Archdiocese of Hartford taking over New Haven’s Saint Mary’s Church after Dominican friars announced departure

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The Archdiocese of Hartford announced the leadership team that will be taking over New Haven’s St. Mary’s Church and the newly consolidated municipal parish.

It will look mostly the same on the outside, but starting in January 2022, St. Mary’s will have new faces inside.

The Dominican friars and their white robes will be leaving after 135 years. The Archdiocese of Hartford is restructuring, combining all of New Haven’s Catholic churches into what’s called a municipal model.

“St. Mary’s, because of its central location, will be the mother church, if you will, of this municipal parish church,” Father Ryan Lerner, the new pastor of St. Mary’s said.

Lerner is also the Catholic chaplain at Yale. Father Anthony Federico is the new Parochial Vicar. Both are from Connecticut.

“I was born not a mile from here and I know that New Haven is so rich in diversity,” Federico said. “Some of the most wealthy and powerful people in the world side by side with some of the poorest people in our community and every gamut of life in between.”

Many of those people are unhappy with the changes, however. The announcement got more than 140 negative comments on Facebook with words like “heartbreaking” and “travesty.” The new man in charge says, give it time.

“Look, we are all in this together,” Lerner said. “This is new for me, this is new for all of us. Any time major change happens in the church, it’s a reminder to us that we are one as the body of Christ.”

Of course, St. Mary’s is not just any church. In 1882, Father Michael McGivney started the Knights of Columbus in the church basement.

McGivney has since been beatified by the Catholic Church and is well on his way to becoming a saint. Any priest who takes over this parish certainly has a lot of history behind him.

“To be coming back to St. Mary’s, where I spent so many hours with Father McGivney at his tomb when I was just learning the priesthood,” Federico said. “It’s been a huge part of my own journey as a priest, and now to be coming home, I couldn’t be more excited.”

“On one hand, I’m super excited,” Lerner said. “At the same time, obviously, this is something that’s daunting.”

Pilgrims will hopefully come to honor McGivney, but the new priests know they have to serve the local faithful, too.

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