St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church

The following article is extracted from The Makers of the Mold by Kenneth W. Newcomb. The section in question may be found here.

About 1843 or 1844 the first Catholic Mass celebrated in Newton was at Newton Upper Falls, conducted by Reverend Father Strain of Waltham.

Home of Edward Cahill where the first Mass in Newton was said in 1843

Others had come before him to attend the sick as well as render other services, but he appears to have been the first to hold religious services here. His chapel was a room in the mill house of Edward Cahill near the northwest corner of Chestnut and Elliot Streets. It was located on the property of Otis Pettee’s Elliot Mills, a fact verified by his granddaughter, the late Mrs. Grace Carey of Newtonville. Her father, James Cahill, was a prominent contractor and later one of the leaders in the church. Mrs. Carey leaves us with an amusing anecdote concerning her father:

“When he was sixteen years of age he worked as a water boy in the mills behind his home, carrying water from the well at the northerly end of the mill yard to the ‘bobbin’ girls in the factory. One hot and sultry day in August, 1862 he was drawing water from the well when he heard a fife playing the lilting tune of ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’ Rumbling down Chestnut Street was a horse-drawn dray with ‘old’ Flagg in the driver’s seat trying to sign up recruits for the Civil War. With out a moment’s hesitation Jimmie Cahill threw his bucket into the weeds and went off to war. He was to go through many battles unscathed, re-enlisting in January 1864 and finally being mustered out on June 29, 1865. His father had died in 1863 so when he came home he went to live with a tentmate of the war on the Needham side of Upper Falls.

The bodies of Edward Cahill and his wife, Margot, were moved from the cemetery at Piety Corners, Waltham to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Needham in April, 1877.”

Father Strain was succeeded by Father Patrick Flood who also held services in the same room as his predecessor. However, by 1860 the congregation had grown to about 300 and was meeting in Elliot Hall, the former Universalist Church on High Street. Prominent among the leaders of the congregation were James Cahill, Patrick Hurley, Michael Begley and Michael Daley. In 1867, with church funds amounting to about $7,000 and $3,000 raised by mortgage, a church, 40 X 76 feet in size, was built on an acre of land on Chestnut Street which had been purchased during the pastorate of Father Bernard Flood. It was the first Catholic church in Newton and was dedicated November 17, 1867.

 St. Mary's Church and Rectory, c. 1905, the first Roman Catholic Church in Newton, MA.

In 1875 a transept, 40 X 80 feet, having a gallery at each end was added to the church, increasing the seating capacity to 1,000. A basement was also extended under the whole church. The average attendance of the church at that time was about 750 and the parish, embracing Needham, Upper and Lower Falls and Newton Centre as far as Beacon Street included about 1,000 to 1,200 Catholics.

The Sanctuary of St. Mary's Church

During this time land was purchased on Hale Street for possible use as a site for a convent and school, a plan later abandoned and the land sold. Also acquired by the church was a pasture on Chestnut where a carriage shed and barn for a cow and horses was built. In 1872, about 30 acres of land, bounded by Wellesley Avenue, Cedar and Hunnewell Streets, and located in the towns of Needham and Wellesley were purchased to become what is now known as St. Mary’s Cemetery.

St. Mary's Cemetery

After the turn of the century the property on Chestnut Street was sold and the present site on Elliot Street, then occupied by the home of Dr. McOwen, was purchased. The house was moved further down Elliot Street and the corner stone of the new church, to be known as Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, was laid October 3, 1909. The cost of the building was $150,000.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes

The new rectory beside the church was built about 1940, and the Dr. McOwen house adjacent to it was made into a parish center. Later it was remodeled and named the St. Elizabeth Center. St. Joseph’s Church in Needham, St. John’s the Evangelist in Wellesley Lower Falls, Sacred Heart in Newton Centre and St. Philip Neri Church in Waban all sprang from Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, and these newer parishes have greatly reduced the once wide scope of the mother church.

The contents of this article extract are Copyright 1997, 1998 Kenneth W. Newcomb and The Friends of Hemlock Gorge. All rights reserved.

First Communion Procession

May, 1967 A.D.—Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion  children, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.  This and  other photos may be viewed in the Newton Upper Falls photo gallery within City of Newton’s website.

Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion children; May, 1967

May, 1967 A.D.—Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion children, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, passing in front of the St. Elizabeth Center.

Parish May Procession passing in front of the St. Elizabeth Center

MaryImmacFairA_cvMain
Mary Immaculate Fair in the parking lot behind St. Elizabeth’s Center; 1967 (exact date unkown)

MaryImmacFairB_cvMain
Visible on the left is the parish rectory and the back of the St. Elizabeth Center on the right.

MaryImmacFairC_cvMain
Mary Immaculate clock tower behind the trees.

All photos on this page are by A. Kalicki and originally posted here.

Splendid Romanesque Edifice

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes’ Splendid Romanesque Edifice

“The city of Newton wellnigh doubled its population during the period 1907-1940, having by 1940 about seventy thousand inhabitants. In its oldest parish, St. Mary’s, Newton Upper Falls, Father Timothy J. Danahy replaced the old wooden church on Chestnut Street with the present splendid Romanesque edifice on Elliot Street, which was dedicated by Archbishop O’Connell on November 24, 1910.  The new Church of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, as it was called, with its impressive exterior, its graceful campanile, and its unusually fine interior decorations, represented an immense achievement for a congregation of only fifteen hundred people.”

— Excerpted from The History of the Archdiocese of Boston, vol. III: 1866-1943, p. 698  © February 29, 1944

An unofficial website pertaining to Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish in Newton, MA. Parish bulletin archives, theological articles, and historical information.