St. Luke Church History
The territory of St. Luke parish in Hartford’s south end was taken from St. Augustine in Hartford and Sacred Heart in Wethersfield. The parish was created on June 5, 1930, by Bishop John J. Nilan, who appointed Father Walter Casey as founding pastor. Accompanied by seminarian Joseph R. Lacy, Father Casey soon visited the nearby Dr. James Naylor School which would serve temporarily for Sunday Mass. Property was soon purchased for future church construction. It included a house that served as the first rectory.
The parish environs were being heavily settled by Italians. Of the 40 founding families of St. Luke’s, 203 were Italian, and the remainder a mix of other ethnic groups. On July 13, 1930, Father Casey performed the first parish baptism. Other sacramental milestones came on September 22, 1930, with the first marriage, and on June 14 of the next year with the initial First Communion class. St. Luke basement church was constructed on Eaton Street. It was dedicated by Auxiliary Bishop Maurice F. McAuliffe on July 12, 1931.
The women of the early parish were a vigorous organizing force. Renamed the Rosary Society in 1958, the original St. Luke Ladies’ Guild sponsored a myriad of parish activities. Today, membership remains at 1,000. Parish men were also a willing band of volunteers from the beginning. St. Luke’s Holy Name Society as renamed the Men’s Retreat League in 1964.
With such able support, another parish milestone was reached in 1941 as a modular church hall was dedicated on January 16. The ceremony was conducted by Father John Carrig, St. Luke’s longest-serving curate (1932-1949). In March 1955, Father Casey announced plans to build a brick rectory on Bolton Street near the church hall. The next year, four Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph arrived to handle parish religious instruction.
A new decade brought another key parish organization in the Legion of Mary, founded in 1962. On September 5, 1963, Father Francis J. Reardon became administrator for the retiring Father Casey. He soon announced a fund drive to build a new church on the Bolton Street site of the St. Luke church hall. Before the edifice could be demolished, however, a fire of unknown origin destroyed it on July 20, 1965. At Father Casey’s death that year, Father Reardon became second pastor of St. Luke’s. Church construction proceeded, and on July 17, 1966, modern St Luke Church, a building of handsome white brick, was dedicated by Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien.
In September 1970, Father Reardon became pastor emeritus and was succeeded by Monsignor Joseph R. Lacy as administrator. Monsignor Lacy’s return to St Luke’s was a nostalgic turn of personal history from the day long past when, as a seminarian, he first visited the parish territory. He as named pastor in November 1971 by Archbishop John F. Whealon. In 1980, the parish celebrated its golden jubilee. In 1985, Father John J. Peruti was appointed pastor. He was the first Italian-American priest to assume full responsibility for the parish.
Today St. Luke hosts a variety of activities as part of its mission of service, including the Southend Senior Citizens. The parish has a charismatic movement and Friday evening prayer group. Alcohol rehabilitation and support groups use rectory facilities. There is a vigorous religious instruction program for young people. A focal point of spiritual advance, St. Luke’s remains a blend of the traditional territorial parish and an Italian national parish in its congregation of nearly 3,000 households. St. Luke’s motto, “As God Wills,” inspires a program aimed at faith through service to others and loyalty to heritage.
(Source: Hartford's Catholic Legacy: Parishes, by Joseph W. Duffy, Archdiocese of Hartford, 1994)