Hartford, Archdiocese of
HARTFORD, ARCHDIOCESE OF
The Archdiocese of Hartford (Hartfortiensis ) comprises the counties of Hartford, New Haven, and Litchfield in the state of Connecticut. The area measures 2,288 square miles, and in 2001 had a Catholic population of 745, 069, about 41 percent of the general population of1.8 million. Established as a diocese Nov. 28, 1843, and raised to an archdiocese Aug. 6, 1953, this see originally embraced the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island. It was restricted to Connecticut alone with creation of the Diocese of Providence, R.I., in 1872, and reduced again when the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich were established within Connecticut in 1953. With Providence, Bridgeport, and Norwich as suffragan sees, the Province of Hartford embraces the same area as the early diocese.
Early History. The first priest known to have visited Connecticut was Gabriel Druillettes, SJ, who went to New Haven from Quebec in September 1651 to plead for the Abenaki Native Americans of Maine against the Iroquois. The earliest Catholic residents included a scattering of Irish convicts and redemptioners deported to America in the 17th and 18th centuries, and 400 Acadian exiles assigned to the colony in 1756. A further trickle of Irish and some German Catholics began to immigrate voluntarily into the state after the American Revolution. The Diocese of Boston was created in 1808 for all New England, and its first bishop, Jean Cheverus, visited the Catholic communities in Hartford and New Haven in 1823. In 1828, Benedict Fenwick, the second bishop, charged Rev. Robert D. Woodley, who resided in Providence, with care of the Catholics in Connecticut, as well as Rhode Island.
Organized church activity in Connecticut began in July 1829, when the first Catholic newspaper in New England, the Catholic Press, started weekly publication in Hartford, and the first Sunday school in the state was inaugurated in the newspaper's office. Fenwick visited Hartford in the summer of 1829 to purchase the old Christ Episcopal church and to appoint Bernard O'Cavanagh pastor in Hartford, with jurisdiction throughout Connecticut. The wooden Christ Episcopal church was moved to another site, renamed Holy Trinity, and dedicated as the first Catholic church in Connecticut on June 17, 1830. That fall the pioneer Catholic school in Connecticut, a day school staffed by laymen, opened in the church basement.
In October 1831, James fitton became pastor in Hartford, and a year later James McDermott was made pastor in New Haven, where there were 200 Catholics, 74 more than in Hartford. In 1834, with the construction of Christ's Church in New Haven, the state had its second Catholic church and, operating in the sacristy, a second day school.
Diocese. At the Fifth Provincial Council of Baltimore, 1843, Fenwick outlined the disadvantages of having Boston the only diocese in New England. The council decided to petition Rome for a division of the diocese, and Gregory XVI established the Diocese of Hartford in 1843.
Tyler. William Tyler was ordained June 3, 1829, at the age of 23, served parishes in Maine and Massachusetts, and was vicar-general in Boston when named first bishop of Hartford. He was consecrated in Baltimore, Md., March 17, 1844, and installed in Holy Trinity, Hartford, on April 14. A census that same year showed that, with 5,180 Catholics in Rhode Island and 4,817 in Connecticut, the population of the diocese was only 2 per cent Catholic. Connecticut had three priests, and parishes in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, and a mission in Middletown. There were as many priests and churches in Rhode Island. The city of Providence, however, had two parishes with 2,000 members compared to Hartford's one parish with 600 members. Tyler therefore petitioned the Holy See for a transfer of residence and moved to Providence in June 1844. The diocese was so poor that, even there, his residence was a mere shack and his best chalice was made of brass. Within five years, the emigration from Ireland and the rapid growth of industry and railroad construction in New England doubled the Catholic population of the diocese.
O'Reilly. Tyler died June 18, 1849, and was succeeded by Bernard O'Reilly, vicar-general of the Diocese of Buffalo, who was consecrated bishop of Hartford on Nov. 10, 1850. At that time, there were seven priests serving parishes in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, and Norwalk, and numerous missions in Connecticut. Litchfield County was given its first pastor in 1850 when O'Reilly appointed Christopher Moore to Falls Village. The bishop brought the Sisters of Mercy from Pittsburgh to Providence in 1851, and then in 1852, to Connecticut. Four sisters arrived in Hartford on May 11 to staff the school in the basement of St. Patrick's Church (Holy Trinity had been rebuilt and renamed in 1851), and four others traveled to New Haven, May 12, to teach at St. Mary's Church. A girls' academy was soon opened by each group and, eventually, an orphan asylum. Late in 1855, O'Reilly went to Ireland to recruit teaching brothers for the diocese; on Jan. 23, 1856, he set sail for the U.S. on the S.S. "Pacific" out of Liverpool. The ship was lost at sea. For two years William O'Reilly, vicargeneral and brother of the late bishop, administered the diocese.
McFarland. Francis Patrick McFarland, pastor of St. John's Church in Utica, N.Y., was named third bishop of Hartford on Jan. 8, 1858, and consecrated in Providence, R.I., on March 14, the first bishop consecrated in New England. During his 16-year episcopate, Hartford experienced an industrial expansion that attracted a constant influx of workers. McFarland arranged for the second community of nuns to enter Connecticut in June 1864, when he brought the Sisters of Charity from Mt. St. Vincent, New York City, to take over the orphan asylum in New Haven. The next year he appointed the Order of Friars Minor, the first religious order of men in the state, to St. Joseph's Church, Winsted. In 1868 the first national parish in Connecticut, St. Boniface, was organized for the Germans of New Haven.
The Diocese of Providence was established in February 1872, with a Catholic population of about 60,000. Connecticut alone had 140,000 Catholics (representing about 23 per cent of its population), 76 churches, 60 chapels and mission stations, and 77 priests. McFarland transferred residence from Providence to Hartford and, upon his arrival, created St. Joseph cathedral parish from the western half of the two parishes in Hartford. A homestead was purchased on Farmington Avenue, and a brownstone and brick convent was consecrated there in 1873 as the Connecticut motherhouse for the Sisters of Mercy. Its chapel was used temporarily as a procathedral. McFarland died on Oct. 12, 1874.
Galberry. Thomas galberry, first provincial of the Augustinians in the U.S., was named fourth bishop of Hartford on Feb. 12, 1875, and was consecrated March 19, 1876, in St. Peter's Church, Hartford. In April 1876 he established the Connecticut Catholic, a weekly paper that was taken over by the diocese in 1896. Renamed the Catholic Transcript in 1898, it continued to serve the dioceses of Connecticut. Galberry laid the cornerstone of St. Joseph Cathedral on April 29, 1877.
McMahon. Galberry died on Oct. 10, 1878, and was succeeded by Lawrence Stephen McMahon, first vicargeneral of the Providence Diocese, who was consecrated bishop of Hartford in St. Joseph's Cathedral basement on Aug. 10, 1879. During his episcopacy, Polish, Lithuanian, Italian, and French-Canadian immigrants swelled the number of Catholics in the state, and among the 48 parishes he created were 13 national parishes and chapels. A second religious order of men entered the diocese in 1886 when the Dominican Fathers took over St. Mary's parish, New Haven. In 15 years of effort, the bishop raised $500,000 for the completion of St. Joseph Cathedral, which, built of local Portland brownstone along French Gothic lines, was dedicated, debt free, on May 8,1892. McMahon died suddenly at Lakeville, Conn., on Aug. 21, 1893. It was in Bishop McMaon's time that the Reverend Michael McGiveney founded the knights of columbus, in New Haven in 1882.
Tierney. Michael Tierney, the sixth bishop of Hartford, was ordained May 26, 1866, in Troy, N.Y. He served as McFarland's chancellor and rector of the cathedral at Providence and held pastorates at Norwich, New London, Stamford, Hartford, and New Britain. He was consecrated in St. Joseph Cathedral on Feb. 22, 1894, the first priest of the Hartford Diocese to become its bishop. During his 14-year episcopate, Catholics in the diocese increased from 250,000 to 395,000; parishes from 98 to 167; schools from 48 to 80. Tierney opened St. Thomas Minor Seminary in 1897, with 15 boarding and 22 day students. St. Francis Hospital, Hartford, was founded in 1897 and within 10 years other hospitals were built in Waterbury, Bridgeport, Willimantic, and New Haven. St. Andrew's Home, New Haven, was opened by the Little Sisters of the Poor in 1901, the House of the Good Shepherd was established in Hartford in 1902, and St. John's Industrial Home for Boys was opened in 1904. Tierney also organized the Connecticut Apostolate, a group of diocesan priests who conducted missions for both Catholics and non-Catholics. The bishop's death on Oct. 5, 1908, was followed by a long interregnum, during which John Synott, vicar-general and rector of St. Thomas Seminary, acted as administrator.
Nilan. John Joseph Nilan, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Amesbury, Mass., was named seventh bishop on Feb. 14, 1910, and consecrated April 28 in Hartford. Nilan strengthened, expanded, and further organized the charitable efforts begun by his predecessor. St. Agnes Infant and Maternity Hospital was founded in West Hartford in 1914. The diocesan bureau of social service, which had begun as a small scale charities office in Bridgeport in 1916, was put on a state-wide basis in 1920. The Connecticut branch of the Council of Catholic Women was organized. During the Depression of 1929, at his own expense, Nilan maintained a house on the cathedral property caring for as many as 80 unemployed men at a time. The first Catholic college for women in the state, albertus magnus, was opened by the Dominican Sisters at New Haven in 1925. In 1930, a new St. Thomas Seminary was constructed in Bloomfield.
McAuliffe. Nilan died April 13, 1934, and was succeeded by his auxiliary, Maurice Francis McAuliffe, who had been consecrated in 1926 and was installed as Hartford's eighth bishop on May 29, 1934. His major project was renovation of St. Joseph's Cathedral where the foundations needed replacing. A second college for women, st. joseph's, which opened in Hartford in 1932, was moved to West Hartford in 1936. The Diocesan Labor Institute was founded to foster Christian social principles; two interracial centers, to promote the work of the Church among Black Americans, were opened—Blessed Martin Center, New Haven, in 1942, and St. Benedict Center, Hartford, in 1944. During World War II, McAuliffe was the first American bishop to provide Mass in a war plant for the convenience of its workers when he approved the plan for Colt's Fire Arms, Hartford.
Archdiocese. O'Brien. Henry Joseph O'Brien was consecrated auxiliary bishop of Hartford on May 15, 1940, and installed as ninth bishop on June 5, 1945, following McAuliffe's death on Dec. 15, 1944. O'Brien immediately set up a diocesan resettlement committee to assist individuals displaced by World War II. In the years immediately following the war, Hartford grew numerically to become the second largest diocese (after Brooklyn, N.Y.) in the U.S. On Aug. 6, 1953, the Dioceses of Bridgeport and Norwich were created and Hartford was made an archdiocese and O'Brien the first archbishop. The old St. Joseph Cathedral was destroyed by fire of unknown origin on Dec. 31, 1956; a new one was begun at the same location on Sept. 8, 1958, and completed in 1962. The archdiocese held its first synod in 1959 (previous diocesan synods had been held previously in 1854, 1878, and 1886), but it was soon overtaken by the Second Vatican Council. Archbishop O'Brien had attended the sessions of Vatican II, and after the Council took initial steps to implement its directives in the archdiocese, but it was left to his successor to deal with change in the Church during the 1970s and 1980s. O'Brien resigned in November 1970 and was given the title "Former Archbishop of Hartford." (He died July 23, 1976.)
Whealon. O'Brien's successor was the bishop of Erie, Pa., John F. Whealon, who had previously served as the seminary rector and appointed auxiliary bishop in Cleveland in 1961. He attended the session of the Second Vatican Council. In his 22 years (1969–1991) as Archbishop of Hartford, Whealon inaugurated, and more often than not, took a hands-on approach to a variety of pastoral programs like the formation programs of permanent deacons, parish renewal, team, ministry involving laity, and the cause of social justice. He was one of the first U.S. bishops to support a ministry to individuals with AIDS. Active in the Christian Conference of Connecticut, the state council of churches, Archbishop Whealon gained a reputation for his ecumenical interest and activities.
Whealon had a indefatigable capacity for and willingness to work that brought him a number of assignments from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He chaired the NCCB committee that produced (and is reputed to be the principal author of) the document Basic Teachings for Catholic Religious Education in 1972. In 1977 when John Cardinal Deardon's health did not permit him to journey to Rome for the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on "Catechesis in Our Time," Archbishop Whealon replaced him in the American delegation. It was at this time that Whealon was deeply involved in the production of the National Catechetical Directory Sharing the Light of Faith. He both chaired the USCC's ad hoc committee of Policy and Review that had oversight for the project and acted as liaison with working committee that compiled it. The respect that Whealon enjoyed from his fellow bishops and the visibility he had because of his work especially in religious education, made Hartford the focus of national attention. Archbishop Whealon died on Aug. 2, 1991 of cardiac arrest during a routine surgical procedure.
Cronin. In January 1992, Most Reverend Daniel A. Cronin who had been Bishop of Fall River, Mass., since 1970, was installed as the third Archbishop of Hartford. To meet the pastoral needs of the archdiocese whose population is predominantly urban and suburban population, Cronin maintained an Office for Urban Affairs and other offices and agencies for specialized ministries. He created the Office for Hispanic Evangelization under the direction of Auxiliary Bishop Peter A. Rosazza to work with the burgeoning numbers of Spanish speaking Catholics, especially the Puerto Ricans in and around Hartford, Waterbury, Meriden, and New Haven.
Catholic colleges in the archdiocese include Mt. Sacred Heart College, Hamden (sponsored by the Sisters of Community of Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), Albertus Magnus College, New Haven (sponsored by the Dominican Sisters) and Saint Joseph College, Hartford (sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy). Of these three, Saint Joseph College remains principally a college for women, with a very small population of male students in its weekend coeducational college for working adults and its graduate school. Albertus Magnus College was originally founded as a women's college in 1925, before going coeducational in 1985.
Bibliography: t. s. duggan, Catholic Church in Connecticut (New York 1930). a. j. heffernan, History of Catholic Education in Connecticut (Washington 1935). a. f. munich, Beginnings of Roman Catholic Church in Connecticut (New Haven 1935). b. l. marthaler, John Francis Whealon (1921–1991): In Memoriam, The Living Light, 28:2 (Winter 1992):180–182.
[m. j. scholsky/eds.]