History of the Church of the Incarnation

Compiled by Gina DeAngelo and Emily Monaco for the church’s 50th anniversary, and published with permission of the Church of the Incarnation.

 Our Founding Pastor

When the redistribution of our Mother parish, Corpus Christi, became a necessity, the Church of the Incarnation was established on September 5, 1963, in Wethersfield, Connecticut.  Reverend John J. Crawford, formerly pastor of St. John of the Cross, Middlebury, Connecticut, was named founding pastor of The Church of the Incarnation.  The first Masses on September 15th were held at the Samuel B. Webb Junior High School on Willow Street in Wethersfield with the aid of the Redemptorist Fathers from Suffield.

On September 25th, The Church of the Incarnation incorporated and at the same time Mr. Howard Sullivan and Dr. Samuel Fornarotto were appointed lay trustees. The very next day, the sum of $100,000 was turned over to the parish with $30,000 of that sum earmarked to repay the Hartford Archdiocese for land purchased for the future church property on Prospect Street, adjacent to the Wethersfield Country Club.

The women of the new parish tendered a reception for Father Crawford on September 29, 1963, at the home of Mrs. Francis R. Sablone. Mrs. Joseph Bialski, Mrs. Robert Jordan, Mrs. Allie Resony, Mrs. Peter Curtin, Mrs. Edward Casey, and Mrs. Joseph Satriano assisted the pastor and Mrs. Sablone in receiving the parishioners who came to call.

The funds raised would help furnish the temporary rectory located at 340 Prospect Street. Over $700 was realized from this quickly and efficiently organized event – a testimonial to the enthusiasm and energies of the ladies group. Having accomplished the goal of raising the funds, the ladies subsequently went about redecorating the rectory and had it ready for the pastor’s occupancy on October 2, 1963.

On October 4th, the first Friday, Father Crawford celebrated Mass at the Chapel of the Incarnation in the rectory. Four days later the parish was given permission to use the Webb School for evening Masses on those holy days falling on school days. Also during this month, the Usher’s Group was formed with Mr. Edwin Sullivan named Head Usher.

In November of 1963, the men of the parish conducted a census and the outcome revealed that there was a total of 780 families. Just before the Christmas holidays the La Salette Fathers arrived to assist Father Crawford, and they continue to do so.

A Unique Challenge

In November of 1963, Daniel P. Antinozzi, Stratford, Conn., member of the A.I.A., was named Architect for the Church of the Incarnation. While buildings are built for “men, a church is built for God and man and accordingly the architect who designs a church is presented with a unique challenge.”

The church must remind the parishioner of the Presence of God and His purposes. Through the centuries, architects have chosen a variety of ways, materials and styles to achieve their goals. Mr. Antinozzi, considering the times in which we live, as well as the name of our parish, worked out an unusual cruciform design that combines simplicity with symbolism. He has given our community in Wethersfield, a church that reflects and emphasizes the changes which have been brought about by the Second Vatican Council while still maintaining the traditional dignity of the House of God.

With the new year, 1964, just two weeks old, the preliminary organizational meeting for a Woman’s Club was held at the rectory.

In February, the envelope system was introduced and altar boys were recruited. Later in the month, an open meeting was held at Samuel B. Webb Junior High to organize the Woman ‘s Club; the nomination and election of four officers and appointment, on a volunteer basis, of twelve committee chairmen took place. Mrs. Ann Jordan was voted first president of the Woman’s Club; Mrs. Rae Willard was first vice-president; Mrs. Mary Vannie, first secretary and Miss Marguerite Beakey first treasurer.

Building Fund Campaign

On April 23rd, the kick-off meeting of the building-fund campaign was held. On April 26th, the campaign officially opened with Benediction and blessing of workers by Father Crawford. A minimum goal of $200,000 was set for the 200 men of the parish who contributed their time, resources and energies to the drive. May 19th was set as the deadline. General co-chair?men of the drive were Dr. Samuel Fornarotto and Howard R. Sullivan. Right Reverend Monsignor Raymond G. La Fontaine of West Hartford, Dean of the Hartford County West Clergy, represented Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien at the blessing of the workers. Right Reverend Monsignor Francis J. Fazzalaro, J.C.D., Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese, preached the sermon.

At the first report meeting of the fund drive committee, Father Crawford and some of his assistants – Mrs. Edward Casey, Mrs. James Carbone, and Mrs. Edward Wike – were able to announce that the minimum goal of $200,000 which had been set the previous month, had in fact been surpassed by the sum of $44,710.

By the closing date of the campaign in late May, the grand total of $323,465 had been collected, surpassing the minimum goal of S200,000 by more than $123,000. Edward J. Sipples and Francis Sablone were co-chairmen of the audit committee. Howard Sullivan reported with Dr. Samuel Fornarotto the great victory that had been accomplished by the fundraisers through the loyal support of the families and businesses in the parish area. At this time it was estimated that the total building costs for the Incarnation complex would probably amount to over $600,000. Subsequently, a general contractor, Anderson-Fairoaks, Inc., of Hartford, was named.

The first Communion Class was held on May 17, 1964. A parish Choir, under the direction of Organist Mrs. Stanley Murzyn, was formed in October. Another organization which began with the parish is the C.Y.O. Its growth and development testifies to the loyalty and devotion of the lay leaders and instructors.

Groundbreaking Ceremony

By November first, which was coincidentally The Feast of All-Saints, the ground-breaking ceremony was held and the first shovel of earth on the seventeen acres of Incarnation property was officially turned over by Father Crawford, with the assistance of Right Reverend Monsignor Raymond La Fontaine, Dean, in the presence of trustees Howard Sullivan and Dr. Samuel Fornarotto and scores of parishioners.

Knights of Columbus Pledge

The Father James J. Gannon Council, Knights of Columbus of Wethersfield-Rocky Hill, made their pledge for the new Church of the Incarnation, presenting a check to Father Crawford during the month of November. Taking part in the presentation were Salvatore Alderucci, grand knight; Alma H. Giunta, chancellor; and Sebastian J. Gangi, deputy grand knight.

 Woman’ s Club Officers

1965: Mrs. Rae Willard, President, Miss Marguerite Beakey, Vice President, Mrs. Dorothy Paquette, Secretary, Mrs. Frances Larco, Treasurer

1966, Miss Marguerite Beakey, President,Mrs. Dorothy Paquette, Vice President, Mrs. Theresa Jahne, Secretary, Mrs. Margaret Fowler, Treasurer

Historic Discovery

As the laborers were removing rocks and boulders during the early part of 1965, two adventurous Webb School ninth graders went exploring over the construction site. The boys came upon a fascinating discovery – footprints of prehistoric beasts – dinosaur tracks, embedded in red shale. Steven Hill and Virgil Viets went to the head of their earth science class when it was authenticated that the three-toed prints found on the shale were actually those belonging to an unclassified dinosaur, which usually walked on his hind legs. Dr. Joseph Peoples of the Wesleyan University of Geology Department examined the 6 x 4 inch footprints and informed the boys that the dinosaur lived in the so-called upper Triassic Period, over 200 million years ago!

George Schreiber, a teacher at Webb, had previously been telling his students that areas of red shale were most likely to contain dinosaur tracks. When the boys noticed the overturned boulders at our church site they decided to investigate. In all, nearly 20 pieces of shale with footprints were found and the Wethersfield Historical Society has professed an interest in owning the ancient tracks. There were also reports at the time that the footprints might be put on display in Wethersfield parks. [One of the tracks is displayed at the Church of the Incarnation.  The location of the remaining 19 is not known.]

Rectory Completed

The building permit for the Church of the Incarnation Rectory and Sanctuary on Prospect Street in Wethersfield, Connecticut, was granted in January 1965, with the value estimated at $641,000. The red brick rectory was the first building to be completed in August of 1965. This sturdy structure houses a chapel, offices, three reception rooms, living quarters for four priests, a meeting room, and accommodations for a housekeeper. The parish was given the assistance of Reverend Raymond Barry in June and in September when Father Barry left, Father Francis P. McDonnell crone to replace him. In October Father Edward McLean, who is in charge of the Catholic Information Center and Catholic Book Store in Hartford, came to live in residence at the rectory.

The exceptionally mild autumn and winter of 1965 facilitated the building schedule and component units of the interior began to arrive. Among them were the specially designed and executed hand-made appointments for the church, some of which crone from as far away as Italy.  Christmas, 1965, brought us close to the great gift of a new church in which to begin our worship in 1966.

The Church Building

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The Church of the Incarnation of Wethersfield, Connecticut, is of contemporary design, in the general form of a crucifix. The 50-foot cross is housed in a V-shaped pylon located forward of the main entrance. To the rear of the sanctuary, separated by a soundproof folding partition there is a spacious parish hall, which can accommodate approximately 500 persons. In addition to serving as a meeting place for social activities of the parish and its organizations, the hall will accommodate overflow congregation from the main area of the church. The hall includes a kitchen, a stage for lectures and plays, coat closets, storage rooms and other practical facilities.

The main nave is capable of seating 780, the west transept can accommodate 230 and the east transept hold.5 an additional 100 worshippers, or a total of 1,110 persons. This latter area will comprise the Blessed Sacrament Chapel for daily Mass, and a cry room for children, from which the Mass being offered on the main altar can readily be observed. The Baptistry is located in this area, with the advantage of a controlled system whereby the area can be heated independently of the main church to a point of comfort for the infants. The choir room and organ is situated above the Chapel. The organ, which is now being constructed especially for the Church of the Incarnation by the Austin Organ Company of Hartford, will have two manual consoles. It will consist of four divisions, namely: Swell Organ, Great Organ, Pedal Organ, and Antiphonal Organ. The latter to facilitate the new emphasis on congregational singing.

An unusual feature of the Church of the Incarnation is the Narthex, where an all glassed-in area, running perpendicular to the facade of the front entrance will provide access to parking areas on either side of the church. The striking stained-glass windows have been designed and executed for the Church of the Incarnation by Jonynas and Shepherd Art Studio of Hollis, N.Y.

There are ten Nave windows on the east and west walls and these depict: The Annunciation; St. Joseph with Christ as a boy; Calling of the Apostles at the Sea of Galilee Window of Nairn embracing son restored to life; Pardon of the woman taken in adultery; The Good Thief promised paradise; St. Joseph of Arimathea at the entombment of Christ; The three women at the open, empty, and glorious tomb; The Ascension; and Pentecost.

Two transept east wall windows show representations of actual incidents expressive of Wethersfield history. Two transept west wall windows show Christ calming the storm at sea and Christ casting out the Devil. One Nave south wall window shows the Saviour as He will come in judgment, in the left is the infant Saviour, and in the right is the Saviour’s dead body. Two Nave north wall windows depict Christ tempted and Christ weeping over Jerusalem. Two chapel windows show Moses striking the rock to produce water for the Israelites, and Waters containing fish as symbolic of Baptism. The two Baptistry windows are Baptism of our Lord by St. John, and St. Isaac Jogues baptizing an American Indian. Three sacristy windows reveal symbols appropriate to the priest, deacon and sub? deacon.

The altar of Reposition is executed in Verde Acceglio marble while the altar of Sacrifice, chapel altar and Baptismal font are executed in Calacatta marble. Candlesticks, candelabra, crucifixes, chapel altar front decoration, holy water fonts, funeral candlesticks, stations of the cross were designed, sculptured and executed in bronze and aluminum by Jonynas and Shepherd. The Reposition altar decoration, Tabernacle decoration and the Tabernacle itself are of unique hand-made pieces executed in bronze and steel welding technique.

The celebrants chair, the pulpit, lectern and credence table along with the priedieu and smaller side chairs are of the finest Appalachian oak, created by skilled craftsmen engaged solely in the manufacture of church furnishings at Gothic Craft, Northboro, Mass.

Dedication Day

Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien presided at the dedication of the Church of Incarnation, Prospect Street, Wethersfield, Connecticut, on Sunday January 23, 1966. Chaplains assisting the Archbishop were the Rev. Francis E. Nash, Wethersfield, and the Rev. Patrick J. Speer, West Hartford. The Rev. John J. Crawford, pastor, celebrated the Solemn Mass, assisted by the Rev. John B. O’Connell, Thompsonville as deacon, and the Rev. Thomas F. Glynn, Forestville, as sub-deacon.

The sermon was delivered by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Terrence P. McMahon, Elmwood. The assistant priest was the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph R. Lacy, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Hartford. Masters of ceremonies were the Very Rev. Msgr. William J. Mullen, Hartford, and the Rev. Thomas J. Lynch, Hartford.

The Rev. Paul Bryant, C.S.S.R., Suffield, and the Rev. Robert G. Keating, Derby, served as acolytes. The Rev. John F. Curran, Wethersfield, served as thurifer. The processional cross bearer was the Rev. Raymond Barry, New Haven. The metropolitan cross bearer was the Rev. John G. Fanning, Middlebury.

The Archbishop officiated with the laying of the cornerstone of which were included some memorial cards for members of the parish who died before the building was dedicated, as well as other memorabilia of the parish. The latest copy of the Catholic Transcript and the latest copy of the Hartford Courant, coins of all natures, including the Kennedy half? dollar, and a piece of marble from the main altar of the old St. Joseph’s Cathedral were also included in the cornerstone.

Compiled by Gina DeAngelo and Emily Monaco and published with permission of the Church of the incarnation.

 

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