Saint Mary's Church
from The History of Holden 1667-1941 by Florence Newell Prouty

St. Mary's Parish. In the year 1850, Reg. Father Mathew W. Gibson parish priest of St. John's Church, in Worcester came, at the request of the few Roman Catholics settled in the town of Holden, and said the first mass in Michael McLaughlin's house. This house is on North Main Street the third house to the west from the junction of Park Avenue and is now owned by (1976) Harold B. Hunt. During the years following until 1868, wherever the faithful could be gathered together, whether in private houses, or in the hall at Eagleville, or in the hall at the center of town, mass was said.

In 1867, Rev. Patrick O'Reilly, then pastor of St. John's in Worcester, since Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, confided to Rev. Thomas Griffin, his assistant, the care of the mission. In the same year, three acres of land, situated near the center of Holden, were purchased, and, on a portion of the land, the construction of a church was at once begun by Rev. Father Griffin. The size of the church was about sixty by thirty feet, and the cost $3500. The dedication took place August 16th, 1868 Rev. Father O'Reilly officiating. For three years this church was attended from St. John's in Worcester. In 1871 his mission of Holden was attached to West Boylston, where Rev. Anthony J. Derbuel was pastor. In 1874 when the parish of the Immaculate Conception was formed Holden became a part of his parish, and for ten years was under the care of Rev. Robert Walsh. Doing the administration of his priest the church was twice enlarged.

In 1884 the few Catholics of Holden had become numerous enough to support a priest of their own, and accordingly Holden was made parish and given for its first pastor, Rev. James F. McCloskey. During his stay of two years a parochial residence adjoining the church was purchased. The church itself was repaired and frescoed.

Rev. Father McCloskey was succeeded by Rev. Thomas F. Joyce. While making preparations for still further improvements in the church property, he was taken suddenly ill, after a long cold drive to tend to a dying man. He died January 1st, 1888. He was buried in the central lot of the cemetery. It should be stated that he is the first clergyman in the history of the town who died in active service.

In January 1888, Rev. John D. McGann was appointed to the care of the parish. Finding that the old church on account of its position did not accommodate the majority of parishioners, a new site for a church comprising some three acres of land, upon which was also a house well fitted for a parochial residence, was purchased at Jefferson in the fall of 1889 at a cost of $5000. Repairs were made and grading was done at a cost of about $2000. On April 5th, 1890, the cellar of the new church was begun, and the edifice was completed in June, 1891.

The church when built had a seating capacity of about five hundred. It is pleasing in design, being in style an adaptation of a Roman basilica. The architect was Stephen C. Earle of Worcester. Waldo E. Austin of Holden was the builder. Thomas Hennessey did the grading and the mason work. The cost of he building with all its furnishings, was $26,000. The large transept windows were the gifts of the men and women of the parish.

The consecration took place June 28th 1891. Splendid weather favored the ceremony which was largely attended by many who were not members of the church.

The services began at 10:30 a.m. with the usual solemn consecration dedicatory exercises. the bishop and assisting clergy marching in solemn procession around the exterior of he building, reciting prayers, and sprinkling holy water, followed by solemn high mass. This was sung by the following clergymen: Celebrant, Rev. Michael A. O'Kane, S. J., President of Holy Cross College; sub-deacon, Rev. Eugene F. Brosnihan of St. Ann's; master of ceremonies, Rev. John Redican of Cordaville.

The music of the mass was especially fine, members of St. Ann's, St Stephen's and Immaculate Conception choirs assisting the local choir.

The sermon of the day was preached by Very Rev. John J. Power, D.D.V.G., of S. Paul's Worcester. Father Power spoke in substance as follows:

"I congratulate you on this auspicious occasion which marks the success of your undertaking, the completion of your beautiful church. You have reason to be proud of such an edifice. Your pastor also, who has labored so diligently to bring this work to a successful issue, has reason to feel proud, and I congratulate him on what he has accomplished. But now that the worry, the labor, the sacrifice involved in the erection of this edifice are happily passed, the question properly arises, what is the motive that impelled you to undergo them? Why have you built this church? You will answer, to advance the glory of God, to erect a temple to he Most High, for which sacrifice, praise and prayer shall ascend as pleasing incense before His throne." (See Prouty pp. 49-51 for end of sermon.)

At the post communion, Rt. Rev. Bishop O'Reilly made a brief address of congratulation and the service continued. The church and parish were greatly prospered during the pastorate of Father McGann, and who became pastor (1902) of St. Paul's Church in Worcester when he was loved and respected by all classes and religious denominations.

The next pastor Rev. John F. Lee served actively until his death in 1913. Next came Rev. James Prendergast, who wmjoyed being pastor of the parish in which he was born. He died the first of April 1927 and was succeeded by Rev. Thomas H. McNamara in August that year. The following were young men born in the parish who were ordained and served other parishes:
Rev. M. Charles Carey
Rev. Patrick M. Doyle
Rev. Daniel Hennessey
Rev John Murphy
Rev. Albert Rivers

In the 1940's, St. May's served the town of Holden and mass was said in Princeton during the summer. For a number of years the priests attended the church in Rutland until c. 1940 when it became the parish of St. Patrick' s with its own resident pastor.