The official name of
this parish is that of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, and it is located at
the corner of East Main and Silver streets, in Norwich. The parish was
formed on October 31, 1923, the first parish made by Monsignor Daniel
Joseph Curley, then Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse.
The parish was formed from the parish of St. Paul, and was intended as a
national church for the care of the Italian people of Norwich.
Interest in the Italians was first shown by Father Clement Shaughnessy,
then assistant to Father Edward Prendergast, the pastor of St. Paul's.
Ably assisted by Miss Kate Griffin, the principal of one of the public
schools in Norwich, a woman filled with real zeal for the salvation of
the Italian children, Father Shaughnessy rented a vacant store on Ross
Avenue and there the children were gathered and instructed in Christian
The result of this was that the Italian colony decided to have a church
and with the consent of Father Tiernan, who succeeded Father Prendergast
as pastor, a frame dwelling house was purchased at the corner of
Birdsall and Clinton streets in 1919 and converted into a small "
Mission-school-chapel " as it was called by Father Tiernan. This
makeshift house of worship was blessed on St. Bartholomew's day, August
24, 1919, by Father Tiernan, assisted by the assistant, Father Joseph
Canfield. Having a house of worship did not content the Italian colony,
so now they petitioned Father Tiernan to use his influence in getting
for them a pastor who would devote his entire time to their care. This
ambition was not seconded by the pastor and was ignored by the Bishop of
Syracuse, Monsignor Grimes. The next four years were years of
quarreling, writing of letters to the Apostolic Delegate and to Rome.
This for the most part was done for the colony by an Italian priest from
New York, a seminary companion of one of the parishioners.
In February, 1920, Father Walter A. Sinnott was transferred from St.
Cyril and Method church, Binghamton, where he had been an assistant and
chaplain to St. Mary's Home in the same city. He stepped into all the
disturbance, most of which could have been avoided. So the next three
years and a half continued the friction with Father Sinnott trying to
reconcile pastor and people, and making but little headway. In May,
1923, Father Curley became the Bishop of Syracuse and he immediately
took the situation in hand with regard to the Italians in Norwich. He
sent for the trustees of the church, Mr. Frank B. Natoli and Mr. Frank
Rando, and got the Italian side of the trouble, and the next day sent
for Father Sinnott and told him that if he were willing he would appoint
him the pastor. Father Sinnott consented and the colony received the
news with joy. However, the appointment was conditioned on the people
buying a rectory and furnishing it prior to the appointment. With the
house bought and furnished, the Italian people awaited the appointment
of Father Sinnott. This finally came the last day of October and on All
Saints' Day, 1923, the national parish of St. Bartholomew began its
independent existence. The rectory purchased was at the corner of
Birdsall and Front streets, a fine old rambling house, one of the oldest
in the city.
The joy of the Italian colony was felt by the whole city and both
Protestants and Catholics rejoiced that now the Italians would have, as
some of the older Italian men expressed it, "a priest of their own
control." This colony, unlike so many Italian colonies in the United
States, was one that loved its Catholic heritage and was ready to make
sacrifices for its preservation. For the most part the people came from
the Lipari Islands off the north coast of Sicily, a group of seven
islands known in mythology as the Aeolian Islands. Hardy and rugged,
from fighting both sea, and mountain and volcano for sustenance, this
people lived a real patriarchal life, uncontaminated by the vices of the
mainland and its anticlericalism. Save for rare visits to the island of
Sicily, their only acquaintance with Italy proper was when they took
boat from Naples, Messina or Lipari for Norwich, N. Y., where the
largest colony of Liparesi in America is located.
With their own church and their own pastor, the colony set out to pay
the debts on church and rectory which had accumulated because of the
friction between priest and people. By July, 1924, the church and
rectory was clear of
debt and the people began to make plans for a new church, one worthy of
their great patron Saint Bartholomew. Within two years, thanks to the
generosity of the parishioners, a site for the new church was bought at
the corner of East Main and Silver streets, a spot geographically about
in the center of the town. The owner, Matthew D. Murphy, and wife, were
willing to sell; and on Silver street, directly behind this property, a
large house owned by a Mr. Brown, was also obtained for a rectory. The
house on the corner was moved to a lot next the old rectory on Birdsall
street. Paul Hueber, of Syracuse, was chosen architect; the plans were
drawn and approved by the building committee of the diocese and on
October 17, 1926, the cornerstone of the new church was laid by
Monsignor Daniel Doody, the Vicar-General. Father John J. McCreary
preached the English sermon, and Father John Marchegiani the Italian
sermon the afternoon of the ceremony. About two thousand people attended
the blessing of the cornerstone.
Bids on the building of the church were soon opened and Michael
Rafferty, of Syracuse, being the lowest bidder, was awarded the
contract. The building, of local blue stone from quarries here in
Norwich and at Oxford, is of Romanesque design, with the trim of Indiana
limestone, all laid in white cement mortar. The roof is of red tile,
typical of the church style. On the west side to the rear of the church
is a delightful tower adding strength and old world charm to the entire
building. The facade with its rich rose window and open vestibule arched
over, readily reminds one of the churches so often seen in Italy. The
nave seats four hundred people and a gallery for the choir is able to
take care of a hundred more worshippers. The sanctuary, semi-circular in
form, is the setting for a gorgeous marble baldachin altar, the gift of
Father Sinnott to the church in memory of his parents. It is the only
altar in the church proper, the usual side altars being done away and
statues of our Lady and St. Joseph occupying pedestals where the altars
would ordinarily be, gives the sanctuary that much more spaciousness.
The tower entrance from the street leads into the Baptistry where there
is a touching shrine to the Mother of Sorrows.
This church was dedicated by Monsignor Curley on November 27, 1927, the
38th birthday of Father Sinnott. The church building cost $67,000, the
furnishings, heating, plumbing, lighting, etc., together with the
appurtenances of the church amounted to about $25,000 which together
with the cost of the land and rectory,, brought the total cost to the
parish of $105,000.
The rectory at 8 Silver street is a ten-room wooden structure and was
remodeled on the first floor to make it more suitable and up-to-date.
The number of families in the parish is 237, making 1049 souls.
The pioneers in forming the parish were: Frank B. Natoli and Frank
Maiurano, the first trustees, in which capacity Mr. Natoli has continued
up to the present time; Frank Rando, who succeeded Mr. Maiurano as
trustee, and who died this year; Felix DiLorenzo, Vincenzo Aloi, Nicola
Marino, Frank Famolaro, John Paino, Angelo Paino, Giuseppe Famolaro,
Francesco Paino, Antonio Natoli fu Giovanni, Angelo Natoli fu Domenico,
Antonio Funari, Angelo Schecetano, Angelo Natoli fu Giuseppe, Antonio La
Greca, Angelo Biviano di Giuseppe, Bartolo Taranto, Antonio Casamento,
Antonio Paino, Angelo Natoli di Giovanni. The old ledger of twenty years
ago shows that these men gave fifty or more dollars in 1919 that the
first church might be built.
On the death of Miss Griffin, June 24, 1937, the parish was dismayed as
it had relied on her for so many years for the religious instruction of
the children. Father Sinnott, after serious thought, decided upon
bringing a community of nuns into the parish to take charge of the
Christian Doctrine classes and do parish visiting. He consulted with the
new Bishop when he came to administer Confirmation in October, 1937, and
he approved of the undertaking. The Institute of Christian Doctrine,
founded by a convert about thirty years ago for the express work of
taking care of the children of emigrants in New York diocese, was
decided upon, and a visit to the Superior at the mother house in Nyack,
N. Y., found her willing to send a little band of Sisters to our parish.
A suitable house for a convent was found at 12 Clinton street, and God
raised up a benefactor who paid for the convent that our church debt
might not be increased. This man is our present beloved Mayor, Frank
Zuber, to whom our parish is eternally indebted, not only for this act
of generosity, but for many others in the past. By a rare coincidence
the wife of Mr. Zuber is named Clara and what more fitting name for the
convent could be found than " Assisi House " which brings to mind that
as the greatest citizens of Assisi in Italy were St. Francis and St.
Clara, in our day the greatest citizens of Norwich bear the same names.
So the convent was named as a tribute to the Mayor and his consort. In
mentioning benefactors of the convent we may recall the generosity of
Mr. Fred O'Hara who gave five hundred dollars toward furnishing it, and
Mr. John H. Scanlon and his two daughters, Agnes and Catherine, and
their uncle, Father James Kilroe, of New York, who provided for the
furnishing of the chapel. The convent was the home in years gone by of
the Scanlon family and Mrs. Scanlon died in the room now the chapel, so
that is a memorial to her.
On March 5, 1938, four nuns arrived from Nyack with Sister M. Immaculata
as Superior, to take up the work left off by Miss Griffin. At the
station to greet them were Dominican Sisters from St. Paul's school,
Father Sinnott and many of the parishioners of St. Bartholomew's. From
the station they were driven to the church where the chime of bells were
pealing forth a welcome. Benediction was given and the " Holy God We
Praise Thy Name " was sung to thank God for their arrival. The Sisters
won the confidence and love of both children and adults and God has
blessed their work.
What has the future in store for our parish? They tell us that the hope
of the harvest is in the seed. Then the parish of St. Bartholomew's has
a bright future, for the planting, watering and cultivating have all
been done by the older generation of fathers and mothers with sacrifice
and labor and the harvest to be garnered by the younger generation
should be abundant even to a hundred fold.