History of The Design and Architecture of The Original St. Francis of Assisi Church
The design and architecture of the original Church is based on a modified 12th century Norman style developed in England and Normandy. The Norman style is typified by its simple use of brick or stone, low wall height, and steeply pitched gables.
This architectural choice was fortuitous, especially during war time when building materials were rare indeed. The entire building was constructed from brick and almost completely faced with Longmeadow brownstone. Both materials, indigenous to the Connecticut River Valley, were readily available.
The brick was provided by the Pola family’s Pleasant Valley Brick Company and the brownstone was quarried about 25 miles from the site. Before the Church was completed, the quarry closed (prompted by the war) and the rear of the building had to be faced with brick. The architect and contractor deftly adapted the plans to unobtrusively blend the brick fascia. To harmonize with the brownstone, the roof was sheathed in gray, green, and purple hues of Vermont slate.
The front of the Church is graced by the great rose window and the Roman arch front doors. The original construction of the Church contained only five stained glass windows. Additional stained glass windows were placed two years after construction. All of the windows were designed by John Terrance O’Duggan of Boston. The original five windows, located in the front of the Church, are considered to be the most intricate and beautiful of all the windows.
Two deeply recessed casement windows are located on the west and east side of the front door. The west window depicts Jesus in the Temple and the east window depicts Jesus blessing the children. Two small, detailed windows made from 266 pieces of glass, depicting the Alpha and the Omega, are located in the front doors.
The great rose window is the largest and most ornate of all the stained glass in the Church. The large, three-foot central panel depicts the Lamb of the Apocalypse seated upon the Book of the Seven Seals, a symbol of our Redeemer. Surrounding the central panel are eight petal-like half circles in geometric and floral design. The 25 different parts of this window are tied together by the ornamental segments of great circles woven subtly into the design as a decorative element.
The interior of the Church was designed to mirror the simplicity of the exterior lines. Most of the interior is painted brick and plaster walls and rafters made from knotty pine.
The original altar, weighing more than 10 tons, was formed from Indiana limestone. Above the altar was a decorative painting by Daniel Goodison which served as a background for a large crucifix.
Construction costs were $62,030. Additional structural and ornamental items were purchased by individual parishioners or their families including: the communion rail, three altars, crucifix, confessionals, baptismal font, stained glass windows, statues of Mary and Joseph, vestments, chairs, kneelers, and carpet.
Construction of the Church was completed in November 1942 with a dedication ceremony held that same month.
Saint Margaret Mary Church History
Saint Margaret Mary Parish was established in the fall of 1961 and the Reverend Thomas C. O’Neil was appointed as pastor. Saint Francis of Assisi Parish, the “mother parish” purchased a 16 acre parcel of land and a ranch house at 80 Hayes Road which was to be used as a temporary rectory while the new church and rectory were being built. The first Masses in our parish were celebrated at the Wapping School and at the Ellsworth Memorial High School on Main Street. The Reverend Edward McLean became the first weekend assistant to help Father O’Neil with the Sunday Mass schedule.
On October 4, 1961, Saint Margaret Mary Parish was incorporated with the appointment of John Nachyly, Jr. and Francis Coleman as trustees of the parish. During the week of October 21, 1961, an addition to the rectory at 80 Hayes Road was begun. When completed, that chapel was used for daily Mass, baptisms and confession.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new buildings took place on Sunday, September 23, 1962 after a very successful fund drive which soon reached its minimum goal of $250,000. During the year 1962, Father William Crane, M.S. replaced Father McLean as weekend assistant.
By 1962, a Ladies Guild had been formed with Mrs. James Rafferty as president; the Holy Name Society was formed with Mr. Charles Maurer serving as president; religious instructions had begun under the guidance of Mrs. Julia Durig.
In 1963, Father Joseph Schick was appointed Assistant Pastor. Fathers O’Neil and Schick served the parish until spring 1972 when Father O’Neil was appointed Pastor of Saint Therese Church in North Haven. In June 1972, a team ministry comprised of Father Schick and Father William McGrath was appointed by Archbishop Whealon to serve Saint Margaret Mary Parish.
In June 1978, following the completion of their first six year term as a team, Fathers Schick and McGrath left the parish for different assignments and Father John Quinn was appointed pastor. At that time, Father Joseph Keating was appointed as Father Quinn’s assistant. In August 1981, Father Mark Flynn replaced Father Keating as assistant.
In 1984, after completion of his six year term as Pastor, Father Quinn left St. Margaret Mary Parish to become Catholic Chaplain at Saint Francis Hospital. Father Flynn was appointed Co-Pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury. On June 7, 1984, Fathers Daniel Sullivan and Peter Zizka were appointed Co-Pastors and began their team ministry in our parish.
Father Sullivan retired on September 5, 2013. Father Michael J. Dolan took over as Pastor in September 2013.
Saint Junípero Serra Parish
As of March 31st, 2017, Saint Francis of Assisi Church and Saint Margaret Mary Church were merged by the Archdiocese of Hartford to become Saint Junípero Serra Parish. Father David J. Baranowski is our Pastor and Father Carlos Castrillon our Parochial Vicar.