the parish of St Martin of Tours Tel.: (860) 824-7078

The Church of Saint Mary: Brief History

Catholicism in Connecticut’s Northwestern corner began to take root in the early 1800’s when a large number of Irish immigrants settled here to work in the ore mines and iron foundries. The first Mass was celebrated in Lakeville on July 4, 1849, under a tree at the Davis Ore mines, northwest of the intersection of Main Street and Lincoln City Road. Spiritual needs were then only partially filled by visiting priests from outside the area, who offered Mass in private homes. In 1854, the first church, St. Patrick, was built in Falls Village by Father Peter Kelly. However, by 1875, a shift of population brought the greater number of Catholics to Lakeville. Father Henry Lynch then secured a parcel of land, with the help of a Congregational landowner, on which he erected St. Mary’s Church. The church building was dedicated on January 16, 1876 and was built almost entirely from money donated by miners and iron workers. Soon after, Father Lynch also built a Rectory, a School, a Convent, and acquired cemetery grounds in Salisbury on Lower Cobble Road.


After renovation, the Church was rededicated February 21, 1903 to serve a growing community that was beginning to include immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. The decline of the iron industry brought a 29% drop in population and dramatically reduced the number of parishioners, as workers sought employment elsewhere. The school closed in 1920, shortly before the last furnace went out of blast. In 1923, the convent was converted to a summer retreat and camp run by the Connecticut Council of Catholic Women and renamed Lakeville Manor. It was closed in 1968, sold to a developer in 1975, and is now an apartment building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The size of the parish has mirrored the fluctuating number of town residents. The church sanctuary has undergone two major recent renovations, one in 1975 to celebrate the St. Mary’s centenary, and another in 2000. The Church Hall, where community events and religious education classes take place, was renovated in 2013. Current Pastor, Father Joseph Kurnath and Bishop Christie Macaluso of the Archdiocese of Hartford concelebrated a Pontifical Mass in 2015 to mark the 140th year of Catholic worship at St. Mary’s. The parish is now comprised of over 200 families from diverse ancestries and include young people from the three local boarding schools. Overall, the Church of St. Mary is devoted to service though initiatives such as the community soup kitchen and is forever dedicated to “Open Wide the Doors to Christ.”

Written by Louis J. Bucceri, Chairman, Salisbury Association Historical Society, 2017.

History of St. Mary Church
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4 Main Street
Canaan, CT 06018
Tel.: (860) 824-7078
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