History of Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish
Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish was established on August 21, 1964 by Bishop Walter W. Curtis, the 2nd Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Its territory, bounded on three sides by the waters of Long Island Sound, encompasses Shippan Avenue and its side streets, beginning at Cummings Park and extending south to the tip of the Shippan peninsula. The parish property comprised five acres, with beach front (now West Beach) as its eastern boundary. The first parish Mass was celebrated by the newly appointed pastor, Father Edmund Hussey, on Sunday August 28, 1964 in the auditorium of Roosevelt School, a private school located on Shippan Avenue.
A month later, on September 28, 1964, Sunday Masses were transferred to the Naval Training Station on Magee Avenue. In that same month, a house at 1189 Shippan Avenue directly across the street from the parish property was purchased for $27,500, where weekday Mass was held in a tiny chapel located in the walk out basement. By October of 1965 Mass was being celebrated in a combination chapel/auditorium within a newly constructed parish school dedicated by Bishop Curtis on January 30th 1966. For the next 23 years Mass was celebrated in this facility, requiring portable pews and kneelers to be set up and taken down each weekend. Finally, in 1989 on January 15, a newly constructed church building was blessed and dedicated by the recently installed 3rd Bishop of Bridgeport, Most Reverend Edward M. Egan, future Cardinal Archbishop of New York.
In 1977, 13 years after the founding of the parish, the first pastor, Father Hussey, took a new assignment. He was succeeded by Father Edward Horan (1977-78) who died within a year. A temporary Administrator was appointed for a few months, Father William Scheyd, who oversaw the completion of a convent for the Ursuline Sisters who served the school and parish from 1965 until 2003. The next pastor, Father Roger Watts, served six years (1978-1984) until his appointment as pastor of St.Cecilia parish in Stamford. In June of 1984 Father Edward Surwilo was installed as the 4th pastor. In his time a new church (1988), rectory (1990), parish office (2003), school classroom wing (2004), architecturally stunning enhanced brick entrance, covered walk and courtyard (2004), and glass enclosed lobby (2006) came into being along with numerous other interior and exterior upgrades of the parish facilities and property. Monsignor Surwilo became Pastor Emeritus the Summer of 2014 as Father Peter Smolik became Pastor. The parish continues to thrive thanks to the generous participation, commitment and support of many dedicated, energetic and talented parishioners.
Features of Our Lady Star of the Sea Church
As you enter the church proper, take note of the construction material ambience; the salmon-pink Verona marble sanctuary floor and altar, oak pews, arching floor to ceiling driftwood-grey beams and ceiling, antique white walls, sand-gray carpet and sand-pink ceramic flooring, suggesting stone, soil, shells, driftwood and ships of the sea.
The brick rear wall, with original custom-designed mosaics of Saints Angela, Anthony, Patrick, Francis of Assisi, and Mary Magdalene present us with a parade of saints. Looking down to the end of the center aisle we see a raised marble sanctuary floor supporting a substantial yet simple altar of pearl-like Verona marble. On the recessed wall directly behind, hangs a large wood-carved crucifix suspended between a striking circular stained glass window above and a silver cedar-lined Tabernacle below, flanked by an originally designed hanging Tabernacle Oil Lamp.
Centered in the north alcove to the right is a hammered-silver Baptismal Font set beneath a carved woodenstatue of Jesus and Children. Directly opposite on the south alcove wall, hangs an imposing life size 19th century oil reproduction of Murillo’s Assumption of Mary. Recessed along the walls of both side aisles are fourteen small wood-carved Stations of the Cross from the original chapel.Looking up towards the ceiling, you will count eight triangular stained-glass windows that bring sea and sky, sails and gulls to our view in a vivid spectrum of color. In addition we see three large circular windows.
The center window above the altar frames a salvaged 19th century European stained-glass treasure depicting Mary and her Child. A red rose, the Pro-life symbol depicted in the south circular window, represents Mary the Mother and Mary under her title of “Mystical Rose”. The lilies in the north circular window are a traditional symbol of purity and of St. Joseph, patron and model of chastity. On the rear upper wall to the east are four stained-glass windows from the original chapel, depicting a star and a lil, representing Mary Star of the Sea and Joseph Most Chaste Spouse, respectively. Bringing the whole message together above the Sanctuary is the eye-catching circular stained-glass image of the Mother and Child, with its backdrop of sky, sea and STAR – of the Sea.
Constructed July 1987 through November 1988