About Our Parish

A Brief History of Immaculate Conception Parish
By Michael Gardiner

The roots of Immaculate Conception Parish can be traced to 1845. Weymouth was then a "mission" of St. Mary's parish in West Quincy. According to The Pilot, the pastor of St. Mary's, Rev. Bernard Carraher, celebrated Sunday Masses in South Weymouth on November 16th of that year and in East Weymouth on December 21. On December 10, 1848, Rev. John T. Roddan was appointed Pastor of St. Mary's in West Quincy; he had been ordained in May of that year, and was editor of The Pilot.

In 1854, Fr. Roddan moved his residence to St. Mary's in Randolph, and Weymouth then became a mission of Randolph. By the year 1854, Fr. Roddan had reported that there were 700 Catholics living in Weymouth. Rev. Aaron L. Roche replaced Fr. Roddan in Randolph in November of 1856; Fr. Roche built the original St. Francis Xavier in 1859. In 1863, Fr. Roche was transferred to St. Bridget's in Abington, and Weymouth became a mission of that parish. On July 16, 1868, Weymouth was detached from St. Bridget's and established as a separate parish. Rev. John Hannigan was Weymouth's first pastor, serving from 1866 to 1869.

Rev. Hugh P. Smyth became pastor at Weymouth in 1869. Fr. Smyth built eight churches on the South Shore: the historians Lord, Sexton, and Harrington, authors of History of the Archdiocese of Boston In the Various Stages of Its Development 1604 to 1943, describe him as a "heroic church-builder." He was forced into that role soon after he arrived in Weymouth, as recorded by Lord, Sexton and Harrington:

His regime began with a disaster: three months after his arrival, St. Francis Xavier's burned down (November 27, 1869). Far from being discouraged, the young pastor at once announced his determination not only to replace the edifice destroyed, but to provide churches for each of the three chief Weymouth villages, and also one for Hingham. He was as good as his word - even better. A drive to collect funds was happily launched with a fair, which proved "an unprecedented success" (for the South Shore) and which netted six thousand dollars. And almost immediately a great campaign of lot-buying and church-building began.

By the early 1870s, Masses were being celebrated at Randall's Hall in East Weymouth, which was part of the Canterbury Shoe Shop. This was near the site of the original Immaculate Conception church. According to Immaculate Conception Church, A Heritage of Faith and Devotion, a brief history compiled in 1979, the land where the original Immaculate Conception church was to be located was purchased in 1872 and work on the foundation was then begun. Once the cornerstone had been laid, Mass was celebrated in the church basement. Archbishop Williams dedicated the completed church on the Feast of Christ the King, November 23, 1879. The completed building cost $25,000 and could seat 700 people.

1882 was the year in which the town of Weymouth was divided into two parishes. Rev. Jeremiah E. Millerick became Immaculate's first resident pastor, with North Weymouth as a mission, while Fr. Smyth remained pastor of Sacred Heart, with St. Francis as its mission in South Weymouth. On July 17, 1883 Fr. Smyth was transferred to Boston and Rev. John J. Murphy was appointed as his replacement at Sacred Heart.

Rev. Daniel S. Healy replaced Fr. Millerick in 1887, and remained pastor of Immaculate Conception until his death on July 5, 1892. Rev. Michael E. Begley was then appointed, and he too remained as pastor until his death in April of 1901. A Heritage of Faith and Devotion also records the following information about the ensuing pastorates:

Father James Allison, then treasurer of the Archdiocese of Boston, was appointed pastor in 1901 and served the rapidly growing parish until 1915. He was ably and conscientiously assisted by the first regular curate assigned to Immaculate, the Reverend Maurice Lynch, and, subsequently, by the Reverend James Sliney. For short periods, Father Smyth had received assistance from Father Leddy, and Father Millerick was assisted for a time by Father Stephen Keegan. During Father Allison's administration, the construction of a new church in North Weymouth was started to replace the old Mission Building. Unfortunately, Father Allison did not live to see it completed.

In 1915, the late William Cardinal O'Connell, Archbishop of Boston, appointed the Reverend Cornelius I. Riordan as pastor to succeed Father Allison. The new Saint Jerome Church was completed and dedicated in this year also.

At this time, the second decade of the 20th century, the number of immigrants from Italy in the parish grew significantly. Fr. Riordan wrote to Cardinal O'Connell on May 31, 1917, to request a third priest for the parish. In response to this request, the Cardinal appointed the Rev. Carl F. Dunbury, a priest recently ordained in Rome, as an Assistant in East Weymouth, effective Wednesday, July 25, 1917.

Another concern of Fr. Riordan's was that the children of his parish be given appropriate models of Catholic behavior, and with the support of the parishioners he decided to build a school. In a letter to the Archdiocese dated July 25,1921, Fr. Riordan noted that many of his parishioners were requesting that he build a parochial school; some of them were either moving from East Weymouth or sending their children to relatives in towns with parochial schools; 16 children of his parish were traveling to Weymouth Landing to attend the school at Sacred Heart Parish. In response to this letter, the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese informed Riordan that Cardinal O'Connell had granted "permission to obtain plans, specifications, and estimates, as to building a parochial school in your Parish," and that these plans were to be submitted for approval to the chancery.On April 24, 1923, after submitting his plans to the chancery, Fr. Riordan received final permission to begin work on the school: "His Eminence says that these plans meet with his approval and that you may proceed to build the school at an approximate cost of $65,000." The school was built on the corner of Madison and Commercial Streets.

The building process was a gradual one. The school building was not ready to receive children by the summer of 1925, and therefore Fr. Riordan converted the carriage room of the rectory stable into a schoolroom. The school opened with just first and second grade classes; the teachers were the Sisters of St. Joseph, for whom a convent had been set up in a cottage on Madison Street. As noted in A Heritage of Faith and Devotion, "Fr. Riordan did not live to see the first five grades enter the new [school] building in September, 1928. He died in January of that year." 1928 was also the year in which St. Jerome was established as a separate parish.

On March 14, 1928, Father Michael J. Derby became Immaculate's pastor. During Fr. Derby's pastorate, the final three grades of the school were added, one per year, and repairs were made to the church property. Fr. Derby was succeeded by the Rev. Edward P. Murphy, who became pastor on September 21, 1931. The present convent was erected during Fr. Murphy's pastorate.

Rev. John W. Mahoney became pastor in 1941 when Fr. Murphy was transferred to St. Margaret's in Dorchester. Fr. Mahoney helped to develop the parish grounds during his pastorate. A Heritage of Faith and Devotion records that during his pastorate, "with Father Mahoney's own personal physical labor and that of a few faithful parishioners, three shrines were built . . ." A future pastor, Fr. Peter T. Martocchio, who was a young parishioner at the time, worked on building the grotto, which was completed in the fall of 1944. This shrine was soon incorporated into the liturgical life of the parish. In a letter dated March 28, 1945, Fr. Mahoney requested permission from Archbishop Cushing to have liturgies there:

If it please Your Excellency, I respectfully request permission to plan to conduct our weekly parish novena, Including Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, at Our Lady's Shrine, when weather permits, during the summer months.

Moreover, it would be desirable to have Your Excellency's permission to celebrate Mass at the shrine of our Patroness for the Parish heroic dead, on such days as Memorial Day, First Communion Day and the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady.

Archbishop Cushing granted permission provided that "every canonical condition is met for complete reverence to the Blessed Sacrament."

The parish priests were kept busy at Immaculate during the 1940s with Novenas, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, CYO, and weddings.

Fr. Mahoney increased the parish property during his pastorate by purchasing some land that was situated between the rectory and the school in 1944. In 1945 he purchased an undervalued vacant lot between the church and the East Weymouth Savings Rank, and again in 1949 Fr. Mahoney enlarged the parish property by purchasing some land between the convent and the parish school. In addition to increasing the church property, Fr. Mahoney saw to the regular upkeep of the physical plant. Most notable was the renovation of the upper church in 1947 to mark the 75th anniversary of the laying of the original cornerstone.

Rev. John J. Donegan became pastor in September of 1951, when Fr. Mahoney was transferred to St. Catherine's Parish in Somerville. During Fr. Donegan's pastorate, the parish properties were further increased by large parcel of land, now a part of the church parking lot, from the East Weymouth Savings Bank.

Rev. John F. Welsh was appointed pastor in 1956 after the death of Fr. Donegan. Fr. Welsh again increased the parish grounds by purchasing the land that is now the parking lot behind the school and in front of the Msgr. Hackett Center.

Fr. Welsh died on Feb. 29, 1964 and Msgr. Edmund F. Hackett, formerly rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, became Immaculate's next pastor on March 17, 1964. The following excerpt from A Heritage of Faith and Devotion provides a summary of Msgr. Hackett's years:

Plans began almost immediately after Monsignor Hackett's arrival for the erection of a new church and parish center, and the firm of Holmes and Edwards of Boston was selected as architects. At about this time, many liturgical changes were being implemented following the Second Vatican Council -- such as the positioning of the altar -- and these changes had to be considered in the building of the new church.

Many parcels of land were purchased including the tenement block on Broad Street, the Ventre property between the rectory and the school, three parcels of land on Madison Street and one on Broad Street, and the barn and land at the rear of property on Cottage Street. There was also the gift of land next to the rectory from American Legion Post #79. The convent situated in the middle of the property was an obstacle to all building and had to be moved to its present site so that the church and center could be located properly. Eventually, Thomas H. Fallon and Sons Co., Inc. was the low bidder and was awarded the contract for the two buildings.

Originally, the liturgical changes seemed to call for a fan-shaped church. The architects opposed this shape on structural grounds and suggested that the fan be opened up completely to form a round structure. With the possibility of tension rings and laminated beams, there would be no obstructions inside the main church, and thus, the present building was decided upon.

Much research went into the preparation for the Parish Center to make it an all-purpose building for every form of parish activity. All this was two years in the making and finally in June of 1967 the two buildings were ready. The old church was demolished, the grounds were landscaped, and the new additions were functional. The Main Altar was consecrated on June 2, 1967.

Eventually, as the parish moved into the seventies, it was faced with the financial and vocation crisis that affected so much of the parochial school system As a result, in 1972, seventh and eighth grades were elimated, due partly to declining enrollment and partly to the archdiocesan emphasis on future secondary schools rather than elementary schools. The following year, with the approval of the Diocesan School Board and Cardinal Cushing, the parish school was closed. The building was then used for CCD classes and general parish use. In more recent years, the building housed the Weymouth Food Pantry, and was sold in 2014 for residential development with the stipulation in the purchase and sale agreement that the Weymouth Food Pantry would continue to operate from the basement of the building.

Msgr. Hackett remained pastor for over 20 years, and under his administration Immaculate Conception parish flourished. He died on Friday, June 22, 1984.

On September 18, 1984, Rev. Peter T. Martocchio became pastor. Fr. Martocchio grew up in this parish as a boy, was ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 2, 1957 and served his first assignment as an Assistant at St John The Evangelist Parish in North Chelmsford. He then served at St. Edward's parish in Brockton, and later at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Quincy. He remained there until he came to Immaculate.

Fr. Martocchio's pastoral thrust was to lead the parish in reaching out to the both the parish community and the local community at large. For example, one parish ministry that he inaugurated was the Cable TV Committee. This committee produces a half-hour show which appears weekly on the Weymouth Community Access Cable channel. The show highlights parish and community activities, as well as features on services and outreach programs of the Boston Archdiocese. Fr. Martocchio also began our Newsletter committee, which publishes a newsletter featuring articles about parish functions and activities.

Fr. Bill Salmon served as pastor from 2004-2013. Fr. Salmon's support for World Youth Day led to two pilgrimages to Sydney in 2008 and the other to Madrid in 2011. He also made physical improvements to the property, including a new roof in 2010.

In 2013, Immaculate Conception Parish and Saint Jerome Parish became a Collaborative under the Archiocese of Boston's Disciples in Mission Pastoral Plan. Fr. Joe Rossi served as pastor for the first year of the Collaborative. In 2014, Fr. John Currie became the pastor, serving the Catholic Weymouth Collaborative until 2016, when the Most Rev. John A. Dooher was named pastor.

This then, is the state of Immaculate Conception Parish today. The parish today may be physically and demographically different from the parish of yesteryear, but its members still share a common faith as they seek Jesus through Mary: Ad Jesum, per Mariam.

 


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