History of St. Thomas and St. Anne

When St. Mary of Jewett City was established as a parish in 1872 the first pastor was Rev James Reynolds who was appointed by the Bishop of Hartford CT. St. Mary’s parish included Taftville, Occum, Voluntown, Glasgo and Preston. Taftville parishes became independent in 1877. Fr. Reynolds was succeeded by Father Thomas P. Joynt, who in the early 1880's built the first Catholic Church in Voluntown.

In 1891 when Reverend Francis P. O'Keef was pastor at St. Marys; the church in Glasgo was erected with the financial assistance of Mr. Lucius Briggs of Glasgo. He donated the land and contributed $500.00 to the building fund. Mr. Briggs, who was a Protestant, held a controlling interest in Glasgo's manufacturing industry. The pretty gothic church, to be known as St. Anne, was dedicated on October 17, 1891.

In 1892 Voluntown and Glasgo were made an independent parish with St. Anne’s in Glasgo as a mission to St. Thomas, Voluntown Ct.

Rev. J.H. Chapdelaine purchased St Thomas Cemetery lot in 1895. Rev. Joseph Perreault had the old main alter installed during his term. Electricity was installed in 1929 when Fr. Carey was pastor. In 1937 while Rev. Joseph Comtois was pastor asbestos shingles (then said to be the state of the art material) were installed on all church property. Oil furnace burners replaced coal furnaces. Paintings were placed over the high alters in both churches. These paintings were removed in 1947 when St. Thomas Church was remodeled.

Early in the 1950’s under the direction of the then pastor Msgr. Joseph King, many improvements took place, selling the previous rectory and constructing a new one in 1952. The new rectory (now the parish center) was a one story ranch style structure, the first of its kind to be built in the diocese. St. Thomas Church was painted and its sanctuary remodeled at about that time: a limestone alter and new statues created by Robbie, a well-know New York artist, were installed in place of the former alter with its Gothic spires. A simple arch replaced the former Doric pillars, and elaborate globe light fixtures were also replaced. Among other additions to the parish’s physical plant were the rectory driveway, sidewalk, and the drilling of a well for St. Thomas church, thus ending the necessity of carrying water from the old rectory on the hill down to the church for Mass. In about 1950 the indoor Christmas crèche still in use at St. Thomas was built by a parishioner Roger Morency, then an alter boy. Father King also served the community, serving on the Voluntown Board of Education, which he chaired for several years during the construction of the current Voluntown Elementary School. In those days the parish used the Voluntown Elementary School as its site for religious education classes, and the students were taught CCD after school on released time. The Rosary Alter Society was also established in Father King’s time.

The statue of the Immaculate Conception which sill remains standing outside St. Thomas church was put up during Father McKenna’s pastorate, a gift from Mrs. Downing in memory of her husband, who had been the oil man for the parish. The gravesites at St. Thomas Cemetery were at that time haphazardly laid. Father McKenna, having engaged a cemetery professional, realigned them and put down new markers and new roads. It was during his time that organs were purchased for both St. Thomas and St. Anne churches. The parish center basement was finished, tiled floors were laid, a ceiling installed and a kitchen built.

The oak cabinetry still being used in St. Thomas sanctuary was built and installed while Father Bernard Miller was pastor finishing the renovation to St. Thomas church started by his predecessor. Father Miller was the first pastor at St. Thomas parish to begin using lay people as lectors and Eucharistic ministers.

Rev. William Shields guided St. Thomas and St. Anne through the momentous changes wrought by the Second Vatican Council. In accordance to the dictates of the Vatican Council, an altar was installed allowed the priest to face the congregation; the communion rail and gates were removed.

The Rev. Valdemar Cukuras established the first parish council in 1967. He also began the campaign to obtain property for a parking lot, as the only park at St. Thomas at that time was along the street. In January of 1970, June & Foster Caddell deeded an acre or so for the current paved parking lot to the parish for $1,300. Father Cukuras also is credited for returning the CCD program back to the Parish Center.

Rev. William Casey in 1979 took on the task of overseeing the completion of the new parking lot. A parishioner who had a construction business, Lyman “Tuggie Corcoran, volunteered to haul the fill away to level the site. Some of the fill was used at the construction sites in Voluntown including the elderly housing, and the fire station. During Father Casey’s tenure, St. Anne Church was deemed structurally unsound by an inspector and the church was closed.

A dedicated group of parishioners rallied to begin a campaign to raise the funds needed to repair and shore up the church, with Father Casey’s promise to reopen the church if they were interior as well. St. Anne was reopened on the following Easter Sunday. The group not only raised enough to shore up the church but enough to repaint the entire interior. During the National Bicentennial Celebration in 1976, St. Thomas Parish and the Voluntown Baptist Church participated in one of the first-ever local ecumenical services, again reflecting the spirit of Vatican II. Bishop Reilly attended the event, which brought several hundred people to a tent at what is now Constitution Field for prayer, singing and celebration.

Rev. William Flynn purchased an additional .45 acres to extend the parking event further. The front pews at St. Thomas were cut shorter about this time allowing easement of movement around casket at funerals and to facilitate communion. All the pews were taken outside and painted a few at a time, on weekends by parish volunteers, and the roof of both the churches and the rectory were re-singled.

During the pastoral time of Rev. Eslyn Drummond St. Thomas and St. Anne churches were completely painted both inside and out; new storm windows were put in, a sound system was installed, steeple renovated and a handicap ramp was installed.
In 1989, the house next door to St. Thomas Church was purchased; it was to be used as the priest’s Rectory. The old rectory converted to classrooms for various organizations of the parish.

Rev. Father James Sucholet’s being pastor, brought about many changes. A new artesian well was drilled into the hill behind the rectory; the system was adapted to service all the building at St. Thomas at this location (previously the old well would dry up through the dry seasons). The rectory was completely remodeled through out. Also new heating and air conditioning was installed, all of which brought much value to the existing parish property, creating a warm environment for private talks and consultations. The building structure of St. Thomas was found to be in disrepair, whereas, the building’s main caring beams and supports were failing. New concrete footings and steel Lally columns were installed along with new structural steel beams. A portion of the cellar was excavated adding a concrete floor and a low wall system, allowing for the installation of a new furnace and later air conditioning system.

hRev. Sucholet further added many flower and shrub gardens along the entire bank behind the rectory and another between the rectory and the church, and all along the outside of the church. He planted mostly perennials so that they would come up and be enjoyed for years to come. A small-scale statue of St. Fancies along with a fishpond and bench were placed in the garden between both buildings making for a peaceful and prayerful retreat for all to enjoy. Rev. Sucholet’s brother lent a hand often to install and repair electrical items, as did Steve Gwiazda a parishioner. Throughout Rev. Sucholet’s time at St. Thomas he usually shoveled the sidewalks, trimmed the lawns and also maintained all the gardens.

Rev. Casimir Musynski’s time spent at St. Thomas parish was as an administrator. He will be remembered by both the parish children and parents for the wonderful Easter hunt that he hosted. He also hosted an inspiring penitential service offered by Bishop Hart, former Bishop of Norwich.

Rev. Mariadas J. Lipton was assigned to St. Thomas parish as a temporary administrator and credited for the creation of this web site.

Please note that both presently and throughout the past their have been huge contributions of both time/talent and moneys not yet represented here (Due time constraints), but documented elsewhere and in the hearts of the parishioners of both St. Thomas and St.Anne Churches, and more important with Our Heavenly Father.