WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The City of Waterbury has been the hardest hit when it comes to Catholic institutions closing in the state. The latest to close its doors—Sacred Heart High School. We take a closer look at how the decline in Catholicism is affecting the community.
At one time, Waterbury reportedly had the most Catholics per capita in the country. But now, schools and parishes can’t seem to keep their doors open. These constant closures are impacting many in the Brass City who are trying not to lose their faith.
Generations of Waterbury Catholics who once bonded in faith are uniting more often than not, in sadness.
“You can’t take this foundation of Waterbury and Catholicism away.”
Hannah and her mom, Monique, are alumni of Sacred Heart High.
“My phone just started blowing up and I just immediately burst into tears in the middle of my workday,” Monique explained.
“It felt like someone in my family passed away,” Hannah said. “I couldn’t focus for the rest of the day”
The school’s president dropped the bombshell announcement last week: “We have reached the sad, inevitable conclusion that Sacred Heart High School will have to close its doors at the end of this current school year”
The decline of Catholicism in the Brass City has been steady.
In 2017, Waterbury lost four churches during a reorganization plan, the most of any community in the archdiocese.
Schools were no different. St. Lucy grammar school locked up in 2005. St. Margaret School shut its doors in 2007. And Saints Peter and Paul School held its final classes in 2019.
“With all these schools closing a lot of people have been turned away from Catholicism,” Alderman George Noujiam said. He fought a losing battle in 2019 when he tried keeping Saints Peter and Paul School open.
It’s where his kids went. One currently attends Sacred Heart.
He himself admitted to turning away from the Catholic faith amidst years of misconduct including allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic Church.
He credits father Jim Sullivan of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for bringing him back to his faith.
“It’s just a different time than it was 40, 50, 60, 70 years ago, but as Christians, we are people of hope,” Father Sullivan said. “People always think the best is behind us. I think the best is yet to come and that we have a very bright future of faith because we’re made for faith, we want faith, and it’s what makes us happy.”