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.