It’s time to celebrate an “incredible milestone” as one of Meriden’s treasured institutions, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, marks its 75th birthday.
The parish was founded in 1894, by about 70 Italian families, at a time when large numbers of immigrants were pouring into Meriden and churches were being built to accommodate the newcomers in the various ethnic sections of the city: the “Irish” church, the “Polish” church, the “French” church, and so on. The “Italian” church would be Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Mount Carmel was the last Roman Catholic parish in Meriden to open its own school, in 1944, having bought the building from the city. And now it is the last Catholic school still in service here. St. Stanislaus School closed in 2015 and St. Joseph School in 2017.
Recent years have been traumatic for many Catholic churchgoers, in Meriden and elsewhere, as the Archdiocese of Hartford has found it necessary to consolidate parishes and abandon some church buildings. In 2017, Our Lady of Mount Carmel was merged with St. Joseph, St. Laurent, St. Mary and Holy Angels to become Our Lady Queen of Angels parish.
But the birthday of the Mount Carmel school will make 2019 a happier year for the parish. A jubilee Mass has already been celebrated and the school is planning several events for students and families this year to commemorate the anniversary.
“It’s an incredible milestone for Our Lady of Mount Carmel,” said Claudia Schmidt, a pre-K teacher at the school.
In the early years, most of the students lived in the neighborhood and walked to school. The school was run by nuns, and it was “very strict, very old-school,” said Nancy Maier, who began at Mount Carmel in 1990 and is now the school's longest-serving teacher.
“To reach 75 years is a godsend,” said Principal Christa Chodkowski. “I feel an obligation and a passion to celebrate the milestone that we have right now, given the limited number of Catholic schools left in Connecticut.”
Our Lady of Mount Carmel School carries on a cherished tradition.