Cultural Heritage Tours

A project of the ETHNIC HERITAGE CENTER

Downtown North Tour

St. Mary’s Church

5 Hillhouse Avenue

St. Mary Church, c. 1875. Courtesy Knights of Columbus and CT Irish American Historical Society Archives, History of the Knights of Columbus by William O'Neill.

Fr. McGivney and the founders of the Knights of Columbus, c. 1880s.

St. Mary’s Church, successor to Christ’s Church (1834) which was New Haven’s first Catholic Church (Downtown, #11), was designed by James Murphy, an Irish immigrant from County Tipperary, and dedicated in 1874. The grave of Rev. Patrick Murphy, who finished the building of the church, is located at the front of the church, guarded by an iron gate; a memorial stone to Fr. Murphy is also imbedded in the outer wall of the church to the upper right of the grave. In 1878 Fr. Michael McGivney, the son of Irish immigrant parents, was assigned to St. Mary’s as a curate. In 1882, in the basement of St. Mary’s, Fr. McGivney and his mostly working-class Irish parishioners founded the Knights of Columbus, a fraternal benefit society formed to protect the widows and children of working men and to foster faith and social progress. In 1982, on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the K of C, Fr. McGivney’s remains were re-interred from his native Waterbury to a sarcophagus at the rear nave of St. Mary’s. The church’s spire, part of the original design but not constructed due to financial constraints, was donated by the Knights of Columbus in 1986. New Haven continues to be the home of the K of C, whose International Headquarters are at 1 Columbus Plaza, Church Street.

  • Text source courtesy History of the Diocese of Hartford by Rev. James H. O'Donnell, 1900, Connecticut Irish American Historical Society Archives.

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