Archbishop Henry J. Mansell greets children and adults after a Mass at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Hartford. (See this and other photos by Lenora Sumsky in gallery at right)
HARTFORD –The celebration of the 125th anniversary of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in the city’s Parkville section coincided with the Church’s observance of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The event on Sept. 15 was highlighted by a Mass of Thanksgiving for which Archbishop Henry J. Mansell was the principal celebrant. Nearly 20 priests concelebrated. The Knights of Columbus comprised an honor guard. Brothers of the Missionaries of La Salette; Sisters of St. Joseph, the religious order that staffed the former parish school; local dignitaries; and hundreds of parishioners attended the Mass and gala luncheon that followed.
In his homily, delivered in English and Spanish, Archbishop Mansell spoke of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish as part of a larger world and of the inspiration that the mother of Jesus has provided for parishioners over the years.
"She is an example for all of us. Being in union with him through Mary makes such an important difference in our lives," he said.
Remarking on the original cornerstone laid for the Church at its founding, Archbishop Mansell reminded those gathered that "Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church."
Since its establishment in 1887, Our Lady of Sorrows has been under the pastoral care of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.
Following the Mass, Hartford City Council member Raúl De Jesús Jr. presented Father Brian Sheridan, pastor, with citations recognizing Our Lady of Sorrows for its contributions to the community. Parishioners cheered and applauded after Mr. De Jesús read proclamations that were issued by United States Senator Richard Blumenthal and United States Rep. John Larson.
Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra declared Sept. 15 as Our Lady of Sorrows Day.
Father Sheridan, a member of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, said the significant milestone in the life of the parish has promoted faith, hope and love of Jesus.
Father Sheridan, who was assigned to the parish in January, referred to the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John when he said, "Jesus prays that all may be one, as the Father is one with the him and he is one with the Father. This is a beautiful invitation for Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, that we may work and promote unity."
The celebration’s theme was Un Dios, Un Pueblo (One God, One People), reflecting the belief, Father Sheridan said, that "unity fosters, faith, hope and love."
Over the years, there have been a lot of changes, said Father Jim Donagher, also a member of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, associate pastor.
"Three times I have called Our Lady of Sorrows home," he said. "I was raised here, went to school here, and made my sacramental steps in this beautiful Church."
Father Donagher began his priesthood at Our Lady of Sorrows and celebrated his first public Mass there. In the ’70s, while serving as co-pastor, he created a social club and teen center.
According to Father Donagher, "The faces have changed, the ethnicities and languages have changed; music, food and customs have evolved.
"But for all these differences, there is a similarity between all three eras: faith, loyalty, and joy," he said. "For 125 years, Our Lady of Sorrows has been a special place and it still is. It isn’t a building, it isn’t an organization or group; it is a people.
"Yes, Jesus lives in Parkville, and has for a century and a quarter," Father Donagher said.
Since its founding, the parish has served a diverse group of parishioners, including immigrants from Canada and Europe and, more recently, from South and Central America.
It began as a mission church of the Cathedral of St. Joseph in 1887. Father William A. Harty, cathedral rector, encouraged approximately 40 families to contribute to the construction of a white frame structure, with seating for 350 people, so they wouldn’t have to travel so far to fulfill their religious obligations.
Father Harty’s devotion to the mother of God led to the Parkville church’s naming for Our Lady of Sorrows.
Over the years, development and expansion of the neighborhood continued. In June 1922, ground was broken for the new church structure, which stands today on the corner of New Park Avenue and Grace Street.
Nearly one year later, the cornerstone was laid. The stone, which weighs over 500 pounds, was cut from the same block of granite used for the cornerstone of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conceptions in Washington, D.C. Beneath the cornerstone, a sealed vault contains lists of all then-living Roman Catholic Church leaders, parish trustees and local and national civic leaders, In addition, copies of The Catholic Transcript and the newspaper of the Missionaries of La Salette are also preserved in the vault.
More than two years after the cornerstone was laid, Our Lady of Sorrows Church was completed. Construction of the magnificent French cathedral-style building, with Gothic lines and striking windows, was slow because it required a significant amount of detailed stonework and interior decoration.
One of the distinctive features of the church is a replica of the Our Lady of La Salete Shrine in France.