Bishop attends Shelton’s St. Joseph Parish milestone celebration

St. Joseph Parish in Shelton will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the church’s dedication with a special Mass this weekend.

The event will take place at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 13, exactly 100 years to the day that the church on Coram Avenue was dedicated.

Newly-installed Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport will lead the celebration to commemorate this milestone in parish history

Immediately following the Mass, the bishop will bless the new elevator and newly-renovated Herman Pastore Church Hall.

St. Joseph has about 2,200 families in the parish.

A 101-year-old archbishop to attend

The dedication Mass will be concelebrated by Archbishop Peter Gerety, retired Archbishop of Newark, N.J. Gerety, age 101, is the oldest archbishop in the Catholic Church.

Gerety grew up on Oak Avenue, just two blocks from St. Joseph Church, where he was baptized in 1912.

"Very likely his mother brought him as an infant to Mass that Oct. 13, 1913, when the Bishop of Hartford consecrated the new, beautiful church," said Monsignor Chris Walsh, pastor of St. Joseph. "Now he will be present for its centenary.

“That," Walsh continued, "symbolizes the incredible continuity of families and tradition that makes St. Joseph's such a unique parish."

Renovation project began in 2012

According to Walsh, the $1.2 million renovation project to the church began with a capital campaign in the fall of 2011 and ground was broken for the project in the spring of 2012.

The renovation, under project manager Deacon Brad Smythe, included the installation of an elevator, a modern heating and air conditioning system, handicapped-accessible restrooms, a state-of-the art kitchen, and complete renovation of the church hall.

The general contractor for the project was A. Secondino & Son of Branford, and Silver/Petrucelli & Associates of Hamden was the architect.

First Catholic parish in Shelton

St. Joseph's was founded in 1906 as the first Catholic parish in Shelton. Construction of the present church, a modified Gothic design, began the following year.

The earliest parishioners were Irish, Italian, Polish and other Eastern European immigrants who labored in Shelton and Derby factories.

In recent years, the parish has seen an increase in families from Latin America, Portugal, the Philippines, Albania, Vietnam, and French Africa.

Other buildings also built in early 1900s

The present convent (completed in 1918) and school (completed in 1928) quickly followed. During the 1990s, working from old photographs, the parish restored the interior of the church as closely as possible to its original design.

The current church renovation, the first in the parish's history to exceed $1 million, was made possible by gifts from about 400 parish families and friends, as well as a major gift from the estate of Herman Pastore, a lifelong parishioner and longtime public school educator in Woodbridge.

Eight Masses offered a week

St. Joseph's offers a Mass in Spanish at noon on Sunday as well as seven weekend Masses in English. The parish is served by three full-time priests and two deacons.

Four religious sisters of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, headquartered in Hamden, are in residence in the convent.