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
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
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."
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)
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
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."
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.
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
"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."
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