From Our Beginning to Today
Catholicism in Norwalk dates back to 1828. It was May of that year when Michael Cooney moved from New York and settled in Norwalk. He was Norwalk's first known Catholic.
In 1833, the Reverend James McDermot, Pastor of New Haven, celebrated the first Mass in Norwalk in the Cooney home on Commerce Street. Father McDermot visited Norwalk semi-annually each time celebrating Mass in the Cooney home.
In 1851, the first Catholic wooden structure, St. Mary Church, was built. In 1870, the present large stone structure was built and was the sole Catholic church in the Norwalk area until the mid 1890's when St. Joseph Church was built in South Norwalk. In 1909, the Hungarian St. Ladislaus Church was built also in the South Norwalk. These three parishes served the Catholics of Norwalk until the founding of St. Thomas the Apostle parish in East Norwalk.
On May 1, 1935, Most Reverend Maurice F. McAuliffe, Bishop of the Diocese of Hartford which included the entire State of Connecticut, established the Parish of St. Thomas the Apostle in East Norwalk with Reverend Thomas J. Sullivan appointed as the first pastor. Under Father Sullivan's guidance, the newly-formed parish began holding services on Sunday, May 5, 1935, in the auditorium of Roger Ludlow Junior High School. The boundaries of the parish were roughly described as Long Island Sound on the South, Norwalk River on the West, Westport Avenue on the North and the town of Westport on the East. The new Parish numbered about 900 parishioners who were former members of St. Mary and St. Joseph churches.
Fundraising activities were initiated within a week after Fr. Sullivan's appointment; sufficient funds were raised to begin land acquisition within six weeks of the establishment of the parish. By June 20, 1935, the new parish had title to the entire frontage on East Avenue between Myrtle and Fitch Streets. Five properties were involved; four contained buildings. The Rider property at 201 East Ave contained the largest building which was deemed most readily adaptable for use as a temporary church. By July 5, M.J. Riordan had a contract to remove the interior partition walls of the first floor of the extension at the back of the building. This would provide an auditorium large enough to seat 350. The temporary church was formally opened and blessed on August 11, about 100 days after the formation of the parish.
Fr. Sullivan died suddenly of a heart attack while swimming off Saugatuck Shores on a Sunday evening, August 15, 1943, at the age of 59. He served St. Thomas the Apostle Parish as pastor for 8 years. Bishop McAuliffe appointed Reverend Henry E. Flanagan as the second pastor effective September 18, 1943.
The dedication of the new church took place on April 2, 1950. Most Reverend Henry J. O'Brien, DD, Bishop of Hartford, presided at the dedication service. In April of 1953, Bishop O'Brien approved construction of the rectory on the site of the existing temporary rectory.
In 1954, the Diocese of Bridgeport was formed and Most Reverend Lawrence J. Sheehan was installed as the first Bishop of Bridgeport in December. Fr. Flanagan was borrowed to help fund raise for the new diocese and was returned home to 203 East Avenue in late 1954 to the new rectory!
Msgr. Henry Flanagan died suddenly of a heart attack on Saturday, Feb. 26, 1966, at the age of 68. He had served as pastor for almost 23 years. April of 1966, Msgr. John Cavanaugh was appointed as the third pastor. At the age of 70, Msgr. Cavanaugh retired on May 31, 1978, due to health problems. He had served as pastor for 12 years. Bishop Curtis appointed Msgr. John J. Toomey as fourth pastor effective June 1, 1978. Having served 14 years, he died in St. Joseph Hospital in August of 1992. Parochial Vicar Victor Martin was assigned as an administrator until a new pastor was appointed. Bishop Eagan appointed Msgr. William J. Scheyd as the fifth pastor of St. Thomas. Msgr. Scheyd served for 10 years and was subsequently transferred to St. Aloysius in New Canaan. January 3, 2003, Bishop Lori appointed Reverend Robert Crofut as the sixth pastor. Fr. Crofut served 10 years until his retirement due to health reasons. May 24, 2014 Bishop Caggiano appointed Fr. Miroslaw Stachurski as the seventh pastor of St. Thomas where he is affectionately known as Fr. Mirek.