Category Archives: History

Father T.J. Danahy and the Church Dedication

I am indebted to parishioner Martha Phillips for discovering a key fact with regard to the renaming of St. Mary’s parish to “Mary Immaculate of Lourdes” at the new church’s dedication in 1910: it was in fulfillment of a vow Fr. Danahy had made.

His cousin, Elizabeth Cavanagh, said that Fr. Danahy damaged his vision while studying for the priesthood, and that he went to Lourdes where he regained his lost sight. He vowed then to build a church in honor of the Blessed Virgin. He built Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church in Newton Upper Falls, and served as its pastor for 33 years until his death. He died at the rectory at 76 years of age.


Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church as it looked at its Dedication (1910).
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church as it looked at its Dedication (1910).

Such a detail makes the re-naming of the parish church especially moving: to consider the element that this whole beautiful edifice of this church is itself a votive offering of thanksgiving by a miraculé, the church’s own pastor who received the healing of his sight at Lourdes.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for November 26, 2017

The Altar Rail: Our Place at the Lord’s Table

First, my childhood memories of receiving Holy Communion at the altar rail: I received my First Holy Communion in May of 1969 at St. Joseph’s Church in Needham. I was eight years old. The parish School Sisters, the Sisters of Charity of Halifax, were in charge of our catechism.

I remember well the instruction we were given on how to take Communion. You were to take your place kneeling at the altar rail and not look down the rail to see where the priest was. Instead you were to pray and to think about how you were going to receive Jesus. When you heard the priest about to come to you, you closed your eyes, held your head slightly back, and opened your mouth wide enough so that the priest could place the Host on your tongue. After you received it was important for you not to move until the person next to you had also received, so as not to disturb their Communion. Then you could go back to your pew, kneel down, and continue making your Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful rite of passage for a Catholic child. 

Several years later, the mid-1970’s, St. Joseph’s as with many other parishes stopped using the altar rail for Communion. We started queuing up in lines to receive Communion standing. I remember how jarring it felt. Vague explanations were given to us about the changes being in keeping with Vatican II. One such justification offered was: “We are a ‘Pilgrim People’ and so we should be standing to receive Communion.” 

When I got to the Seminary in 1983 I heard the altar rail spoken of in one-sidedly negative terms as a barrier between the people and the sanctuary. This was not how I remembered it nor did it take into account the good feelings I associated with Communion at the rail.

We restored the altar rail here at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish in 2010. This was part of the mandate I was given by Cardinal Sean: to put in an altar rail to accommodate the Traditional Latin Mass Community coming over from the Holy Trinity German Church in Boston.

I would like to offer here a more positive understanding of the place of the altar rail than the characterizations of it as a barrier or an oldfashioned practice which has no use in today’s Church outside of Traditional Mass communities. That is the understanding of the altar rail as our place at the Lord’s Table.

In the offering of Mass upon the altar there is a movement from the Sacrifice of the Cross to the Mystical Banquet of Christ the Lamb of God. At the time of Communion the Altar of Sacrifice is now transformed into this heavenly Table of the Lord. The altar rail represents the extension of the Banquet Table to where the people come in order to receive their Eucharistic Lord. To kneel or stand at that altar rail is to take your place at the Lamb’s High Feast (“Blessed are those who are called to the Supper of the Lord!”) At the altar rail, as at a banquet table, you have other guests beside you, re-enforcing the communitarian aspects of Christianity. 

It is a visually and physically striking enactment of the beautiful words of the Lord’s coming in St. John’s Apocalypse: “Behold, I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear My voice and open to Me the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him: and he with Me.” (Apoc. 3:20)  

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for August 20, 2017

The Fate of St. Elizabeth’s Center

The following article is from Village 14 and has not been modified. It is reproduced under the Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike:


Upper Falls is getting a community center!
by Jerry Reilly

Fabulous news in Upper Falls tonight.

The historic St. Elizabeths Center building on Elliot St is a 19th century Greek Revival style house owned by the Mary Immaculate church on Elliot St.  In recent years it has been vacant and its fallen into serious disrepair.

The property has been on the market recently and there’s been lots of worries in the neighborhood that it would get condo-ized, knocked down, or otherwise broken up or destroyed.

At tonight’s Upper Falls Area Council meeting, local resident Christopher Osborne turned up and announced his family’s plans for the building.  He and his sister Karen have an agreement to purchase of the building from the Catholic Church.  They’ve got a wonderful plan to set up a non-profit to run the property and use the first and second floor as a community center for Upper Falls.  They’ve got plans for the top floor and the basement being used for some combination of residential or commercial rental to fund the center on an ongoing basis.

The Osborne family is very well known here in Upper Falls.  Karen is a lifelong Upper Falls booster who funds and works on all sorts of neighborhood projects – most notably the annual summertime neighborhood cookout/concert in Hemlock Gorge.  Local hero Christopher Osborne is one of the founders and the master chef of the annual Feast of the Falls.  Like his sister, Christopher is another longtime pillar of the neighborhood.

They’ve got a long road ahead of them with all the various regulatory, zoning, etc challenges but the train has just left the station on this great neighborhood project and from what I heard, the neighborhood Area Council was thrilled at the news tonight.

Over the last year, our Newton Nomadic Theater has performed at the Waban Library Center, the Auburndale Community Library and the Hyde Center.  Seeing each of these community centers in action made me totally envious of those neighborhoods.  Each of those institutions function as the heart of their neighborhoods – with all sorts of groups and activities coming and going on a day to day basis.  It’s something I sorely missed here in Upper Falls.

I’m thrilled to hear that we may have something comparable here in Upper Falls thanks to the Osborne family.

Silver Jubilee of Ordination: An Occasion of Grateful Thanks

Father Charles Jeremiah Higgins, June 25, 1988
The Madonna by the artist Sassoferrato was the front of the prayer card for my priestly ordination.  The back of the card, together with the photograph taken for the Boston Pilot, appear above.  The words TOTUS TUUS (“Totally Yours”) are the motto from St. Louis de Montfort’s total consecration to Mary.  —Fr. Higgins

Ten years ago or so one of my former professors at the Seminary told an amusing story about himself with regard to the preparations for his 50th Anniversary celebration.  He was putting together a program and he brought the draft to the printer.  In it were two pictures: one of him at ordination and one as he was at 50 years ordained.  The woman at the counter pointed to the picture of the young priest and asked, “And who’s that?”.  “Uh, that’s me,” the priest replied.  After an awkward pause, the woman at the counter recovered cheerily: “It happens to us all!”

This past Tuesday, June 25th, I marked the happy occasion of my 25th Anniversary of priestly ordination.  This Sunday, at all the parish Masses, I am adding this thanksgiving intention, and asking you for the support of your prayers: for my perseverance and the perseverance of all priests, that we may be faithful, generous priests to the end of our days.

On Ordination Day, 25 years into the future seemed a long time out.  Looking back from now to then, it feels so quick, as do all of our markers in life.  “Time, how short; Eternity, how long…”

As the ordination Class of 1988, we celebrated the day of our Silver Jubilee together at St. Joseph’s Retreat House in Milton, with a concelebrated evening Mass just for us in the Lady Chapel and then a time of fellowship with dinner in the retreat house.  Our class preacher at this Mass was Fr. Steve Madden, pastor of St. Mary’s in Foxboro.  I think he spoke for all of us when he stressed the spirit of gratitude felt on this occasion, as we look back on the last quarter century of our lives as ordained priests, and look forward in hope to the future.

Fr. Higgins
(Fr. Higgins)

Pastor’s Note from the Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Bulletin for June 30, 2013

The Feast of Corpus Christi

Article reproduced from here.

To piously and joyously pay tribute to the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Latin Mass community celebrated a High Mass, which was followed by a Eucharistic Procession and Benediction. Members of the Schola Amicorum ended the day with the chanting of The Office of Sext at 2:00 p.m., The Office of None at 3:00 p.m., and The Office of Vespers at 4:00 p.m.

The pictures below are pictures taken during the Eucharistic Procession.

The Feast of Corpus Christi, Sunday, June 18, 2006, Holy Trinity
The Feast of Corpus Christi, Sunday, June 18, 2006, Holy Trinity, Boston
Father Charles Higgins processing from the church.


Cross Bearer, Acoyltes and Master of Ceremonies processing from the church.


Cross Bearer, Acoyltes, and Holy Name Society Banner
Cross Bearer, Acoyltes, and Holy Name Society Banner


The canopy bearers shelter the Blessed Sacrament
The canopy bearers shelter the Blessed Sacrament


The Procession makes its way through the South End
The Procession makes its way through the South End


Cross Bearer, Acoyltes, and Holy Name Society Banner
Cross Bearer, Acoyltes, and Holy Name Society Banner


The Schola Amicorum
The Schola Amicorum


 Torch Bearers, Canopy Bearers Shelter the Blessed Sacrament

Torch Bearers, Canopy Bearers Shelter the Blessed Sacrament


Torch Bearers and Thurifer
Torch Bearers and Thurifer




 More "Angels"
More “Angels”


"Angels" Processing Down Shawmut Avenue
“Angels” Processing Down Shawmut Avenue









The Feast of Corpus Christi

Article reproduced from here.

Even before its universal promotion in 1314, Corpus Christi was one of the grandest feasts of the Roman rite. By request of Pope Urban IV, the hymns, Mass propers, and divine office were composed by St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), whose teaching on the Real Presence was so profound that the figure of Jesus Christ once descended from a crucifix and declared to him, “Thou hast written well of me, Thomas.” The mastery with which Aquinas weaves together the scriptural, poetic, and theological texts of this feast amply corroborates this conclusion.

Though Maundy Thursday is in a sense the primary feast of the Blessed Sacrament, Corpus Christi allows the faithful to specially reflect on and give thanks for the Eucharist. Hence there arose a number of observances centered on Eucharistic adoration. The most conspicuous of these is the Corpus Christi procession, for which Holy Mother the Church grants a plenary indulgence to all those who take part in it.

This public profession of the Catholic teaching on the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, which was solemnly encouraged by the Council of Trent, is traditionally accompanied by ornate pageantry. One of the most popular processional customs is having children dress as angels to represent the heavenly hosts who ever adore the Panis Angelicus. So too is having the various parish groups march together in a body. (Both of these customs are mentioned, significantly enough, in an eyewitness account of Holy Trinity German Church’s elaborate Corpus Christi procession of 1851 (A Way of Life, p. 49)).

Another part of the Roman tradition is the recitation of the Divine Office. Required for the clergy and encouraged for the laity, the “liturgical hours” are part of the Church’s way of sanctifying time. Of these hours, Solemn Vespers of Sundays and Feast days are a well-known feature of Catholic piety, so much so that in Europe the Sunday dinner was in some places called the “Vesper meal.” With its heart felt prayer and symbolic use of incense, Solemn Vespers offers the “evening sacrifice” of Psalm 140.2.

To piously and joyously pay tribute to the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Traditional Latin Mass community at Holy Trinity German Church celebrated a High Mass, which was followed by Benediction, a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the streets of Boston’s South-end, the recitation of the Divine Office in Latin including None, Sext, and Vespers, and ended with Benediction. Pictures are below.

Feast of Corpus Christi, Holy Trinity Church, 2000 A. D.

Introibo ad altare Dei


The Epistle


The Holy Gospel


Feast of Corpus Christi, Holy Trinity Church, 2000 A. D.
Hoc Est Enim Corpus Meum


Eucharistic Procession


Members of the Societas Sancti Nominis


Procession through the South-end of Boston


Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament


Fr. Higgins
Our Visiting Celebrant Rev. Father Charles J. Higgins of St. Theresa of Avila Parish West Roxbury, Massachusetts


St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church

The following article is extracted from The Makers of the Mold by Kenneth W. Newcomb. The section in question may be found here.

About 1843 or 1844 the first Catholic Mass celebrated in Newton was at Newton Upper Falls, conducted by Reverend Father Strain of Waltham.

Home of Edward Cahill where the first Mass in Newton was said in 1843

Others had come before him to attend the sick as well as render other services, but he appears to have been the first to hold religious services here. His chapel was a room in the mill house of Edward Cahill near the northwest corner of Chestnut and Elliot Streets. It was located on the property of Otis Pettee’s Elliot Mills, a fact verified by his granddaughter, the late Mrs. Grace Carey of Newtonville. Her father, James Cahill, was a prominent contractor and later one of the leaders in the church. Mrs. Carey leaves us with an amusing anecdote concerning her father:

“When he was sixteen years of age he worked as a water boy in the mills behind his home, carrying water from the well at the northerly end of the mill yard to the ‘bobbin’ girls in the factory. One hot and sultry day in August, 1862 he was drawing water from the well when he heard a fife playing the lilting tune of ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me.’ Rumbling down Chestnut Street was a horse-drawn dray with ‘old’ Flagg in the driver’s seat trying to sign up recruits for the Civil War. With out a moment’s hesitation Jimmie Cahill threw his bucket into the weeds and went off to war. He was to go through many battles unscathed, re-enlisting in January 1864 and finally being mustered out on June 29, 1865. His father had died in 1863 so when he came home he went to live with a tentmate of the war on the Needham side of Upper Falls.

The bodies of Edward Cahill and his wife, Margot, were moved from the cemetery at Piety Corners, Waltham to St. Mary’s Cemetery in Needham in April, 1877.”

Father Strain was succeeded by Father Patrick Flood who also held services in the same room as his predecessor. However, by 1860 the congregation had grown to about 300 and was meeting in Elliot Hall, the former Universalist Church on High Street. Prominent among the leaders of the congregation were James Cahill, Patrick Hurley, Michael Begley and Michael Daley. In 1867, with church funds amounting to about $7,000 and $3,000 raised by mortgage, a church, 40 X 76 feet in size, was built on an acre of land on Chestnut Street which had been purchased during the pastorate of Father Bernard Flood. It was the first Catholic church in Newton and was dedicated November 17, 1867.

 St. Mary's Church and Rectory, c. 1905, the first Roman Catholic Church in Newton, MA.

In 1875 a transept, 40 X 80 feet, having a gallery at each end was added to the church, increasing the seating capacity to 1,000. A basement was also extended under the whole church. The average attendance of the church at that time was about 750 and the parish, embracing Needham, Upper and Lower Falls and Newton Centre as far as Beacon Street included about 1,000 to 1,200 Catholics.

The Sanctuary of St. Mary's Church

During this time land was purchased on Hale Street for possible use as a site for a convent and school, a plan later abandoned and the land sold. Also acquired by the church was a pasture on Chestnut where a carriage shed and barn for a cow and horses was built. In 1872, about 30 acres of land, bounded by Wellesley Avenue, Cedar and Hunnewell Streets, and located in the towns of Needham and Wellesley were purchased to become what is now known as St. Mary’s Cemetery.

St. Mary's Cemetery

After the turn of the century the property on Chestnut Street was sold and the present site on Elliot Street, then occupied by the home of Dr. McOwen, was purchased. The house was moved further down Elliot Street and the corner stone of the new church, to be known as Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, was laid October 3, 1909. The cost of the building was $150,000.

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes

The new rectory beside the church was built about 1940, and the Dr. McOwen house adjacent to it was made into a parish center. Later it was remodeled and named the St. Elizabeth Center. St. Joseph’s Church in Needham, St. John’s the Evangelist in Wellesley Lower Falls, Sacred Heart in Newton Centre and St. Philip Neri Church in Waban all sprang from Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, and these newer parishes have greatly reduced the once wide scope of the mother church.

The contents of this article extract are Copyright 1997, 1998 Kenneth W. Newcomb and The Friends of Hemlock Gorge. All rights reserved.

First Communion Procession

May, 1967 A.D.—Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion  children, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.  This and  other photos may be viewed in the Newton Upper Falls photo gallery within City of Newton’s website.

Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion children; May, 1967

May, 1967 A.D.—Parish May Procession with the First Holy Communion children, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes, passing in front of the St. Elizabeth Center.

Parish May Procession passing in front of the St. Elizabeth Center

Mary Immaculate Fair in the parking lot behind St. Elizabeth’s Center; 1967 (exact date unkown)

Visible on the left is the parish rectory and the back of the St. Elizabeth Center on the right.

Mary Immaculate clock tower behind the trees.

All photos on this page are by A. Kalicki and originally posted here.