The Early Years
The Middle Years
The Recent Years
Earliest Catholic Families
Although, officially, the parish of St. Patrick has
existed for less than ten years, Catholics have been resided
in Redding since before the Civil War and, in fact, have worshipped
in the little church on the Ridge since 1880.
year 1980, therefore, is a most important one for St. Patrick
parishioners, not only because it marks the one hundredth
anniversary of the opening of our church building, but more
importantly, because it provides us with a unique opportunity
to pause and reflect upon our development as a faith community.
keeping with that review, the following pages present an interesting
(although, obviously, not comprehensive) chronicle of the
life and times of St. Patrick Church, 1880-1980, and I commend
it to you.
anniversary year signals the start of a new era for St. Patrick
Church, and more particularly, St. Patrick Parish. May the
rich heritage of Christian commitment left to us by our Catholic
forebears, and the blessing of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
be with each one of us as we move into that new era.
John Conlisk, Pastor
settled in Redding about 1850, and according to descendents,
some settled in the area as early as 1847.
number of Irish Catholic families came to Georgetown in the
early 1850's. The men came to work on the construction of
the railroad between Norwalk and Danbury and others to work
on farms in Redding, which was largely agricultural at that
time. Some of these families lived near the Ridgefield line
and had church affiliations there later.
that time, Redding was under the care of St. Peter's Church
in Danbury. This was true of most of the western and northwestern
part of the state. (Falls Village, West Cornwall and Roxbury
were among the towns mentioned in Danbury records.) As early
as 1855, Mass was said here "occasionally" by a
priest from Danbury. Baptisms may have been performed at the
same time, marriages were recorded here, and some took place
of the known Catholic families in those days were of Irish
ancestry, having left their homeland following the disastrous
famine of 1845-1847. It has been estimated that by 1848, a
half million people had either died of starvation or emigrated,
most to the United States.
notation in a town record dated "Danbury, 1869"
read as follows:
said once a month at the Town Hall in Ridgefield and in the
Town Hall in Redding. Fifty adults in Redding and one hundred
hall in Redding was not the official Town Hall in Redding
Center, but a building used as a Lodge Hall, which was located
on the Northwest corner of Route 58 and Cross Highway in what
is now an open field. This building, with a store, a large
house, barns and other buildings, burned in massive fire on
May 12, 1879.
was also said in local homes. For example, in Patrick Ward's,
in the Sanfordtown area, Daniel Sullivan's house, and at the
home of Patrick Qualey, which was the first house south of
where the Redding Country Club now stands.
1875, Patrick MacDonald, who was a successful farmer and whose
home just south of the church was also the site of early Eucharist
celebrations, sold(for $25.00), 3,600 feet of land which was
described in the agreement as
certain piece of tract of land...said tract is conveyed to
be used as a site of a Roman Catholic Church, to be erected
thereon, and for no other purpose whatever. When not then
used, then the sole use and occupancy of said tract is to
belong to said Patrick MacDonald and his heirs forever."
Ryan, John Carroll and Patrick Flood served as members of
the church building committee.
began the slow process of preparation for the building of
the mission church. the fund raising and organizational arrangements
took four years of hard work. Donations were small and sacrifice
large, but finally, under the supervision of Rev. Martin Lawlor
of Danbury, work was begun on the edifice in 1879.
after this, responsibility for constructing the new mission
was transferred to Rev. Thaddeus Walsh of Ridgefield (and
Georgetown), under whose leadership the superstructure was
has it that all of the parishioners contributed what they
could-days of labor, days of hauling stone with teams of horses
or oxen; masonry, carpentry, whatever their abilities were.
Windows in the church were plain to begin with. The imported
Belgian Gothic stained windows were added later. At the time
of the completion of the structure, there were about twenty-five
first Mass at St. Patrick was celebrated on Sunday, February
1, 1880. It was officially dedicated later that year and Mass
was then celebrated there every two weeks.
1883, or soon after the death of Father Walsh, the mission
was transferred to the new parish in Bethel, St. Mary's, which
itself had previously been a mission church of St. Peter's
in Danbury. The Pastor was Rev. Patrick O'Connell and his
first report read as follows:
at Redding Ridge every other week. Number of souls, 125. Receipts
for the year, $225.00 Indebtedness, Edward McKenna, Mortgage,
$250.00 Value, $1,510.00 Insurance, $1,300.00"
July 1885, the original committee of Thomas Ryan, John Carroll
and Patrick Flood, transferred the building to the St. Patrick
Church Corporation for the sum of $25.00.
1894, Patrick McDonald donated more land to the Church Corporation
bounded as follows:
by said Corporation's property and Jesse Lee Sanford's land;
South and West by land of said grantor, and East by the highway."
1944, Miss Isabelle McDonald, the last daughter of Mr. and
Mrs. Patrick McDonald to occupy the adjoining McDonald homestead,
donated to the Corporation two acres of land between her house
and the Church, thus making a parking lot possible and, of
course, the land necessary for the eventual construction of
the Church Hall.)
was at that time, 1894, that the church was enlarged and various
improvements made-these included the addition of a new sanctuary
and probably new windows. Tradition has it that the handsome
altar window, donated by the McDonald family, originally had
been designed for a church in New York, but because the size
was incorrect, McDonald was able to secure it at a bargain
price for St. Patrick.
McTiernan came from Hartford to dedicate the new altar in
1895 and at that time he confirmed a group of thirteen boys
and girls. The next time the Sacrament of Confirmation was
celebrated in the Church was in 1858 when Bishop Lawrence
J. Sheehan, of the new Bridgeport Diocese, confirmed a large
class. One of the sponsors for the 1958 ceremony was Mrs.
Alice Reynolds Sullivan, now deceased, who was a member of
the 1895 confirmation class.
Church and its mission parish grew steadily over the next
several years as indicated in the brief reports found for
the following years:
Repairs, shingling, painting, new steeple, $398.00
Interior decorated, $375.00
Repairs, $25.00 Furniture, $34.00
Decorating and painting, $579.00 Repairs, $18.00
Repairs, $634.00 Souls 100
Repairs, $1,126.00 Improvements $311.00 Furniture $132.00
(This included rebuilding the altar, new rubber flooring,
ceiling repaired, walls stuccoed and decorating.)
New altar installed.
changes were made in the interior of the church while Rev.
Austin Dignam was Pastor of St. Mary's Church in Bethel (1947-1950),
and in charge of St. Patrick mission. Mr. Theodore Vermilye,
a resident of Redding, and an authority on Church history
and theology, advised on the changes.
changes came after Vatican II, of course, with the removal
of the old altar and the statues. The realities of the post-Vatican
II church had their impact at St. Patrick. However, with the
appointment of the Rev. Msgr. Richard Scully in 1963, the
transition was eased by his informant but positive approach
to the problems and opportunities of renewal.
1969, the interior of the church was redecorated and new pews
and statues were installed.
Patrick Church became an official parish of the Diocese in
1971 with the appointment of Rev. George D. Birge. The language
of the designation read:
1971 henceforth to be associated for administrative purposes
under the same pastor(of Canon 1419,2), with Sacred Heart
Parish, Georgetown, rather than with St. Mary's Parish, Bethel."
many years planning, ground was broken for the Parish Hall
on December on December 17, 1972. The building was completed,
blessed and dedicated by Bishop Walter Curtis on October 7,
building committee consisted of Vincent Hayes and Mrs. John
Redmond as co-chairmen; Edward Caraluzzi, Richard Cashion,
John Geoghegan, Alfred Gruner and Robert Kunisch, Anthony
Caraluzzi, Sr. was chairman of the Fund Raising Committee;
James McNamara chairman of the Landscaping Committee; Richard
Cashion, of the Painting Committee, and Sabino Pietrangelo
of the Tile Committee. The Women's Guild supplied kitchen
appliances. Mr. John Handy of St. Patrick Parish was the architect,
Edward McCarty of Georgetown was the builder.
Father Birge's direction, the Religious Education program
was expanded, and the first part time Director of Religious
Education, Anne Lehney, was hired. The parish was growing
rapidly. Some 350 families were listed on the church rolls
as of the summer of 1980.
Father John Conlisk became pastor in 1977, the expansion has
continued and a number of actions have been taken to increase
the laity's participation in the spiritual and temporal affairs
of the parish.
include the closer involvement of the Parish Council in the
management of parish operations, the formation of a lay committee
structure(communications, family life, finance, liturgy, maintenance,
and social concerns), and expansion of the Religious Education
program, under the first full time Director, Sheila Ringgold,
into ever widening areas. All ages of the parish are now being
Parish Council is extremely active, advising the Pastor concerning
all areas of parish life. The goal for the parish is total
lay leadership and involvement, all persons recognizing their
ministry and their responsibility in making the Gospel known.
the early records of Catholics in Fairfield County are incomplete,
it is known that the first Catholic Center was in Bridgeport,
with the first recorded Mass in 1830, leading to the building
of St. James Church in 1840-41. then followed Norwalk and
Stamford(1847 and 1848). Danbury followed in 1851, with Newtown
in 1859. Ridgefield, Bethel, Georgetown and Redding Ridge
noted earlier, the first Catholic families in Redding had
all immigrated from Ireland.
the father of a family came first, or unmarried sons and daughters
got jobs and sent for the other members of the family. Most
were unskilled and had little formal education. All, however,
had some knowledge of farming and a willingness to work. In
this respect, some learned trades and became stone masons,
carpenters, and at least one became a blacksmith.
Ryan was the most successful farmer, owning at his death in
1903, over 250 acres of land on Church Hill and over into
Hopewell. On most of this he grew onions, a crop successfully
marketed in Southport by many local farmers.
member of the church, although a resident of Valley Road in
Easton, was Edward McKenna, who owned a papermill on the Aspetuck
River in Easton, where he manufactured articles made of paper-mache.
His product was described as "made almost indestructible
being waterproofed and handsomely enameled."
McKenna, who at one time held a mortgage on St. Patrick, built
a large Victorian house for his family. His only remaining
child, Mary, sold the house and returned to Ireland in the
Flood family on Cross highway was unique. Of the four children,
Michael, Thomas, Margaret and Mary, none married. Both girls
were school teachers in one-room schools, and although they
had little formal education, they were highly respected as
teachers. Michael was a blacksmith and Tom worked as a day
lived frugally, loaned money to the Town of Redding, among
others, and saved.
example, when the last surviving child, Margaret, died in
1945, the Redding Probate Court conducted a search for heirs,
with the estate finally being settled with the issuance of
a check for $106,000.00 to a second cousin in Oregon.
farm families in the early days sold butter, eggs, chickens,
and vegetables in Bethel, driving in by horse and wagon, once
few boys of Irish descent fought in the Civil War. In those
days, it was possible for an American citizen to pay for a
substitute to fight in his place. This way, those young men
who needed the money joined the Army.
their families grew, some of the early settlers moved to Danbury
and Bridgeport so that their children could get better education's
than were available here. Many went on to college and the
life was generally grim for newcomers, dances and celebrations
provided some lighter moments.
families had friends or neighbors from Ireland in the neighboring
towns, and "visiting" was a Sunday tradition. Card
parties were held in private homes to raise money for the
church. Pinochle was the most popular game, and rivalry was
travel conditions improved, the Catholic families found other
means of raising money for the support of the church. These
included, lawn parties, some in the orchard which is now the
church parking lot, where homemade goods were sold and simple
games of chance and skill (and inevitably a grab-bag) helped
attract additional nickels and dimes. Refreshments, ice cream
and homemade cake with lighting furnished by Japanese lanterns,
candles, and one or two oil lights.
electricity came through Redding Ridge in the late twenties,
these affairs blossomed into carnivals, with wheels and booths
and a platform for dancing. Music was furnished by local musicians
at first, finally evolving to an orchestra, complete with
borrowed piano seated on a truck. The prizes were invariably
"Indian blankets" and "Kewpie" dolls.
If the weather was good, these affairs were well patronized
and financial successes.
the earliest marriages (all performed by Rev. James Small
of St. Peter Church, Danbury), the following were performed
in Redding Ridge:
Ridge, May 17, 1853: "I joined in matrimony Patrick and
Alice (Connor) Flood. Witnesses Thomas Doran and Rosanna Doran."
Ridge, March 24, 1854: "I joined in matrimony Patrick
and Margaret (Comasky) McDonald. Witnesses, David Newman and
Mary, daughter of Patrick and Catherine (McGowan) Horan.
Julia, daughter of Patrick and Alice (Connor) Flood.
Julia, daughter of Timothy and Bridget (Comasky) McDonald.
marriage of Michael McDonald of Redding Ridge to Catherine
Scollins in 1850 is recorded in a family bible, but the place
of marriage is not given.
spelling of some names may not be exactly correct since all
records were handwritten and not always clear.)
records show that the following were among the earliest
Catholic families who lived in Redding:
and Ann Brennan
John and Mary (Ahearn) Carroll
Patrick and Bridget Collins
Timothy and Bridget (Flynn) Dorgan
Dennis and Mary (Horgan) Dorgan
John Dorgan (on Redding-Newtown line)
James and Elizabeth Delaney
Patrick and Alice (Connor) Flood
Patrick and Bridget Fennell
Elizabeth (Kearney) Gorham, wife of Wm. Gorham
Patrick and Catherine (McGowan) Horan
Richard Higgins (near Ridgefield-Redding line)
Anthony and Anna (Malone) Kollosky
James and Ann Kearney
Christopher and Anna Loveley
John and Bridget (O'Halleran) Malone
Patrick and Mary Masterson
Michael and Catherine (Scollins) McDonald
Patrick and Margaret (Comasky) McDonald
Patrick and Mary McGinnis
Patrick McKenna (Easton)
Patrick and Ellen McMan
John and Delia (Daugherty) Moore
Daniel and Bridget O'Keefe
Joseph and Maria O'Connor
James and Bridget Price
Patrick and Catherine Qualey
John and Mary (McTernan) Reynolds
Samuel E. and Mary (Collins) Rowland
Edward and Bridget (Daly) Ryan
Thomas B. and Honora Ryan
William and Mary Ryan
Cornelius and Mary (Ryan) Dorgan
Daniel and Mary (Malone) Sullivan
John and Helen (McDonald) Sullivan
John and Mary Tucker
William Wilkinson (Redding-Newtown line)
there were a number of Catholic families in Redding by 1850,
few were property owners and most rented small houses, generally
from the farmer for whom they worked. It took years of saving
to buy some land. Often the young men and women were apprenticed
to work on nearby farms, for their "board and keep."
Wages, if any, were miniscule, but most managed to buy some
property eventually, something which would have been impossible
in the landlord-tenant system of Ireland.
date, purchases of property occurred in the following years:
Thomas Ryan and Michael McDonald
Patrick Ward, John Doran (Redding-Newtown line)
Patrick McDonald, Daniel Sullivan
Timothy Dorgan, John Carrol, Jmaes Price
Dennis Dorgan, Patrick Collins
Patrick Green, John Malone
Anthony Kollosky, Christopher Loveley, Thomas Sweeney
John Reynolds, Edward Ryan
who purchased property during the period 1860-1893 were those
who lived in Easton near the Redding line and were founding
members of St. Patrick Church. In the 1880's Thomas Wilkinson,
whose name appears on one of the church windows, had a large
farm, mostly in Newtown, in what is now known as the Eden
Hill section. Thomas Delaney bought in 1893. Cornelius O'Keefe
and Daniel O'Keefe also became owners in this period, as did
Patrick's Participation in the Affairs of the Diocese
the completion of the Church building, Redding Catholics became
more involved in the activities of St. Mary's Church in Bethel.
The priests who came from Bethel to say Mass at St. Patrick
were transported by horse and wagon or by sleigh. Drivers
were volunteers among whom, for many years, was James Griffin
after Mass was furnished by the Misses Isabelle and Jennie
McDonald, who lived next door, and whose family contributed
so much to the church. Later, with the coming of the automobile,
Mr. Robert Halloran, who ran a garage in Bethel, drove the
priest to Redding. This, too, was a labor of love-considered
a privilege and an honor. (He drove a Reo or a Velie car.)
Eventually, the priests were given a car.
number of men from St. Patrick joined the Knights of Columbus
chapter in Bethel, some becoming Fourth Degree Knights, the
highest rank in that organization.
Mary's held public suppers several times each year in the
former K. of C. Hall, and St. Patrick families attended and
contributed food. (Parishioners of St. Mary's reciprocated
when fund-raising affairs were held in Redding.)
from St. Patrick were always kept separate from St. Mary's,
which paid its share of the salaries, fuel(coal) and other
church expenses. Since expenses were low, St. Patrick gradually
accumulated its own savings fund.
Bishop Lawrence Sheehan, the first bishop of the new Diocese
of Bridgeport, started development campaigns to build schools,
St. Joseph's Manor, a seminary, etc..., in the fifties and
sixties, St. Patrick was given its quota for each drive.
and women were organized in teams, and canvassed the parish,
usually with excellent results. In several campaigns, St.
Patrick actually exceeded its quota.
Bethel began the construction of a school and convent, Redding
was involved, and when their funds were exhausted, they borrowed
money from St. Patrick. (Much of this was repaid when construction
of the Parish Hall was begun.) The men also conducted a church
census, a job which originally was the responsibility of the
parish priest, but which became impossible with the rapid
increase in the town population.
St.Mary's and St. Patrick
Thaddeus Walsh (Also pastor in Ridgefield and Georgetown)
Rev. Michael Byrne April, 1883-Died October, 1883
Rev. John Flemming 1898-1907
Rev. William Kiernan 1907-1915
Rev. John J. Kennedy 1915-1924
Rev. Patrick F. Connors 1924-Died 1929
Rev. John J. Kennedy 1929-37
Rev. John E. Fay 1937-Retired 1954
Rev. Austin B. Dignam, Adm. 1947- Died 1950
Rev. Paul M. Spodnik, Adm. 1950-1953
Rev. Walter J. McCarthy 1953-1961
Rev. Edward J Howley, Adm. 1961-1963
Rev. Richard Scully 1963- Retired 1974
George Girge 1971-1977
Rev. John Conlisk
first Trustees of St. Patrick were Patrick McDonald and John
- St. Mary's and St. Patrick
the curates who lived at St. Mary's and came to St. Patrick
on alternate weeks were the following Reverends:
Others assisted for short periods of time, during the summer
order is not necessarily as they served.)
have been a variety of lay organizations over the years, with
none more constant than the Women's Guild, which was formed
in 1949. It has been a force for progress since its inception.
women attended the organization meeting at the Church, with
the Rev. Austin Dignam, Administrator of the combined parishes
of St. Mary's and St. Patrick, sitting in as advisor.
first officers selected were Mrs. Vincent Hayes and Lincoln
Hanson as co-chairman; Mrs. Thomas McHugh, Secretary; Mrs.
James Gill, Treasurer. Subsequent meetings were held in the
homes of members. The group held two food sales that summer,
1949, and as a result was able to vote $50 for the purchase
of altar linens by July. (This was a substantial sum of money
at that time.) In December, the Guild purchased a Crèche for
the Church, and held a Christmas party for the children. They
also discussed the purchase of an organ, and the installation
of an oil burner. (The Church at that time was heated by a
coal burning furnace, which had to be started on Saturday
to heat the Church for Mass on Sunday.)
of the Guild that year also participated in making cancer
pads for patients at Rosary Hill Hospital.
years have seen the Guild leading the way in a number of activities,
represented by the following:
Purchased shrubs for foundation planting at the Church...
1952, Contributed $25 to the Redding Memorial Fund, which
built the auditorium at the Redding Elementary School ...
1953, Mr. Sabino Pietrangelo donated the material and built
the walk in front of the Church... 1954, the first Christmas
/midnight Mass was held at the request of the Guild... 1957,
transported nuns from St. Mary's to teach catechism.
Guild persisted in its efforts to have improvements made and
had a section of the basement of the Church remodeled where
running water and restrooms were provided. This area was used
until the Parish Hall was completed.
of the Guild activities are not available for much of the
1960's, but we know that the annual fairs were begun during
this period, using the small basement area, and the parking
lot. They were financial successes- and the Guild contributed
substantial sums of money toward the operation of the Church.
annual fairs grew in size each year from 1972 and 1978 and
featured handmade gifts and crafts, home baked goods, Christmas
decorations, entertainment for the children. During this period,
members of the Guild published an excellent cookbook, with
recipes furnished by members and other parishioners.
1974, the Guild marked its twenty-fifth anniversary and honored
its charter members at a silver tea in the Parish Hall.
1975, the Guild initiated the first Senior Citizens' luncheons
at the Parish Hall on May 15. This was also an early celebration
of Mother's Day. Other churches adopted the idea, and members
of St. Patrick's Guild cooperated in the popular event.
Guild remains a vital force within the Parish in the 1980's.
Lay Committees were formed in 1979 with the following persons
Family Life-Joan-Marie Bresnahan
for the Centennial Celebration were Mr. and Mrs. Donald H.
of the most important programs to come out of Vatican II was
the establishment of councils composed of lay members of the
church, elected by the Congregation. the first was established
about 1965-66. The names of all of the early council members
are not available from records, but among them were Margaret
Sullivan, Arthur Albin, Dr. John Redmond, Edward Caraluzzi,
Jane Walsh, and others whose dedication helped provide
direction for later members.
function of the council is to assist and advise the priests
with both the spiritual and temporal affairs of the parish
and St. Patrick has been fortunate in having men and women
of various backgrounds and experience serve in this capacity.
the projects which have been completed under the aeigis of
parish councils were the redecorating of the church, the installation
of new pews in 1869, the painting and repair of the exterior
of the church and the repair of the stained glass windows,
the addition of storm windows, the installation of a new heating
system, and the landscaping of the grounds. The chairperson
of the Council in 1980 is Mary Morris, believed to be the
first woman to hold the post.
was Saint Patrick?
the patron saint of Ireland was not of Irish descent. It is
thought that he was born in the British Isles around 385-460
A.D. Most of the biographical information comes from his own
confession, which he wrote in old age. The Roman Empire was
near collapse and raiders found it easy toprey on Britain.
Many of the raiders crossed the Irish Sea from a land the
Romans called Juverna. In English the word was Hibernia.
Patrick was sixteen he was abducted and enslaved. Patrick
Believed he was being punished by god because he had broken
the Commandments. While in captivity he prayed to god and
swore allegiance to him and his laws. Six years went by when
Patrick had a special dream and heard a voice tell him to
flee in a nearby ship. Patrick ran away and begged steerage
on a ship and eventually ended up in Western Europe. He studied
and prayed and eventually decided the Irish needed to be saved
from Paganism. He was sent as a missionary and found the Celts
living in clans and practicing an old religious form headed
by Druids. They worshipped nature gods, offered sacrifices,
and foretold the future.
Patrick introduced them to bible he allowed them to hold onto
some old rites and customs. They had always honored their
gods with Springtime fires so Patrick had the people light
bonfires at Easter. The color green was not always the national
color . it had special significance during pagan times because
it symbolized spring.
was very successful with his conversion and is said to have
used the three leafed shamrock when explaining the holy trinity.
The shamrock is a small green three-leafed trefoil that resembles
a clover. It has since become an emblem of St. Patrick and
Ireland as well.
Patrick died, all of Ireland went into mourning. The church
elders prayed over his body for twelve days. It is believed
that his body is buried near the River Quoile in Downpatrick,
County Down, in Northern Ireland. His contributions to Ireland
included reading and writing. When he introduced the bible
and other sacred writings in latin most of the Irish were
illiterate and they had no written history. Ireland later
became known as the "Island of Saints and Scholars".
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