Our History

The Pastors of Saint Vincent Ferrer Church

Reverend Father Albert Karalis
Fall 1971 to May 4, 1977 (Died May 26, 1995)

Reverend Father Vito C. DeCarolis
May 5, 1977 to September 1983

Reverend Father Edmund S. Nadolny
September 1983 to September 15, 1989

Reverend Father Jeremiah N. Murasso, Ph. D
September 15, 1989 to September 15, 2003

Reverend Father Kevin J Forsyth
September 15, 2003 to July 2015

The History of Saint Vincent Ferrer Church

“To forget one’s ancestors is to be a book without a source, a tree without a root.”
(Chinese Proverb)

We The People

Our First Six Years

(Reverend Father Albert Karalis, pastor

From Fall 1971 to May 4, 1977)

Early in 1971, Monsignor Healy, pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Church announced that a new parish was about to be founded on the east side of the Naugatuck River in Naugatuck as mandated by John Francis Whealon, the Archbishop of Hartford. For a time the parish would be a “mission church” and Saint Francis would be its Mother Church.

In the fall of 1971, Father Albert Karalis was named as the first pastor of this newly formed mission parish. Masses were celebrated at the Knights of Columbus Hall on New Haven Road. The parish started small but gradually grew in membership. People started to get excited and more involved. The Ladies Guild was the first organization to be formed, C.C.D. classes began, and energetic parishioners initiated many fund-raising functions.

In the spring of 1973, as the faith community grew, a larger space was needed in which to worship. At the same time, the Knights of Columbus needed their hall for their own purposes. As God truly provides, we were blessed with the use of the Cross Street School.

Late in 1974, Archbishop Whealon announced that our parish would be dedicated as Saint Vincent Ferrer Roman Catholic Church; we would no longer be a “mission” parish. The name Vincent Ferrer was unique as there wasn’t another parish in the Archdiocese with this name.

In winter 1974, Father Karalis purchased the present site on which the church now stands. The Bontempo family owned the property. At that time, the only building on the property was a small house; it became the rectory. The purchase caused some disappointment with a few parishioners because of its overall condition. It would need a lot of work. Nevertheless, we forged ahead.

In May of 1977, Father Karalis was given a new assignment as the pastor of Saint Casimir’s Church in New Haven. He died on May 26, 1995. May he rest in peace.

Ed. Note: A 10th Anniversary Mass is scheduled for Father Karalis on May 25th, 2005 at 7:30am).

Built on Solid Ground

The Second Six Years

(Reverend Father Vito C. DeCarolis, pastor

From May 5, 1977 to September 1983)

Father Vito DeCarolis was assigned as pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer on May 5, 1977, and given the great task of building a church.     He will always remember his ordination day, December 8, 1954, at the North American College in Rome. It was the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Mary’s Immaculate Conception as a defined dogma of faith by Pope Pius IX, and he was one of 33 men to be ordained priests that day.

The influence of his family and the priests in his boyhood parish, Saint Anthony’s in Bristol, is what helped foster vocations for him and his brother, Father Joseph DeCarolis. Father Vito DeCarolis remembers becoming an altar boy in fourth grade, and being part of a group that parish priest “took under his wing.”     “Father Steve” as he was known, took them on picnics and other trips before being assigned as a chaplain in the U.S. Army in 1940.

Father Vito DeCarolis began his ministry at Saint Joseph in New Haven and Saint Jude in Derby before returning to Our Lady of Lourdes in Waterbury, where he was born. He was police chaplain in Waterbury, famous for sponsoring the “Cops and Robbers” charity basketball games. “We beat them all the time,” he said. In 1978, he became Pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer in Naugatuck. Seven later, he was transferred to Immaculate Conception Church in Waterbury, and in 1995 he went to Saint Mary in Milford. He retired in 2000 and now lives in Union City.

His first week at Saint Vincent Ferrer, Father engaged the Calabrese Construction Company in Waterbury to clear the land. As a favor to Father DeCarolis, the Calabrese Company donated the use of their heavy equipment (bulldozers, trucks, etc.) and approximately $40,000 in labor costs. For weeks bulldozers leveled the grounds, removing brush and trees, and correcting the drainage of water. Natural springs flow under the land.

Although Cross Street School was being used for weekend Masses, we did have a rectory, and with the dynamic flow of energy Father had, he immediately began fixing the rectory and had a chapel built for morning Masses.     Eighteen days after he arrived, the first morning Mass was held in the new chapel with approximately 40 people worshipping.

In short order, the middle level of the grounds (where the present church exists) was leveled off and cleared. The Ladies Guild presented $3,500 to Father Vito and in turn he purchased a huge tent measuring 80’ x 100’ from the Roy Tent Company in Norwich.     The poles of the tent were spruce from the Adirondack Mountains near Lake George. On Saturday, July 16, 1977, with the help of 52 men and women the huge tent went up.     At 4:00pm that same day, our first Sunday Vigil was celebrated in the tent. We experienced many problems with the tent as it was old and tore easily when strong winds or bad weather prevailed. It had to be repaired many times.

One of the first fund-raising functions was a Parish Fair held on August 25, 1977 on the grounds where the town flea market is presently located. On September 24, 1977, the parish sponsored a spaghetti supper, which drew a great crowd of about 1,300 people, with three sittings. Much progress was being made. The upper level of the church grounds were being cleared and leveled. By October 1977, a section of land (where the Continental Room is now) was prepared for the new hall. Ground was broken and construction of the building began. Again, we experienced setbacks. The weather just wouldn’t cooperate. The hall was to be completed within 5 to 6 weeks. Our deadline was early November. It was finally finished in late December.
In the meantime, our tent was getting too cold for services, and after many repairs it was no longer serviceable. In fact, during one Sunday morning Mass in late October, a strong gust of wind completely demolished the tent. Consequently, we had to go back to Cross Street School for Masses. The hall was finally completed just in time to celebrate our first Mass on Christmas Eve 1977 as Saint Vincent Ferrer Church.

In April and May of 1978, we began a Building Campaign Fund in order to raise the necessary capital to begin the construction of the church. A building committee was formed by Father DeCarolis, which chose Paul W. Reilly, A.I.A. as architect and planner from Rumson, New Jersey to draw up the plans. Soon a drawing of the church was displayed.

Bids went out and O & G Construction from Torrington, Connecticut was chosen. Ground breaking began on August 2, 1980 and completed in 1981.     Masses were now held in the new church. The parish was growing and becoming more involved. Father DeCarolis deserves much of the credit. The work here was enormous. Preparing the grounds, the lower and upper levels for the buildings were a great accomplishment. The property when purchased was in very poor condition.     The cost to level the land, clear it, dynamite and blast the ledge was an enormous burden. Father gave much of his time and physical labor in addition to his other parish responsibilities. His dedication was overwhelming in getting the job done. Father DeCarolis stepped down as pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer in August of 1983.

Here We Grow

The Third Six Years

(Reverend Father Edmund S. Nadolny, pastor
From September 1983 to September 1989)

In September of 1983, Father Edmund Nadolny became the third pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer Parish. He made a few changes in administrative personnel. One of his first major projects was to have the parking lot, upper and lower levels, paved with asphalt. This paving gave the parking lots a new look.     Soon after, two sisters came to assist Father in the many parish duties. They were well received by the parishioners. The house that we knew as the rectory now became the convent and home for the sisters. The second floor of the Church wing became the new rectory.

Father Nadolny was instrumental in forming the Child Care Center. He also took the garage that was used for storage, expanded and renovated it to what is now the parish Family Center (our church hall.)

On November 20, 1983, Saint Vincent Ferrer Church was dedicated with Archbishop Whealon officiating. Father Nadolny, Father DeCarolis, and Father Joseph DeCarolis (Father Vito’s brother) concelebrated. Deacon Earle Kimball served as deacon of the Mass. The dedication was a huge success. A relic of Saint Vincent Ferrer was embedded and sealed into the altar by the Archbishop.

In early spring of 1984, Father DeCarolis, who had been living in residence since he stepped down as pastor in August of 1983, accepted a new assignment at the Immaculate Conception Church in Waterbury. Many parishioners were very sad to see him leave.

Father Nadolny worked hard at paying off a large debt incurred from loans taken with various parishes during the construction of the church.     In September of 1989, Father Nadolny left Saint Vincent for a new assignment.     We wished him well and good fortune in his new endeavor.

Steady as She Goes

The Next Fourteen Years

(Reverend Father Jeremiah N. Murasso, Ph.D., pastor
From September 15, 1989-September 15, 2003)

Father Jeremiah Murasso, formally co-pastor of Saint Vincent DePaul Parish in East Haven, was appointed the fourth pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer by Archbishop Whealon effective September 15, 1989. He studied at the Gregorian University in Rome, Cambridge and Oxford Universities in England, and Trinity College and Fairfield University here in Connecticut. He has five master’s degrees, two sixth-year certificates, has a Ph.D. in psychology and a second doctorate on the way. He has also successfully engineered two parish building development campaigns and participated in a number of civic activities.

Father Murasso grew up in Hartford and graduated from South Catholic High School. He completed his studies for the priesthood at the North American College in Rome, and while in Rome received a master’s degree in dogmatic theology. He also taught at the University of Rome and Notre Dame International University in Rome.

Upon returning to the United States, Father Murasso served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Meriden and Saint Joseph in New Haven before becoming Co-Pastor of Saint Vincent de Paul in East Haven, overseeing renovation of the church and the expansion of the parish school. He also served a chaplain to the East Haven police and was active in the town’s fair housing commission and food pantry.

In 1989, he was appointed Pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in Naugatuck, where he served for 14 years, also helping to revitalize the parish’s church renovation program. From 1990-1997, he also served as Executive Director of Saint Francis Home for Children in New Haven, Highland Heights, a 110-bed residential and day-treatment facility for emotionally disturbed and sexually abused children.

During his tenure as pastor of Saint Vincent Ferrer, the parish community continued to grow, as numerous ministries and organizations flourished. The official parish rolls included over 1600 families, representing the full spectrum of people, young and old. On November 1993, Saint Vincent Ferrer celebrated its Tenth Anniversary of the dedication of the Church, with a Parish Pot Luck Dinner and Celebration, a Concert, and a special Anniversary Mass.

In 2001, a major fund raising Capital Campaign was begun to attend to several major maintenance problems. A new furnace was installed, a new roof over the church and rectory, and new bathrooms installed in the parish’s Continental Room.

During Father’s tenure, hand painted portraits of our three former pastors were commissioned and painted by artist Judy Jaworski. They were hung and dedicated in the hallway of the Wing of the Church.     In August 2003, Father purchased two large garages that replaced the truck that had been used for storage for several years. On September 15, 2003 Father Murasso was appointed Pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in South Windsor. Shortly before his departure, a portrait of Father Murasso, also painted by Judy Jaworski, was hung next to our other former pastors.     Father Murasso holds the record as our longest serving pastor – 14 years! We hold him in our memories and in our hearts!

Additional information is currently being compiled and written by our parish historian, Stephen Tufanario. Check back for more on the Murasso years!

No Time Like The Present

The Current Years

(Reverend Father Kevin J Forsyth, pastor
From September 15, 2003 – July 2015)

Archbishop Daniel A. Cronin appointed Father Kevin Forsyth as our fifth pastor, effective September 15, 2004 – his 47th birthday. It was Father’s first pastorate and the Archbishop’s last official appointment of a pastor as Archbishop of Hartford before his retirement. (For several months, Archbishop Cronin continued to serve the Archdiocese as “Apostolic Administrator” and made a few more appointments of pastors). Father Forsyth had previously served as Administrator of Saint Clare Church in East Haven (for 3 months); Saint John the Evangelist Church in Watertown (for 66 days); Saint Joseph Church in Waterbury (for 3 years) and Saint Mary Church in New Britain (for 1 year). After serving in these temporary administrative assignments, he was most happy to settle down and settle in for an extended term as pastor here. Father didn’t move into the rectory alone – his 11-year-old yellow lab & beagle mix dog “Annie” moved in too.

Father Forsyth wasn’t here 2 hours before his first emergency. He moved in Sunday September 14th. Father Larry LeClair was scheduled to celebrate the 4:15pm Mass.     Unfortunately, Father fell in the sanctuary some 25 minutes before the start of Mass, ripping the skin between his fingers. Finally convincing Father LeClair to sit out the Mass 5 minutes before it was to begin, Father Forsyth stepped up to the plate, with no homily prepared, and not knowing a single soul. The parishioners resoundingly welcomed him. After the Mass, Father LeClair was finally talked into being taken to the hospital by the organist and cantor where he received 7 stitches.

Two days later, a major storm hit the area, felling two trees on the property. Father’s first question, “Who do we call?” Chanda (the parish secretary) that’s who! She knew exactly who to call and Father’s second emergency was settled. One more to go before the week is over! Another fierce rainstorm hit and after a while drops of water were falling from the ceilings in the Secretary’s office, the CCD Office and the Pastoral Minister’s Office. Only the new Pastor’s Office was dry! The rectory deck above the offices was retaining rainwater: the drains were clogged! The company that installed the new roof the year before was summoned, and they cleared the drains and the waters receded. This was a warning: more would have to be done with this deck, and soon.

Finances were “tight” when Father arrived as expenses exceeded income. Father immediately made cutbacks and began watching the budget closely.     Six months later, there was $50,000 in checking, all funds in savings intact, and the financial outlook improving with the passing of each month. Father admits to being a political moderate, but a true fiscal conservative.

At the time of Father’s arrival, the parish census had declined to around 1,000 registered families, with only about 700 families “actively” worshipping on a regular basis. The three Sunday morning Masses had long ago been reduced to two. As almost everywhere else, especially in the Northeast, Catholic parishes continued to decline in numbers. 50% of Catholic households simply do not worship on a regular basis any longer. Father Forsyth set evangelization of inactive Catholics in Naugatuck as a top priority of his administration.

One area where Father knew we could reduce costs was in the position of a full time Pastoral Minister; what we needed was a part time Youth Minister. In the spring of 2004, an ad hoc committee was formed to draw up expectations and a salary range. In July, applications were accepted with interviews the first week of August.     On August 15 – on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the parish welcomed to the staff our new Youth Minister Doreen Russo Ryan.

Almost two months earlier, on June 25, 2004, newly ordained Deacon Emil Croce joined the parish staff as an Associate in Pastoral Ministry. Ordained on June 12th, 2004 by Archbishop Henry J. Mansell, he was quickly and warmly welcomed. He came to us from Saint Francis of Assisi Church in Naugatuck along with his wife Nancy. Emil continued his full time job as supervisor in the United States Postal Service; Nancy works for Naugatuck Savings & Loan, the bank in which the parish has several accounts. Deacon Emil, as part of his diaconate ministry will chair the Social Concerns & Service committee of the Pastoral Council.     He will preach once a month at the Sunday Masses, direct the Baptism program and baptize, direct the RCIA process and Adult Confirmation program, conduct wake services, coordinate the Lectors, Ministers, and Altar Servers, and help prepare couples for marriage.

Father spent the first year of his pastorate establishing the Pastoral Council in line with guidelines published in 1988 by the Archdiocese of Hartford. New committees of the Council began to be formed. The first was the Buildings & Grounds Committee with Chair Tom Festa. This committee would oversee all aspects of the parish buildings and grounds, including maintenance and use. Four more committees will form soon: Spiritual Life & Evangelization, Social Concerns, Stewardship & Service, Education & Formation, and Liturgy, Worship & Hospitality.

In mid-August 2004, Carol Beebe, DRE, submitted her letter of resignation saying she wanted to utilize her new degree in history and English literature, full time perhaps in a teaching position. So, the search for a new DRE began. As CCD classes were beginning in only 4 weeks, the search would have to be swift.     By August 30, Stephen Kenny was hired as our new Director of Religious Education.