in 1861. Fr. Patrick Healy was appointed pastor and for five years served
the Catholics in an area that now comprises over twenty parishes. Mass
was celebrated in Monson once a month. In the year following his appointment,
Fr. Healy began collecting funds for a church building. The deed of the
land purchased was signed on Christmas eve, December 24, 1862 and construction
started in early 1863.
was an ambitious venture: labor and material costs were high, for it was
the third and darkest year of the Civil War; yet, Father Healy dared to
plan a stone church for the little congregation of less than one hundred
Palmer Journal of June 13, 1863, has this notice under the heading of
"Catholic Church in Monson":
are laying the foundation of a Catholic church in Monson. It is in the
South village, and the building will go up the present summer. It will
be capable of holding 500 people."
of New York drew the plans, (later the architect of the Boston Cathedral),
with the builders being Trainor Brothers. It was to be constructed of
gneiss, a native rock resembling granite, and cut from the local quarry,
Flynt Granite Company (opened in 1809, it was the same quarry responsible
for the stone used to build the US Armory in Springfield). The structure
was roughly finished in the fall of 1863 and, during the winter, Mass
was celebrated in the new building once a month.
church was dedicated on Palm Sunday (March 20, 1864). Father John J. Williams,
then pastor of St. James Church in Boston, afterward the great Archbishop
of Boston, was appointed by Bishop John B. Fitzpatrick to act in his stead
at the dedication. The sermon was preached by Fr. James A. Healy, then
Rector of Boston Cathedral, later Bishop of " St. Patrick Parish - Monson,
1864 - Established: 1878
Now Declared a National Catholic Historical Site
history of St. Patrick's Parish begins with the celebration of the first
Mass on September 8, 1850, in the storeroom adjoining the South Monson
"Branch" Mill (a woolen mill located on Elm Street, still used as a wool
room and office in 1900 ~ no longer a landmark as it was destroyed). The
Mass was to have been said in a dwelling house, but by the kindness of
a Mr. Holmes, of the mill, a storeroom was cleared and fitted with crude
altar on an unpainted platform of pine boards and seats. Catholic families
were few in the area, but a large body of Catholic men were employed in
building the New London and Northern Railroad. About sixty Catholics attended
Mass. For some it was the first time they had seen a priest, or attended
Mass, since they left their homes in Ireland.
mother of Fr. Thomas O'Keefe (pastor here from 1894 ~ 1941) was privileged
to welcome the first priest to town, Fr. J. J. Dougherty of Springfield.
Fr. Dougherty was responsible for the spiritual welfare of Catholics from
Chicopee to Worcester. He had been contacted by Bishop Fitzpatrick of
Boston as a result of a letter of inquiry concerning the lack of Mass
and Sacraments in this area sent to Fr. Boyce, of St. John's Church, Worcester,
by his kinsman, Mr. John Murphy of Monson. For the ten years following,
Fr. William Blenkinsop (a saintly and gentle man prominent here in the
early days) came from Chicopee (St. Matthew ~ now Holy Name) to celebrate
Mass three or four times a year; his parish extended east to Spencer,
embracing all the towns between Spencer and Chicopee, with the exception
parish of Ware (St. William ~ now All Saints), including all the towns
from Spencer to Springfield, waand, Maine for twenty-five years. His sermon
was lavish in praise of the pastor and people who had built "this most
wonderful little stone Catholic church" and declared that he could hardly
believe that a congregation that could fit in it could have built it.
1866, Father Healy moved to Chicopee. In 1870 the Worcester, Springfield,
Pittsfield area was separated from the Boston Diocese to become the new
Diocese of Springfield, with Patrick T. O'Reilly, Pastor of St. John's
Church, Worcester, as Bishop. At that time, Father Healy, the planner
of St. Patrick's Church, was appointed as Vicar General of the new Diocese.
After Father Healy's promotion to Chicopee, the Ware parish was divided
and Monson became a mission of Palmer (first ministered by St. Thomas,
then St. Mary in Thorndyke and lastly St. Bartholomew in Bondsville).
Destined to be a mission from Palmer for fourteen years, Mass was said
here about twice a month.
Healy's interest in the church continued and through his efforts a change
was made. As Vicar General of the Diocese, and acting Bishop during the
summer of 1878 while Bishop O'Reilly was in Rome, the parish of Palmer
was divided. The upper villages of Palmer formed one parish and Palmer
and Monson another. Two months later Monson was made a separate parish
and Fr. Jeremiah McCarthy appointed as pastor.
in St. Patrick's oldest record book are the following messages written
and recorded by Father McCarthy when he arrived here:
parish of Monson comprising the township of Monson, together with South
Wilbraham and Wales was created into a parish on the second day of September
1878. I assume the charge on the 2nd day of September. It formerly formed
a part of the parish of Thorndyke, where the records of the past must
be sought for. N.B. For the past two months, however, this parish formed
part of the new parish of Palmer of which Rev. Thomas Sullivan is pastor.
following is a copy of the letter from the Rev. Patrick Healy, V.G.
of the Diocese of Springfield appointing me pastor.
Rev. P. T. O'Reilly, Bishop of the Diocese being absent in Europe at
the time. Chicopee,
August 29th, 1878
and Dear Sir: I
now appoint you pastor of Monson, with the missions South Wilbraham
and Wales. Please be there on Monday. Yours
Patrick Healy, V.G."
Thomas O'Keefe was appointed pastor in October, 1894. He was born in Ware
on January 3, 1860. One of Fr. Thomas O'Keefe's earliest achievements
was the beautifying of Bethany Cemetery. A mortuary Chapel, of Gothic
design, (completely renovated and dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows in
1998) a gift of Mr. John Rafferty, and the stone archway (renovated in
1996) dedicated to his brother, Fr. John O'Keefe, were erected in 1923.
There are many other memorials in the same cemetery, as well as in the
church, that remind us of Fr. O'Keefe's achievements.
purchase of the Chaffee property in 1895 completed the church grounds
and gave space for the erection of the Sunday School building (there was
also a house and barn in this area; all these buildings have since been
demolished, and the land converted into a parking area). By the spring
of 1997, it was found that all the wooden joists and flooring of the church
had decayed and had to be replaced; to prevent this from happening again,
he had a low cellar dug under the entire church building and reconstructed
with heavier timbers. When the repairs necessary for the safety of the
building were completed, the people insisted on an entire renovation of
the interior. For the first phase, frescoing was done by Schumaker of
Boston, two side altars were erected, electric fixtures were installed
and carpets for the sanctuary and side aisles were laid.
1911, to his lasting memory, Fr. O'Keefe replaced the wooden spire with
an appropriate granite tower. A glance at the pictures of the church as
it was and as it is show how great a change has been made by the removal
of the old steeple. The new tower is a reduced copy of the tower of All
Saints Church at Aldwinkle, Northamptonshire, England, the birthplace
of John Dryden.
big clock, as well as the bell, were transferred from the wooden spire
to the new granite tower (in 1965 both were electrified and the bell automatically
rang out the Angelus every day). The interior of the church was given
special treatment as well. The choir gallery was removed, the organ pipes
covered, new stained glass windows from Munich, Germany were installed
and marble from Italy embellished the sanctuary ~ the altar, altar rail,
the beautiful statues of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, the Pieta and
the Adoring Angels were installed. (The donors of these gifts are noted
on the marble scrolls located in the side vestibules of the church). By
1920 this final phase of renovation was completed.
was a blessing that none of these beautiful installations were destroyed
by the blaze that broke out on August 26, 1928. At the time there was
a low ceiling hiding the roof trusses. In the "tunnel" that this formed
with the roof above it, the fire, starting in the organ, spread very rapidly.
Before the firemen could reach the conflagration, the entire superstructure
was a mass of flame. Their energy and skill confined the blaze to the
top level. Some massive beams did fall, blazing, to the floor; but no
irreparable harm was done. There was considerable damage but, by the mercy
of God, the most important items ~ the altar, Stations, windows and statues
~ were safe and sound. After the fire it looked more beautiful than before.
The beautiful oak trusses and woodwork that can be seen on the superstructure
of the church is the result of careful workmanship. It took ten months
to repair what had been destroyed in a few hours. Fortunately, the edifice
had been adequately insured and, even though burdened by the woes of a
frightening depression, the parishioners rallied to the cause of their
church and its needs.
Thomas O'Keefe died August 24, 1941 and his body is interred at Bethany
Cemetery, in front of the Chapel. His brother, Fr. John O'Keefe, and members
of the O'Keefe family are interred on the southern knoll of the "Old" Cemetery across Bethany road.
Henry Burke was appointed pastor on December 1, 1946. In his time, the
Hampden mission of St. Mary's became an independent parish on June 24,
1951 with Fr. John W. Shea as its first pastor. Two years later, on May
1, 1953, the other missions of Wales, Holland and Brimfield were separated
from St. Patrick's forming a new union with residence in Brimfield. Fr.
William Breen was St. Christopher's first pastor.
February 4, 1967, Fr. J. Andrew Grady became the Administrator of St.
Patrick's with Fr. Hoey in residence; less than one year later he was
named pastor. At the same time, Fr. Hoey retired as Pastor Emeritus in
residence living here happily until his death on December 28, 1974.
was a time of "renewal" in the Church, universally and locally. The parish
hall (the former Green St. School, purchased in 1929, which had been acquired
during Fr. O'Keefe's tenure) needed major reconstruction and refurbishing
to make it into an efficient Parish Hall (previously named "Columbia Hall" by Father O'Keefe because of the association of Columbus with the Knights
of Columbus and the Patricia Circle Daughters of Isabella which regularly
met there). Some remodeling was finished in the rectory and a garage was
were now being formulated for the reconstruction and "updating" of the
Church Sanctuary to fall in line with the new Guidelines for the Celebration
of the Liturgy issued following the Second Vatican Council. In the Sanctuary,
a dark green marble floor and presiding platform was constructed by the
Bannon Marble Company. The frontal of the original altar, beautiful carvings
of The Sacrificial and Resurrected Lamb on the Book With Seven Seals (found
in the Christian Scriptures in John's Book of Revelation) and two panels
of wheat and grapes (symbols of the bread and wine used for the Eucharist)
along with four marble pillars, were reconstructed to form the base for
the new Altar of Sacrifice. A new mensa, an altar slab or "table top",
of Vermont marble was added to complete the altar. A lectern was designed
and constructed, as was the credence table, from parts of the original
altar. The marble font was placed in the Sanctuary to be used for the
celebration of Baptism and the gateway was widened to facilitate the new
Jeddie P. Brooks was named pastor on May 21, 1994. Since Fr. Jeddie's
arrival much has been done to refurbish, re-construct and renovate the
extensive properties and buildings which make up the parish...and much
remains to be accomplished.
the past year, 1997~1998, the Spiritual Life Commission and the Family
and Community Concerns Commission of the Parish Pastoral Council worked
on creating a "Mission Statement" to reflect what the parish is about
and who its members are. The fruit of their prayer and labors is as follows:
are a Roman Catholic community that shows our faith through love, forgiveness,
healing and compassion as taught by our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our parishioners'
willingness to share their time and talent is what makes us a truly rich
parish. It is by these works and actions, and not only by our words, that
we would like to be viewed. It is our hope that we will be humble in our
endeavors and that our compassion will include all who are in need of
it. We strive to grow in our daily commitment to become better members
of God's family. Called and led by the Spirit, this Community seeks to
know and celebrate Jesus through Word, Worship and Service. We invite
anyone who shares our beliefs to become members of St. Patrick's unique
of Springfield and
St. Patrick's Parish
Revs. Patrick Thomas O'Reilly, 1870~1892; Thomas Daniel Beaven, 1892~1920;
Thomas M. O'Leary, 1921~1949; Christopher J. Weldon, 1950~1977; Joseph
F. Maguire, 1977~ 1991 (Bishop Emeritus); John A. Marshall, 1992~1994;
Thomas L. Dupre, 1995. Prior to being Erected as a separate Diocese in
1870, this territory was administered by the Bishops of Boston. While
St. Patrick's was a mission, they were the Most Rev. John Bernard Fitzpatrick,
1844~1866 and Most Rev. John Joseph Williams, 1866~1907 (created first
Archbishop of Boston 1875).
Administrators and Assistants:
of the early years, with the date of their appointments, were the Reverends
William Long, 1884; William McCaughan, 1886; Humphrey Wren, 1889; William
Foley, 1890; Dennis Mullins, 1893; John S. Nelligan, 1894; Francis Reilly,
Associates who labored in Monson from the turn of the Century make a long
list: Reverends P. J. O'Malley, 1900; Michael P. Kavanagh, 1906; William
Foran, 1907; John Sellig, 1909; M. C. Carey, 1910; James B. Donohue, 1912;
Jeremiah F. Sullivan, Sept. 1922~Oct. 1927; James B. Kennedy, Oct. 1926~Aug.
1927; Ralph O'Neill, Aug. 1927~Aug. 1929; John F. Finneran, Aug. 1929~July
1930; Thomas P. Griffin, July 1930~July 1939; Michael L. Carney, June
1935~Oct. 1935; Thomas J. Tunney, Oct. 1935~July 1941; Leonard P. Burke,
July 1939~July 1941; John E. Murphy, July 1941~July 1942; George R. Dudley,
July 1941~Dec. 1951; James J. Flahive, Dec. 1951~Nov. 1953; Joseph C.
Cassidy, Nov. 1953~Oct. 1955; Thomas J. O'Connor, Sept. 1955~April 1960;
Edward M. Kennedy, April 1960~Feb. 1967; Louis E. Cote, July~Oct. 1964;
George E. O'Connell, May 1967~Jan. 1968; John J. Nicholson, Jan. ~ Nov.
Pastors of this great Parish are the Reverends Jeremiah McCarthy, Sept.
1878; James Kelley, 1881; John Lee, 1885; Thomas O'Keefe, 1894; Ralph
O'Neill, 1942; Henry Burke, 1946; Henry McCormick, 1953; Richard T. Hoey,
1955; Edward M. Kennedy (Adm.) 1964; J. Andrew Grady, (Adm.) 1967, Pastor
1968; Ralph Adair (Adm.) 1981; Richard O'Toole, 1981; Clarence Forand
(Adm.) 1994; Jeddie P. Brooks, 1994 to October 2013, Fr. John J. Brennan, 2013 to present.