Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, June 21, 2018

SH-100-years_2613TORRINGTON – As Sacred Heart Parish’s seventh pastor since its founding 100 years ago, Father Christopher M. Tiano is looking forward to the Slovak parish’s second century.

"We’ll continue to grow and build our parishes," he said, referring to the Torrington Cluster of Parishes that includes Sacred Heart, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter and St. Mary. "Because of the cluster, there are so many great things that can go on in our parish communities," he said.

Father Tiano made the remarks to the Transcript at a reception following a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell to mark the centennial.

More than 350 people attended the Mass and breakfast, including Father A. Leo Spodnik, Pastor from 1991-97. Father John L. Lavorgna, parochial vicar, presented Father Spodnik with a plaque of the Sacred Heart in honor of the extensive renovations Father Spodnik oversaw during his pastorate.

In his homily, Archbishop Mansell asked for a show of hands of parishioners who recalled the parish’s 75th, 50th and 25th anniversaries. Several people in the pews raised their hands for each anniversary.

Archbishop Mansell made note of the unique Spanish Classical architecture; the two balconies; and the fact that the stained glass windows, ordered in 1909, were installed when the current church was built in 1912, rather than afterwards, as happens with many other churches. He even commented on the "immaculate" condition of the church, drawing laughter when he remarked, "The parish could be called the Church of the Immaculate Conception."

He concluded by referring to 1 Peter 2:5, saying the parishioners were "living stones" built into the church. "I thank you for continuing to proclaim God’s marvelous deeds. I thank you for continuing to be God’s marvelous deeds. Happy anniversary," he said, as the congregation applauded.

Sacred Heart Parish was founded by Bishop John J. Nilan, who appointed Father Gaspar Panik as first pastor on June 15, 1910. Until the new church was dedicated on July 4, 1912, Masses were celebrated at St. Francis Chapel and elsewhere in town at St. Peter Church’s basement.

Father Matthew Jankola succeeded Father Gaspar Panik in 1916, and then, from 1916-33, Father Stephen Panik led the parish, opening Sacred Heart School in 1923. The students were taught by the Sisters of SS. Cyril and Methodius. It closed in 1982.

Other pastors were Father John J. Zihala (1933-69) and Father Stephen G. Vitka (1969-91).

Jim Gerardi, a parishioner for 49 years and a member of the centennial committee, said many hours were spent gathering photos and other mementos of the parish’s history. "We set up part of our Heritage Day celebration in the basement for the breakfast after Mass," he said. "We have the history of the school and the church and most of the graduation pictures of the school."

Antoinette "Toni" Landor, another committee member, said, "I was baptized here, confirmed here, married here. It’s a grand day for us, that’s for sure."