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Parish History

St. Mary Priory
Established 1832
500 households

In 1651 Father Gabriel Druillettes, S.J., visited New Haven, presumably the fist priest to set foot in the city. In January 1796 a French priest was lodged on Chapel Street and ministered to refugees of political turmoil within France's Caribbean possessions. In1823, Bishop John Cheverus of Boston celebrated Mass on York Street. City Catholics also received pastoral visits over the next few years from Fathers John G. Power, Vicar General of the Diocese of New York, and Robert D. Woodley of Rhode Island. Father Woodley later offered Mass in a barn at the corner of Chestnut and Chapel Streets. In late August 1829, New Haven passed to the jurisdiction of Hartford. In 1832, a newly ordained Father James McDermott arrived as New Haven's first resident pastor. On May 13, 1833, the pastor bought a lot at York and Davenport Streets for construction of a church. There on May 8, 1834, Boston's Bishop Benedict J. Fenwick dedicated Connecticut's second Catholic church as Christ's Church. Yet, shortly after the dedication ceremony began, one of the church's crowded galleries collapsed, killing two people. Father McDermott planted deep Catholic roots, quickly establishing a parochial school in the sacristy. On June 11, 1848, a fire consumed Christ's Church, compelling the parish to offer Mass under a tent in the adjacent cemetery. Appointed pastor in December of that year, Father Philip O'Reilly bought a Church Street meetinghouse from a Congregational society. On December 18, 1848, Connecticut's first Bishop, William Tyler, dedicated the new parish church as St. Mary. In 1851, Father Edward J. O'Brien welcomed the Sisters of Mercy, who taught in the parish school and opened an orphanage. Since the parish required more worship space, Father O'Brien bought land on Hillhouse Avenue. Construction began, and on September 22, 1870, the cornerstone of a new church was blessed by Bishop McFarland. The edifice was dedicated on October 25, 1874. In 1882, assistant pastor Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus. He had originally organized St. Joseph Total Abstinence and Benevolent Society and was seeking to get a chapter of the Catholic Order of Foresters started as well when that society, headquartered in Boston, refused permission. In 1901, the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs of Columbus, Ohio, opened a girls' academy on Orange Street. In 1904, a parish school opened on Ashmun Street. The new St. Mary Convent and School on Prospect Street were opened in 1954 and 1955 respectively. St. Mary School closed in 1986.
St. Mary Priory
5 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven CT 06505-1202
Telephone: 203-562-6193   Fax: 203-562-1273
Deanery: New Haven
Vicariate: New Haven