Aug. 6, 1953, Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Norwich with Bishop Bernard J. Flanagan as bishop. The jurisdiction of the Diocese included the four counties in Eastern Connecticut: New London, Norwich, Middlesex, Tolland, and Fishers Island, a small portion of Suffolk County in New York State. Saint Patrick Church in Norwich became the Cathedral of Saint Patrick with Norwich as the See (the place of the bishop’s residence and cathedral) of the new diocese.
The Norwich Diocesan Bureau of Social Service was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity in the State of Connecticut on March 23, 1954. At the same time, the offices in Norwich, New London and Middletown were to operate as separate units.
The Norwich Diocesan Council of Catholic Women was established in 1955 and continued as the major contributor.
August 12, 1959, Bishop Flanagan was appointed Bishop of Worcester.
Monsignor Vincent J. Hines, JCD, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Hartford, was appointed Bishop of Norwich on November 27, 1959.
Bishop Vincent J. Hines was ordained Bishop and installed on March 17th 1960 as Bishop of Norwich. He began to consult with priests of the diocese concerning the organization of its ministries.
February 1961, Bishop Hines announced a reorganization and name change of the Diocesan Bureau of Social Service. The official name of the charities program was changed to Catholic Charities, Inc. Diocese of Norwich, and referred to simply as Catholic Charities. Official documents were filed at the office of the Secretary of State in Hartford.on February 1, 1961 and certified on February 7.
The purpose of the reorganization was to coordinate the activities of the Norwich, New London and Middletown offices and to adopt uniform practices. Bishop Hines approved a new Manual of Policies and Procedures. This approval followed a series of conferences Bishop Hines held with Monsignor William J. Baldwin, Diocesan Director of Charities; Father Eugene A. Solega, Director of the Middletown District; and Father Robert W. Cronin, Director of the New London District.
1961 - The first of many balls Catholic Charities balls was held as a fundraiser.
1963 - The Bureau of Social Service was aware of the need and worked with Family Services of New London to start a Big Brothers Organization in the area.
New office locations were established in Middletown at 33 St. John’s Square; in New London at 10 Pearl St., a new storefront location; in Norwich at 4 Bath St., a newly constructed location.
Bishop Hines established three new offices in 1963: Willimantic District Office, located at 197 Pleasant St., in the administrative section of St. Mary School. Also, the Danielson District Office was located in the Knights of Columbus Building. The Vernon District Office was located in Sacred Heart Church Center.
Advisory boards at each of the locations offered immeasurable support.
Monsignor Terrence P. Finnegan served as Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities with Father Robert E. McNulty as Associate Director of the New London, Norwich and Willimantic offices, and Monsignor Edward J. McKenna as Associate Director of the Middletown Office.
Catholic Charities was very involved in establishing TVCCA. It provided clerical time and supplies during the first months of its operation.
Photo: Bishop Flanagan greets the faithful outside St. Patrick Cathedral on December 8, 1953 after his installation as the First Bishop of Norwich. He is accompanied by master of ceremonies Fr. Edward McKenna.
By Jacqueline Keller
Retired Diocesan Director of Communications and Board Member of Norwich Diocesan Catholic Charities.