We celebrate the 45th anniversary of the dedication of St. John Fisher Church on February 15, 2021. Like the town of Marlborough itself, the parish was carved out of already existing communities. By the early 1970s, Marlborough’s growing Catholic population was worshipping in several nearby towns, including East Hampton, Colchester and Glastonbury.
A study committee and a door-to-door census in 1971 established that there was a sufficient number of Catholics to support a church in Marlborough. Subsequently, a mission church was established on June 22, 1972, and was known for the time as the Marlborough Catholic Community. The first Mass was celebrated on July 1, 1972 at the Lord Marlborough Manor, now the Marlborough Health Care Center. Members of the mission church had the unique opportunity to select its name, voting at each of the Sunday Masses for one of three choices.
Choosing an English saint was appropriate for a town with an English name and a municipal counterpart in England. Also, the feast of Saint John Fisher is celebrated on June 22, a date that coincided with the beginning of the Marlborough mission. St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, was a noted scholar who preached for reforms in the Catholic Church, opposed Henry VIII’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and refused to recognize him as head of the Church of England. As a consequence, he was beheaded on June 22, 1535 by order of Henry VIII, after more than a year in the Tower of London and after being elevated to the status of Cardinal by Pope Paul III.
The mission church soon found a temporary home at the Grange Hall on South Road, now the site of the Marlborough Fellowship Church. The Marlborough Congregational Church and the American Legion Hall were also made available to this new community when needed. On June 22, 1974, Archbishop Whealon designated the mission as a fullfledged parish. Fund raising had begun and a four acre parcel on Jones Hollow Road was purchased for construction of a church.
A successful building drive raised more than $265,000 in pledges, which also allowed for the construction of a lower level hall. The hall would be named for St. Thomas More, another English martyr and contemporary of St. John Fisher, who shares the same feast day. A parish family groundbreaking took place in May 1975, and a first Mass was celebrated in the new building in November 1975. The church was solemnly dedicated by Archbishop Whealon on February 15, 1976, becoming a permanent home, a place of worship and a parish center for Marlborough’s Catholics.
St. John Fisher Church was established in 1972 and serves about 600 households.
Beginning in the 1960s, there was a marked growth in the number of Catholics settling in the Marlborough area. Its Catholics had been attending Mass in surrounding towns such as Glastonbury and East Hampton, the latter located in the Norwich Diocese. On June 18, 1972, the mission of St. John Fisher was established. No archdiocesan mission within memory had begun without a sponsoring mother parish.
Later in 1972, however, the mission obtained financial help through low-interest loans from St. Augustine parish, South Glastonbury. Thus, St. John Fisher had adopted a mother parish. At first, Mass was celebrated in the basement of Marlborough Manor, a local convalescent home. After state law prevented the continuation of liturgical celebrations at the convalescent home, the liturgy was celebrated at the American Legion Hall. Until St. John Fisher community could erect its own church, Mass was offered regularly at the Grange Hall. St. John Fisher was given parish status in 1974. On May 11, 1975, groundbreaking was held at the scenic Jones Hollow Road tract. The first Mass in the new edifice was celebrated on November 29, 1975. Archbishop John F. Whealon dedicated St. John Fisher on February 15, 1976.