Connecticut churches face changes, consolidation

HARTFORD – The Archdiocese of Hartford announced that parishes in Hartford, New Britain and Waterbury are requesting moves, closures and mergers.

The office of Pastoral Planning said it will make a broad announcement with respect to all Archdiocesan parishes in June.

These requests come after parishes express financial difficulties, fewer parishioners at masses, and a reduced number of available priests.

All parish leaders involved expressed looking to strengthen efforts at evangelization.

Requests in Waterbury include the Parish of St. Margaret to consolidate into St. Anne's parish.

According to a press release from the Archdiocese of Hartford: “An additional request was submitted and accepted asking that the Archbishop allow the sale of the current St. Margaret Property on Willow Street, after the parish received a proposal from the Brass City Charter School for the appraised value. The assets and liabilities of St. Margaret Parish would follow the people.”

Changes in New Britain include the merging of St. Jerome and St. Maurice Parishes, under a new name.

In Hartford, St. Michael will be merging with St. Justin under the name St. Justin-St Michael.

Father Emmanuel Ihemedu said St. Michael will be closing its doors on Clark Street, beginning in April, and the parishioners will meet under one roof at St. Justin on Blue Hills Avenue.

He said the decision was tough but the priority was just to maintain a catholic presence in the north end of Hartford.

“It became obvious to us that our two churches could not survive on their own, that Saint Michael needed Saint Justin, Saint Justin needed Saint Michael to survive,” he said. “No matter where we go, what ties us together is not the building but the fact that we share one spirit in Christ.”

The move was tough on St. Michael parishioners, like Vernette Townsend who said the past year, as decisions were being made, she experienced a roller coaster of emotions.

“It is more than a building to me, it's been the social support network that I’ve needed to become who I am and raise my children,” Townsend said.

Despite her sadness for losing the building she went to since she was born, she said this is about so much more.

“Our religion and our faith is more than the building, and it's not what we worship, so when you pause and think about what really matters, when you pray, you get to the point that you know the decision needed to be made,” she said.

“I think it will be great we’re always looking forward to having a full church and as a matter of fact we’re looking forward to evangelizing the community around us, so we can be even bigger,” St. Justin parishioner Kay Taylor-Brooks said.

Father Ihemedu said the parishioners have shared success in the mast through shared ministries and this will allow them to come together as a family.

To make this decision, he created a group, "Faithful 10," made up of five parishioners from each church. Both Townsend and Taylor-Brooks are the co-chairs.

There will be a celebration of St. Michael Church, “Celebrating Our Past Believing in Our Future,” Sunday April 2nd.

The last mass at St. Michael will be on April 9th.

There is no word on what will be done with the St. Michael building; however, Father Ihemedu said the money will move to the new church group.

For more information about the pastoral planning process, visit: stewardsfortomorrow.org.