MERIDEN – Spring and summer bring invitations to milestone sacramental events, such as first Communions, confirmations and weddings. If you find yourself in need of a special gift, you may want to browse the Catholic gift shops and bookstores in the archdiocese.
Note: This story was updated May 6 with additional stores listed.
These shops are ideal for finding meaningful religious gifts for others and a little something for yourself. Many stock devotional prayer items as well as a variety of books designed to enhance and deepen your spiritual life.
The Maryheart Crusaders Bookstore and Chapel, located at 531 W. Main St. in Meriden, is the brainchild of Louise D’Angelo. She said she saw people drifting away from the church after Vatican II and, after talking to many of these people, realized they lacked knowledge of their religion. So she wrote six books to teach people about Catholicism and traveled around the country giving lectures. Her motto is, “Know your religion and save your faith.”
The bookstore portion of the shop is run by employees and her husband, Michael, who is 92, as is his wife. It sells all of Mrs. D’Angelo’s books and old and new versions of the adult Catechism. “We push them and they’re very popular,” she said.
It also sells Bibles and Bible covers, children’s books in English and Spanish, books for teens, wall crosses, porcelain statues and church supplies and goods. The shop provides free gift wrapping, and even ships gifts.
Bookstore hours are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Patrick Baker & Sons is the largest religious supply, church goods, and retail shop in New England. Located at 1650 West St. (Route 227) in Southington, the business was founded in 1965 by Patrick and Patricia Baker of Dublin, Ireland. Today their sons and grandchildren are carrying on the tradition.
“We’ve been in business for over 50 years and hopefully will be around another 50,” said Michael Baker, liturgical consultant and son of the founders.
While Patrick Baker & Sons is primarily a church goods supply business, it also runs a sizeable retail gift shop that is open to the public. The store building, with 4,500 square feet of retail space and another 3,500 square feet for church goods, offers the average shopper numerous religious necessities and gift options.
For first Communions there are white dresses, veils and ties, plus children’s bracelets, rosaries and angels in snow globes. For weddings, you’ll find candles and decorative picture frames. Greeting cards and free gift wrapping are also available.
For adults, the shop provides wall Crucifixes, colorful crystal crosses and a large selection of rosaries and jewelry. Racks full of prayer cards and entire displays devoted to the Virgin Mary, St. Teresa, St. Jude and the Infant of Prague are also for sale.
When it comes to books, the shop focuses on the essentials, such as Catholic Bibles, the Catechism, the Liturgy of the Hours and books on bereavement support. It even offers free pamphlets explaining how to become Catholic.
Children’s offerings include coloring books about Noah’s ark, Easter and going to church. The shop also carries children’s books in Spanish on the saints and the popes. The retail store is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center at 303 Tunxis Road in West Hartford also has a gift shop and bookstore. Positioned just inside the main doors of the retreat center, the long, narrow shop is open to the public and offers a wide selection of religious and spiritual books. It also offers seasonal and fair trade gifts.
“It looks full now,” Katie Hoffman-Fulda, bookstore manager, said of the shelves of seasonal sacramental gifts, “but by the end of May, it will be depleted. First Communion and confirmation are the busy season for us. We also have a lot for baptism, wedding and Christmas gifts.”
Unique to the shop are displays of handmade stained glass crosses and angels, plus music CDs that include Gregorian chant, acoustic guitar and music of the Passionist community.
Each retreat season the bookstore portion of the shop carries books that coincide with the retreat theme. This year it’s “Into the Heart of Mercy,” and Ms. Hoffman-Fulda said Pope Francis’ many books are among the most popular.
The number one best-seller in the shop is A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis: Daily Reflection, followed by The Name of God is Mercy, which was just published in January. The shop carries children’s books, too, ranging from the Paraclete Bible for Kids to Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World.
The gift shop and bookstore is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Books can also be ordered by phone at 860-760-9734.
Other Catholic book and religious goods stores within the archdiocese are worth checking out, including one at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, which offers religious books for adults and children, devotional aids, seasonal gifts, videos and items related to the museum’s permanent and temporary exhibits. The gift shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily whenever the museum is open.
Also worth a visit are Mary’s Helpers in North Haven, St. Anthony’s Bookstore in Derby (which announced on April 23 that it would be moving to Orange at some point in the future); Divine Mercy Religious Gifts and Supplies in East Haven; the Grotto Gift Shop at Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine; the Monastery of Our Lady of Grace Book and Gift Shoppe in North Guilford; and Proclaim His Name and St. Michael’s Catholic Bookstore, both in Waterbury.