NORWALK—(updated Tuesday, December 22, 5:10 pm) Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski, beloved pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk, passed away suddenly on the morning of Monday, December 2). He was 68 years old. (Arrangements have been announced and are listed below).
“It is with a deep sense of sadness and of profound loss that we announce the passing of Msgr. Walter Orlowski, beloved pastor of St. Matthew Parish. His passing is an even more difficult cross to bear for his parish family and all those who loved him, coming as it has just a few days before Christmas,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
“Throughout his ministry, his spirit of joy and compassion gathered an entire community around him and brought healing and affirmation to so many lives. His death is a great loss to parishioners, his brother priests, and to the entire community. He will be deeply missed by all,” the bishop said.
On September 14, 2019, when the parishioners of St. Matthew’s celebrated his 25th year as pastor and the 40th Anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, the bishop praised Msgr. Orlowski’s in the presence of his parishioners:
“You, my friends, are absolutely blessed to have a true spiritual father who has been here nearly a quarter of a century. One who has guided you, laughed with you, cried with you, walked with you, has come to love you— probably more than he could love anything or anyone else. You have responded to his vision because you have seen the genuineness of Msgr. Walter and what he wants: the best for you and for the Church.”
Walter Cajetan Orlowski was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on April 6, 1952, son of Walter and Jeanne M. Orlowski. He was baptized May 4, 1952, at Saint Michael the Archangel Church in Bridgeport. He attended St. Thomas Aquinas School, Fairfield and Bullard Havens Technical School in Bridgeport.
Msgr. Orlowski began his priestly formation at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield Conn., continuing at St. Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., where he completed his theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Bridgeport by the Most Reverend Walter W. Curtis at St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport on May 5, 1979.
Following his ordination, his first assignment was as parochial vicar of St. Augustine Cathedral in Bridgeport (1979-1984). In July 1984, he was transferred to St. Mary Church in Bethel where he served until 1990. From 1990-1994, Msgr. Orlowski served as parochial vicar at St. Luke Church in Westport.
In July 1994, he was named the fourth pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Norwalk and he brought great enthusiasm and energy to his ministry. Under his leadership, on September 29, 1995, the groundbreaking for the new parish center became a reality with a Mass of Celebration officiated by Most Rev. Bishop Edward M. Egan.
In late 2003, the church underwent an expansion, increasing the seating capacity and creating a family room that allowed families to more fully participate in Mass. On June 26, 2004, Bishop William E. Lori presided at the rededication of St. Matthew Church.
On November 4, 2007, a Jubilee kick-off Mass was held to celebrate St. Matthew’s 50 year anniversary. There was a year-long celebration with spiritual and social events, which concluded on November 15, 2008, with a Mass and gala. On June 1, 2019, St. Matthew Parish celebrated the groundbreaking for an 18,000-square-foot two-story recreation center that will feature a basketball court, indoor walking/running track, and college lounge for a Catholic Newman Center Club.
“We’re building on what we already have, to give people the training space and programs they need to encourage health in body, mind and spirit,” according to Msgr. Walter C. Orlowski. “It’s all about creating a parish even more welcoming than ever before—one that can be the center of people’s lives. It’s all for the good, all for God’s people.”
On the occasion of his 40th anniversary as a priest, Msgr. Orlowski addressed the congregation during his homily for the Mass of Thanksgiving. On that day, priests, religious, dignitaries and five generations of parishioners packed the church. The procession into church included representatives of from the 1,016 baptized by Monsignor while at St. Matthew, 2,252 First Communicants, 1,599 young adults he prepared for Confirmation and 407 couples who received the Sacrament of Matrimony.
“I’ve spent more than a third of my life here at St. Matthew,” said Monsignor. “There has never been a day or week when one of you hasn’t come up to me with a prayer, word of support or a hug. It has meant the world to me “When I gather together with you, I know I am with family,” he said.
“It is you who inspires us,” he said to the faithful. “It is you who makes us better priests. It is you who fills us with your great spirituality that you possess in the community of St. Matthew. 40 years of priesthood has been a magnificent gift; I am blessed by you. 25 years and I have never felt alone—you have been there every step of the way. All of the great people of St. Matthew—it is you who make this place work. And I am grateful to God for you. God will take care of you, trust me,” Monsignor said.
Throughout his years of priestly ministry in the diocese, Msgr. Orlowski served both on the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consultors. He also served as vicar for Vicariate V as well as Dean of the Mother of Divine Grace Deanery, covering Norwalk, New Canaan and Darien. Msgr. Orlowski served as priest president of the board of All Saints Catholic School in Norwalk, and as a board member of Elderhouse of Norwalk. In addition, Monsignor served as mentor to many new pastors, a member of the Vocations Team and lastly as minister for priests. In 2007, he received the great honor of being named chaplain to His Holiness.
His words to young men considering the priesthood sum up the values he brought to his ministry as a priest: “Someone who’s thinking of a vocation to the priesthood should have a big heart and be willing to give of himself,” says Father Orlowski. “The priesthood requires prayer, study, and above all service. If you’re willing to do that, the priesthood offers great peace and great joy that nothing else on earth can give.”
ARRANGEMENTS: Msgr. Orlowski’s body will be received at St. Matthew Church, Norwalk on Monday, December 28 at 1 pm, followed by a Mass reserved to family, clergy and religious. The principal celebrant will be Msgr. Thomas Powers, vicar general; the homilist will be Msgr. William Scheyd. Concelebrating clergy are asked to bring diocesan vestments and remember that masks must be worn.
Starting at 3 pm, Msgr. Orlowski’s body will lie in repose until 6 pm for public viewing, Bishop Caggiano will celebrate the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, December 29 at 11 am. Interment will be private.
Condolences can be sent to the Orlowski Family c/o St. Matthew Church, 216 Scribner Ave, Norwalk, CT 06854. Please pray for the repose of the soul of Msgr. Orlowski and for the consolation of his family.