Change in Catholic Churches

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The sign at St. Joseph Church came down many weeks ago, before the official announcement that the parish would be merged with Sacred Heart.

Photo by Lester Smith

The sign at St. Joseph Church came down many weeks ago, before the official announcement that the parish would be merged with Sacred Heart.

Suffield Catholic parishioners attending mass the first weekend in May were informed of news from the Archdiocese of Hartford that will greatly affect both St. Joseph and Sacred Heart parishes. The two Catholic churches in town are merging. This is one of over 50 mergers that will be occurring in the state based on the “Stewards for Tomorrow: Archdiocesan Strategic Plan.” As of June 29, the number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Hartford will decrease from 212 to 127; 144 parishes will be involved in mergers resulting in 59 new parishes and 26 church buildings will close.

The vision for the strategic plan is “We envision a local church characterized by spiritual vitality, organizational efficacy and accountability, and social and financial responsibility – all for the sake of fulfilling our mission.”

Sacred Heart Parish was established in 1884 and Saint Joseph Parish in 1916, for the Polish community. The decree states the following: “The ethnic community for which Saint Joseph was created no longer exists in the area and it only has about 210 registered households, and recent years have brought financial burdens, decreasing attendance of the faithful at both parishes, and two parishes are simply no longer needed for this small town.” The St. Joseph church building will remain as a sacred place for worship but no scheduled masses will occur. The administration for the two parishes and Saint Joseph Parish cemetery will be based at Sacred Heart church.

This news was not totally unexpected, as part of the pastoral planning process was a discussion of combining the two churches for the past year, and both churches were provided with this information. The churches were in the preliminary planning stages but no formal conversations between the two parishes could occur until The Plan was finalized and announced.

Surprising  news shared in mass that same day was of pastor reassignments. Father Michael Devito of Sacred Heart Parish will be moving to Broad Brook/East Windsor and Father William Baldyga is retiring and moving to Sacred Heart Church in New Britain. These changes will also be effective June 29.

The new pastor at Sacred Heart Church according to the pastor reassignment on the archdiocese website is Reverend Mark Jette from Saint Lawrence Parish in West Haven.

Please be sure to check the church bulletins and websites at both Sacred Heart Church and St. Joseph Church to see if farewell gatherings will be planned for Father DeVito and Father Baldyga.

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