Our History

Parish History

Read about how it all started.

On December 22, 1847 Father McGarisk, an Illinois missionary, said the first Mass in Wallingford, with a dozen Catholics in attendance. The Mass was said in the Hanlon home on the corner of Main and High Streets. The second priest who said Mass in Wallingford was the Reverend Philip O’Reilly, who commuted from New Haven. This Mass was also said at the Hanlon home, which was now on Academy Lane, (Academy Street). As early as 1849, the Most Reverend Bernard O’Reilly, Bishop of Hartford, visited Wallingford to look at a piece of land that Jared Whittlesey had offered to local Catholics as a site for a Catholic church. However, Whittlesey’s offer was kindly refused.

On December 22, 1847 Father McGarisk, an Illinois missionary, said the first Mass in Wallingford, with a dozen Catholics in attendance. The Mass was said in the Hanlon home on the corner of Main and High Streets. The second priest who said Mass in Wallingford was the Reverend Philip O’Reilly, who commuted from New Haven. This Mass was also said at the Hanlon home, which was now on Academy Lane, (Academy Street). As early as 1849, the Most Reverend Bernard O’Reilly, Bishop of Hartford, visited Wallingford to look at a piece of land that Jared Whittlesey had offered to local Catholics as a site for a Catholic church. However, Whittlesey’s offer was kindly refused.

Entrance of Holy Trinity Church

The third priest to come to Wallingford was a Father Teevens, who served our town as a mission of St. Rose’s parish in Meriden. Father Teevens performed the first Catholic marriage ceremony in Wallingford on May 12, 1850, probably in the residence of Martin Owens on Elm Street. The Bride was Ellen Maloney, one of three sisters who came here from Ireland as early famine victims six or seven years previously. The Bridegroom was Philip McCabe, who on May 29, 1852 would sell to the next priest, Father Hugh O’Reilly of Meriden, three lots of land on North Colony Street where the old Holy Trinity Cemetery is located, and which was the site of the first church.

From 1850 to 1857, local Catholics gathered for Mass on Sundays in Union Hall, the original Wallingford Town Hall, which was located on the site of the present day Saint Paul Episcopal Church on North Main Street.

Father O’Reilly was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Quinn, the next priest from Meriden who was then succeeded in turn in 1857 by the Rev. M.A. Wallace. Rev. Wallace was the first resident pastor here. He lived near the corner of Main and Church Streets.

Construction of a church was finally begun and Father Thomas Quinn laid the cornerstone of Most Holy Trinity Church on November. 23, 1857. The church was to be a barn like frame structure, 40 x 60 ft with a small vestry, and underneath there would be a basement, which would hold a parochial school. Before the church was completed, Father Wallace realized that his congregation was not in a position to support a resident pastor and the Most Holy Trinity group reverted to St. Rose’s Church in Meriden. For a second time, Father Quinn who had tended his flock from 1852 to 1856 was again burdened with the care of a mission.

The cornerstone of the first Most Holy Trinity Church at North Colony and Parker Streets was laid on November 23, 1857. The Church was finally finished and dedicated Church of the Holy Trinity and, in 1859 Father Sheridan was appointed the second pastor. In 1859 and 1860, the parish included Hamden and Cheshire as out-missions.

In July of 1860, the Rev. Charles McCallion became pastor and lived in the “Armstrong house”, located on North Colony Street. The civil war was now raging, the country had become unsettled, and many parish boys left to fight in the conflict. Wallingford again became an out-mission under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Thomas Walsh of St. Rose’s Church.

In August of 1867 Father Hugh Mallon, who was to serve as Pastor of Most Holy Trinity for 30 years, was assigned responsibilities which extended over Hamden, Northford and Yalesville. The parish was officially incorporated on August 16, 1869, with the incorporation papers being signed by Bishop Francis McFarland, Vice General James Hughes, Father Hugh Mallon and two members of the parish, William Galligan and Mathew Cassin. The incorporation of Most Holy Trinity Church meant that the Diocese of Hartford upgraded the community from “mission” status to “parish” status.

Soon after his arrival Father Mallon bought the land on which the present church stands. As the old church continued to deteriorate, Father Mallon decided a new church was needed. In 1875, ground was broken for the erection of the present church on North Colony Street, just south of Church Street. The cornerstone for the new church was laid on September 24, 1876 with Bishop Thomas Galaberry presiding. On August 9, 1878, a tornado completely leveled the old wooden church and Father Mallon spent the next year raising funds for the building of the new church. New steps made of Leete Island granite of “handsome design and finish, which adds to the beauty of the Church” were laid in October 24th, 1876.

Finally, on Thanksgiving Day November 24, 1887, the present church was dedicated in the presence of over two thousand people. The general plan of the building is very nearly the same as the parish church of Clougher, Father Mallon’s home in Ireland. When Father Mallon died in September of 1898, a sepulcher was prepared for his remains at the door of his church. His last resting place is in the south front corner of a grassy plot, fenced in at the front of the church. A grateful congregation erected a tablet there to perpetuate his memory.

Succeeding Father Mallon as Pastor was the Reverend John Henry Carroll of Westport, who had come to the parish a year earlier in 1897. During his tenure, much was accomplished, including the completion of a rectory next door to the church and the construction of a grade school on the corner of North Whittlesey Avenue and Center Street. He also acquired a second cemetery, St. John’s on Christian and East Main Streets. Father Carroll experienced the parish’s second natural calamity, the destruction of the church steeple by a bolt of lightning and its resultant fire, July 21, 1911. A new steel spire was erected in February 1912, by the Bridgeport Boiler Works, under the direction of M. H. Dursmith, general contractors. The first rubber tile on the church floor, in black and white squares, was installed and the elevated pulpit was built.

On the death of Father Carroll, the Reverend Doctor Joseph Joyce arrived as pastor in February of 1932. He was always called “Dr. Joyce” which was strange to some of his parishioners. Dr. Joyce began a program of renovations by having the exterior of the church sand-blasted. He also organized the Holy Trinity Guild for the purpose of getting the women of the parish into a group, which could work together for the renovations. Dr. Joyce also purchased the one family “Wallace House” on South Main Street and converted it into a convent for the Nuns. At Dr. Joyce’s funeral on November 25, 1938, the children of Holy Trinity School formed an honor guard from the Rectory to the church.

The Reverend Richard P. Morrissey, a native of Tipperary, Ireland was appointed pastor and when he arrived in town, a public reception in his honor was held on February 8, 1939 in the church hall. During his pastorate, Father Morrissey was responsible for the renovation of the rectory, the landscaping of the grounds, a modernization of the school and the beautification of the two cemeteries. He also changed the original stained glass windows, much to the chagrin of the old timers, whose family names were on them, and he installed the more colorful units. At the suggestion of Father Andrew Cooney principal of Holy Trinity School, the Maytime Ball Scholarship Fund, was established in 1949, a month before Father Morrissey died.

The Reverend Henry J. Coleman succeeded Father Morrissey as Pastor, coming from St. Ann’s Church in Bridgeport. Father Coleman modernized the school classrooms and inaugurated library facilities. During this time we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the present church and Father Coleman made many improvements on the property for the occasion. The Most Reverend Henry J. O’Brien, Bishop of Hartford, presided at a solemn Mass of Thanksgiving on September 23, 1951. Father Coleman died in February 1954, after only five years as pastor.

The Reverend Jerome Thomas Cook was named pastor on March 11, 1954, having been transferred from St. Michael’s Church in Beacon Falls, where he had been pastor for sixteen years. Father Cook twice saw the large parish divided for the creation of new parishes, the first time in 1960 when Our Lady of Fatima was created in Yalesville, and again in 1963, when the Church of the Resurrection was established. In July 1958, Father Cook announced plans for the construction of a new convent on North Whittlesey Avenue north of the school. The structure is composed of two stories in brick and accommodated sixteen nuns. The Reverend Gilbert Cannon, who, at that time, was principal of the school, started the Holy Trinity Home School Organization in 1963.

A large-scale renovation of the church began in September 1966. Work was started immediately following Archbishop O’Brien’s approval. Exterior doors were replaced with new doors, the granite front steps were repaired, and new roofing was applied over the rear portion of the church. New pews were furnished; the floor was removed, strengthened and recovered with carpet in the aisles and with vinyl asbestos under the pews. A complete redecorating, providing a brighter atmosphere, was undertaken. Father Cook also replaced the crumbling old Holy Trinity Cemetery wall with one constructed of masonry and granite.

Father Thomas Glynn, who had been pastor at St. Mathew’s, Forestville and St. Boniface, New Haven, was appointed pastor in February, 1967. He requested and received authorization to proceed with the modernization of the sanctuary. The existing reredos and altars were removed and the entire sanctuary was modernized to conform to the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council. Beginning in 1967, Most Holy Trinity Church began a monthly Mass in Spanish for the Spanish speaking community of the area and the parish arranged for a Spanish-speaking priest to come and celebrate Mass. Another recommendation of the Second Vatican Council was the establishment of parish councils composed of lay people who would assist the pastor with responsibilities involved in operating a parish. Father Glynn established a parish council in 1968. On the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, June 9, 1968, the people of Most Holy Trinity Church celebrated the 100th anniversary of their parish. Father Alfred Merusi, Father Daniel Sullivan and Father Stanley Abugel, who were appointed in June 1970 as a team ministry at Most Holy Trinity Church. This appointment was the first appointment of a team ministry within the Archdiocese of Hartford. The idea worked well at Most Holy Trinity, Father Merusi became responsible for Holy Trinity School and the parish religious education program. Father Abugel was responsible for working with parish senior citizens, and Father Sullivan worked with the CYO program for teenagers. The team ministry also broadened the degree to which parish members were involved in parish ministry, with the ordination of three deacons and the establishment of the Minister of the Eucharist program within the parish occurring during their pastorate. Holy Trinity’s first Minister of the Eucharist, Sister Regina Francis Kennedy, principal of Holy Trinity School, was commissioned in March of 1974. After the maximum appointment of twelve years, however, Father Merusi, Sullivan and Abugel were transferred from the parish, and a reception was held on Sunday, July 11, 1982, to bid farewell to them.

In August of 1982, the parish welcomed two new co-pastors, Father Francis J. Pitaro and Father Gene Gianelli. Father Pitaro and Father Gianelli implemented physical improvement to the parish plant, beginning with the installation of an elevator and air conditioning in the church. After Father Pitaro’s death in July of 1988, Father Gianelli continued as pastor and moved ahead with many ideas he and Father Pitaro had planned. The renovation of the church interior and the establishment of more programs focused on cultivating new members of the parish were two of the major projects carried out by Father Gianelli after his appointment as pastor. Father Gianelli was transferred from Most Holy Trinity Church in November of 1992.

For many years, Father Jose Salazar, a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Apostles, served as coordinator of the parish’s Hispanic Apostolate until he was transferred by his order to Florida in January of 1989. Father Noguera succeeded him in that position and he was in turn followed by Father Gustavo Agudelo.

In September of 1989, the entire altar area was remodeled, a hardwood floor and a marble altar and lectern were installed and the entire wood paneling was re-stained in a darker shade.

In November of 1992, Father Gianelli was transferred to the Church of the Assumption in Woodbridge. Father Charles MacDonald, who was Assistant Pastor here since January 1991, was appointed Pastor in December of 1992. Fathers Dairo Diaz and Jeff Gubbiotti were appointed Assistant Pastors.

In June of 2006, Reverend Gary F. Simeone, a Yalesville native, became the Pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church. Father Simeone undertook a complete renovation of the parish rectory. Father Simeone was transferred to St. Gregory, The Great Parish, in Bristol in May of 2011.

Father James Brady, a priest of the Montfort Missionaries, was appointed as administrator of Most Holy Trinity Church for the summer of 2011.

Father Thomas Jeffrey Walsh was appointed the new Pastor of Most Holy Trinity Church on October 17, 2011.