History of St Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish

In the spring of 1881 the first Catholics settled on U.S. land. In May of 1908 Rev. J.T. Twohig of Britton held the first divine services. That year trustees were chosen and Father Stephen Duren, pastor of Holy Cross Church of Ipswich, asked Bishop Thomas O’Gorman to allow him to reside in Groton. Father Duren purchased, with his own funds, nearly two blocks out of Prior Outlet Number 4 opposite the City Park, some of the choicest residential property in the city.

Father Duren said his first mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church January 17, 1909. After mass he called the congregation together for a business meeting. He soon caused a pew rent subscription list to be circulated. This list brought six subscribers at $100 annually for two years and in thirty minutes $950 was subscribed and all involved were very happy with the results.

After having been a mission for 40 years, Groton was established as a parish on July 10, 1921. Rev. J.P. Halpine was appointed as the first resident pastor. Father Estegaard soon replaced Halpine then Father Thomas Shanley served the Groton and Andover parishes until 1949. Father E.J. Coyne served from 1945 until 1965. In 1965, Father Marvin McPhee was appointed and served the parish until 1980.

During this time, many renovations happened to the parish. The church proper was renovated and carpeted in 1966. An addition was created in 1970 to seat 70 people. In 1973, electronic bells were installed and dedicated in memory of Ross and Anna Funk, lifelong members of the church who left a generous gift to be used for construction of a new church. 

Father Donald Koehn of the Conde-Turton parish served for a short time until Farther Leonard Fox arrived in June of 1980. Following Fox, Father John Garvey and Father Albert Cizewski served the parish. Then, Father McPhee returned. Upon his retirement, Father David Janes was assigned, then Father Michael Kelly from 2008 to 2019.

Fr. Tom Hartman was assigned to be pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish of Groton on July 1, 2019.

Located on Main Street, St. John’s the Baptist Catholic Church served the parish well for the celebration of our Catholic faith for 91 years. But for quite some time, several important items were missing which were deemed vital to strengthening the parish community; namely, an education center for teaching the youth their faith; a fellowship hall large enough to handle most weddings and funerals, additional church seating and a sanctuary room. Lastly, both the fellowship hall and church needed to be handicap accessible.

Our parish is indebted to Ross and Ann Funk who had the faith and vision to lay the financial foundation for the new church complex. Had it not been for their generosity, it is doubtful that this project would ever have been completed. In February of 1994, Father McPhee began plans for the new church. In 1997 those plans were finalized and the parish community moved into their new church.


Priests who have served St. Elizabeth Ann Seton/St. John the Baptist Catholic Parishes of Groton

           Fr. Mike Kelly                        Fr. Tom Hartman

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Mother Seton is one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church. She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while raising her five children.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a true daughter of the American Revolution, born August 28, 1774, just two years before the Declaration of Independence. By birth and marriage, she was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of high society. Reared a staunch Episcopalian, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture and a nightly examination of conscience. Her father, Dr. Richard Bayley, did not have much use for churches but was a great humanitarian, teaching his daughter to love and serve others.

The early deaths of her mother in 1777 and her baby sister in 1778 gave Elizabeth a feel for eternity and the temporariness of the pilgrim life on earth. Far from being brooding and sullen, she faced each new “holocaust,” as she put it, with hopeful cheerfulness.

At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York and married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed and he died of tuberculosis. At 30, Elizabeth was widowed, penniless, with five small children to support.

While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth witnessed Catholicity in action through family friends. Three basic points led her to become a Catholic: belief in the Real Presence, devotion to the Blessed Mother and conviction that the Catholic Church led back to the apostles and to Christ. Many of her family and friends rejected her when she became a Catholic in March 1805.

To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore. From the beginning, her group followed the lines of a religious community, which was officially founded in 1809.

The thousand or more letters of Mother Seton reveal the development of her spiritual life from ordinary goodness to heroic sanctity. She suffered great trials of sickness, misunderstanding, the death of loved ones (her husband and two young daughters) and the heartache of a wayward son. She died January 4, 1821, and became the first American-born citizen to be beatified (1963) and then canonized (1975). She is buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland.


Elizabeth Seton had no extraordinary gifts. She was not a mystic or stigmatic. She did not prophesy or speak in tongues. She had two great devotions: abandonment to the will of God and an ardent love for the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote to a friend, Julia Scott, that she would prefer to exchange the world for a “cave or a desert.” “But God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” Her brand of sanctity is open to everyone if we love God and do his will.