NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — St. Mary Church in Norwich has long been a center of worship and socialization for the multicultural community.
“Many people come here seeking refuge, and just seeking a place to reconnect and find home away from home,” Daniel Chong, a parishioner, said.
He and his family started coming to the church in 2000. He is now very active its faith community and the latest effort to raise money to repair the historic structure.
“It’s the biggest project we’ve had probably since it was been built,” Chong said.
Last spring, parishioners started noticing small stones falling from the façade. Then, larger chunks were discovered.
The Central Avenue church immediately put up a chain link fence. Chong said the masonry is falling apart because the church is more than a hundred years old.
They raised $600,000, and the state has stepped in with another $800,000.
“Interestingly, the State of Connecticut is convinced that this is an important physical building to keep alive,” said Fr. Bob Washabaugh, the church’s pastor.
About $100,000 more is needed to make sure the work can be completed. The scaffolding alone costs $22,000 a month to rent, which is why the church is hoping to raise enough money to get the project finished sooner.
Irish immigrants built the church, and it’s now immigrants from Latin America and Haiti who are behind fundraising efforts to keep it safe. Multi-lingual Masses in English, Spanish and Haitian Creole celebrate the church’s diversity.
“It’s not people with a lot of money, but you know, I’m really proud with what the parish has come up with,” Washabaugh said.