Updated: Feb 22
On June 20, 2000, Bishop Kenneth Angell appointed Father Bernard W. Bourgeois as Parish Administrator of St. Andrew Church, as well as the Parishes of Our Lady of the Snows Church in Waitsfield, and St. Patrick Church in Moretown. Under Father Bernie’s encouragement, parishioners from all three communities started attending each other’s Masses and to this day frequently gather together for joint liturgical services as well as adult education, fundraising and social events. In addition to pastoral duties, Father Bernie also provided spiritual guidance to residents of the Vermont State Hospital following the recent death of Father Louis Logue, who had served as Chaplain of VSH for over 40 years, as well as spiritual leader in the greater Waterbury and Mad River Valley areas.
During the summer of 2001 the Knights of Columbus undertook a major renovation of the kitchen in St. Leo Hall, expanding the space to allow for more storage and workspace, and installing new appliances, all paid for by the K of C as a gift to the parish. Over the years K of C members and parishioners, as well as numerous community organizations, have enjoyed the convenience of preparing breakfasts and special occasion dinners in the spacious, well equipped commercial kitchen at St. Leo Hall.
On November 30, 2001, the Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle, Parishioners celebrated the 125th anniversary of St. Andrew Church with a special mass. At this mass, guest celebrant Bishop Angell announced the appointment of Father Bernie to the new role of Pastor of St. Andrew Church, much to the delight of Parishioners, inasmuch as it was a sure bet that with this new appointment, Father Bernie would be around for a while! An intergenerational dinner celebration followed the mass in St. Leo Hall. As a special feature of this special celebration children of all ages in our Religious Ed Program were invited to research the history of the parish and display the results of their research in the hall for all to view and enjoy.
Two years later, discussions that had started with a suggestion to bring water into the sacristy of the church and install a bathroom, led to a major renovation of the church as well as handicap access ramps for both the church and St. Leo Hall. Under the leadership of Father Bernie, this project utilized the expertise of local Architect David Luce, and the artistic abilities of parishioner Patty Fitzgerald. Numerous parish volunteers spearheaded a fundraising campaign to pay for the renovations. Until the renovation was complete, all Masses were held in St. Leo Hall. On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 2004, approximately 300 attendees from St. Andrew, St. Patrick and Our Lady of the Snows formed a procession from St. Leo Hall to the newly renovated church to celebrate mass together for the first time since the beginning of the renovation.
In March of 2005, parishioners dedicated the choir loft in St. Andrew Church to Ellen Harvey who had served the parish as organist and choir director at our liturgical celebrations for over 40 years. Many parishioners fondly recalled their childhood days when they sang in the choir loft under the direction of Mrs. Harvey.
In June of 2006, Father Bernie was reassigned to serve as Principal of Rice Memorial High School in Burlington, and Father Jerome Mercure was welcomed as the new Pastor of St. Andrew Parish. During the years that followed, under the encouragement and leadership of Father Jerry, and working alongside other churches in the Waterbury community, St. Andrew Parish and its parishioners have continued to be involved in community outreach; providing financial and volunteer support to individuals, the Waterbury Food Shelf, the Good Neighbor Fund, and numerous other local organizations in the Waterbury area that serve and enrich our community.
On August 28, 2011, following Tropical Storm Irene, St. Leo Hall took on the role of providing a temporary refuge for many local community members whose homes were severely damaged by the flood waters. Clean bathrooms, a place to wash up, a seat at the table to rest, and to enjoy a hot meal; all were a welcome sight to many of our neighbors displaced by the flood. Pallets of donated cleaning supplies, bottled water, miscellaneous equipment, personal care supplies and food were delivered on a regular basis to our parking lot, free for the taking by victims of the flood. The sign-up sheet for kitchen helpers to prepare, serve and provide clean-up for three meals a day did not lack volunteers. Chip Hanson stepped up to oversee the meal preparation, utilizing an amazing variety and abundance of food donations which were left by the kitchen door on a daily basis. Volunteers prepared and served hundreds of meals each day from St. Leo Hall for several weeks after the flood. Because the local municipal office building was destroyed by the floodwaters, ReBuild Waterbury, which was organized to help flood victims with long-term recovery, eventually moved its office to one of the downstairs classrooms. Village meetings were often held in St. Leo Hall over the next few years. St. Andrew Parish was glad to have been able to play some part in the recovery process following this devastating event in our community and St. Leo Hall continues to be available to numerous local nonprofit organizations for meetings, meals and fundraisers.
On June 30, 2020, after 14 years as Pastor of St. Andrew Church, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our beloved pastor, Father Jerry, was reassigned to the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Anthony-St. George in Fairfield and E. Fairfield, Vermont, and St. Andrew Parish welcomed Father Matthew Rensch as Parish Administrator. In the few months since his arrival, Father Matthew has faced the difficult task of trying to meet the pastoral needs of his congregations during this age of social distancing. Using a variety of media options, taking advantage of the warm weather to hold gatherings outdoors, and applying distancing guidelines in our buildings, he has found creative ways to continue to provide spiritual enrichment opportunities for parishioners in spite of restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
As I transition into retirement after working as Parish Secretary at St. Andrew Parish over the past 30 years, and as our parish community continues to deal with the limitations imposed by the pandemic, I am humbled by the ongoing parish support I have witnessed from parishioners over the past 7 months, even though many of them are not able to physically attend liturgical services due to social distancing guidelines and pre-existing conditions. Their dedication and generosity gives me reason to believe that under the dedicated leadership of our clergy, parishioners will continue to renew, strengthen and secure the future of St. Andrew Church in Waterbury, and it will continue to be a vibrant, meaningful presence in the Waterbury community.