American society did not always welcome its immigrants. The relative strangeness and poverty of newcomers and their differences in speech, customs, and skin color made some people suspicious and rejected. Over generations, however, the Catholic Church stood with and for immigrants. Ours was - and continues to be - an immigrant Church.
St Mary Parish embodies this bright Catholic history. Built-in 1845 by newly-arrived Irish workers for Norwich’s factories, St. Mary’s is the oldest Catholic parish in eastern Connecticut. St. Mary Church soon became home and a remarkable place of welcome for new arrivals from many other countries. Polish immigrants arrived in such great numbers that they built their sister parish close to St. Mary’s, appropriately named for St. Joseph.
Today, St. Mary Church is home to Spanish-speaking people from many Latin American countries and Puerto Rico. Norwich has perhaps the largest Haitian community in the state, and St. Mary’s is their spiritual home. Our 90-year-old St. Anthony Chapel celebrates the presence of Portuguese speakers from Cape Verde, who are still arriving. Established parishioners, residents for generations, have the extraordinary task of making St. Mary’s a place of welcome. Spanish, Haitian Creole, and English are the principal languages of our parish’s life and worship. Here we are building on a foundation that others have laid. We welcome and celebrate our diversity, creating one body in Christ.
Old Saint Mary's, Dedicated, 1845
The crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony
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