As the ninth offspring of St. Mary’s Church in New Britain, St. Francis of Assisi Parish was formed in 1942, with the Reverend James K. Brophy designated as Pastor. Soon after, the site for the new church and rectory was selected. The Stanley School Auditorium was used for Mass until the basement chapel of the church could be completed. Over the next six years, the membership of the parish grew to 1,400. During these years, “Father Brophy’s Minstrels” were well known and raised thousands of dollars to help build the parish church.
On July 25, 1956, St. Francis received a permit to build the upper church at an estimated cost of $180,000. Designed in Georgian Colonial style, the new superstructure, which accommodates some 700 people, was erected over the original basement chapel. The exterior is finished in red and white brick with limestone trim. Two tall pillars form the portico that dominates the main entrance, and the edifice is surmounted by a small spire. Ornamenting the church are 12 stained glass windows symbolizing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit and 10 smaller windows designating the Ten Commandments. Main and side altars were carved from white Vermont marble, and the sanctuary includes a crucifix and figures of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. As the 1950s came to an end, St. Francis Parish had grown to well over 2,000 families and, in 1958, the parish split when St. Jerome’s Parish was established.
With Father Brophy’s passing on May 30, 1959, the Reverend Henry P. Dullard was apppointed as pastor, arriving in July 1959. Under his stewardship, the Junior High School was built and the convent was purchased. St. Francis School opened in September 1963, staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and a group of dedicated lay personnel. Sister Irene McGuire served as school principal for many years, later assisted by Sister Miriam McGuire and Sister Marie Denise Murphy. The school graduated over 2,500 students until its merger with the newly organized Pope John Paul II School in 2006.
The Reverend Alphonse S. Labieniec, a native of New Britain, and the Reverend Kenneth H. Shiner became co-pastors in 1980, succeeding Father Dullard. They were followed by the Reverend Thomas Berberich in 1992. In 1997, the Archdiocese of Hartford granted administration of the parish to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate Conception Province, and the Reverend Bruce Czapla became pastor, followed by Reverend Paul Guido from 1999 to 2011. Currently, the parish operates under the leadership of an administrator, Reverend Jerzy (George) Auguscik, OFM, assisted by Deacon Wayne F. Griffin.