St. Philip Parish: a Community of People
by Janet Blake


We hope the St. Philip Church mission statement conveys the philosophy of the community: St. Philip Church, a welcoming Catholic community, strives to love, honor, know and serve God. As a family, we gather to celebrate liturgy, perform good deeds, share our faith, and bring all to Christ. St. Philip lead us to Jesus.

Evolving and Growing Since 1964

Since being founded in 1964 our parish community has grown and evolved into a diverse community. The burgeoning parish of St. Mary was divided to form St. Mathew (1958), St. Jerome (1960) and St. Philip (1964). Many citizens of Norwalk were now "assigned" to the new parish. One such St. Philip member was the late John Fahey, who could be called a "charter member". John later became a Trustee of the church. He described the first community of St. Philip as essentially young families who had moved to the East Rocks/West Rocks area when it was newly developed.

A Community Comes Together

The very first St. Philip community did not have a church to call its own; Mass was celebrated in the basement of St. Philip School. Many of the children of the new parish attended the school. Their parents were enthusiastic supporters of both the school and the parish, Fahey and others recalled. The main social event of the week took place at St. Philip—the Saturday night dance. "Everybody...went to the dances," Fahey said. " But that sort of faded out about five years after the parish was established."

Church Groups Develop

Over the years committees and groups sprang up to meet the various needs of church members. "We had bingo and we had fairs and fund raising of all sorts," recalled Mildred Choyce, who was also among those who were assigned to St. Philip from St. Mary. "There was a lot going on." Choyce said she was in the school's "Mothers Club," which at one time had about 300 members. (Today, that club has become the GIFT - Gathered In Faith Together group of the church)

St.Philip Religious Education

For those St. Philip families whose children did not attend the original parish school or the more recent All Saints Regional School, the Religious Education program was established in the early days of this new community. Fahey recalled that it was St. Philip's original leader, Father Conlon (pastor 1964-1975) who first had the foresight to appoint a Director of Religious Education in an attempt to strengthen that part of the church community. That director was Sister Ellen Flynn, R.S.M. Fahey said she rallied St. Philip parish members around the program by getting a large group of lay people involved.

Today, members of the St. Philip community continue to be brought together by the Religious Education program, which was directed since 1979 by Sister Mary Ann McPartland, C.N.D. and is currently being directed by Doris Chiapetta. The program depends on congregation members to teach, as well as to assist in other aspects of the program, for example, the "Children are Special" Masses. Doris strives to get the whole parish community involved in teaching the students about their faith and to show the children that they are a part of our church family.

Parishioners Welcome New Members

Young families continue to join our church as they move into the area. While they often cannot dedicate as much time to the church as those in the past generation, they have found ways to get involved. Elizabeth and Anthony Broncati could be considered typical of the younger generation of our community. Both of the Broncati's work outside the home, and they are parents of young children. They help run the church's Welcoming Committee, which, as its name implies, welcomes new parish members. According to Elizabeth, the challenge of getting younger, newer members involved in the church community is figuring out a way they can participate despite an already crammed schedule. "It's all working around two-income families," she said, adding that, while in the past, "they could probably commit five hours a month (to an activity in St. Philip), now, it's only two."

More Parishioners Feel Their Faith Grow through Participation

The Rev. Martin J. O'Connor was assigned as our second Pastor on August 15, 1975. He was known as a mentor of many parishoners who became actively involved. One such person was Anna Carneglia who managed the RCIA program at St. Philips for many years. Her story is a good example of how faith grows through participation for she went on to be actively involved in RCIA at the diocesan level in Bridgeport. Fr. O'Connor led the church until his death in April 1988.

Since Father Michael Boccaccio was installed as pastor at St. Philip on June 19, 1988, more and more people have become involved in some way, for example, by becoming Scripture Readers or Eucharistic Servers, Elizabeth Broncati said. She credits Father Boccaccio with aggressively reaching out to the parish community, encouraging them to get involved in the approximately 50 groups, committees or organizations of the church. Among these are the Men's society; GIFT – Gathered In Faith Together (formerly Women's Society); Youth Ministry Committee; Liturgy Committee; Building and Grounds crew; Music Committee; Social Concerns Committee; Senior Citizens Group; RCIA; Parish Council and Finance Committee.

A Diverse Community Where Members Feel at Home

The parish community is becoming more ethnically diverse. While, in general, the St. Philip community is made up of 1/3 Irish-Americans and 1/3 Italian-Americans, the other 1/3 is now made up of those with backgrounds from, among other places, Haiti, Colombia, Croatia, India, Scotland, Poland, and Hungary. Father Boccaccio noted that economically, educationally, and culturally the St. Philip community crosses into all territories. Parish members range from those with Ph.D.s to those with no formal education; corporate executives to the homeless. It is those differences that make the parish exciting, he said. According to Fr. Boccaccio, St. Philip should be a place where people can feel at home and welcomed; where one can feel he or she can make a difference and is needed.

"If a parishioner goes out of the way to welcome the rejected or those on the brink and says to them, "I respect you," such an act reflects on their being a Catholic and therefore is a reflection on their life in this parish" he added. And while he hopes members of St. Philip are aware of the needs of those around them—from social justice to basic food and shelter needs—his goal for the parish community is that all parishioners be able to say to those around them: "I accept you and I am open to you, especially in a Liturgical setting." For Sister Mary Ann, the ideal is similar. In her eyes, our church community should "go out of our way to bring our immediate family to the worship community, as well as our extended family and our neighborhood family and make them all feel welcome."

New Members Join Church through RCIA

It seems the goals mentioned in the previous paragraph are reached over and over again as new members join our church. One way our community opens its arms to new parishioners is through RCIA—the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is through RCIA that any adult who has not been part of the Catholic Church can receive the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation. RCIA is ongoing throughout the year. Participants can join at any time, whether they are non-Catholics who want to enter the Catholic Church or people who, for example, were baptized Catholic and received First Communion but were never confirmed.

The RCIA program is directed by Deacon Frank J. Chiappetta. RCIA is an ongoing process of being open to anybody when they approach us about joining the church. We welcome them whenever they come. Non-Catholics who are not part of RCIA also feel they have found a home at St. Philip. Such is the case for Jeffrey S. Wilson, a Non-Catholic who is married to Tammy F. Wilson, a Catholic. They became registered members of St. Philip in July of 1995. According to Tammy, her husband feels welcome at St. Philip and enjoys singing with her and the congregation during Mass. "All the people are friendly," Tammy said. "When I go here, I understand what they say. I listen. I get into it more. ... It's just very personable." It is a credit to the many parishioners and to the incredibly dedicated and diligent parish staff (past and present), who, over the years, have played an active role in creating such an open and welcoming community at St. Philip.








































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Mass Times:        Saturday 5:30pm   Sunday   8:00am   10:00am   12:00pm   Weekdays   7:30am

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