St. Jude’s celebrates 30th anniversary of dedication

MONROE—St. Jude Parish was five years old and celebrating Mass in the school gym when Father John Sabia was named pastor. Several years later, he began what would be one of his greatest undertakings—-building a church with his faith community on 17 acres of land in Monroe.

The architectural plans included stone work, so Father invited parishioners to bring stones from their yards and gardens that could be used around the base of the church and in the sanctuary as a sign of their solidarity with Christ and one another.

“A lot of those stones are from people’s homes in Monroe,” said Monsignor Sabia, who retired in 2014. “Families would bring stones home from wherever they went on vacation. On Saturdays about 30 of us would have ‘rock parties’ and go to different properties to pick up stones. It was a joy. The Lord gave me the honor and privilege of building that church.”

This year, under the leadership of Father Henry Hoffman, the parish celebrated the 30th anniversary of the dedication of the church on Oct. 28, 1989, the feast of St. Jude. Father Hoffman describes St. Jude’s as “a welcoming community that lives the Good News of the Gospel in its actions and programs—a place to grow spiritually, to put our faith in action, and to use our gifts of time, talent and treasure as disciples of Christ.”

Rich Giannino, longtime parishioner and chairperson of the Development Committee, praised the efforts of Father Hoffman, who was appointed pastor in 2018. “He has worked tirelessly to bring people back to church and offer them opportunities to practice their faith as individuals and as families,” he said.

St. Jude’s, which is approaching 50 years as a parish, was established on Dec. 12, 1973 by Bishop Walter W. Curtis to accommodate the growing number of families moving to Monroe, who were originally served by St. Stephen Church in Trumbull. Parishioners were invited to select the name for the new church and chose St. Jude out of 14 possible saints, and Father Arthur Norton was appointed the first pastor. For 16 years, Mass was held in the school gym until the church building was completed in 1989.

At a recent celebration marking the 30th anniversary, Father Hoffman said, “As all of you know better than I, from those of you who worshipped with Father Norton, to those who set up and broke down chairs in the gym and worshipped together, to those who gathered the stones for the church whose anniversary we celebrate, and those who gave of their time, talent and treasure over the past 40-plus years—whether you are here in person or could not be here in person but are here in spirit—this evening is a great big thank you for all who have faithfully served the St. Jude Parish, and all who have walked through the very doors of the church whose anniversary we celebrate. You are the priests and deacons and parishioners of St. Jude parish. You are the faithful believers.”

Today, the parish provides many opportunities for participation in the spiritual life of the church, including liturgical ministries, such as choir member, lector, altar server and Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist. There are also social justice ministries that visit the homebound, serve the poor, volunteer at food pantries and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, along with youth ministries, men’s and women’s groups, and the annual parish bazaar.

Giannino, who moved to Monroe in 1978 with his wife Ellen, said, “This is a place where I’ve been able to flourish and grow in my faith, and it allows me to be involved with all kinds of opportunities to help others. There are all kinds of things that go on and activities that incorporate the family.”

In addition to his years on the Parish Council, the Finance Committee and Development Committee, he participates in the music ministry and is a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He is also active in the Feed the People program in which parishioners take baked goods from local supermarkets and bakeries to distribute to parishes and soup kitchens in Bridgeport for those in need. Giannino’s three children attended St. Jude School, which provided more than 3,200 students with a Catholic education over the years.

In 2017, St. Jude School became part of Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Shelton, and the building is now used as the Parish Center, where some 450 children receive religious education, church groups meet and parish offices are located.

The 30th anniversary was observed recently with a weekend of events that included Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, a dinner dance at Stone Barn Inn and a celebration of music and reflections about the church. Concert pianist Jacek Zganiacz and the St. Jude Music Ministries performed. Later, Father Hoffman offered his reflections of the history of the Catholic Church and the parish.

Longtime parishioner and photographer Vic Eng said, “Thirty years ago, St. Jude parish worked and prayed together to plan, build and dedicate a new church. It was a great experience to see the entire community united in a common goal….We can’t wait to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the parish in 2023.”

At the celebration, Father Hoffman recognized the efforts of those who contribute to the life of the parish and said, “Thank you to the many parishioners and volunteers who make this parish not only a special place to celebrate fellowship and the sacraments, but also a special environment to worship and praise God. Your spirit, enthusiasm and prayer are the heartbeat of St. Jude parish.”

In addition to Father Hoffman, the parish is served by Father James Bates, parochial vicar, and Deacons Bill Koniers, John Tuccio and David Flynn.

Deacon Flynn, who has served at the parish for a decade, said, “I have always known St. Jude as a community where the Holy Spirit has a strong presence. The parishioners’ commitment to service is extraordinary. When Anita and I became parishioners nearly 10 years ago, we found it to be very warm and welcoming. It’s not only a faith-filled community to worship with, but it’s also a great place to build friendships.”

That was a view shared by Patty Eng, who was cochair of the anniversary committee with Giannino. “St. Jude’s parish has been like our second family,” she said. “We have been blessed with a faith-filled community and challenged by our pastor of many years Monsignor John Sabia to live ‘metanoia’—a transformative change of heart. The values of faith and community we taught at home were reinforced for our children as they attended St. Jude School…As a community, with our pastor, Father Henry Hoffman, we look forward to moving ahead as ‘metanoia’ continues to transform us.”

Reflecting on his 36 years as pastor, Monsignor Sabia said, “I loved every minute of it. It was fun building the church because everybody was working together. I had a committee that was wonderful. They did all the work and we raised $1.1 million in ten days.”

Today there is a social hall named in his honor, which is appropriate because he says he is a “people person,” who believes friendship and community are fundamental to St. Jude’s.

Looking back on the people he met over the years as pastor, he says, “I pray for them every day. I am going to celebrate Mass right now, and I will pray for them again.”