The third-oldest Roman Catholic parish in the city is getting ready to move. Our Lady of Victory parish is in the process of having its 10-acre site on Jones Hill Road sold and relocating to the former St. John Vianney Church property at 300 Capt. Thomas Boulevard.
The move is the latest in a serious of steps taken by the Archdiocese of Hartford to pare down and consolidate its parish structure, and in the process selling off redundant properties. The price tag is $1.85 million. The falling number of clergy and dwindling number of Catholics who attend weekly masses is the culprit.
The Christian Fellowship Church of God, currently located at the former Union Congregational Church at the intersection of Campbell Avenue and the Boston Post Road, has made a bid for the property. If accepted by Archdiocesan and Roman authorities (the property needs to be cleared to go back into secular use before being sold), the four buildings, including church, rectory, convent and school will be turned over.
The Rev. Joseph Dillon, pastor of the parish, said this week it has been a difficult time for parishioners, but there is a resigned acceptance in what will happen.
“People who’ve spoken to me, sad news to hear about, but understand why we need to go in this direction. Sad for them, but understanding,” he said.
No final decision has been made, and it may be weeks or months before church officials give the OK.
The sale of Our Lady of Victory’s property has been rumored for months. Three years ago, the Archdiocese consolidated its parish structure from more than 230, to approximately 88, with several churches included in the new parishes. That reorganization prompted the closure of several churches, including St. Paul’s and St. John Vianney, effective the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29), ironically the patron saints of the Roman Church.
The two closed churches remained ecclesial structures, with funerals and weddings taking place as well as selected services in order to keep them sacred spaces. The other parish in the city comprises St. Lawrence and St. Louis Church.
Fr. Dillon said the property went on the market in July and an offer was proffered by the Christian Fellowship in the fall. That set the wheels in motion.
The parish financial committee accepted the offer. Meanwhile, Archbishop Leonard Blair put the offer to the Archdiocesan Presbyteral Council, Board of Consultors, and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. The first two have responded in the affirmative, with an answer awaited from the Pastoral Council.
“After Archbishop Blair hears from the above groups, he will make the decision as to whether or not to accept the offer,” said Fr. Dillon.
The parish priest, meanwhile, is using the parish bulletin and social media to keep the 1700 families on the parish rolls informed. He realizes the separation from parish buildings can be stressful, especially after many in the parish moved from St. John Vianney three years ago.
“Please be assured that all parishioners will be given plenty of time to prepare for the move. As a matter of fact, we will need all members of our parish community to emotionally, physically or prayerfully help as we go through this transition,” said Fr. Dillon in a recent bulletin.
He likened this move to a more personal situation.
“If you and your spouse decided to sell your home of 50 years and move to a safer, more affordable house a few blocks away, would your family walk away? Would they stop visiting you on Sunday or coming to your home to celebrate special events? Probably not,” he wrote.
Once the offer this or any offer is accepted, the priest must marshal forces to begin the move back to the St. John Vianney site.
He is urging parishioners to monitor subsequent bulletins and social media sites operated by the parish for future updates.
Our Lady of Victory began on Ocean Avenue, next to the current Seaview Nursing Home. A former seasonal hotel was converted into a church to serve Catholics in the West Shore area. The parish eventually outgrew the site and land was purchased on Jones Hill Road with a new plant built in the 1950s.
It was the third catholic parish established in the city after St. Lawrence, the mother church of West Haven, and St. Paul’s. Eventually, the parish of St. Louis, which was a national parish for French-speaking Catholics on Chapel Street, near Wooster Square, New Haven, was moved to West Haven when the barrel-vaulted structure burned the ground in 1960.
St. John Vianney was the final parish established. It was originally a chapel-of-ease for St. Lawrence, serving the Savin Rock area. In 1965 the parish was erected and the current church built as part of the Savin Rock Redevelopment district.