In the second half of the 19th century, New Britain, CT, served as the state’s manufacturing center, producing tools and hardware in factories powered by immigrant labor. In a diverse setting of Southern and Eastern European ethnic groups in the 1890s, a small but strong enclave of newly arrived immigrants from the Halychyna region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire forged what was to become the Ukrainian community in New Britain.
While the early community grew and thrived, disagreements within the local Byzantine Catholic parish led the Halychyna to form their own parish on Winter Street by 1910, consecrated as St. Mary’s. Worshipping in a small 1911 structure that would become the present church’s basement, the growing congregation completed the upper portion of the church by 1917.
By the 1920s, St. Mary’s parish now served the second generation of those first immigrants, while welcoming still more during the inter-war years. Now identifying themselves as Ukrainian, the parishioners developed mutual aid societies, a church school, a Ukrainian-language school, a print shop, a parish cemetery and a prize-winning choir, among many other parish organizations. St. Mary’s joined the newly formed Ukrainian Orthodox Diocese by the end of the decade.
Dozens of St. Mary’s young men served in WWII with a few making the ultimate sacrifice. With New Britain’s factories converted to war production work, the city and St. Mary’s saw a steep increase in new Ukrainian immigration. Under the leadership of Very Rev. Mitered Peter Kowlachyk, the parish expanded dramatically in the post-war years. It burned the mortgage in 1945, added a parish house next door, helped to build the city’s Ukrainian-American Club in the 1960s and developed additional dynamic, hard-working parish organizations such as the Sisterhood of St. Olga and the Ukrainian-American Veterans.
A terrible fire in 1973 provided the parish with the opportunity to renovate the altar and nave in a more Orthodox tradition. The parish installed an iconostas in 1977 under the guidance of Fr. Michael Horoshko, planned under the pastorship of Fr. Michael Zaparaniuk. Under the 20-year pastorship of Very Rev. Jakiw Norton, St. Mary’s expanded its holdings to include two adjacent properties and a growing involvement in diocese-wide programs such as the U.O.L. Successful projects such as making varenyky and bread-baking provide parish financial support as well as keep Ukrainian traditions alive.
With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, St. Mary’s welcomed its ‘fourth wave’ of Ukrainian immigration as it developed into a commuter parish, reflecting the growth of suburbs around urban centers.
Today, under the recent leadership of Ihumen Gregory (Woolfenden) and current guidance of Very Rev. Andrii Pokotylo, our parish of Saint Mary, Nativity of the Mother of God, continues to grow. Grateful for our Lord’s blessings for more than 112 years, St. Mary’s parish-family strives to serve Christ and His Church in this 21st century.
O, Most Holy Theotokos, save us!
Very Rev. Fr.
Mobile: (860) 989-5748