Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Foxboro Catholics: 1930s, WWII, & Catholic Post-War Migration 1928-1954

Rev. Bernard O' Rourke's was ordained on April 5, 1929 and his first assignment was St. Mary’s in Foxboro. In a letter, he wrote, "St. Mary's was my first permanent appointment. At the time Fr. Butler was the pastor. In addition to the parish, we had the Foxboro State Hospital with over 500 patients. The demise of the great hat industry took place while I was there. The only other industry was the Foxboro Company. I fondly recall the little grey church situated on a side street."

In January 1930, the Foxboro Reporter covered the St. Mary's basketball team which played teams from Mansfield, St. Patrick’s in Cambridge, and Holy Cross Cathedral of South Boston. The games were played in Grange Hall. In the game against Holy Cross, the newspaper informed the townsfolk, "The local boys were unable to make a single point in the last half, losing 27 to 10, for the visitors were bigger and older than St. Mary's team. " That spring, the St. Mary's Minstrel Show was held in the Odd Fellows Hall. The show, which included a chorus and two short plays, "... was put on by fifty snappy young people."

In the 1930's, whist parties were the social activity and fund raising event for the parishioners of St. Mary's. The whist parties were commonly held in Grange Hall and the high school auditorium and players commonly numbered between thirty-five to sixty foursomes. Each fall, parishioners looked forward to the annual "Turkey Whist Party." Over two hundred participants would compete for gifts of dressed turkeys, grocery baskets, fruit, vegetables, sugar and cakes.
Parishioners who enjoyed these games were Frances and Helena McDonald, Helen Devine, Emily Gaudet, Mary Rattigan, Thomas McNamara. Also Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Kirby, Mrs. Walter E. Clarkin, Mrs. George T. McGrane, Mrs. Vincent Igo, Mrs. Katie Welsh, Mrs. Garrett Spillane, Mrs. Ambrose Curtain, and Mrs. Daniel Ryan. A few years later the names of John Gaudet, Sadie McAuliffe, Ray Smith, Walter Lillyman, Agnes Brown, Bertha Fitzpatrick, Ruth F. Clark, Mrs. Timothy Ahern, John Monahan, Charles Sutkus, Frank Hughes, Mrs. William Hearn, Catherine Rattigan, Mabelle Kelly, and Novella Adams were mentioned. As well as Walter Kennedy, Charles S. Greene, Bartholomew Golden, Eunice Upham, Eleanor Kennedy, Annabelle McDonald, Theresa Roche, Mary Brunelle, Alice Heffernan, Mary McNamara, and Mildred Saunders. Also appearing were Francis McGrane, Charles Brackett, Kenneth Cole, Edward Comeau, Herbert Cook, Albert Kelly, Stephen Kennedy and Gerard Kennedy, Daniel McFaul, James McCole, John Lynch, Anthony and Frank Metrano, Thomas McGrane and Joseph Sweeny.

In November 1930, Fr. Michael Butler passed away having been ill for several years. Rev. Rudolph M. Tuscher was assigned as pastor. Fr. Tuscher's first order of business was to notify the archbishop that "One of the curates can be relieved of an assignment for there is not enough work to keep three active men busy." Rev. Tuscher's tenure as pastor experienced quite a number of associate curates being assigned and reassigned to St. Mary's. The curates include Reverends Joseph B. O'Brien, Thomas. P. Connolly, William. J. Riley, Philip G. Hennessey, James J. Rafferty, George E. Murphy, and Edward F. King.

In a letter, Rev. Edward F. King recalled, "How can a priest ever forget the first parish in which he serves? I arrived, a South Boston boy, fresh with the oils of ordination on his fingers heads for St. Mary's in Foxboro. Curates were not allowed to have cars, so I arrived on the Providence train and was met by Fr. Rudolph Tuscher. He had a reputation of being tough and I was afraid of him. Curates had to be in every night at the rectory at 9PM. The State Hospital had to be covered by the curate and I heard all confessions at State Hospital. Fr. Tuscher didn't want to go. It was a beautiful community, lovely people whom I will never forget, the Bagleys, Cooks, Kennedys, and many more. I remember taking over the cemetery from laymen for the archdiocese. Then Fr. James Dowling came and we fixed it all up. One more memory I have. Over the pastor's objection I started a parish football team, consisting of all ex-high school players. Oh' one more thing. Would you believe we ran a musical show in the old church, with the sanctuary as the stage and everyone came. The Catholic faith at that time was not that strong and not that warmly received by non-Catholics.

In September 1935, John P. Gaudet was installed for third term as Grand Knight of Mansfield Council, Knights of Columbus and in November, he was appointed Deputy High Ranger of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters.

In the 1930s, "Penny Sales" were the activity of the young ladies of the parish. They would canvass the parish to solicit prizes. The event was commonly held in the in the high school. There would be a master of ceremonies and auctioneer who would offer for sale the foodstuff, aprons, towels, and fancy work that was gathered by the young ladies. The auctioneers were Joe Kennedy and Gerald Hennessey. The ladies included Eleanor Kennedy, Bertha Fitzpatrick, Rita Kennedy, Mary Grieb, Eleanor Harrison, Mary Brunell, Loretta Brown, Annabelle McDonald, Theresa Roche, Jeanette Ouimet, Anna Johnson, Mary McGrane, Frances McCarthy, Rita Welch, and Louise McAuliffe. Also Mary Brown, Theresa Brown, Peggy Cook, Mary Gaudet, Mildred Monson, Sophie Novack, and Marjorie Saunders.

In November 1939, a "Catholic Girls Club" was organized. The officers were: president, Amy Cook; vice president, Anne Kennedy; secretary, Marie Bagley; and treasurer, Angela Dorsey. Fr. Tuscher was the spiritual advisor. The young ladies were under the direction of Mrs. Bertha Fanning and Miss Loretta Brown.

Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 1940, was an evening of traditional music under the direction of the organist C. Robin Maker. He was accompanied by violinist Rosalie Dolan; soloists Mary Dolan and Theresa Brown; soprano Helen Dugas; tenor Douglas Brunell, and baritone Leo Brunell. During World War II the regular 7 a.m. Mass was rescheduled to 7:30 a.m. in order to enable those going away for the day and especially for those working on defense jobs.

In 1943, Fr. James P. Dowling was appointed as pastor of St. Mary's. He is fondly remembered, "for the consolation he brought to those afflicted by the war." Previously he had served for twenty-two years at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Jamaica Plain. In 1943, the parish celebrated his Silver Jubilee celebration of his ordination. Over 500 parishioners and friends gathered at the high school for the occasion. Jeremiah F. Sullivan was chairman for the event and the musical program was under the direction of Mrs. Joseph K Lynch. One of the highlights of the evening was the chartering of a newly organized Boy Scout Troop 37. The troop was presented its charter by Old Colony Vice President Rex A. Bristol. Mr. Joseph McNair , chairman of the troop committee accepted the certificate, and promised to provide the troop with quarters and assistance. The newly organized troop had been initiated by Fr. Dowling, with his assistant curate, Rev. Joseph P. Reilly as his representative. The troop scoutmaster was Vin Igo, with Roy Brackett as assistant.

St. Mary's Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) was organized in November, 1945. Active members at this time included, Geraldine Urban, Richard Hennessey, Janet Spillane, John Gaudet, and John Lynch. The stated purpose of the national organization was, "To enrich and deepen the soul-life of boys and girls, young men and young women and to advance their temporal interests. It enables youth to sanctify their souls and insure their salvation by bringing them closer to God and their church through leisure-time programs which include spiritual, cultural, social, and recreational."

During the Fall 1945, Archbishop Richard Cushing opened a membership drive for the Holy Name Society. Under the direction of Fr. Dowling, a new chapter was organized with over 150 members. The officers were, President, Stephen J. Kennedy; Vice President, Albert D. Kelly; and Secretary, Walter Lillyman. The executive committee was included Vincent M. Igo, John Lynch, Mitchell A. Mandin, Charles S. Green, Garrett H. Spillane, Joseph Bagley, and William T. O'Connor.

In 1947, Rev. James A. Hicks, was appointed as pastor of St. Mary's. Fr. Hicks’ seven years pastorate was highlighted by several accomplishments. He was instrumental in the fencing and landscaping of St. Mary's cemetery and under his guidance the basement of the church was remodeled to include kitchen facilities. Fr. Hicks established both the Woman's Guild and the Christian Youth Organization (CYO)

In April, 1947, the CYO, with an open invitation to all teenagers who care to participate, staged a minstrel show at the high school auditorium titled, "Nice Going." The show was under the direction of Fr. Arthur Dunnigan and the climax of the evening was reached when the "Bathing Beauties of the Gay Nineties," arrived on stage.
The officers of St. Mary's Guild at this time included, Mrs. Alfred D. Ouimet, Mrs. Alice Barry, Mrs. Harry Plummer, Mrs. Pauline Shea, Mrs. Eula Kelly, Mrs. Joseph Donnoly, and Mrs. Katherine Mandin. The Guild was very active in parish affairs, especially the "Bridge and Whist Parties," under the direction of Margaret Ahern, Eleanor Kennedy, Mary McNair, Mary Holbrook, Regina Sweed, Eileen Dumas, Constance Welsh, Amy Cook, and Patricia Belcher; also Mrs. Martin Heffernan, Teresa Giovini, Jeanne Samuel, Connie Champagne, Barbara Durst, Madeline Morlock, Natalie Kerr, and Marge Johnson. The Guild held fashion shows, covered dish suppers and organized a "Blanket Club," and "Gracious Living Club." One of the Guild’s most popular guests was Roy Williams, a Mouseketeer of the Disney T.V. Show. At the time it was reported, "It took two policemen to handle the crush of Foxboro youngsters who thronged to Ouimets Drug Store to see the Mouseketeer."

At this time, Fr. Adrian O'Leary's was assigned to Foxboro. In a letter he wrote, "It was just after WWII and the parish was growing fast. We had the old church and it was bursting to the seams. Nuns came from Norwood and the Sisters of Mercy from Cumberland, R.I., for Sunday School. Fr. Hicks was the pastor. It was a busy three years."

In March 1948, a little known fact occurred. Tucked away in the archdiocesan correspondence files is a request by Fr. Hicks that brought much joy to parishioners then and now. The pastor received permission to install rubber kneelers!

In August 1949, Mr. Charles F. Rafferty, Foxboro’s "street sweeper" and a descendant of the original first Catholic family on Granite street, was honored by Foxboro Reporter. "We believe that Mr. Charles F. Rafferty deserves to be congratulated for the conscientious manner in which he performs his daily duties. This time last year, the common was an untidy sore spot. Mr. Rafferty starts his rounds at 5 a.m., and by the time most of us are up and about, the common and the main streets have been made tidy and neat. Through his efforts, we can again look with pride upon the historic center of Foxboro."

In 1950, the officers of the Holy Name Society included, Joseph Donnelly, Joseph Pigeon, Mark Bagley, Guy Brackett, Joseph McNair, Paul Roche, Thomas Kennedy, John Ahern, Frank Corliss, William Kennedy, Donald Myers, and Emil Ferencik. A monthly Communion breakfast was the activity of the organization. Speakers included, Secretary of State, Mr. Edward J. Cronin and author David Goldstein; speakers from the prison system, an F.B.I. agent, and professional sports.

In November 1950, Fr. Robert J. Hankins, newly ordained, was appointed curate to replace Fr. Leary. He was very actively involved in the life of the parish; the spiritual director of the CYO chaplain of Boy Scout Troop #37 and the Mansfield Civil Air Patrol, as well as director of the altar boys. Fr. Hankins also instituted a very popular annual St. Patrick's show at the high school auditorium. The entertainment included Irish jigs, reels, and horn pipes, along with Houlihan's Irish band and dancers from Worcester. Mr. Alvin H. Ball directed the Foxboro String Orchestra.
During Fr. Hicks tenure, the Catholic population doubled. In 1954, Sunday Masses were celebrated at 7AM, 8:30AM, 10:30AM, and 11:30AM. Confessions on Saturday from 4 to 6PM and 7:30 to 9PM.

1954 On March 19, 1954 Fr. Hicks, in feeble health, passed away on the Feast of St. Joseph.


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