By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
NAUGATUCK — A Pentecostal parish is breathing new life into the former St. Mary Church on North Main Street.
Iglesia Cristiana Senda Apostolica, which translates in English to The Apostolic Way Pentecostal Church, bought the properties at 320, 338 and 350 North Main St. that once belonged to the Catholic Church in August. Since then, parish members have been hard at work renovating the church in anticipation of a three-day inaugural celebration that starts Friday with the first service at 7 p.m.
“It’s a great victory,” said the Rev. Abiel Ramirez in Spanish as Kiley Cordona, a parish member and director of church’s children’s group, translated.
Ramirez preaches in Spanish, and English translations are available for Sunday services.
Ramirez spoke of the parish’s move and history at the church Wednesday as volunteers put the finishing touches on renovations. Ramirez described moving into the larger church as a great step in his ministry, which has come a long way since he first answered the “calling of God” 43 years ago.
Ramirez started as an assistant pastor at 12 years old in his hometown of Ponce, Puerto Rico. At the age of 17, he became a pastor. In 1988, he moved to Waterbury and continued preaching in the Brass City.
Twenty-one years ago, Ramirez started Iglesia Cristiana Senda Apostolica in a multiuse home at 6-8 Curtiss Court that once housed a pool hall and a rug cleaning business.
The parish, which has about 150 members from Naugatuck and the surrounding area, outgrew the church on Curtiss Court, Ramirez said. Church officials started looking for a new location and learned the former St. Mary Church and St. Hedwig Church on Golden Hill Street were for sale.
The Archdiocese of Hartford closed the churches in June 2017 as part of a larger plan at the time to consolidate 212 parishes in Litchfield, Hartford and New Haven counties to 127. Ownership of the properties was transferred to Saint Francis of Assissi Parish Corp in September 2018, according to property records.
Iglesia Cristiana Senda Apostolica bought the former St. Mary Church properties for $400,000. The church, which was built in 1930, and two other buildings sit on just over 2 acres of land, according to land records.
The former rectory is now Ramirez’s pastoral home and office. Church officials hope to open a Bible school in the other house on the land. Cordona said the house needs some renovations before that happens.
Since buying the church in August, volunteers have painted — including a mural of cascading waterfalls behind the pulpit — cleaned and landscaped at the church.
One of the largest upgrades was turning the two confessionals in the church into bathrooms, so elderly and disabled members don’t have to go outside and then into the basement to use the bathroom, Cordona said. He explained their faith believes in confessing to God rather than man.
This weekend’s inaugural celebration also include services Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m., which is the weekly Sunday service time. People are coming from Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania, New York and Hartford to help celebrate, said Ramirez, who noted the parish is excited.
“They’re all very happy and very pleased,” he said. “And everyone, each and every one of them, has worked to make this happen.”