Recent History at St. Teresa of Avila
Father LaLiberte retired from St. Teresa of Avila in 2001, and was succeeded by Reverend Robert Kwiatkowski. The groundwork laid by Father George provided a strong foundation for Father Bob to build a flourishing stewardship program at St. Teresa of Avila parish. During his tenure, the number of church ministries grew to over 40, and of the 1,000 parishioners who regularly attended weekend masses, over 600 participated in at least one ministry. The extraordinary outpouring of parishioner engagement in these ministries covering the gamut of liturgical, spiritual, service, and social needs in the parish and the wider community is a compelling testament to the parish's readiness and eagerness to embrace the "Stewardship Way of Life." It was also a testimony to Father Bob’s leadership and enthusiasm.
In October 2003, St. Teresa of Avila Church marked its 100th anniversary with several special events. The culmination of those events was a commemorative mass celebrated by Archbishop Daniel J. Cronin on Sunday, October 5. To accommodate as many parishioners as possible, the mass was held at Nonnewaug High School, with Father Kwiatkowski and Reverend Monseigneur John Regan co-celebrating. Parishioner Michael Duffy made the altar used for the mass specifically for the occasion, and it was covered by a white altar cloth made by parishioner Sharon Taylor. The backdrop for the liturgical celebration was an original painting by parishioner Tim Wood of the stained-glass crucifixion tableau behind the altar in St. Teresa’s Church. Following the mass, a reception was held in the high school cafeteria, organized and hosted by the members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, a gesture of ecumenical spirit that also prompted St. Teresa’s parishioners to assist in providing meals during St. Paul’s parish retreat the previous spring.
That ecumenical spirit was also demonstrated when Father Kwiatkowski, acknowledging the donations from other faith communities in support the building of St. Teresa’s Church in 1902, suggested in his homily several weeks before the anniversary that the parish mark that occasion by donating to help Christ the Savior Orthodox Mission to build its own church. Parishioners enthusiastically agreed, and gave $14,250 in direct donations, doubled to $28,500 by an unnamed matching donor, to the mission’s building fund. In gratitude, Christ the Savior honored St. Teresa’s at a Vesper Service and reception, and Father Vladmir Alexandros presented an icon featuring Carmelite saints, including St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross, to Father Kwiatkowski. That icon now hangs in a prominent location in St. Teresa’s Church.
Beginning in 2005, under Father Bob’s direction, St. Teresa’s Church began planning for an urgently needed expansion to accommodate a parish that had doubled in size during the previous decade. Initial plans called for more than doubling the footprint of the church and nearly tripling the seating capacity. Plans were eventually approved by the Woodbury Zoning Commission, but faced protracted legal challenges from neighbors concerned with the impact of the expansion to their neighborhood and to the historic district. Throughout the long legal negotiations, Father Bob maintained a positive attitude and reminded parishioners that God’s will would prevail.
In 2010, the parish acquired a building on Main Street that formerly housed Moisan Architects, Inc., providing space for church offices and meeting rooms. In 2011, the design for a more modest church expansion was approved, and construction, expected to take nearly a year, was started. The North Congregational Church, which had donated money in 1902 for the building of St. Teresa’s, graciously offered the use of their facilities for daily masses and for the Saturday vigil and early Sunday mass during construction. The two remaining Sunday masses were held at Nonnewaug High School each week.
The revised design added over 1,300 square feet of new space to the church and numerous improvements and renovations, including:
- Complete refurbishment of the nave, including new carpeting, new oak pews with cushioned seating, and handicap seating.
- New flooring for the sanctuary using planks hewn from the original pews
- A “jewel-box addition” providing space for a new sacristy, kitchen, and a full-service elevator
- Three stabilization bars connecting the north and south walls of the church to prevent further bowing
- New roofing and updated gutters to better manage runoff
- Complete renovation of the electrical, audio and HVAC systems
- Renovated lighting, ventilation, flooring, walls and ceiling in Seidel Hall
- Additional parking
A rededication mass for the renovated church was held on April 29, 2012, with Archbishop Mansell celebrating and Father Kwiatkowski co-celebrating. The mass included the formal dedication of a new altar, and was attended by Church dignitaries, area clergy, community leaders and those parishioners lucky enough to be chosen by lot.
During Father Bob’s tenure, St. Teresa’s also adopted “Children of the Light”, a Honduran school dedicated to caring for street children, and providing food and some housing, as its parish mission. Annual Stewardship Fairs instituted in 2001 helped to ensure continued vitality for the parish ministries. Parish participation in ecumenical functions and activities increased, and St. Teresa’s became a vibrant presence in the community of Woodbury and surrounding towns.
In October 2015, after nearly 15 years as pastor of St. Teresa’s of Avila, Father Bob was transferred to St. Peter Claver parish in West Hartford. Parishioners were uniformly sorry to see Father Bob leave, but were also very grateful for the time he spent at St. Teresa’s and for his many contributions to the parish and community.
Father James T. Gregory was appointed as the seventh pastor of St. Teresa’s parish, and assumed that position on October 10, 2015. Since arriving at St. Teresa’s, Father Jim has focused on maintaining and expanding its ministries, on the liturgy, and more recently, on supporting the pastoral planning process initiated by the Archdiocese of Hartford. He is a strong advocate for stewardship of our planet, and early in his tenure provided helpful guidelines to encourage us to do our part as responsible global citizens. Perhaps most notably, he has demonstrated an impressive ability to deliver his weekly homilies with animation, humor and reverence - and without notes - holding our attention and skillfully illuminating the Word.