by Ray Fitzpatrick
The story of the Church of Our Lady of Loreto, which begins a brilliant new chapter with the dedication of its beautiful new England Colonial edifice, covers a short span of years but it includes many tales of devotion and sacrifice.
It was June, 1970, that the Mission church of Bunker Hill, as it was first identified, was officially established by the Most Reverend John F. Whealon, Archbishop of Hartford, but its founding had been under consideration for several years. Taken from parts of the territory served by the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Waterbury, and St. Mary Magdalen Church, Oakville, the new parish originally contained 350 families. (That number has grown to 650 families.)
Selected as the pastor was a priest well-known to the area through years of service at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, the Reverend Francis J. Ford. Immediately upon his appointment, the new pastor started the new parish in operation. Taking up temporary residence at the Blessed Sacrament Rectory, he arranged for the use of Carrington School for Sunday Masses. The first Parish Bulletin of the Mission Church of Bunker Hill, dated June 20-21, 1970, proudly announced that Saturday Masses would be offered at 5 and 7 P.M. and Sunday Masses at 9 and 10:30 A.M. An open meeting of members of the new parish was held June 23, at which time Father Ford answered questions from the members of his new flock.
A first order of business was the selection of a name for the new parish. Over a period of several weeks suggestions were solicited from parishioners and votes taken. Then on August 9, there appeared at the head of the Parish Bulletin for the first time, the words, "Our Church of Our Lady of Loreto." the name had a special significance to the pastor for not only did he have a personal devotion to the Lady of Loreto, but it is also the given name of his mother, though spelled in the form, "Lauretta," in her case.
Once under the patronage of Our Lady of Loreto, who has been designated by the Holy See as the special patroness of air and space travel, parish activity, already at a fast pace, was accelerated to a Space Age rate.
A committee of 13 parishioners began looking at potential sites for a new church and rectory; the Ladies Guild was formed; religious instruction classes were begun; retreat groups were organized; the parish initiated its own weekly envelope collection.
From the beginning the parish assumed the responsibility for the spiritual needs of its members. Weddings, baptisms and funerals were conducted in the name of the new church, although held in the parish of origin. Father Ford, with the assistance of visiting priests, officiated.
As the parish began to assume an identity of its own, sentiment grew for the erection of a church. Confident that his parishioners would lend generous support to a drive for funds, Father ford went to Archbishop Whealon for his approval. The Archbishop quickly gave not only his approval, but his personal blessing to the great enterprise being undertaken by "this youngest of the parishes of the Archdiocese."
With the skilled help of a professional fundraiser, George Babich, who donated his services without fee, detailed plans were drafted for Our Lady of Loreto Foundation fund the goal was set at $200,000 -- a fantastic target for a parish which had been in existence for little more than a year.
Chairman James Bozzuto of the campaign committee called upon all available manpower and womanpower and the drive began in October, 1971. The first report meeting brought news of 74 donors whose cash and pledges totaled $62,880. the total went up and up -- $101, 055 -- $123,055 -- 140,505 -- $154,623 -- $165,195 -- $176,695 -- and then "Over the Top" at $200,345. The final report, issued little more than two months after the start of the drive, listed a total of $205,845.
The impossible dream had been achieved. The "baby" of the Archdiocese's parishes had sufficient money to move toward actual building of the Church of Our Lady of Loreto.
The site, the former Haddad Estate at Bunker Hill Avenue and Ardsley Road, had been acquired. The architects, Louis Fucito and Associates, were authorized to complete detailed plans.
A milestone was passed in the spring of 1972 when, on May 6, the Parish Bulletin was able to announce the opening of the Parish Residence. Father Ford left his temporary quarters at the Blessed Sacrament Rectory and moved into 12 Ardsley Road, across the street from the church site. Soon afterward a schedule of weekday Masses at the Rectory Chapel was begun.
On November 26, 1972, ground breaking ceremonies were held at the church site, with Father Ford turning the first shovelful of earth. Workmen of the W. J. Megin Co., which had won the construction contract, went to their tasks and parishioners watched their program week by week and month by month.
The Summer and Fall of 1973 were busy seasons for the parish. Committees were organized to plan the dedication ceremonies; it was decided to issue the Dedication Souvenir Journal and there was a busy time preparing for its publication; the Founders club carried on a round of activities; the members of he Ladies guild, indefatigable as ever, sponsored a while series of social and fund raising events.
Now comes the Day of Dedication. the parish patroness is once again being asked to intercede for his church.
It is a day for human satisfaction at the obstacles that have been overcome on the journey and for prayers
It is a day of an end and a beginning -- an end to the tentative, formative phase -- and the beginning of a strong and flourishing parish, united in fervent Catholicism. the bricks and mortor stage is over. Now comes the real life of the parish as a spiritual family.
Secure in the help of its Patroness, dedication to the worship and service of God, the Parish of Our Lady of Loreto faces the future confident and unafraid.
Holy Legend has it that centuries ago, Mary's home in Nazareth was carried miraculously across the seas to the little town of Loreto, in Italy. There a beautiful shrine was erected around it and Our Lady of Loreto has been honored by millions of visitors.
From Galilee to the Adriatic shore
Went Santa Casa--Holy House--
Where Mary lived in Nazareth
Preparing for the Son she bore.
As in Loreto's blessed shrine
May love for Mary flourish here
In this new Holy House we built
To serve and praise her Son divine.
The journey's long, the perils great,
But Faith is strong, our spirit's sure;
Loreto's torch we'll keep aflame,
We pledge to god in Mary's name
By Ray Fitzpatrick