Early History

Early History

Both the Church of the Nativity and St. Teresa of Avila were founded as missions of St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown.  Their individual histories begin in the second half of the 19th century, as the Catholic populations in their respective towns of Bethlehem and Woodbury began to settle and grow.

The Catholic Church in Bethlehem was first established as a mission of St. John the Evangelist Church on November 16, 1884.  During the late 1800's and early 1900's, most Catholics in Bethlehem were immigrants from Canada, Western Europe (primarily Ireland, Germany, and Italy), Eastern Europe (primarily Poland and Lithuania) and Lebanon.  These hardy settlers soon outnumbered the earlier "Yankee farmers" to become the dominant cultural groups in the area.  Steadfast in their faith, they traveled long distances to attend Mass and to see to the religious education of their children.

The first Catholics in Woodbury are believed to have been displaced Acadians who were assigned to the village.  Catholics settled in Woodbury as early as 1850.  The first authentic record of any Catholic service in the town was the marriage of Stephen Collins and Bridget Dolan, performed by Rev. James Lynch from Birmingham CT (now Derby) on October 26, 1856.