Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foxboro Priests, People & Places 1901-1928

In April 1901, Rev. Thomas Norris was assigned as pastor to replace Fr. Broderick. Fr. Norris had been senior assistant curate at Church of the Sacred Heart in Roslindale. He had celebrated his silver jubilee eight years earlier. Before the month of December was out he had resigned his appointment due to failing health.

Rev. James W. Hickey immediately was assigned as pastor. Fr. Hickey was a colleague of Fr. Broderick. He was a native of Lowell and a graduate of Holy Cross College. He had recently spent eleven years as pastor of the mission of McCook, Nebraska, which includes all the territory as far west as the Colorado State line. According to the Foxboro Reporter, "Fr. Hickey appears to be a man who can not fail to win the esteem of his people. His entire ministry, energy, and ability have characterized his administration of affairs."

In November 1905, a reunion was held in the Grange Hall. Fr. Hickey and "corps of able assistants" delivered quite an affair for the parish The refreshments consisted an ice cream and tonic tables. Local parishioners provided the entertainment calling themselves the "Yankee Doodle Cadets" and the "Florodora Girls;" Walter Lillyman, Thomas Mullen and Walter McKenna performed as the, "Whistling Bowery Boys".

In 1907, Fr. Garret J. Barry replaced Fr. Hickey as pastor. Fr. Garret had formerly traveled extensively in Europe. He is particularly remembered for many lectures, illustrated with stereophonic views of his sojourns to the Holy Land, Rome, and Ireland.

In 1908 Cardinal William O'Connell expressed a desire to have a Holy Name Society organized in every parish of the archdiocese. The purpose of the organization is to promote reverence for the Sacred Names of God and Jesus Christ, obedience and loyalty to the Pope, and the personal sanctification and holiness of its members. In response to the Cardinal O’Connell directive, Fr. Barry hosted a parish mission in May and one of outcomes of the retreat was the establishment of a Society of the Holy Name for men of the parish.

Fr. Barry’s Irish roots were evident in the gala celebration of St. Patrick’s Day that occurred in March 1909. The celebration would be held in the Grange Hall. The entertainment included songs of Erin, a mind-reading exhibition, magic by Houdini's closest rival, the Great Fuller; a tale teller, and boxing exhibitions by John J. McCarthy, amateur heavy weight champion of New England and boxer John L. Cloney, boxing in the new and old styles.

May 1910, St. Dominic's Court, a local chapter of the Massachusetts Court of Catholic Foresters was established. The Foxboro Reporter reported, "Between 20 and 30 candidates for the new lodge instituted 'Court of Foresters" passed a successful examination, and several more applications are in the proper hands. The institution took place in the Odd Fellows hall. The obligation of the Order was taken by 24 applicants. The ceremonies were impressive, with delegations from Courts in North Attleboro, Stoughton, Attleboro, Canton, and Sharon in attendance. The officers included: Charles F. Green, George McGrane, Miss Evelyn Hearn, William Clark, John Evans, Wesley McGrane, Mrs. Mary Grenne, Joseph McGrane, and John Evans Jr."

Established in 1883, the initial purpose of the fraternal insurance organization was to assist impoverished immigrants struck by tragedy or families that lost their breadwinner. Typically, friends and neighbors collected money to keep survivors from starving and later for burial expenses. Those making burial collections gradually formed associations. Many times these associations became focal points for community life.

In an interview with the late Eula Kelly, she recalled, "The association was a fraternal insurance organization for women whose husbands were deceased, and the principles of the organization were, fraternity, unity, and true Christian charity. In the olden days many widows were left to the four winds of the earth! The goal in each area was to acquire a membership of 1,000, with the plan that when a member died, each of the others would contribute a dollar toward the $1,000 benefit of the widow."

On October 12, 1910, Columbus Day, through the lobbying efforts of the Knights of Columbus and Catholic politicians, was observed as a legal holiday in Massachusetts for the first time.
In May 1911, Fr. James O'Rourke assigned was as pastor of St. Mary's. Fr. O'Rourke had been nine years a curate of St. Margaret in Campello, Brockton, and was well known as an organizer and preacher. Fr. O’Rourke was considered a hero in the archdiocese at the time. Several years earlier he had rushed to a shoe factory fire near his parish. He arrived in time to witnessed the collapse of the building. Regardless of his own personal safety, he crawled into the burning pile of rubble and administered the Last Rites to dying employees trapped under the debris, badly burning himself about the arms and face.

In August 1912, the Foxboro Reporter described the festivities of the annual St. Mary’s Field Day that was held at Lakeview Park. Over a 1,000 people attended the event. "The attractions included boating, dancing, partaking of a baked bean supper, a midway, and a miniature minstrel show. A moving picture was also shown. Games included a two mile run, 100 yard dash, the shoe race, a three legged race, and games named African Dodger, Cane Board, and Chinese Laundry. The electric trolley cars made numerous trips to the park transporting people from Mansfield, Attleboro, Walpole, Norwood and Wrentham. When the last cars left the park at midnight they were crowded with a tired but happy hearted throng of parishioners who are loyal to their church and to their well-beloved pastor."

In March 1913, for the first time, St. Mary’s received the services of an assistant curate to assist the pastor. It was a sign that the spiritual needs of the parishioners and responsibilities pastor were increasing with the growth of the town and parish.

In June 1915 Fr. William J. McCarthy was assigned as pastor. The Reporter mentioned, "Fr. McCarthy motored over from West Lynn where he had been ministering for the past twenty years. His going away reception had earlier been attended by hundreds of former parishioners, who awarded him a purse of $1,500 for a parting gift." During his tenure, his responsibilities increased to include ministering to the Catholics in the Foxboro State Hospital, the State School for the Feeble Minded Children in Wrentham, and the John P. Holland Vocation School for Disabled Veterans in East Norfolk.

During World War I, Red Cross activities in cities and towns were of major importance. As the war progressed, the archdiocese promoted the importance of food production and conservation, with a campaign slogan "Food Will Win The War. In Foxboro, Fr. McKenna, the assistant curate, was in charged with directing the efforts of the local parish. Through a column in the Foxboro Reporter, he wrote, "Every person in town is urged to plant a garden...all tillable soil should be planted!" In a Memorial Day speech, Fr. McKenna stated, "Any man can be a warrior in the time of peace, but it takes a true soldier to don his uniform, shoulder his musket, and offer his life, in defense of his country's life and that of its people."

Employing his personal slogan, "Every Citizen of Foxboro a member of the Red Cross," Fr.McKenna and his parish committee of Joseph Metrano, D.A. Ouimet, E.A. Foley, Eugene Kirby, and James Brennan, canvassed every house in town.

During World War I, St. Mary’s Catholic Order of Foresters chapter, St. Dominic Court, commonly held harvest whist and dance socials to benefit the soldiers who had gone from Foxboro. Many of these fund raisers were hosted in the home of Mr. and Mrs. D. Alfred Ouimet. After the WWI, St. Dominic Court held a number of "poverty balls" in the Grange Hall and often the highlight of the evening were the prizes awarded for the "worst looking costume."
In January 1919, Foxboro Reporter reported it had received word that Frank Welch, 319th F.A.H. Field Artillery, died of wounds on October 31, 1918. In September 1921, the soldier’s body arrived for burial. The body lied in state in Memorial Hall and was reburied with full military honors in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

In July 1923, Rev. Michael A. Butler was assigned as pastor. Previously he had served as senior curate at Immaculate Conception in Everett. A number of accomplishments occurred under his leadership. Within two years of his pastorate the value of St. Mary's church increased in value from $6,000 to $30,000. This was primarily due to the improvements made to the church such as the erection of the massive cement steps at the entrance and the interior was completely redecorated and beautified. Because of the demand for pastor service from both the Wrentham State School the Foxboro State Hospital, and the Catholic mission in Wrentham, Fr. McCarthy requested a second assistant curate. The chancery granted the request along with approval for $6,000 of improvements to be made to the rectory to allow more room for the new assistant curate.

Later that fall, Fr. Butler commenced an earnest campaign to raise funds for a new church in Wrentham, raising $10,000 in the first year. A common means of raising revenue at this time were harvest festivals, social dances and weekly whist parties."St. Mary’s Field Days" on the common were also very successful affairs for raising revenue. Booths were set up throughout the village green, each representing different sections of the St. Mary's parish and the Wrentham mission. The festivities offered a musical concert, a children's picnic, a doll carriage parade and a variety of foot races including sack races, potato races, and shoe race.

During Fr. McCarthy's pastorate, from 1923 to 1933., nine assistant curates were assigned and reassigned including, Reverends J.D. MacEachern, J.B. Moore, E.J. Carey, W.E. Tierney, J.F. Bracken, J.J. Hughes, F.G. Shields, B.J. O'Rourke and W.P. Castles.

During the summer of 1926, a "Radio Concert and Dance" was held in the Grange Hall under the auspices of St. Mary's, to benefit the Wrentham mission. The stage was set up like the interior of a broadcasting studio and performers were introduced by an announcer who then "did their stuff" before a microphone.

In 1926, there was only one English missal available to Catholics laity and it was in very limited use. A historian described a lay person’s understanding of the Latin Mass during this era, "Before 1926, the laity sat at Mass in uncomprehending stupor - rising, kneeling, or sitting according to the movements of the priest, while the priest celebrating the Mass whispered the Latin words of the rite up against the a wall." After 1926 over 19 editions of English missals became available and the practice of following the priest's Latin in the English became widespread.

In 1927, the officers of St. Dominic Court were listed as, Mary J. Brown, Chief Ranger; Albert L. Belcher, Vice Chief Ranger; along with John Gaudet, Vincent Igo, William McAuliffe, Fred Brown, Mary Green, Nellie Walsh, and P. Francis McGrane.

A letter from Cardinal William O’Connell dated June 8, 1927 directed Fr. Butler to attend to the spiritual needs of a new prison colony established on land formerly the Norfolk State Hospital, to which Fr. Butler replied, "I will tend to the needs."

In December 1928, on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Mahoney, the "neat new stucco St. Mary’s church," was completed in Wrentham. Foxboro’s priests and parishioners were no longer responsible for the Wrentham mission which, at that time, included the Catholics in Plainville and Norfolk.

A schedule of Masses at this time reveals the pastoral care responsibilities of the local area priests: Foxboro Masses at St. Mary's were 7:30AM and 10:15AM.; Wrentham Masses were held at 8:30 and 10:00; Foxboro State Hospital at 9:00AM and Wrentham State School at 8:30AM.. Sunday School was held in Foxboro at 2:00PM.


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