MILFORD – With a celebration 50 years in the making, the parishioners of Christ the Redeemer Church, tucked away in a once-quiet and still-happy corner of Milford, in the Archdiocese of Hartford's southwest corner, will mark the golden anniversary of their spiritual home at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 2.
The jubilee Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Leonard Blair, who will be joined by Father Cyriac Maliekal, pastor of Christ the Redeemer, and several other priests who had had a relationship with the parish over its five decades of service to the people of Milford.
In his letter to the parishioners marking the jubilee, Father Cyriac wrote:
“I count it as a special blessing of my priesthood to be your pastor for this celebration, because the joy it brings truly reflects the joy I have in my heart for having served as your brother and your friend these past ten years.
"To all members of the Christ the Redeemer Parish, past and present, living and dead, whether distant or near, you are in my thoughts and prayers, as I wish to be in yours, as we thank God for blessing us with each other, with this communion of believers, and for giving us these five decades of a truly happy and spiritual home.”
In a letter to Father Cyriac, Archbishop Blair expressed his congratulations to the Christ the Redeemer Parish family, writing:
"Since its creation by Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien in September of 1966 with Father Richard Toner as its founding Pastor, Christ the Redeemer Parish has given faithful and dynamic witness to the Catholic Faith, and has been a beacon of Christian communion and solidarity in the service of the Gospel. The anniversary presents a grace-filled opportunity for everyone to reflect on the providence of God and to experience a sense of profound gratitude for all His many blessings, past and present.
"May this moment of rejoicing serve not only to recall the accomplishments of the past, but also to renew the commitment of all today's parishioners, so that move by the same faith and zeal that led to the founding of the parish a half century ago, they may meet the challenge of being Christ’s missionary disciples in the world of today."
Founded in September 1966, Christ the Redeemer Parish was formed from St. Mary Parish, located on Gulf Street in central Milford. The decision to divide St. Mary’s and to create a new parish came from the belief, proven true over the ensuing years, that Milford’s northwest quadrant -- a sizeable land area, much of it rural and sparsely populated – was where the city’s future population growth would occur. The new Christ the Redeemer included 450 of St. Mary’s 2,000 families.
A parish history of Christ the Redeemer, written by Stanley Kavan, an original and still-active member, on its silver anniversary in 1991, recounted the new parish’s first steps:
"The early months were taxing, but rewarding. Each passing day bonded the parish more. CCD instruction was arranged at Lauralton Hall. A Women’s Guild and a Men’s Holy Name Society were formed. Trustees were appointed and a Lector group organized. Father Toner took up residence at Southworth Street, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Botsford. There was no church, no rectory, no easy point of assembly, but a parish of spirit and unity emerging," he wrote.
"And most importantly, a Capital Funds drive was assembled with professional and laity help to build the new church," Mr. Kavan went on. "Robert Kapusta chaired the drive with Larry Turcotte and Estelle and Andrew Sobocinski playing major roles. For $100,000, landowner Burton Van Hise sold title to 12 acres and a country house (later to become a rectory), a site cornered by Oronoque and West Rutland Roads. Seed money for the purchase had already been advanced by the Archdiocese. The mother parish, St. Mary’s, also provided an outright gift of $100,000, together with a loan of similar amount. Street by street canvassing and mail and phone canvassing took place with the triumphant pledging of $166,000. Architect John Handy designed a church and adjoining hall, with Joseph Vitale Construction Co. awarded the building contract. The estimated cost of the project, unfurnished, was $211,000. In the Spring of 1968, the Archbishop approved plans for a 500-seat church and a hall to accommodate 400. In August, ground was broken."
The church on Oronoque Road was consecrated by Archbishop John Whelan in December 1969, just three short years following the parish’s formal creation.
Some 42 years later, another archbishop, Henry Mansell, visited the parish, now consisting of some 650 families, in July 2011 to consecrate the Mable Saloomey Center, named for the generous and dedicated neighbor who had left a significant bequest – matched by her fellow parishioners – that was used to pay for the construction of a major addition (adjoining the hall named for the founding pastor, Father Toner, who retired from the parish in 1994) that is now used for religious education classrooms and for other spiritual and fraternal purposes.
As it celebrates its 50th aniversary, Christ the Redeemer Parish counts among its active organizations a new Knights of Columbus council, dedicated ladies guild, children’s choir and the Thaddeus Kosciuszko Society (for over a century, Milford has been home to many proud Polish-American families).
Parishioners also are celebrating Father Cyriac’s 10th anniversary as its pastor. A priest for over 40 years and a native of India, Father Cyriac’s humility, spirituality and kind demeanor, parishioners say,have brought his flock a decade of stability, calm and happiness, and a renewed sense of purpose that the members of his flock to live up to the name seen by motorists as they pass the brown brick building at 325 Oronoque Road – Christ the Redeemer.