History of St. Margaret Church
Early in the 19th century – Catholics on the shoreline were served by mission priests who traveled on the Shoreline Railroad via hand car, most coming from New Haven.
1852 – Rev. John Lynch (Chester) ministers to Catholics in Saybrook, Clinton, Madison, Guilford and Branford.
1854 – Rev. Lynch completes construction of the shoreline’s first Catholic church (Branford).
1859 – Clinton was included as a mission of Branford.
1861 – there were 75 registered Catholic families on the shoreline.
1876 – Rev. Edward Martin (Branford), erects a church in Guilford, (St. George’s).
1887 – Clinton mission becomes part of St. George’s.
1914 – Cornerstone is laid for St. Mary’s in Clinton.
1934 – St. Mary’s becomes a parish. Madison is made a mission of St. Mary’s.
July 21, 1934 – The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered up for the first time within the confines of Madison. This Mass is celebrated in the memorial Town Hall with the permission of First Selectman Howard Kelsey. The Celebrant was Father James Kane, Pastor of St. Mary’s in Clinton.
At the time, the majority of parishioners were summer residents of Madison. These part-time residents were known as the “summer colony.”
A Catholic Church in Madison – St. Margaret
1936– Bishop McAuliffe (Hartford) voices his strong desire that a church be built in Madison. Fundraising efforts are undertaken to pay for the construction of this church.
Cost of construction is estimated to be $28,000.00.
July 2, 1936 – Father Kane (St. Mary’s Pastor) sends a letter to Madison’s 650 Catholic visitors and 200 parishioners
detailing his plan to raise the funds for the construction of a church in Madison.. Father Kane understands that most of the funding will be coming from the “summer colony,” and puts his effort under the patronage of the Blessed Mother.
1936-1938 – Madison’s Catholic women play a significant role in the fundraising by holding card parties, a St. Patrick’s Day dance and a social at the Madison Beach Club.
March 1, 1937 – Under the patronage of St. Joseph, on a site previously purchased by the pastor of St. George’s (Guilford), ground is broken for the new church.
August 22, 1937 – The cornerstone is laid by Bishop McAuliffe, with 25 priests in attendance. Shortly after the ceremony began, a heavy rainstorm deluged all in attendance and cut the celebration short.
February 27, 1938 – The first mass at St. Margaret’s is celebrated by Father James Kane at 10:30am. The March 3rd, 1938 edition of the Catholic Transcript reports, “the handsome brick edifice was substantially benefitted by contributions from residents of the Madison summer colony. It has a seating capacity of 430 and with its beautiful oak interior, is one of the most beautiful in the diocese.” Virtually everything in the church has been generously donated.
It is decided to hold the dedication of the church in July so that Madison’s summer colony can participate.
The first mass is attended by parishioners from Madison, Clinton, many CT cities, as well as New York.
A local paper reports that, “During the mass the solid mass of cars, completely filling the four streets approaching the church, presented a unique spectacle.”
July 10, 1938 – St. Margaret’s is dedicated by Bishop McAuliffe at an 11:00am mass.
ST. MARGARET’S: 1940’S-1960’S
1946 – St. Margaret’s is given full parochial status.
Father Thomas Hayes is named pastor. Father Hayes is known for his work with youth and was Chairman of the Madison Safety Committee for many years. His rectory is located where the Swan Funeral Home currently sits.
1940’s and 1950’s – Madison’s Catholic population continued to grow. WW II veterans relocating from New Haven with their families boosted the number of Catholics in town. This was aided by the construction of I-95, making travel to the suburbs easier and faster.
1950’s – Father Hayes reported 225 families belonging to St. Margaret’s.
The September 6, 1951 Shoreline Times listed Sunday masses at St. Margaret’s at 7:15am, 8:30am, 10:00am and 11;00am. Daily masses were celebrated at 8:00am.
The organist at the time, Mrs. Bernard Moran, was instrumental in raising funds for the church 14 years earlier. The organ she played was donated by Mr. & Mrs. W. W. Campbell of Lockport, NY. Their granddaughter, Cecelia Pfister, currently attends St. Margaret’s. Cecelia’s aunt, Jane Campbell, played the organ at the first mass in 1938.
1952 – The Telford Construction Company built the current rectory. Members of the Telford family are current parishioners, as are members of the Fuest family. Fred and Angelina Fuest were the first coupled married in St. Margaret’s on February 28, 1938.
1957– 61% of the babies born in CT were baptized in the Catholic faith.
1962 – St. Margaret’s rectory was identified by Madison’s First Selectman as a possible fallout shelter.
The Renovation Generation: St. Margaret’s Grows
1974 – With the significant increase in parishioners, Pastor Joseph Flynn undertakes a major renovation to the structure. He dubs the fundraising effort the, “Renovation Generation.”
The cost of the renovation is $500,000.00 and takes one year to complete. Fundraising teams were formed and parishioners gave generously.
The most prominent new feature are the two wings located on the south and north side of the church. This expands seating to 700.
The parish hall was expanded to include a new kitchen.
A “crying room” was added as well as a new sacristy.
Air conditioning was installed and the skylight above the alter was added.
Madison gave permission to have masses celebrated at Daniel Hand Highschool when construction became too intrusive during the summer months.
Great efforts were made to use existing materials with an overall goal of mixing the old with the new (Vatican II).
May 15, 1976 – 7:00pm Mass, Archbishop John Whelan (Hartford) dedicated the new and improved St. Margaret’s.
ST. MARGARET’S : 1990’s-2000’s
May 2, 1997 – Father Gerard Schmitz, current pastor, gives the invocation at the centennial celebration of Memorial Town Hall. Over 60 years earlier, Madison’s Catholics celebrated mass in Memorial Town Hall due to there being no Catholic church in town.
1999– Father Gerry purchases land from St. Margaret’s neighbor, the Deacon John Graves Foundation. This purchase allows
for St. Margaret’s to expand its parking lot.
2000 – St. Margaret’s expands with the purchase of the building at 39-53 Academy Street. This building is now our Parish Center.
2000 – In his year 2000 Pastoral Report, Father Gerry reports the following regarding St. Margaret’s:
Registered Parish Households: 2,226
Registered Parishioners: 7,115
Weekly Mass Attendance: 2,005
Daily Mass Attendance: 75–135
Religious Education (Pre-school – 12th grade): 1,118
Religious Education Instructors: 161
First Communion: 134
At the time, St. Margaret’s had 45 parish ministries active with over 400 volunteers.
ST. MARGARET’S – 2021
While the Covid-19 pandemic forced the diocese to initially close St. Margaret’s and other parishes throughout Connecticut, accommodations made have allowed parishioners again to celebrate the Holy Mass at our beloved church.
The Catholic community in Madison remains vibrant as evidenced by the most recent data regarding parish activity:
2021 registered households = 2046
2021 registered parishioners = 6823
2021 Baptisms (YTD + scheduled) = 40
2021 First Communions = 44
2021 Confirmations = 64
2021 Marriages (YTD + scheduled) = 7
Last 12 months/Funerals = 43
2021-22 Religious Ed students (grades 1-10) = 342
2021-22 Religious Ed instructors = 39
52 parish ministries (some inactive due to COVID) and approximately 200 volunteers.