St. Francis of Assisi
THOUGH THE TOWN OF LEBANON has a rich history and has the distinction in 1780-1781, the town had the distinction of being the place in which the Catholic Mass was first celebrated, continuously and for a long period, within the limits of the State of Connecticut, (Right Rev. Thomas S. Duggan, D.D., The Catholic Church in Connecticut, 1930, p.13-14) its formal parish had a later start. In 1870s, immigrant families working in a factory did manage to establish a small chapel. It was to disappear with the fortunes of the factory. Another chapel, Saint Mary, served out of Colchester, also seems to have disappeared in short sequence.
In 1943, Saint Andrew in Colchester, the parish to which Lebanon was attached, acquired land close to “the Green.” An old 19th century house was renovated to become a chapel dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. In the 1950s, Father David O’Keefe, of Saint Andrew, was able to make significant improvements to the chapel with diocesan assistance. In January 1962, the chapel was attached to Saint Columba, and under Father Honan and the community made strong advances.
Bishop Reilly made a study of Lebanon, and concluded that it could well support itself as an independent parish. Accordingly, in 1980, he asked that Father Edward Davis oversee the construction of a new church, which was dedicated in May of that year. In December, Father Roger Gaulin was named the first pastor. Under the guidance of Father Gaulin, a rectory and office building was constructed in 1985.
In 2007, through the generosity of the Fortin Family Foundation, and the guidance of Father Brian Converse, the parish purchased the abutting property and house. In December 2007 the Marianne Jean Fortin Parish House became the priest residence.
Today, Saint Francis of Assisi is one of the fastest growing parishes in the Diocese of Norwich, which is currently servicing at least 829 families and nearly 3,400 people.