After a difficult seven-plus years, St. Michael the Archangel Church in the Pawcatuck area of Stonington is opening its doors again.
“People are excited about it. They really are,” said David Erskine, a parishioner and retired Stonington police chief. Erskine is one of thousands of people that St. Michael’s offered comfort to in its 150 years.
The church was built in the 1800s. In 2012, the diocese was looking at possibly renovating the building. When architects inspected the building, they found major structural deficiencies in the roof trusses. The pastor of the church said they had to close immediately to prevent a potentially catastrophic outcome.
“It was heartbreaking to so many people,” explained Dennis Perkins, pastor of the church.
“That day was very upsetting,” echoed Doris Messina, who serves as principal of St. Michael’s School across the street.
The 1,500 families found new churches, but not ones that were filled with the memories St. Michael’s held.
“Just imagine, 150 years, countless weddings, baptisms,” said Perkins.
“You bring back memories of the people you knew that passed away that used to be here and you think, what are they thinking?” said Erskine.
A lot has changed in eight years, but one thing remained constant.
“People wanted to see that church rebuilt,” said Messina.
The community raised more than $6 million to make it happen. The church is almost all brand new, but built on the same foundation. They also carried over some pieces from the old building including the pews, stations of the cross, the organ and the stained glass.
“People are excited about it they really are,” said Erskine.
The project cost about $8 million to construct and is made to model how the original church looked in the 1800s.
Perkins said that since the church closed, the other churches in Stonington combined into one parish. He hopes that this new chapter is welcoming for everyone.
The dedication ceremony is at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. The event is ticketed, but the church will be open to visitors until 8 p.m. Stonington Police are warning drivers that Route 2 will be closed during the ceremony to make way for the 500 people expected.
“It is important to us that we are back. That we are coming home,” said Messina. “Home to St. Michael’s.”