“It was after the first communion of their children and seeing how many Catholic Canterbury children there were, that two Canterbury women took it upon themselves to contact the Chancery office in Norwich about the possibility of a Catholic Chapel in Canterbury. After compiling a list of the Catholic population in town and the enumeration of Catechism children, Theresa Pukalo and Lillian Waskiewicz begain their task.
Their first meeting was in August of 1964 with Reverend William J. Zeigler, Chancellor. The second meeting, that same month, was with Reverend Monsignor Paul St. Onge, Vicar General. In September of 1964 they were asked for a map of Canterbury and an accurate census of the Catholics in town. In January of 1965, the Chancery office called on Edward Waskiewicz, then First Selectman of Canterbury, to look at various parcels of land that could be for sale. In April 1965, Father Leo Lavallee, Pastor of St. John’s was contacted to review the parcels of land that were suggested.
In April 1966, our land was purchased by the office of the Bishop with that year’s Diocsean Development Fund and a personal donation of $1000 from Bishop Vincent J. Hines.
In March 1967 we were advised by RT. Rev Msgr. Joseph V. King that the cost of the church had to be within the capacity of the parishioners. The exisiting plans were out of our reach and new plans had to be drawn up.
Finally, a meeting was held at the Dr. Helen Baldwin School with approximately 75 families in attendance with Msgr. Terrence Finnegan as the main speaker. A sketch and blue prints of the proposed church were shown by Father Leo Lavallee and Father Roger Gaulin and were approved.
Walter Smolenski was chosen as fund raising drive chairman. Captains were Arthur LeBeau, Rudolph Gaudette, Frederic Utz, Euguene Pukalo, and Edward Lachapelle. Charles Anthony was elected Treasurer and Lillian Waskiewicz secretary.
The kick off meeting was held at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Euguene Pukalo and every month there after until the pledges were paid. The meetings were faithfully attended by Mr. & Mrs. Arthur LeBeau, Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Pukalo, Charles Anthony Sr., Lillian Waskiewicz and Ester Armstrong.
Since 1965, Sunday masses were offered that the Grange Hall until completion of the new church.
As a struggling new Catholic community, it took on the task of raising funds toward the building of its own church. Under the direction of Father Leo Lavallee and with the generous response of many people with prayers and payments, our dream of having our own place of worship was realized with the completion of the church in September 1968. The dedication of St. Augustine Church was held on September 15 of that year with the most Reverend Vincent J. Hines Bishop of Norwich presiding. The first confirmation class was also held on the same date.
St. Augustine was the first Roman Catholic Church in the Town of Canterbury since the town’s incorporation on October 12, 1703, 311 years ago.
Reverend Leo Lavallee became our first resident Pastor on September 15, 1978 when the status of St. Augustine was changed from mission to parish.
The parish of St. Augustine, conceived in hope, born in joy, and matured in faith, prayerfully met the challenge of independence by adding needed space to the church building and by building a rectory within a year and half.
Upon the retirement of Rev. Leo Lavallee, Father Phillippe Millette was appointed Pastor of St. John Church and St. Augustine Church. Upon the transfer of Father Roger Gaulin, our assistants have been Father Palmer, Father Russel Wise, Father Marcel LaChance, Father Francis Sullivan, Father Anthony Carano and Father Hugh McEldowny. We have shared with them beautiful, most rewarding years and we thank God for giving us the pleasure to serve and love them all.
The parishioners of our mission chapel have worked hard and dreamed long of becoming a parish. On September 18, 1978, our dream was realized when the Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly, Bishop of Norwich, appointed Father Joseph Ricard to be the first pastor of our new parish of St. Augustine’s in Canterbury.
We also thank God for enabling us the most Rev. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly to preside at our tenth anniversary mass.”
Priests at St. Augustine’s
Father Joseph Ricard
Father Gonzalo Regalado
Father Frank McKenna
Father Arul Peter
Father Tadeusz Zadarozny