History

A HISTORY

 

It became clear in the middle of the nineteenth century that a church was needed to serve the hundreds of Catholics in Boston’s West End, dramatically increasing with the arrival of Irish escaping the potato famine.

In 1862, Bishop Fitzpatrick had an opportunity to buy “the most elegant church in Boston.”  The Church had been built for a Unitarian congregation by Alexander Parish at a cost of $34,000.  Upon its completion, the wave of immigrants had driven its congregation away.  Thus, the building, with organ, was purchased for the diocese for $27,000.  St. Joseph’s Church was dedicated on November 9, 1862.

In 1866, the Lane estate behind the church was purchased and the building was enlarged two years later to accommodate the rapidly growing parish.  In 1870, more land was bought behind the church for the rectory.

By St. Joseph’s 50th Anniversary in 1912, there were electric chandeliers, frescoes, and stained glass windows, and the altar of the Sacred Heart was dedicated.  The parish served 12,000 faithful, its largest number of people, at this time.

The parish population declined and was tragically eliminated by eminent domain.  In 1953, the West End was declared a slum and the city took over the area in April 1958.  The residents were slow in fighting redevelopment because they never really believed that it would happen.  Almost 10,000 people were driven from the West End, and in 1960, the only remaining structure of the West End’s eight block area was the church and rectory.  St. Joseph’s centennial in 1962 was an occasion of sorrow and melancholy.

In June of 1968.  The parish community began to be rebuilt through a series of public meetings and by converting the lower church into a Parish Hall to meet the public and welcome them to St. Joseph’s.  With little money, the people rallied together and helped restore the church.  Following renovations set by Vatican Council II, the church was reopened with all its former elegance in May, 1974.

Some of St. Joseph’s old glory was present when those who had lived in the West End returned to experience the Bicentennial opening mass in 1976 offered by the Catholic Bishop of Boston, England.  A papal flag was also presented to the church.

By the 125th Anniversary in 1987, St. Joseph’s was serving a vastly different populace than in 1862.  The patron saint of workers had once again found a congregation in the staff and visitors of the surrounding medical facilities and residents of Charles River Park and Beacon Hill. By 2011 the community had once again swelled with new parishioners and the story continues.

 

   

ST. JOSEPHS CHURCH HISTORICAL FACTS:

 

 

Alexander Parris was the Architect of St. Joseph Church.

 

St. Joseph Church was erected in 1834 for the Twelfth Congregational Society. 

 

St. Joseph Church was purchased by the Boston Roman Catholic Diocese in 1862. 

 

1824      

The Twelfth Congregational Society (Unitarian) retained the renowned architect Alexander Parris to erect a Church for a cost of $34,000. It was called upon completion "the most elegant Church in Boston". Some other of Alexander Parris' buildings still stand today.

St. Paul's Cathedral, (Episcopal) Tremont Street; Faneuil Hall District:
The Great Hall (White building) with its two red brick flanking buildings.
Church of the Presidents in Quincy Square containing the Burial Crypts of Presidents; John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

 

1758

November 2, Fr. L' Abbe de la Porterie said the First Mass on Green Street in the West End.

1847

Fr. Ambrose Manahan of the Cathedral staff rented a small house over a store at Garden and Phillips Street in the West End.

 

OUR BEGINNING

1849

Fr. Manahan rented a hayloft owned by Charles Parkman of Bridge Street (formerly North Anderson Street) to accommodate 300 children for Religious Instruction.

1851

First Public Mass said in the Hayloft on Bridge Street in the West End.

1854

The Congregation moved to the first floor of the Organ factory at North Grove and Cambridge Street.

1862

Under Bishop Fitzpatrick, Fr. Williams, the Administrator, purchased this building with organ for $27,000. The Unitarian Congregation contested this sale. The Courts upheld the sale.

This was one of the four churches purchased that year. St. Stephen's in the North End was another one.

1862

November 9, Archbishop John J. Williams dedicated our St. Joseph Church. The Reverend Patrick T. O'Reilly was named its first pastor. He was later appointed Bishop of Springfield, MA.

1868

Number 2 and number 4 Allen Street were purchased to enlarge the Church to its present size. Number 6 Allen Street was purchased to build the Rectory.

1884

A "Hook Hastings" Organ was purchased and is still in use at St. Joseph Church.

1886

The future Cardinal O'Connell was assigned to St. Joseph Church as a Curate for 7 years.

1900

At the turn of the century, St. Joseph Church was serving 12,000 Parishioners.

1950

Urban flight increased. Parts of the West End were taken for a viaduct, widening of Cambridge Street, and expansion of Mass General Hospital. Finally, the City of Boston took the entire West End for urban renewal.

1960

In 1960 St. Joseph Church and Rectory stood alone amid the rubble of the decimated Old West End.

1962

St. Joseph Church celebrates its centennial.

1968

Fr. Gerald Bucke arrives to a decimated parish and gives 31 years to rejuvenate St. Joseph Parish.

1974

The upper church was decorated with funds from the McCrossen Family. Cardinal Medeiros celebrates the reopening of the upper church.

1987

The Parish celebrates its 125th anniversary. Cardinal Law celebrates Mass with many returning West Enders

1999

April 15, 1999, Father Gerald Bucke died after dedicating 31 years to the leadership of the St. Joseph Parish community.

1999

October 19, 1999, Father Gabriel Troy, Missionary and Director of the Society of St. James the Apostle, was installed as Pastor of St. Joseph Parish.

2006

Father Gabriel Troy ends his time as Pastor in June of that year. The parish hall is reconstructed and restored

 

Father Daniel C. O'Connell from the office of Worship & Spiritual Life and The Catholic Television Network is named the new Pastor. Ceiling of Church is redrawn and painted in order to restore architectural integrity and artistic design. Grand staircase is reopened to allow easy access between church and parish hall.

 

 

 

 

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