West Haven’s oldest Catholic church closed as parishes face “reduction in religious practice”

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WEST HAVEN – Saint Lawrence Church, the oldest church in the city, will close due to high repair costs, Reverend José Mercado, pastor of Saint John XXIII parish, told parishioners.

An inventory of all the buildings on the St. Lawrence campuses on Main Street and St. Louis Church on Bull Hill Lane revealed that it would cost over $ 2 million to make all the necessary repairs, but St. Lawrence Church, which has a badly leaking roof, as well as broken stone and masonry, accounted for the greatest cost. The church was built in 1903, according to city valuation records.

St. Lawrence School will remain open, Mercado said Tuesday.

At one time there were five Catholic schools in West Haven, but “at the moment St. Lawrence School is the only Catholic school in town,” he said. “Thank God, it’s vibrant. We have 197 students.

Elaine Carroll, a ward administrator, said “there is no way the school will close and such a decision will make us better able to support the school.”

She said that the school will remain a mission of the parish of Saint John XXIII.

In a parish meeting posted on Facebook, Mercado said the cost of repairing the church roof, where black mold was found underneath, and the wooden dome would cost $ 327,000.

The pastoral center at St. Lawrence Church on Main Street in West Haven pictured on December 7, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

He said during recent heavy rains, leaks were found in most of the columns, part of the roof collapsed and puddles of water were found in the basement.

“As I entered the church as it was raining, all I heard were the sounds of drops coming from various places in the church,” he said in the video.

“It was a difficult decision that had to be made, if we were going to do the necessary repairs and maintenance at the church,” Mercado said on Tuesday.

In the end, the administrators and the parish council “felt it was not good management to spend the money, given the factors they discussed,” he said.

Another cost will be to demolish the convent, next to the school, which was deemed dangerous by QA + M Architecture, the consultant hired by the parish.

In addition, financial donations from parishioners increased from $ 512,014 in 2018 to $ 325,710 in 2020 when the pandemic struck. Mercado said the total increased by $ 12,012 through the third quarter of 2021 and the parish was running in deficit every year.

Mercado also reported that there are 129 Archdiocesan priests and 102 senior priests in the Archdiocese. Over the next four years, 18 priests are expected to retire, not counting those taking early retirement for medical reasons, while only six new priests are on track to be ordained in the next five years, none in 2022. .

In 2017, the parish of Saint-Jean XXIII was formed by the merger of the parishes of Saint-Laurent, Saint-Louis and Saint-Paul. St. Paul was closed at this time.

Saint-Jean Vianney merged with Notre-Dame de la Victoire at this time. In 2020, the 10-acre Notre-Dame de la Victoire campus was sold to the Christian Fellowship Church of God and Notre-Dame de la Victoire was moved to St. John Vianney Church on Captain Thomas Boulevard.

The Archdiocese of Hartford implemented a model municipal parish in New Haven, Hamden, New Britain, Southington and Manchester. Mercado and Carroll said the merger of Saint John XXIII and Our Lady of Victory had not been discussed.

The reality is, however, that “there is a decrease in religious practice” in the Archdiocese and beyond, Mercado said. “They saw the reality of this West Haven strike, this change would happen and West Haven would come to the fore.”

St. Lawrence School on Main Street in West Haven pictured on December 7, 2021.

St. Lawrence School on Main Street in West Haven pictured on December 7, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

While the parish has 1,100 families, 274 people attended the two Masses in English in the two churches and 427 at the two Masses in Spanish. He said the parish is diverse with Irish, Italians, Poles, Nigerians, Mexicans, Colombians, Hondurans and Guatemalans, among others.

Mercado, pastor since 2017, said the hope is that St. Lawrence Church will be available for weddings and funerals and that a thanksgiving celebration will take place in early 2022 to “give thanks to God for those memories and experiences and also to provide time for prayer.

“My hope is to accompany my parishioners through this,” he said.

St. Lawrence Church on Main Street in West Haven pictured on December 7, 2021.

St. Lawrence Church on Main Street in West Haven pictured on December 7, 2021.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media

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