The Catholic Church in Lowell

Lowell has many churches. Several of the Roman Catholic edifices have the architectural beauty of some of the finest of European cathedrals, and the clergy shepherd their flocks carefully. from George Kenngott, “The Record of a City”

Thus wrote George Kenngott in his 1912 book “The Record of a City: A Social Survey of Lowell Massachusetts.” The book is packed with important information about the city of Lowell as it was exactly one hundred years ago which helps you get past the often cringe-inducing racial and ethnic observations that were presumably mainstream thought of the day. While Kenngott’s focus was not the religious practices of the city’s residents, he does provide a snapshot of the community’s religious institutions. For the Roman Catholic religion, he counted 13 churches “including five French, one Portuguese and two Polish.”

I mention Kenngott’s observations of one hundred years ago because of an article in yesterday’s Globe North section regarding a new proposal that would “group” the city’s Catholic parishes together or with other parishes outside the city. While this development would be of interest to residents who are active in these parishes, it should also be noted by anyone interested in the city’s history because the various Roman Catholic parishes, through the years, were central to the identity of a majority of residents. That’s largely changed now, but it’s still a vital part of our history. Plus, this present grouping of some of the surviving Lowell parishes with those in adjoining towns reflects the migration of Catholics from the city to the suburbs.

With that, here are the proposed groupings (all parishes are in Lowell unless otherwise noted):

  • St Francis Assisi (Dracut) with St Michael
  • St Marguerite D’Youville (Dracut) and St Mary Magdalen (Tyngsborough) and St Rita
  • St Anne (Littleton) and St Catherine of Alexandria (Westford)
  • St Anthony, Holy Trinity and Immaculate Conception
  • St Margaret and Holy Family and St Patrick

That’s a long way from the 13 Roman Catholic Churches counted by George Kenngott back in 1912

6 Responses to The Catholic Church in Lowell

  1. Renee Aste says:

    “Till we built Jerusalem” is a book on urbanism and Catholic Culture.

    I’ve known about the groupings for some time and understand why. If my parish closed anytime in the future I wouldn’t fight it, just relocate, but I don’t find the suburbs attractive.

    The population isn’t there.

  2. John Quealey says:

    Our folks built the churches with nickles and dimes now we cannot keep them up.

  3. Daniel Patrick Murphy says:

    In Sunshine and In Shadows

    In the darkness of Saint Peter’s Church,
    A boy kneels, a voice fills his silence.
    In stillness and gold, she arrives
    Through shimmering candles.
    Green, white, and orange shadows
    Press her cool hand to the nape of his neck.
    He is frozen by a low sound
    Hovering on boyhood shoulders.

    She murmurs a familiar song.
    O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…

    As she bends to kiss him,
    Candlelight wavers in the darkness.
    Her hand touches his cheek,
    And he feels sad and strange,
    Listening to the hours’ calling,
    Watching her fade into moments
    Of gilded hues, a drowning orange sky,
    A window of green and white surfaces.

    A familiar tune leaves only
    A relic to kindle the darkness.

    –Daniel Patrick Murphy

  4. Renee Aste says:

    John, closed churches get recycled. A whole church was moved from Buffalo to Georgia. I was at the new and humble administrative offices of the Archdiocese two months ago, somes items we placed there from the area. It is at a dead end of an office park of 128, near the South Shore Mall and very visible from the highway.

  5. John Quealey says:

    Renee,I was at Sacred Heart for sixty-two years and the Holy Family for the past eight years my faith has not changed only the building is different.