Our team from The Good Catholic Life and Pilot New Media visited Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish in Newton last week as part of our ongoing series on growing parishes that are embracing the New Evangelization. We seek to learn what specifically these parishes are doing to invite inactive Catholics home and to welcome those who choose to enter the Catholic Church.
Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish is the mother church of Newton and Needham, established in 1870 as St. Mary's Parish. In 1909 the cornerstone was laid for the present church, which was built on a hill and was meant to be seen from far and wide. It has the style of an Italian hill town church with a soaring 135-foot bell tower that can easily be seen by all that commute on Route 128/95. When it was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day in 1910, the new Archbishop of Boston William O'Connell, decided that St. Mary's was too plain a name for this beautiful church so he chose to rename it Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.
In 2004, due mainly to a decrease in the number of Mass attendees, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes (MIOL) was placed on the list of parishes to be closed. An end-of-life parish party was held. Then, just 5 days before the official closure, Cardinal Seán decided to merge MIOL with the Traditional Latin Mass apostolate which had been worshipping at Holy Trinity German Parish in Boston and to appoint a full-time pastor, Father Charles J. Higgins. This began what the pastor calls "a second life" for MIOL and its longstanding and new parishioners.
Today, parishioners describe the parish as a successful blending of three communities into one parish: (a) the territorial community of long-attending parishioners; (b) those who travel from throughout the archdiocese to worship according to the extraordinary form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass); (c) those attracted to MIOL from throughout the region by the reverential celebration of the Mass and sacred music in the ordinary form of the Mass (Novus Ordo). The third group is growing very quickly, parishioners say, because MIOL's beautiful liturgies attract Catholics who seek to be formed around the celebration of the Eucharist, in awe of the majesty of God's presence in a beautiful and traditional setting, with music that lifts worshippers' minds toward Heaven.