OUR PARISH
 
Our Mission
St. Teresa of Avila Parish strives to be a vibrant, welcoming Catholic Community. We live out our fervent belief in Jesus Christ's presence among us by celebrating the Eucharist as a family and by embracing the Stewardship Way of Life. In this way we show our love for God and reach out to our neighbor in loving service.

A Tradition of Faith, a Community of Hope, a Family of Love: 100 Years at St. Teresa of Avila Church
When St. Teresa of Avila church first took its place 100 years ago among the five classic "Yankee-style" churches strung like a necklace along Woodbury's Main Street, its soaring steeple, vaulted ceiling, graceful columns, and tall stained windows stood as a bold expression of unshakable faith and optimism. A tiny community of Catholics, brought together by a common devotion to their religion and determination to practice it openly and fully, built their gleaming white church on the hill in the convition that their numbers woud grow ever stronger over the years and generations to come.

The founding community of St. Teresa of Avila must have seemed dreamers to their neighbors when construction begain in 1903, culminating in the formal dedication of the new church on September 4, 1904. It took the commitment of a small but determined group of believers led by Michael Skelly, a local blacksmith and banker with a gift of persuading his Protestant neighbors and sympathetic Boston and New York Catholics to provide more than half of the $10,400 building fund required to complete the project.

For the first half of the Twentieth Century, our ancestors in faith at St. Teresa's remained very much the minority in Woodbury, a town settled by Congregationalists and steeped in Yankee Protestant traditions. Founded as a mission of St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown, St. Teresa of Avila joined St. John of the Cross Church in Middlebury to form a separate parish on March 1, 1916. This association continued over the next 39 years, until the gradual but steady rise in the Catholic population of Woodbury led Bishop Henry O'Brien of the Hartford Diocese to approve designation of St. Teresa of Avila as an independent parish effective March 24,1955.

The formidable task of leading the new parish fell to Rev. Francis Barrett, a charismatic leader who gave inspiration to a parish alive with spiritual and social activity. An established Ladies' Guild and newly formed Holy Name Society provided enthusiastic support for a vibrant parish life featuring Spring musicals, Summer smorgasbord fundraisers, an active youth organization, and a burgeoning Religious Education program. An active community of faith demanded a parish center to grow, and parishioner Mary Seidel's $10,000 bequest, plus countless hours of volunteer labor in excavation and site preparation, made it possible to transform a church sub-basement filled with coal ash into what we now know as Seidel Hall.

Rev. Michael Sullivan succeeded Father Barrett in 1959 and, conscious that the church structure required substantial repairs and modernization after nearly 60 years, turned to the parish for support in undertaking the most sweeping renovation project in St. Teresa's history to that date. Parishioners today find a daily reminder of Father Sullivan's renovation efforts in the church's beautiful series of stained glass windows along the north and south walls, which sequentially feature pivotal passages in the Gospel of St. John. Rev. John Griffin, who assumed the pastorate following the death of Father Sullivan in 1964, continued his predecessors' spiritual work in strengthening the parish's Christian education and service programs and implementing liturgical and other reforms introduced by the Second Vatican Council.

Rev. Anthony Sima began a 25-year tenure as pastor of St. Teresa of Avila in 1967, leading the parish during a period when the Catholic presence was expanding significantly in Woodbury and surrounding towns. Parishioners fondly recall Father Sima's straight talk and succinct homilies, his custom of arranging candy gifts for children after holiday Masses, and his characteristic advice at Mass dismissal to "make someone happy today." Major church renovations undertaken in the mid-1980's installed the electric carillon in the bell tower, new carpeting and seat cushions, and a restored stained glass window behind the altar depicting a poignant crucifixion tableau (shown above right) - with the unique inclusion of a dog at the request of Father Sima, whose Labrador "Charney" became a frequent church visitor.

Rev. George LaLiberte's arrival as pastor following Father Sima's death in 1992 ushered in a new era of active Men's Club and Women's Guild participation in parish and community life. Swelling Religious Education enrollment, a new Youth Choir, nocturnal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and burgeoning activities from Santa's Kitchen to food drives and scholarship golf tournaments reflected a parish eager to follow Father George's favorite exhortation to "live your Mass." A parish pledge drive financed the installation in 1996 of a powerful 16-rank organ in the choir loft, suited to the requirements of an active and growing liturgical music program.

The groundwork laid by Father George has provided a strong foundation for Rev. Robert Kwiatkowski to build a flourishing stewardship program at St. Teresa of Avila parish since assuming the pastorate upon Father George's retirement in January 2001. The extraordinary outpouring of parishioner engagement in more than 40 ministries covering the gamut of liturgical, spiritual, service, and social needs in the parish and the wider community is a compelling testament to the parish's readiness and eagerness to embrace the "Stewardship Way of Life."

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The past decade has brought, by far, the most dramatic expansion of the parish community in the history of St. Teresa of Avila Church. A mushrooming Catholic population in the Woodbury area, a parish family alive in their faith, and effective pastoral leadership have contributed to strengthening and broadening the parish's membership base. The result has been a doubling in household registrations since the mid-1990's to approximately 1,300 households currently, and a Religious Education program that now brings instruction in the Faith to more than 500 parish youths each year.

 




Church Renovation
We are excited about the success of our renovations to St. Teresa of Avila in order to make the church and hall handicap accessible. It has been a long journey to get to this point, and we are grateful for all the prayers and support our parish has received.




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