The Catholic community formerly known as
“The Torrington Cluster of Roman Catholic Parishes” celebrates its unity as
St. John Paul the Great Parish
Established June 29, 2017
Archdiocese of Hartford
Deanery: Litchfield | Vicariate: Waterbury
The four churches that were subsumed into one parish include:
St. Francis of Assisi Church – 160 Main Street, Torrington, CT 06790 / Established in 1877
In the 1830’s as railroad construction attracted more Irish, Torrington, previously called Wolcottville, became the pastoral responsibility of Hartford. Father James Fitton celebrated the first area Mass in 1835. In November 1842 Torrington fell under Bridgeport’s care. The area’s six Catholic families then passed to Waterbury’s charge from 1847 until 1851. Circuit pastors celebrated Mass in the Academy building on South Main Street where Father Fitton was alleged to have preached earlier. Winsted assumed jurisdiction in 1851. By July 1860, a frame church was erected by Father Michael Mangin. On October 4, 1874, St. Francis of Assisi mission was designated a parish by Bishop Francis P. McFarland, who then named Father Isaias da Scanno, O.F.M., first pastor. Father Patrick Duggan built a new brick Gothic church on a Main Street parcel. St. Francis was both dedicated and consecrated on November 13, 1887. It was allegedly the first parish in the nation claiming this dual ecclesiastical honor. A new school was built in the 1890s staffed by the recently arrived Sisters of Mercy. This original school building was replaced by a modern one in 1961.
St. Peter Church – 107 East Main Street, Torrington, CT 06790 / Established in 1907
During the period just after the Civil War, Torrington’s Italians were served by Winsted’s Father Leo Rizzo da Saracena, O.F.M. Soon the immigrants began attending St. Francis Church. On April 28, 1907, Father Joachim C. Martinez was named pastor of Italian immigrants by Bishop Michael A. Tierney and St. Peter parish was born. On May 11, this prelate presided at the groundbreaking for St. Peter’s basement chapel on Center Street. The completed chapel was dedicated on November 15 by Msgr. John Synnott, administrator of the Diocese. Priests from St. Francis attended to St. Peter for a month. When Bishop John J. Nilan announced that St. Peter would be closed, a parish committee successfully appealed for the restoration of a permanent pastor. In response, on September 25, 1914, Father Salvatore Bonforti was appointed administrator. With the purchase of property on East Main Street in September 1926, the church expansion project progressed. Ground was broken for a new church on March 1, 1927. On May 13, 1928, Bishop Nilan dedicated St. Peter Church. In 1956, Father William P. Botticelli opened a parish school staffed by the Filippini Sisters of New Jersey.
Sacred Heart Church – 116 Grove Street, Torrington, CT 06790 / Established in 1910
Slovak men of Torrington gathered themselves into the St. Joseph Society, a chapter of the First Catholic Slovak Union of America. At first, Torrington Slovaks found their spiritual home at St. Francis church, Torrington. Men of the St. Joseph Society purchased land for a church, aided by the wise counsel of Father Matthew Jankola of SS. Cyril and Methodius Church, Bridgeport. On June 15, 1910, Bishop John J. Nilan appointed Father Gaspar Panik as first pastor of the newly established Sacred Heart. Initially, the recently ordained priest used St. Francis Chapel and later St. Peter Church basement for his congregation. Slovak enthusiasm soon resulted in the dedication of Sacred Heart Church basement by Bishop Nilan on September 3, 1911. On May 30, 1923, Bishop Nilan dedicated the parochial school, which was staffed by the Sisters of SS. Cyril and Methodius. The school closed in 1982.
St. Mary Church – 85 Pulaski Street, Torrington, CT 06790 / Established in 1919
During the late 1800’s, Polish immigrants were arriving in Torrington, previously known as Wolcottville. About 12 families comprising the Polish enclave at first attended St. Francis Church. In 1901 the immigrants organized a society, incorporated as the Roman Catholic Population of Waterbury. At last, on October 26, 1919, St. Mary parish was created when Father John P. Kowalski was named first pastor. Initially residing at Sacred Heart Church, he celebrated the first Masses for St. Mary in St. Francis chapel. A basement church was completed in 1921 and dedicated on October 5 by Bishop John J. Nilan. The completed church was dedicated on May 30, 1927. On June 12, 1960, ground was broken for a parochial school on the Bryant parcel on Forest Court and dedicated a year
later. The school closed in 1984.