WOODBURY – St. Teresa of Avila will merge with Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to form a new parish, which will be called Prince of Peace, the Archdiocese of Hartford announced at weekend masses at both churches. The merger will go into effect on June 29.
Rev. James T. Gregory, who has been pastor of St. Teresa since October 2015, will be the pastor of the new Prince of Peace parish.
The merger is part of a comprehensive pastoral plan that will reconfigure the 212 parishes of the Archdiocese in Hartford, Litchfield and New Haven Counties into 127. To achieve this, 144 parishes will be involved in mergers resulting in 59 new parishes. The mergers will involve unions of two to six parishes.
The announcement comes as the result of a two-year pastoral planning effort involving “careful, thoughtful and prayerful consideration and wide consultation about the dramatic changes of the last half century, which continue today, and which have a major impact on the life of the church,” said Archdiocese of Hartford Archbishop Leonard P. Blair in a press release.
Both church buildings – St. Teresa of Avila in Woodbury and Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem – will retain their names even though the merged parish will be known as Prince of Peace. According to a decree handed down by Archbishop Blair, all records for both churches will be “preserved and safeguarded” at St. Teresa.
It has not officially been determined which church will host Prince of Peace’s masses, or if regular masses will be held in both buildings.
Construction of the St. Teresa of Avila building began in 1903, when Catholics were the minority religion in Woodbury. At the time, St. Teresa was then a mission of St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown.
St. Teresa of Avila joined St. John of the Cross Church in Middlebury to form a separate parish in 1916. The association continued over the next 39 years, until the gradual but steady rise in the Catholic population of Woodbury led Bishop Henry O’Brien of the Hartford Diocese to approve designation of St. Teresa of Avila as an independent parish effective March 24, 1955.
Since the mid-1990’s, St. Teresa of Avila parish has grown to approximately 1,300 households, and a religious education program that brings instruction in the faith to more than 500 parish youths each year.
The Catholic Church in Bethlehem was first established as a mission of St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown on November 16, 1884. Construction of a Church of the Nativity began in July 1929, and the building opened three months later. The current church building was opened in October 1992, and the parish is celebrating its 25th anniversary of the building this year.