St. Paul Parish History
On October 21, 1906, Rev. Patrick Callahan, Pastor of Saint John Church, Wellesley, gathered the few Catholics living in the western part of the town for the first regular services of what was to be known as Saint Paul Mission. For the first few years, this small group of the faithful met for worship in Odd Fellows Hall on Central St. Three years later, the increasing numbers compelled a move to larger quarters over a garage on Dana St. – now Cameron St.
In 1912, Saint Paul Mission registered 187 families – a total of 1044 persons. Rev. Leo Knapp, Pastor of St. John Church, recognizing that the growing Catholic community in Wellesley would soon warrant another parish, purchased a site on Washington St.
Two parcels of land opposite Town Hall Park were secured. The first parcel included the land on which the church building, school, parish hall and parking area stand today. It was purchased in 1914 from an owner who had bought the land from Boston University in 1902. The second parcel contains the area where the rectory now stands and was also purchased in 1902.
On August 10,1915, ground was broken for the new church and construction began. The building was designed by Joseph McGuinness and reflected a typical country church of English design, much like those found about Wells in southern England. It possessed dignity, simplicity and beauty in keeping with its setting in the Town of Wellesley.
On Sunday, June 4, 1916 the first Mass was celebrated in the new church. A procession from the old chapel opened the doors to the new. Later, on November 12, 1916, the church was blessed and the cornerstone laid. William Cardinal O’Connell presided at this event.
Saint Paul Mission continued to be served by the priests of Saint John the Evangelist Parish until 1922, when rev. Edward J. Welch was named as the first pastor of Saint Paul Church. During his administration a new rectory was built adjacent to the church, replacing one a short distance away which had been used for several years.
Father Welch was succeeded by Rev. Edmund Daly in 1927. Father Daly was succeeded in 1931 by Rev. Ambrose A. Dore. At that time there were 278 families enrolled in the parish.
As the parish flourished, there was need for a center for the many activities taking place. Rev. Joseph J. Smith, the pastor in 1938, built a parish hall behind the rectory. At the time of this addition to the parish plant there were 391 families registered in the parish. Rev. Eric McKenzie succeeded Father Smith as pastor. He remained only two years at Saint Paul and was later named Auxiliary Bishop of Boston.
Dr. Robert H. Lord became pastor in 1944 and remained until his untimely death in May, 1954. Dr. Lord came to Saint Paul Parish with distinguished credentials. A convert to the faith, a professor of history at Harvard, an advisor to President Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference, professor and vice-rector of Saint John Seminary, and a noted author, Dr. Lord brought to the parish a new level of intellectual growth founded on faith. During his ten years at Saint Paul, he took a personal interest in Wellesley’s need for a new library and contributed to many other town organizations involved with the cultural and intellectual needs of its citizens. He was named Domestic Prelate in 1950.
Msgr. Lord was instrumental, in 1948, in establishing a new mission to serve the northwest section of the parish, as well as an area of Natick. In 1950, the mission separated from Saint Paul Parish to become Saint James the Great Parish.
Msgr. Lord established a parish school in 1953 under the administration of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. Kindergarten, first and second grades were begun in 1954. A grade was added each year until the first class of Saint Paul School graduated in 1961. Msgr. Lord did not live to see the opening of the school in 1954.
Rev. Edward Horan completed the construction of the school. In 1959, a new pastor, Rev. John Morrissey, acquired a former residence on Washington St. to serve as a convent for the sisters.
In 1968, when Msgr. Russell H. Davis was appointed pastor, the number of families registered was 850.
Msgr. Davis brought to the parish a wonderful talent and training for liturgical music. As professor of music at Saint John Seminary for many years, he influenced generations of seminarians destined to bring quality of music to parishes throughout the Archdiocese. At Saint Paul Church, he instituted new liturgical changes, installed a new pipe organ of the highest quality, and established a “Schola Cantorum”, and a music school for men and boys.
Msgr. Davis joined the Archdiocesan Choir to sing for Pope John Paul on the occasion of his visit to Boston in 1978.
In 1989, Rev. Joseph G. Lind was appointed pastor of Saint Paul Parish. Fr. Lind, a native of Wellesley, had been business manager of Saint John Seminary for twenty years prior to his appointment to Saint Paul. He added a wing to the rectory which provided meeting rooms, clergy offices, a consultation room and reception office, all separate from the living area of the rectory.
In 1988 the number of registered families reached 1,350, and it became necessary to increase the seating capacity of the church. This was achieved by adding a wing to each side of the church, making it cruciform design. Construction has been completed.
Msgr. Lind was named a Prelate of Honor by the Holy Father in January of 1998. In October 2002, Msgr. Lind retired as Pastor of Saint Paul parish.
In April 2003, Rev. Richard W. Fitzgerald was appointed pastor. He was ordained a priest in 1987 after studying at Blessed John XXIII Seminary for delayed vocations. Prior to his appointment as pastor, he had been assigned as parochial vicar in two parishes and had worked on the staff in the central administration of the Archdiocese. The parish continued to see consistent growth, and the tradition of maintaining the high quality of parish properties continued. The youth ministry program prospered, particularly in its participation in World Youth Day gatherings in Toronto, Cologne, Sydney, and Madrid and the establishment of the youth music ensemble has added to the tradition of fine music at Saint Paul Parish.
In 2013, Fr. Thomas Rafferty was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish, and in June of 2015, St. Paul Parish was joined with St. John the Evangelist Parish in the St. John – St. Paul Catholic Collaborative through the Disciples in Mission pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Boston.