125th Anniv. Article



St. Mary’s in West Quincy: 125th Birthday for a Church

by Joseph Dever

The 125th Anniversary celebration of old St. Mary’s parish in West Quincy next Saturday will project in ritual, tradition and social joy a golden summary of the immigrant history and social maturation of the Catholic Church in America.

When Richard Cardinal Cushing presides over the Anniversary Mass to be celebrated by St. Mary’s pastor, Rt. Rev. Cornelius J. Donovan, parishioners, old and new, former pastors and curates, teaching nuns, distinguished guests, all will be linked in history and tradition to the first celebration of Mass in a house on Common Street, West Quincy, by a missionary from Maine named Father French, in 1828.

The fact that St. Mary’s the mother Catholic parish of the South Shore, was ecumenical in its earliest beginnings--much in the mode of our own era of religious good feeling--seems readily apparent when it is noted that President John Quincy Adams cordially aided missionary Father Pendergast in gathering scattered Quincy Catholics into a congregation.

This little band of Catholics was placed in charge of the Rev. Terence Fitzsimmons, who later became one of the first pastors of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, South Boston. Services were held in the West Quincy District School until the first St. Mary’s was dedicated in 1842

Few church dedications have been honored by the presence of the President of the United States, as was St. Mary’s, the first Catholic Church erected south of Boston. Present at the ceremonies, along with President John Quincy Adams was the great pioneer Bishop of Boston, John Fenwick. The date of the establishment of the parish, 1840, is so fixed because collections for the purchase of church land began that yea

The ecumenical spirit of the Adams family had gained earlier renown when another American President, John Adams, befriended Bishop Cheverus, who used to make sick calls in Quincy, and then walk back to Boston. So cordial became their mutual esteem, that President John Adams donated the then impressive sum of $200 toward the construction of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Father John Rodden arrived on the parish scene as pastor in 1849. Under his visioned and prudent leadership churches were built in Soughton, Randolph, South and east Weymouth, Abington and Rockland. When the question arose concerning the building of a new church in Quincy, Father Rodden counseled that it be located in Quincy Centre. Thus, today’s St. John’s Church on the corner of School and Gay Streets.

St. Mary’s then became a mission of St. John’s until 1900 when it was again restored as a parish with Father Ambrose Roche asPastor. Under Father Roche the basement of the present church was completed on Christmas Day, 1901.

The next pastor, Rev. Henry T. Grady turned the old St. Mary’s into a recreation hall. Known as St. Joseph’s Hall it was utilized until last year when it had to be razed because of its hazardous condition. Thus did a grand old mission chapel make way for progress in the form of a parking lot.

Father Thomas R. McCoy completed the construction of the present imposing Gothic church in September of 1917. It was Father William o’Connor, Father McCoy’s successor who constructed the parochial school. An eight grade grammar school, it is staffed by ten Sisters of St. Joseph and one lay teacher.

It has been said of the dedicated Sisters and of the school itself: “Good educators give priests to the sanctuary, legislators to the country, and saints to heaven.”

Father Donovan became pastor in 1949 and his major challenge was the repair of a deteriorating property. Temporary repairs to the church were not adequate and the pastor was forced to remodel the entire upper Church. The lower Church was then converted into a commodious recreation hall, replacing the demolished old mission structure.

Monsignor Donovan has two curates: Father John McMahon, who came to St. Mary’s from St. William’s in Dorchester and Father Dominic Menna, who has a special apostolate with the Italian-speaking faithful in Quincy parishes. Father McMahon is Director of the Holy Name Society and the Ladies’ Sodality, along with his more priestly duties

Sister Anna Mildres (S.J.) is Superior of the teaching community of Sisters of St. Joseph who staff the parish grammar school.

In attendance at the pontifical high Anniversary Mass, along with Cardinal Cushing and Monsignor Donovan, will be clergy from other parishes, including: Rev. Frederick Driscoll, pastor of St. John’s, Quincy, Rt. Rev. John Allston, pastor of St. Joseph’s, Quincy Point, Rt. Rev. Walter Leach, pastor of St. Ann’s, Wollaston. Among former curates attending will be Rt. Rev. John Brown, pastor of St. Stephen’s, Framingham. Typical of priests in attendance, whose homes are in the parish, will be Rt. Rev. John Mullarkey, pastor of St. Pius Parish, Lynn.

Dr. and Mrs. Bradford Gale, of the United First Parish Church, Quincy Square, and Rev. and Mrs. Chester Porteus of Christ’s Church will attend the Mass and will be seated at the head table at the banquet, following religious services.

Attending the Mass and the banquet will be Gov. and Mrs. John Volpe, Quincy Mayor and Mrs. Amelio Della Chiesa, State Reps. James McIntyre, Joseph Brett, Joseph La Raia and City Coucillor and Mrs. George McDonald.

The clergy and faithful of St. Mary’s extends a cordial invitation to the members of all faiths to worship with  Cardinal Cushing at Mass. Tickets for the dinner may be obtained at St. Mary’s Rectory, 155 Crescent St., West Quincy, Tel 773-0120.


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