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Our Parish History

THE HISTORY OF ST. GABRIEL CHURCH

 

St. Gabriel mission became an independent parish, May 9, 1946 after service an expanding Milford shoreline community since 1908.  To understand the growth of the past is important.

The roots of St. Gabriel Church go back to the first Roman Catholic church in Milford.  A large number of Roman Catholics arrived in Milford in 1884 with the employment of Irish workers to construct the railroad through the area.  At this time priests came from St. Mary Parish, New Haven to celebrate Mass in the homes of the communicants.

Rev. Edward J. O'Brien of New Haven recognized the need for a church as the congregation continued to grow.  In 1850 a small parcel of land was purchased on Gulf Street near the present railroad bridge.  Three years later, Milford's first Roman Catholic Church, known as Milford Mission, was constructed, later known as St. Mary Church.  For several years the Mission would be under the jurisdiction of St. James Parish in Bridgeport, St. Mary in New Haven, St. Mary in Bridgeport, and St. Mary in Derby.

In 1908, St. Gabriel Mission was started, with Mass held in Union Chapel, a non-denominational church at Wildermere Beach, during the summer months.  It was a mission of St. Mary, which is now an independent parish.

In 1910, a chapel was constructed at Andrews Avenue and Church Street, at a cost of $4,750.  This chapel, a wooden structure, was dedicated on August 21, 1910.  The following year, new pews were added a cost of $1027.  Four years later, an addition was built costing $1080.  In 1917, the property was valued at $12,000.  Total cost for the structure, additions, and furnishings was less than $6,000.

For the next several years Mass was held here to accommodate summer visitors to the shore.  Walnut Beach, Wildemere Beach, Laurel Beach and Cedar Beach made up a thriving summer community, with Walnut Beach Park a successful attraction, including two movie theaters.  The summer population continued to grow.

The first chapel, as a result of a faulty furnace, was destroyed by a fire on Sunday, February 2356, 1923.  The present church was constructed, and dedicated on August 26, 1923, at cost of $47,000.  The church's unique architecture reflects the influence of a Spanish Mission chapel.  The interior was completed and the church was rededicated on August 3, 1930 by Father John Anderson.  The beautiful stained glass windows depicts the life of Jesus Christ from birth to His ascension into heaven.  The window above the altar shows Angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.

In 1924, St. Gabriel Mission Church opened year round.  At this time, St. Gabriel became associated with St. Ann Parish on Naugatuck Ave, Devon, Connecticut.  St. Gabriel continued as a Mission of St. Ann until 1946.  

St. Gabriel Church, no longer a mission, finally became able to support a church, following a growing population in the West Shore area.  The winterizing of summer cottages, plus return of World War II veterans contributed to parish growth.  The first pastor was Rev. Robert P. Sullivan.  Church membership grew to number 1655, with two Sunday Masses celebrated.  During this period three hundred children attended Catechism classes.  Fifty children were baptized, twenty received First Communion, and fifteen marriages were performed.  The first confirmation was administered by the Most Rev. Henry J. O'Brien, Archbishop of Hartford, on April 24, 1948.

As a result of Vatican II, the laity was given more prominence, therefore, closer participation in public worship.  The Parish Council, with members elected by parishioners, gave the laity more voice in the administration of the parish.  Men and women were selected to serve as ministers of the Eucharist, Lectors, Director of Religious Education and teachers of religion for the public school children.  Recent interior renovations made use of the original altar marble.  Renovations were made to conform to Liturgical renewal of sanctuaries.

The Permanent Diaconate, restored by the Roman Catholic church in the early 1970's was introduced at St. Gabriel in 1979 with Calvin Croll, Eugene Loffredo and Paul Blawie becoming the first Deacons.  In 1990, Harry Doyle became a Deacon.  In 2015, Thomas Cabeen was appointed as Deacon, the first Deacon after the parish was "linked" with St. Ann.

In July, 1995 Rev. Thomas F Bennett hired Holy Cross Brother Lawrence Lussier, CSC as Pastoral Associate.  Among the ministries that he was asked to direct across these past 20 years are -Religious Education Program, Youth Ministry, Rites of Christian Initiation, Evangelization, Parish Census, Parish Newsletter, Parish Social Ministry, Small Church Communities, Outreach to Inactive Catholics, Mission Board.  He was responsible for setting up the "Sister Parish Relationship" between St. Gabriel and St. Brendan, Kitete, Tanzania.  In recent years he set up websites for St. Gabriel - www.stgabrielmilford.org and one for St. Brendan's news - www.kiteteparish.org.  He is currently facilitating a scripture program.  He continues to be of service as the pastor requests.

Beloved pastors have served the people of God at St. Gabriel, Milford. Serving from 1946-19151 Rev. Robert P Sullivan; from 1951-1969 Rev. Francis J. Bratton; from 1970 to 1972 Rev. William F. Lynch and Rev. F. Donahue; from 1972-1978 Rev. James O. Lambert; from 1978-1992 Rev. Patrick J Speer; From 1992-1995 Rev. Rev. Thomas F. Bennett; from 1995 to 2015 Rev. Maurice J. Maroney.

The sacramental history from 1946 to 2015 is as follows:                                                                        Baptisms

1946-1951   -  370; 1951-1969 - 2039;  1970-1972 - 276; 1973-1978 - 357; 1978-1992 - 1156;  1993-1995 - 2248;  1996-2015 - 972.

                                                                       First Communions

1946-1951 - 272; 1951-1969 - 1399; 1970-1972 - 82; 1973-1978 - 149;  1978-1992 - 443; 1978-1992 - 740; 1993-1995 - 82; 1996-2015 - 972.

                Confirmations

1948-1951 - 116; 1952-1969 - 1281; 1971-1972 - 172; 1973-1978 - 361; 1979-1992 - 616; 1992-1994 - 116; 1995-2015 - 533.       

            Marriages

1946-1951 - 94;  1951-1969 - 381; 1970-1972 - 66; 1973-1978 - 125; 1979-1992 - 305; 1993-1995 - 39;  1995-2015 - 225.

Funerals from 1946-2015 - 1,865. 

In the early 2000's the Archdiocese began a study on how to continue to provide priests to serve parishes.  The vocations to the priesthood had so declined in numbers, along with priests retiring and dying, made it difficult to keep the parishes having their own pastors.  In November of 2013, the Archdiocese of Hartford's Archbishop Henry J. Mansell appointed Rev. Maurice, J. Maroney as pastor of both St. Gabriel and St. Ann as "linked" parishes.  

 
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