About Our Parish

Church History

The Church of Our Lady of Pompeii, which is located in the Foxon section of East Haven, Connecticut, was dedicated on March 25. 1961. At that time a booklet was published, which began, "Progress and growth - the characteristic features of our age - find their realization also in Our Lady of Pompeii Parish." Forty-five years later that statement remains true, as progress in faith in Jesus Christ and in the following of the gosepl, as well as growth through evangelization, remain important to this thriving community of over 2,100 families.

Incorporated on December 13, 1947, it began years earlier as Our Lady of Pompeii Mission, first as a small group of several families celebrating Mass circa 1912 with a Dominican priest, Fr. Robert Rumaggi, in a private home. After World War 1 the Foxon area of East Haven, Connecticut, attracted young couples who were looking to build homes and a future. The need for a church was soon realized and the families of the area responded generously to the drive. The Russo Family, who had a special devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii of the Rosary, donated land, $2,000.00 and a bell purchased in Chicago. That bell has been moved to a place of honor near the entrance of the present church. At that time, 25 girls and boys were preparing for their First Confession and First Holy Communion.

In the fall of 1922, the Reverend T. Lawrason Riggs, who was Spiritual Director to the Catholic students at Yale University in New Haven, presided over Our Lady of Pompeii Church. The year 1929 was marked by the construction of a new extension on the right side of the small church building, as well as the addition of an organ and choir pews. To mark its 10th anniversary in Foxon Park, the entire church was redecorated. Headlines in the New Haven Register read, "Little Known Foxon Church Treasure House of Beauty." A few years later, Fr. Riggs was forced to leave Foxon so that he might devote his full energies to the Catholic population at Yale.

In 1938, Pompeii was made a mission of St. Therese Parish in the neighboring town of Montowese. Growth took place in many areas including the religious instruction of the children coordinated by the Missionary Zelatrices of the Sacred Heart, who have since gone back to their original founding name, Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Ladies' Guild was also organized during this time and continues to be marked by constant growth. The benefits emanating from the dedicated work of the Guild continue to enhance the life of the parish spiritually, socially, and financially. A major event of the Guild is the Annual Christmas Fair held in mid-November.

Soon after celebrating its Silver Jubilee, Pompeii changed  its mission status and became a fully incorporated parish on December 13, 1947; henceforth, it has been known as the Parish of Our Lady of Pompeii, with Reverend Raymond Mulcahy as the First Pastor. He was succeeded by Fr. John O'Neill, Fr. Dennis Hussey, Fr. David Borino, Fr. James Shanley, Fr. John L. Lavorgna, Fr. Timothy Ryan and the current Pastor, Fr. Jeremiah N. Murasso.

In 1956, the seven acres on which the present church and rectory stand were acquired. Seven Masses were offered each Sunday, at the church in Foxon Park and a local public school. The help of the Dominican Fathers of Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island, made possible the celebration of these Masses.

In 1957, the Holy Name Society began a movement that resulted in the Annual Parish Fair and Carnival - still a highlight of the summer - with its popularity growing far beyond the limits of the parish and East Haven, drawing people from the greater New Haven area.

In 1959, a fundraising drive was conducted to build a new church, with $200,000.00 being pledged by parishioners. The site for the new church was blessed at groundbreaking ceremonies on March 13, 1960. An additional four acres of land fronting Route 80 and adjacent to the church site were purchased in December 1960. On March 25, 1961 the present church was dedicated. The cost of the construction was $380,000.00. The old church continued to be used for two Masses every Sunday, until April 21, 1963, when it was destroyed by fire. A treasured House of Worship and memorial landmark had been destroyed by two young boys playing in a storage shed. While the community was greatly saddened, the new church has made it possible for the parish family to worship under one roof. The church accommodates 600 with an equally large lower hall.

An important event in 1978 was the construction of the new building containing a chapel, rectory and meeting rooms. Today the chapel is used for daily Mass and recitation of the rosary, an intercessory prayer group, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and is open for private prayer.

The rectory building houses the Lower Office Meeting Room, which provides an ample and comfortable space for a variety of parish activities. As functional and attractive as this building is, its most important contribution has been facilitating the growth of comunity within the parish. The chapel, rectory and meeting rooms all provide space for people to gather. Coming together to pray, plan, or study, parishioners have formed friendships as well as group identity. This has helped us to better serve the parish and bear witness to the world.

Social action is the vehicle through which members of the parish reach out to our neighbors in need. Parishioners keep a food pantry stocked by bringing food to weekend Masses. This food is then distributed by Catholic Charities and the East Haven Food Pantry as needed. At Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, baskets are put together by these organizations for those who might otherwise go without.

The Knights of Columbus, Council #11245 of Our Lady of Pompeii, was established in 1995 and is always seeking new members.

In recent decades, the parish has continued to grow and adapt with the changing needs of the population. Adult level faith formation and catechesis remains a priority, and passing on the Catholic religion to new generations has embraced new methods and technology. Outreach and service to the aged and homebound is also a vital part of our ministry. In recent decades, our parish has been blessed with the pastoral service of members of religious congregations of women, including the Apostles of the Sacred Heart and the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Time-honored traditions, such as our annual Carnival and Ladies Guild Christmas Fair, continue to support and enliven our community, and have been joined by new intiatives, such as the Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Outreach and ministry to our young people have been greatly stengthened through the efforts of the Leap of Faith Youth Group and the Knights of Columbus Columbian Squires Circle. These organizations serve our youth with vigor and zeal through a vast array of activities, and have helped to engage spiritually this essential component of our parish family, now and in the future.

Parish anniversaries were marked in 1997 (50 years) and 2007 (60 years) with appropriate fanfare and celebration. The main church interior was beautifully renovated and refurbished in 2006-2007. The project included painting of the interior walls, a new floor, refurbished pews, and a cleaned and painted statue of our Blessed Mother above the front doors. Since then, the stained glass windows have been repaired and restored, and the sanctuary area enhanced. In 2008 a special pilgrimage to Italy took place, including a visit to the Basilica in Pompeii. This was followed by a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France in 2010. More recent pilgrimages have included visits to the Shrines of Montreal and Quebec City, and Catholic sites in Washington, DC, and Maryland. On the church grounds, additional enhancements have taken place over the years including new statues, additional lighting, and a new gazebo.

Crossing into a new millennium, and moving forward in the 21st century, Our Lady of Pompeii remains a vibrant spiritual home for thousands of families in Foxon and beyond. The Pompeii Spirit is one of joyful discipleship, and service to Our Lord and the Church for generations. It is a welcoming place of community, family, friends, and faith.