich, from its founding in 1659 through the 1700s, when Samuel Huntington and Benedict Arnold walked the byways of this city, and even after the election of George Washington as the new nation’s first president, no Catholics lived in Norwich. Only after the War of 1812, in 1824, did Edward Murphy, the first Irish Catholic, take up residence.

In 1831, Father James Fitton administered the first baptism, and the first Catholic marriage occurred in 1840. The “great hunger,” the potato famine in Ireland, brought the Irish immigrants to Norwich & Worcester Railroad.

The first Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was on December 25, 1844 at St. Mary’s Church in lower Greeneville. By 1853, the Catholic population numbered over 4,000. In 1867, it was determined that another church was needed. Father Daniel Mullen, Pastor of St. Mary’s, purchased this site, and on Good Friday, April 7, 1871, the work on St. Patrick’s Church began. The Irish from Greeneville marched 1,700 strong, led by Dr. Patrick Cassidy, to the present site. Horses and carts, filled with picks and shovels, arrived with the workers, and form Good Friday morning to Easter Sunday the volunteer army dug the complete foundation by hand. Parishioners paid 10 cents a week and thus paid for the Gothic church. Father Shahan said the first Mass on a temporary altar on St. Patrick’s Day, 1879.

The great hurricane of 1938 severely damaged the church. Undaunted, the pastor, Father Alexander F. Mitchell, led the restoration efforts and assured the parishioners the church would be returned to its former majestic presence, especially the beautiful St. Patrick window which had sustained significant damage. In 1950, Monsignor John J. Reilly, director of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, was assigned to St. Patrick’s and given the task of renovating the Gothic church into a cathedral to become the seat of the Diocese of Norwich. The church was consecrated as a cathedral on September 2, 1952. His Holiness Pope Pius XII named the Most Reverend Bernard J. Flanagan of Burlington, Vermont as Norwich’s first bishop.