Sunday, January 11, 2009

Foxboro: Fr. Patrick H. Callanan, A Priest For All Seasons 1885-1890

Rev. Patrick H. Callanan was appointed pastor at Foxboro in March 1885. The Foxboro Reporter announced, "He has been seven years as a student with the Jesuit Fathers at Boston College. He has taken out his degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts, making the greatest record of any student who has ever passed through this college. By special favor and confidence of the Archbishop of Boston, he takes his place here though ordained a priest only five years since."

The material and spiritual state of the parish when he arrived in Foxboro is poignantly described in the official archdiocesan history, "Fr. Callanan found nothing but a weather-beaten church, no house, and almost no congregation, as the faithful where inclined to go to other places...The parish was in very unfavorable condition. The parishioners were at odds, the parish was heavily involved in debt, having lost two churches by fire, and the society was discontented and discouraged."

Fr. Callanan spared no time and effort to fostering the spiritual, educational and material foundations of his parish. The April 3 Foxboro Times reported, "For the first time Foxboro Catholics were to experience the joy of Holy Week liturgies. The Church was simply decorated with candles, flowers and evergreens. Good Friday witnessed the Veneration of the Cross. On Holy Saturday the Catholics enjoyed a service never carried out in Foxboro before. The liturgy included the blessing of fire and the lighting of the Paschal. The water for Baptisms was blessed, and some of which was distributed to the people.. On Easter morning a High Mass was celebrated for the first time." The article mentioned that Fr. Callanan "possessed a good voice for singing and intoning which made the service of great interest to both parish and visitor."

In May, the parishioners experienced "Catholic ceremonies never before seen in the church or the town." The crowning and dedication of the new statue of the Blessed Virgin was recorded by the Foxboro Reporter, "At the Catholic Church a peculiar but very interesting service was held...the crowning included a procession, hymns, children dressed in white garments, and the crowning of the statue by a child." A brief discourse during the ceremony reveals how Fr. Callanan took advantage of the teaching moments afforded by the ritual to educate his parishioners and townsfolk. Fr. Callanan explained, "A reason for the many ceremonies of the Church is that the heart is aided in its reception and appreciation of spiritual truths by the eye as well as by the ear."

The ceremony also afforded the pastor the opportunity to commence a campaign to raise the money necessary to broaden the financial base of the parish. Following the ceremony, a May Party was held in the Town Hall ballroom in aid of St. Mary's Church. It was reported, "Five hundred and twenty dollars was raised. The parishioners and friends enjoyed coffee, ice cream, and dancing to music provided by the Baker Brother's Orchestra. There were over fifty couples in the Grand March. Miss Kitty Walsh of Walpole was voted May Queen, with runner-ups Misses Ellie Kerwin, Nellie Igoe, and Alice Kerwin." An editorial in the Foxboro Reporter described the new hopefulness and enthusiasm, "...under the active administration of Fr. Callanan a new impetus has been given to the Catholic interests in town in which we trust will result in enlisting good work and regular church attendance by all members of the parish."

In June, the Foxboro Reporter described the Feast of Corpus Christi for its readers. "The object of this feast day was to give opportunity to the faithful to show their faith and veneration for the Blessed Sacrament. For the Feast of Corpus Christi an elaborate altar was set up on the rectory's grounds. It included flowers, candles, incense, and a procession from the church by Fr. Callanan, accompanied by altar boys. Hymns were sung and white garments worn. Benediction followed on the grounds." The article concluded, "The fundamental principle of the Catholic faith is the belief that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament."

Several weeks later it was reported that an appreciation party had been held on the rectory grounds, " show thanks to all those who gave their special service to the church.. The organ had been removed from the church and carried to the rectory lawn so both vocal and instrumental entertainment were provided. The lawn was decorated with Chinese lanterns, lawn settees, and tables with flowers."

During this era., church fairs and concerts were a common means to raise money for church construction and remodeling projects. The events usually offered music, entertainment and often a supper, with tables for raffles, handiwork, candies, ice cream, and other refreshments on which people would spend their money. Frequently one evening would be entirely devoted to dancing.
In November, the Foxboro Reporter described the first of many of Fr. Callanan’s fund raising activities. "Fr. Callanan is tireless in his labors for the interests of the church...he is busy arranging for an evening of entertainment to be given in the upper Town Hall. The evening will feature promenade concert and dancing which will follow the vocal exercises....for the occasion Fr. Callanan purchased a beautiful upright piano." The "Grand Entertainment" was described the following week, "A very fair house enjoyed an evening of songs, duets, trios, quartets, choruses, and instrumental pieces. Locals involved were Misses Annie M. Johnson, Maggie Clark and Alice Devine. The fair raised a sum of $450."

One year after his arrival, on April 15, 1886, Fr. Callanan announced his plans to remodel and improve both the church and its grounds. He stated, "The rugged condition of the grounds about this church and its somewhat commonplace character of the church edifice itself, the labors which we might say have caused 'the wilderness to blossom as the rose.'"

Several weeks later, the Foxboro Reporter once again described the May Devotion and Feast of Corpus Christi. "The annual May Devotion formed on the rectory grounds....little girls, young ladies, little boys, and young men formed a procession at the rectory. All the young ladies carried bouquets and baskets of choice flowers. The smallest of the little girls carried beautiful floral designs among which was noted a crown, cross, anchor, wreath and heart. Hymns were chanted, and they processed to the church. When the words reached ‘We haste to crown thee now’ Aggie O'Brien, assisted by Father Callanan placed a wreath of flowers on the head of the statue."

Fr. Callanan’s devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and his desire to instill a sense of communal confidence and pride in their Catholic faith was intimated in a sermon titled, "Christ truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament. The foundation of the Catholic Faith." He told his parishioners, "The object of the feast is to give opportunity to the faithful to show their faith and veneration for the Blessed Sacrament. For this reason public processions are formed as an opportunity of showing faith and veneration in public."

In September, seizing the moment of enthusiasm and support for the material and spiritual well-being of the parish, Fr. Callanan announced that "Twenty-three feet would be added to the front of the church. The present front would be torn down and double doors and an eight foot vestibule added. New pews would be added, and a cupola will adorn the building." He informed his parishioners that a Catholic Fair would be held in the Town Hall in aid of the church building fund and for this event he had secured the upper and lower Town Hall for two weeks in February.

The months following the announcement were filled with activities in support of the event. The Christmas edition of the Foxboro Reporter informed its readers, "Preparations for the ten day Catholic Fair are progressing. Goods for distribution are pouring in, we may almost say, from all over the country, and shares in the distributions are being taken from as far west as New York and Albany."

The Foxboro Reporter detailed the success of St. Mary’s Catholic Fair that extended through eleven consecutive secular evenings, February 2 - 14. "A series of entertainments exceeding in the extent of its layout and in its successful results anything of like nature ever attempted in this vicinity and exhibiting also great, inventive and executive ability on the part of its originator, Fr. Rev. Callanan. Both halls of the Town Hall were secured, the lower being reserved for dancing whenever the upper hall was too crowded for the purpose, which apparently was the case upon several of the evenings. Over 6,000 admission tickets were issued. One of the most successful means of raising funds were the ‘voting contests’. A series of articles including a solid-gold headed ebony cane, a sewing machines, boys suit, doll, barrel of flour, a shooting gallery, and a gentleman's gold ring were set up as prizes. A list of nominations was voted upon for the various prizes. The qualified voter was anyone who with legal tender purchased ballots. The ballots could then be used as votes for any of the candidates on the nomination lists. Voters were encouraged to vote early and often. The results of the Fair were most impressive...."

Fr. Callanan’s devotion and commitment to the observance of the several holy Feast Days also extended to the strict observance of the rules of the season of Lent. Apparently his expectations were much stricter than the rules governing Catholic behavior up to this time. In a letter to the editor, Fr. Callanan wrote against the holding of public entertainments of any kind during the holy season of Lent, "As a Catholic priest I protest against it as contrary to every teaching and practice of our Society. No matter the nature of the entertainment, no Catholic is allowed to take part in or be present at it." Not only was dancing forbidden during Lent but Fr. Callanan used the opportunity to reiterate the Catholic view, "The same may be said of any Catholic who engages in Waltzing at any time. Waltzing is forbidden at all times.. The spirit that actuates the Christian during Lent, is nothing more than the spirit of respect for Christ and his approaching death on Good Friday."
Formal opening services of the remodeled church occurred on August 15, 1887. The Boston Globe reported, "Today, being the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven, was especially appropriate for the opening of the new St. Mary’s Church. There was a very large congregation present and the beautiful little edifice was taxed to its utmost." The Foxboro Reported described the church, " ornament to our beautiful little town...a church edifice, suitable to be called the House of God, and one worthy of the generosity and faith of his people...The expenses incurred were freely met by the people of the parish...the labor of sixty or more men and thirty teams, given for two weeks, who removed the boulders and roots which cumbered the surface. The area was then covered with 200 loads of gravel and fifty or more loads of loam. The altar was painted and the ceilings and walls 'kalsomized'. The church thoroughly painted inside and out. The importation of the statues of the Blessed Virgin and of St. Joseph form Munich and are called the finest in the diocese....Sixteen memorial windows of stained glass were presented by vestment cases and wardrobes for both vestries and two seven branch candlesticks were donated."

Soon after the formal opening a petition began circulating for a new town was between a point on Church Street, near the lumber yard of J.W. Carpenter & Son, to a point on South Street. The result of the petition was that on October 10, the proposed town way as laid out by the selectmen was unanimously accepted and was named Carpenter Street.

In November the Foxboro Reporter referenced the titles of sermons that were preached during a week long mission of "preaching and prayer" for the cause of temperance at the Catholic church.. The sermons were titled, Moral Evils of Intemperance; Temporal Evils of Intemperance; and Causes & Remedies." On Christmas Eve the newspaper reported that Fr. Callanan delivered a sermon during the vesper service, titled, "The true and false infallibility of the Pope."

In January 1888, Fr. Callanan established a Catholic Men's Lyceum for the men of his parish.
The object was, "The moral, mental, and physical improvement of the members." Rooms over the Union Market were secured for the lyceum "...that were fitted up with everything necessary for the amusement and well-being of the members. Harmless games were permitted. All the leading daily, weekly, and monthly newspapers were put on file. A dramatic class and glee club were formed." The lyceum was believed to offer "the educational and refining influence that will be the most useful and salutary means to reach and teach true manhood."

It is clearly evident from articles in the Foxboro Reporter that Fr. Callanan spent a great deal of time educating not only his parishioners but also the non-Catholic townsfolk on the tenets and religious practices of the Catholic faith. The March 10, 1888 Foxboro Reporter described a lecture delivered by Fr. Callanan in the Town Hall titled "Plain Talk or a Plea for Justice." Fr. Callanan told the gathering, "A fair minded community would give patient hearing to many points of Catholic teaching so frequently misrepresented." And that he spoke "...not as an apologist for the Catholic Church, for it had nothing to apologize for." The article informed its readers that Fr. Callanan "...was speaking not as a priest in his profession but as a Catholic, an American Citizen." The topics Fr. Callanan spoke on that evening included: Are Catholics allowed to read the bible?; Why does the Catholic Church use the Latin language in her services?; The true and the false infallibility of the Pope; Do Catholics worship images?; and Indulgences, What are they?

On May 6, 1888 Archbishop John J. Williams conducted dedication services at St. Mary's. Speaking about Fr. Callanan during his sermon, the Archbishop stated, "Through his efforts, by God's approval, Fr. Callanan had accomplished a great work, which would live and grow after him." That afternoon forty-three candidates received the Sacrament of Confirmation, three of whom were converts. Later that evening the Archbishop addressed the members of the men’s lyceum.

In the days before mass media and electronic communication the majority of Foxboro's townsfolk were depended upon their imagination to view the cities of Europe or the vistas of the United States. As a result, there was great interest in an exhibit that was held at St. Mary's church in late October. A Professor Turner of Boston brought an exhibit consisting of over one hundred views of European scenery showing on a mammoth canvass twenty-four feet square. The scenes included all the principal cities of Ireland, London, Paris, Liverpool, and many other European cities. The exhibit and lecture was a two night presentation. The second night was two hundred views of American scenery from Maine to California. The Foxboro Reporter mentioned, "One could not help but gain a wide knowledge of the beautiful and historic places in Europe and America as they were presented to the eye."

In April 1889 a second St. Mary’s Fair was held to pay down the debt incurred by the recent remodeling of the church. To promote the event Fair Bulletin was published and inserted in the Foxboro Reporter. The bulletin listed advertisers, committees, donors, gifts, and the fair program. As the planning progressed the candidates for the various voting contests were announced. The voting contest that was of the most interest was that for the "Magnificent Gold Head Cane". Apparently this contest was between local shops. Some of the shops represented were the Neponset Hat Works, Union Straw Works, Excelsior Straw Works, and H.C. Faughts Shop. Fr. Callanan personally pledged a grand complimentary concert and sociable in the Town Hall, to the employees of the shop who carry off the prize.

The candidates for the men’s gold watch were Jeremiah Kirby, Michael McNamara, Thomas Tierney, William J. Burke, Robert Kerwin, and John E. Clark. Mr. George Stone was entered by the employees of the Mansfield Straw Shop. The candidates for the ladies gold watch included Miss Jennie O'Brien, Miss Julia Kirby, both from Foxboro; other contestants from Wrentham, Mansfield, Cambridge, and Walpole. There was also a voting contest for a silver watch between four altar boys of St. Mary's: Tommy Gorman, Jerry Brennan, Albert McCarthy, and Daniel Brown. One of the amusements was a "shooting gallery" in the lower hall and the games included "Elevated Road, Pitchett, Champion Ball Player, and the Devil among the Tailor.

The Fair opened on Easter Sunday, April 22 and closed on May 1st. Transportation arrangements were made with the Old Colony Rail Road. A special train ran from South Framingham, stopping at stations in Sherborn, Medfield Junction, Medfield, Walpole, and South Walpole. There were free horse drawn barges from Mansfield, Wrentham, Medfield, and Walpole. The Foxboro Reporter characterized the fair as "Probably the greatest financial success of any event which ever occurred in Foxboro." The total amount of profit after expenses was $3,027.57, an amount that liquidated the parish debt. .

In November 1890, Fr. Callanan was reassigned as pastor of a church in Newton Lower Falls and on Thanksgiving morning he celebrated his last mass at Foxboro. The Foxboro Reporter stated, "The Catholic people of this town were never blessed with a pastor who has so won the hearts and confidence of his congregation."

On the occasion of his 10th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood, on December 18th, Fr. Callanan was invited back to Foxboro. He was greeted by the new pastor, and several parishioners. They proceeded to the church where they were greeted by a crowd gathered from Foxboro, Medfield, Wrentham, and other places. The Foxboro Reporter described the state of the Catholic community upon his arrival in 1885, "When he took charge the people were not united....Two churches previously destroyed by fire and the third could not properly be called a church, built on rocky, uneven land, and a back, hard street for travel."

The Boston Globe published Fr. Callanan’s comments to the gathering:
"There are chords of sorrow sometimes touched by passing events in a man’s life that are felt only in the recesses of his own heart. The mournful tune is there, audible to his own senses, full of feeling within, but yet not felt, not heard outside. There are many feelings of the human heart that are facts, and yet though real they can not be described in words, cannot be made manifest outside ourselves.
Such have been my feelings in leaving this my first parish. Here in Foxboro I was thrown upon my own resources, for the first time, here the first friendship between a pastor and his people were formed, here did I devote all of my energies of body and soul toward the erection of the first church since my ministry began. Ten years of that ministry is finished today, for on December 18, 1880 I was ordained a priest of God. You, my dear friends have had six of those 10 years of my ministry. They have been fruitful years. I feel that the influence of those six years has made you much better men and women, better children, better citizens, better Christians. And in turn, let me say, that your devotion to your church and your loyalty to me have made me a better man, a better priest.

I need not recount the past, only to remind you that I ever strove to build and equip and make more beautiful the two-fold church of God - the church material and the church spiritual. In the midst of all my labors for the up building of this material church, in which I address you tonight, I never failed to make every effort to hasten your progress in Christian knowledge, and to make your duties to God and to your neighbor go hand in hand with material work.

I found you six years ago a disunited, a discontented, and forgive me for saying it, a rather luke-warm people, and I found you without a church, fit to be called a house of God. I look on you tonight a happy, united, and practical Christian people, with a church worthy of your faith, worthy of your generosity, worthy of being called a house of God. I incurred debts of many, many thousands of dollars to leave here this monument of our joint labors, of our mutual sacrifices: but thanks be to God I leave it in your hands, and in the hands of my successor, not only free of every cent of debt, but with a surplus in its treasury. It will always be a pleasure to me to come back to Foxboro and say a word of advice, and counsel, and consolation to you; and I feel like a man returning to the home he has spent years to build and beautify,, when I return to this church.

I wish my successor here the same loyalty, the same generosity, the same love and esteem you have always shown me. I thank you all for your material token of esteem, and your words of kindness will ever bloom as forget-me-nots in the garden of my own soul."

Historical Note:

Rev. Patrick H. Callanan
Born February 4, 1856 in New York City, the son of Irish Immigrants, Michael and Catherine Callanan, natives of County Cork. In September 1870, at the age of 14 he entered Boston College. Received a bachelor’s of arts in 1887 and a master of arts the following year.

In September 1877, he entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Troy, New York and on December 18, 1880 he was ordained. His ordination earned him the distinction of being the first person to graduate Boston College to be ordained a priest.

His first appointment was at the Parish of the Sacred Heart , East Cambridge and in March 1885 he was appointed of pastor of St. Mary’s, Foxboro.

In 1890 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s in Newton Lower Falls. In 1906 he established the mission of St. Paul’s in Wellesley Hills.

Fr. Patrick H . Callanan was a member of the first graduating class of 1877 of Boston College..
During his seven years at Boston College, Callanan achieved academic honors and was a leader of student activities . For three years in a row he won top honors in classics and French . He received second honors in poetry and the medal in mathematics in his sixth year and second honors in philosophy and the physics medal in his last year . In competitive efforts he won a $25 , prize (tuition was $60 a year) for best English composition, a $25 prize for reading, a $30 prize for the best thesis in Christian doctrine, and the prize for the best centennial ode in 1876, celebrating the nation's first century .

Active in debate, Callanan was an officer of the debating society for three years and was prefect
of the Sodality of Our Lady twice . One of Father Fulton's pet projects was the Foster Cadets, to which all students had to belong, and Callanan was the dominant figure in the student militia in his day, rising from corporal in his first year to captain and finally to the top rank of major from 1873 to 1876 .

He was the first Boston College alumnus to be named a pastor and was Boston College's first "College Historian". Twenty years after graduation, from 1896 to 1899, he published a series of reminiscences—mostly his own, but also some he collected from fellow alumni—concerning the early years of the College, from about 1870 on. These reminiscences were published in twenty articles in the student paper, The Stylus.

Boston College honored Father Callanan twice. In 1906 he delivered the baccalaureate address and in 1927, the year the first graduates reached their golden jubilee, Father Callanan was most deservedly awarded an honorary doctorate.

In May 1912, he was assigned pastor of St. Peter’s in Cambridge where he remained until his death in November 1933.


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