History of St. Cecilia's


Building a Church

No one recorded the coming of the first Catholic immigrant to Ashland. He may have been a young Irishman who came to work in one of the many shoe factories. Perhaps it was Mark Feeney who came in 1847 to work bottoming boots for D. C. Mowrey on the second floor of the old depot. Mark was young, single, and Catholic. He may have helped those who followed him, as many did later, by meeting the immigrant ships in Boston and bringing a newcomer back to share his lodgings, assisting him to find a job, and, in general, being a friend and support until the newcomer could make it on his own.

The first thing needed by all these people was a way of supporting themselves. Few wanted to return to farming. Some helped build the railroad in from the coast. The railroad then brought others to work in the factories which sent manufactured goods, usually shoes, back to the city over these same tracks.

As the number of Catholics working in the shops increased, the few priests in the diocese did their best to bring them the sacraments. About 1840, Father James Fitton, whose church was in Worcester, was serving all of central and western Massachusetts. The first congregation to build a church in this area was in Saxonville, and a year later, in 1849, St Mary’s of Milford was dedicated. Both of these churches were attended by Father Edward Farrelly who visited missions in both Worcester and Middlesex counties. It would have been to one of these churches or maybe the mission station in Hopkinton that the people of Ashland walked to attend Mass.

The census of 1850 gives Ireland as the birthplace of 118 people in Ashland. Many if not most of them were probably Catholics. When the great Milford parish was divided in 1857, the new priest, Father Patrick Cuddihy, added Ashland as a new mission station. He said the first Mass in this town on December 20, 1858, in the Town Hall. At first Father Cuddihy or his assistant, were only able to come once or twice a year to Ashland. The Catholic population continued to grow. Hopkinton built a small church, St. Malachi’s , in 1866 and Ashland was made a mission station for the pastor, Father Thomas Barry. He came once a month and reported to the Bishop that a class of 50 children was receiving instructions. In 1868 he came every other week and there were 75 children being instructed. Father John P. Ryan became pastor of St. Malachy’s in 1872. He came to Ashland every week and supervised the instruction of 90 children. Soon he came on holy days as well and about that time decided a church was needed in Ashland.

Winter Street had been laid out in 1868. The land was suitable and for $600.00 Father Ryan purchased enough on which to build the church. He also officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony on July 1, 1874. He not only turned the first spadeful of soil but continued until he had uncovered a plot in the shape of a cross. It was a very happy day for the people. The previous January Confirmation had been scheduled at St. Malachi’s. The Bishop came, but the 20 children who lived in Ashland couldn’t make it because of the snow. With a church of their own they would be spared much traveling.

Money was raised, chiefly by subscription. The Catholics gave generously and some of their non-Catholic neighbors also contributed. 

Before the construction actually began, the name of the street was changed. It was now called Esty Street after the former owner of the land, Mr. C. C. Esty of Framingham Centre.

An experienced contractor, J. S. Cole, was busily at work on the foundation by the middle of August, 1874. The granite came from a quarry he had used before. Perhaps it was the quarry off Myrtle Street which had provided the material for the granite mills on Main Street. A change was made in the plans and Mr. Cole built the walls four feet higher than originally intended, a full ten feet high. This made the basement much more useful. The foundation was finished in October and Mr. Bergan of Milford began framing the upper church. He had it fully enclosed before Christmas. In order not to incur too large a debt, the parish decided to stop temporarily at this point and begin again after raising more money. While they could not use the upper church the basement was ready and Mass was celebrated there on Christmas Day. Sunday Mass continued at the Town Hall. Since there is no mention of a furnace until much later, perhaps that is why they chose to use the town building.

In 1875 the custom began of holding biennial fairs. These were major events held in the Town Hall and lasting two weeks. It must have taken the full two years to prepare for them.

By 1877 the Hopkinton parish had outgrown the little church dedicated to St. Malachi and a new much larger building was begun. At this time the Ashland mission station was separated from Hopkinton and joined with South Framingham, forming a new parish under Father John Cullen who had been Father Ryan’s assistant at St. Malachi’s. Father Cullen rented the brick house on Union Street at the end of Esty Street as his residence and became the first priest to live in Ashland. When Framingham Centre was added to his parish, the Bishop suggested he move to South Framingham to be nearer the center of the parish and Ashland again was a mission.

On Christmas Day, 1882, the first Mass was celebrated in the main church. Music was provided by Miss Annie Connors, assisted by Miss Mary McDermott. Another year passed before the building was dedicated. On December 16, 1883, St Cecilia’s parish, priests from all the neighboring parishes and Vicar General Byrne (Archbishop Williams was in Europe) gathered for the dedication ceremony. One important person was missing. Father Ryan had died not long after construction of the church was begun. No doubt he was remembered and missed by many in the congregation. Father Cullen was celebrant of the Mass. The choir and soloists sang Farmer’s “Mass in B Flat.” The altar was decorated with hothouse plants sent by friends from Boston and New Hampshire. It was a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful church. The names of all the priests who had served St. Cecilia’s to this point were given in the local weekly paper. They were Father John P. Ryan, who began the building; Father John Cullen, who saw the work completed; Father John J. Nilan, Father Cullen’s first assistant who later became Bishop of Hartford, Connecticut; and Father Edward P. Allen, Father Cullen’s assistant at this time who later became Bishop of Mobile, Alabama.



On January 21, 1884, there is an entry in the Archbishop’s Journal that Father Michael F. Delaney of Somerville is to be parish priest at Ashland. Just above this is jotted, “New Parish in Ashland.” Thus began the parish of St. Cecilia’s. Father Cullen had found his parish too large and so the Bishop had divided it, leaving Father Cullen in South Framingham, Framingham Centre, and the Women’s Prison.

Father Delaney was only 35 years old when he arrived to begin his third assignment. He had spent six years in Canton and two in Somerville, both times as assistant. Now he became the pastor of nearly 700 souls. The citizens of Ashland were looking forward to an exciting future, for times were good and business booming.

Father said his first Mass on Sunday, February 2, 1884, and baptized Ida Garrand, the daughter of Nelson and Helen (Daly) Garrand on February 3. The baby was eight days old, the first of 44 children he would baptize that year.

Some problems faced the new pastor. There was a church debt, no rectory and Father was a staunch advocate of total abstinence, or at least temperance, for all, and illegal liquor was definitely available in Ashland.

The Central House on Front Street, noted throughout the state for the quality of the food served in its dining room, was Father’s first home. He soon rented a small cottage near the Church on Esty Street and in June, 1885, moved to the house on the corner of Park Road and Summer Street. Pew rents, fairs and an annual tax of one day’s earnings on all families helped pay off the $52,000.00 church debt. Land adjoining the church property was purchased for a new rectory. Father Delaney rented a hall on Summer Street as a reading room for the young men of the parish to keep them “away from the drinking saloon or gambling house,” the paper quotes him as saying.

The regular parish activities, Mass on Sundays and holy days, yearly missions given by the Redemptorist Fathers, baptisms, marriages, confirmations (74 in 1886) social activities such as a Christmas party with tableaux, confectionaries, oranges for all and books for the teachers, made busy times for pastor and people alike.

The death of Father John Walsh in Natick brought changes in Ashland. Father Delaney who had accomplished so much here was selected to shoulder the burdens of a larger parish. He spent the rest of his life at St. Patrick’s in Natick but returned to Ashland many times to celebrate with his old friends.

Father John Heffernan arrived in April of 1890. Father Delaney had collected money to build a rectory and that was one of the new pastor’s first tasks. In August, Mr. Cunningham put in the stonework for a two-story building, 32 feet by 50 feet in area. The building was rapidly completed but other problems were always appearing. Miss Annie O’Connor, for fifteen years the dependable organist at St. Cecilia’s was married in June of 1891 and settled in Milford after a wedding trip with her new husband, Mr. Horace P. Pond, a conductor on the New York and New England Railroad. Miss Annie Heffernan, sister of the pastor, played the organ when 123 young people were confirmed by Archbishop Williams on October 16.

The big event of 1892 was a fire. The alarm was given at 10:15 on Sunday evening, October 23. Mark Feeney on Union Street and Mrs. Paul Phenoff on Summer Street both saw the flames. Mr. Feeney and Mr. Phenoff hurried to help Father Heffernan remove what valuables they could, for the north wing of the church was burning. A general alarm brought more help. The bells were rung at the Congregational and Baptist churches as well as the one on the Engine House. Two firemen were injured as they fought valiantly but the wing was lost and also the staircase to the main church. Vestments and other items kept in the area were also burned and there was smoke and water damage throughout the building. The following Sunday Father Heffernan said Mass among the ruins on an improvised altar. Repairs began immediately, but not until June 11, 1893, were they completed. The church was refrescoed and a new organ installed in the choir loft. Father Delaney came from Natick to help the parish celebrate the rededication.

Again the needs of a neighboring parish affected St. Cecilia’s. Father Cullen, who had supervised the building of St. Cecilia’s, moved to Watertown and Father Heffernan took over the care of the Catholics in Framingham. As with Father Delaney, Father Heffernan’s second parish was his final home. He remained at St. Stephen’s for thirty years until his death in 1926.

Father Daniel J. Splaine began his tenure at St. Cecilia’s at a most unfortunate time. Economically, times were hard everywhere with many major businesses closing. He was 42 years old and none too well. His frail health had made it impossible for him to accept the burdens of a parish up to this time. He spent 11 difficult years in Ashland. The number of parishioners decreased and the ability of those that remained to support the church decreased also. Nevertheless improvements were made. Father Splaine had a new brass altar rail installed and a ten-foot-high candelabra. Both of these were his gifts to the parish. He also added more land to the church property. The parish societies, especially the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Father Matthew Total Abstinence Society, were very active and a class of 103 people was confirmed by Bishop Brady in 1896. That things were still difficult is emphasized by a news item which said the pastor would make a parish visitation in 1899 as he hoped to collect enough money to meet the current expenses so that it would not be necessary to ask for more financial help from the Archbishop. There is no record of how well he succeeded but the newspaper each week carried columns of foreclosures and auction sales and in October, 1899, the Thread Mill, the last of the major manufacturing concerns in Ashland, closed down.

The weight of his worries again affected Father Splaine’s health. It was a sick man who celebrated his Silver Jubilee in June of 1903. He stayed at St. Cecilia’s until 1906 but his health did not improve. He retired to serve as Chaplain at the Williams Memorial Home in Framingham and at St. John’s School in Newton Highlands but was not able to return to parish work before he died in 1928.

A native of Holliston took over from Father Splaine. The Rev. Alexander J. Hamilton arrived in Ashland in February, 1906. He was a Holy Cross graduate and a graduate of St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. His last assignment had been in his native town where he was dearly loved by the parishioners. Four months after his arrival in Ashland, friends from Holliston presented him with a testimonial, a check for $300.00.

Evidently feeling the need for both money and parish spirit, Father Hamilton encouraged a variety of activities including musical and literary programs, baseball and other sports programs, a lawn party and a garden party. The garden party alone raised nearly $400.00. Father was an able leader, acting as general chairman of each event and organizing large committees to assist him.

Nor were the spiritual needs of the parish forgotten. There were special meetings of the Holy Name Society and another confirmation, meetings of the Total Abstinence Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the St. Cecilia Club, and the fife and drum corps organized by the A.O.H. as well as fairs, bazaars and dances. Reunions were held each year. Father Hamilton was only in Ashland for five years but they were unusually active years. One May festival brought the mayor of Boston, John F. Fitzgerald, to the Town Hall where he spoke on “The Story of the Catholic church in New England” and then rendered his favorite song, “Sweet Adeline.” Father Hamilton also added more land to the parish property. Then, in May 1911, it was time for him to move on.

Father Daniel F. Horgan, who had been assistant in Cambridge, was the next pastor of St. Cecilia’s. It was also his third parish and first pastorate. He must have been an exceptional speaker for he gave many lectures here on a variety of subjects.

The church building was showing signs of wear. The treads on the wooden staircase leading to the main entry had to be replaced and other minor repairs attended to by the new pastor.

Plans were made for the Annual Field Day in July. This year Governor Walsh and Congressman Mitchell were invited guests. The Congressman delivered an address at the field ground. Governor David I Walsh came to the supper and spoke in the banquet hall. There was also a program of songs by the noted baritone, Alessandro Alberini. Mr. Lewis Rabbitt was chairman of this extensive and successful event.

Another year brought another pastor. Father Horgan was assigned to the Church of the Annunciation in Danvers where he later supervised the building of St. Rose’s Church in Topsfield. St. Cecilia’s new pastor was Father James Francis Regan who arrived in November of 1916.

The country was soon to enter the war with Germany. Seven young men from Ashland would die in this conflict and before the war ended Father Regan was killed in a railroad accident. He died March 15, 1918, only a little more than a year after coming to St. Cecilia’s but during this time he had reduced the debt on the rectory by $1000.00.

Father John Joseph Cronin, who had been serving as assistant at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Salem, was the man selected by Cardinal O’Connell to be the next pastor. He served the parish for the next 18 years, longer than any other priest. There were, of course, many changes during these years. The war ended and the boys came home. The church was over 30 years old and needed repairs. The inside was redecorated. A new entry replaced the old, well-worn, wooden stairway with one made of cement. New radiators and a new heater as well as repairs to the windows must have made the church more comfortable in the winter. The outside of both buildings received a coat of paint and were set off by new shrubbery. Then in 1929 the stock market crash brought financial difficulties to most families. At that time there were about 100 families attending St. Cecilia’s.

Thirty women of the parish met at the Town Hall in January of 1932 to form a service and social organization. Mrs. James Buckley was elected the first president of St. Cecilia’s Guild. The Guild arranged for another parish reunion which was held in the newly renovated parish hall. It was an active group that could be counted on whenever help was needed. They met twice a month and included lectures and instruction as well as entertainment as features of these meetings. They also ran innumerable whist parties and other fund-raising events for the parish and to provide the money for their charitable undertakings. They were very concerned about those in the parish who were really feeling the effects of the depression.

In July, 1932, the parish was shocked by the death of Father Michael J. Heenan. He had been born in Ashland, attended Ashland schools and graduated from Ashland High School. His family still lived here. On Sunday, July 24, he had celebrated Mass at St. Cecilia’s and then left on a vacation trip with his two sisters. He was struck by a car while crossing a street in Montreal and severely injured. He died next day in St. Luke’s Hospital. He had been serving as assistant at St. Joseph’s in Lynn but was buried from St. Cecilia’s. It was the largest funeral the town had ever seen. A Priests’ choir sang the requiem Mass accompanied by the organist of the Holy Cross Cathedral. Every store in Ashland closed during the funeral, for Father Michael was loved by all who had known him.

When Father Cronin came to Ashland he brought two relatives with him, his sister, Miss Annie Cronin, who was his housekeeper, and Miss Mary Gorman, a niece who became Sister Francoise. Both of these women were well liked by the parishioners. When Miss Annie Cronin died after a lingering illness, the parish mourned along with their priest.

The Protestant churches in Ashland found it necessary to federate during World War I as a means of saving coal and avoiding the need for three ministers. Now it was time for the Catholics to economize. The upper church was closed and all services were held in the lower hall as they had been when the church was first built.

Father Cronin’s health broke under the strain and the Cardinal appointed him Chaplain of the Academy of the Assumption in Wellesley. His love for children made this a happy choice and until he entered the hospital in 1939, a year before his death, he was able to continue his service to God in surroundings he enjoyed.




Meanwhile another pastor came to St. Cecilia’s, Charles Augustus Donahue. He found a worn-out parish and gave it life. He came in May, 1936, and before the summer was over had taken a census, formed committees for a grand parish reunion, installed a new floor in the sanctuary and a new tabernacle safe, the church had been painted and a new heating system was ready for winter. The whole parish worked on the reunion held on November 25, 1936, and the whole parish had a wonderful time.

Father Donahue reactivated the Sodality and the Holy Name Societies and formed the children of Mary and Junior Holy Name Societies. A year after his arrival Father had distributed Holy Communion to 11,000 people. The parish also had a new grotto. It was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in May, 1937, at which time everyone took part in a May Procession. There were three Queens; Helen Molloy was the May Queen and crowned the statue, Catherine Hogan was Queen of the Rosary, and Josephine Rice was Queen of Peace. All the other girls wore white dresses and veils and carried bouquets. As they passed in front of the grotto, they laid the flowers at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Virgin. The band from St. Ann’s Neponset, Father’s former parish, provided music. They weren’t asked back because Father Donahue planned to have his own band.

On September 5, 1937, he asked boys and girls who wanted to be part of a trumpet and drum corps to leave their names at the rectory. Lessons would be 25¢ a week, trumpets would cost $10.00, and the parish would buy the drums.

They met at the Town Hall. Drum majors were chosen from the older girls, Irene McGill, Irene Dzindolet, Bette Booth, Doris Dancause and Irene LeDoux. There weren’t any instruments yet, so marching instruction began under Mr. Edward Keady. They went round and round the upper Town Hall. When the trumpets came, Mr. Fred Adams arrived as teacher. For one whole week, 50 beginning trumpeters looked for “G” and played what they hoped was “G” while the neighbors suffered. Any child seen on the streets of Ashland with swollen lips was recognized as a trumpeter from St. Cecilia’s. They did learn and Father persuaded the Memorial Day Committee to let the band march at the end of the town parade. They had new uniforms, blue capes with red linings, made by Miss Martha O’Connor and they could play two very short marches. Within the next ten years, they became a prize- winning CYO unit, sought after for parades throughout the state.

Father rewarded the work of the group of young people. He planned an outing at Nantasket for them. They paid their own way, however, by selling small American flags throughout the town. It was a wonderful, hot, happy day and they sang all the way home on the bus.

Maybe that was what gave Father the idea of a minstrel show to raise more money for the band. Bands are expensive. September 15, the band members appeared for the tryouts. They had to sing. Most of the girls were willing; the boys were less sure. But after a few bars of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” the endmen were selected. The chorus wore their uniforms and made splashes of color by displaying, the covering, the red linings in time with the music. The endmen were farmer-boys in overalls and straw hats. It was a tremendous success.

So much was happening that Father needed help, and, for the first time, a second priest lived in the rectory on Esty Street. Rev. Edward Sweeney Joseph Galvin was ordained the same spring Father Donahue arrived but Father Galvin didn’t come until two years later on January 19, 1938, His stay in Ashland was brief. Even his life was not long for he died in 1964 shortly after becoming pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in Lonesville. Now it was time for a party for Father Donahue. He celebrated his Silver Jubilee, January 10, 1939. There was a High Mass with visiting priests, followed by the presentation of a Spiritual Bouquet by the Sunday School, and in the evening a dinner and entertainment. The occasion was saddened when Chairman George V. Sullivan of the Selectmen, who, as a member of the Executive Committee, had worked very hard for the success of the Jubilee and was to give an address of welcome, collapsed and received the last rites of the Church before he was removed by ambulance to the Framingham Union Hospital where he passed away at noon of the following day.

Until April, 1939, members of St. Cecilia’s parish were buried in Framingham, Natick or Hopkinton, since Ashland had no Catholic cemetery. Father Donahue arranged with the town fathers for a newly opened section of Wildwood Cemetery to be consecrated and thus available for the Catholics of Ashland. Many parishioners accompanied Father Donahue that spring Sunday afternoon as he fulfilled another of their needs.

There was another change in October. Father Donahue was needed in East Boston at the Sacred Heart Church and his friend Father Edward M. Hartigan was assigned to St. Cecilia’s.

Father Hartigan arrived on October 24, 1939, one day before his 50th birthday. His coming brought many more changes to the parish. It was time to redecorate the main church again. It looked dark and dingy, but with a whole new decorating scheme it seemed like a new building.

A huge parish supper was arranged in the spring. Nearly 200 people enjoyed a ham dinner in the parish hall. This was followed in May by a band night when members competed against one another for prizes. The money raised by this event was used for band vacations. For many years Father Hartigan had run Camp Cedar Crest at Green Harbor. Now the children of Ashland would spend part of their summer as campers. Father had decided that new uniforms would make the band more like “his band.” The capes were replaced with fitted blue jackets, white skirts or pants, and white shoes. The drum majors had red jackets, new hats and boots! Now Father had his picture taken with the band.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, changed the lives of all Americans but St. Cecilia’s still found things to celebrate. On June 8, 1942, Father Hartigan had been a priest for 25 years. There was a solemn High Mass sung by the children’s choir, after which Bobby Shaughnessy gave Father a Spiritual Bouquet from the parish and little Mary Hill presented one from the Sunday School. At 2:00 P.M., the new flag and flagpole were to be dedicated. Members of the American Legion and the band appeared in uniform. The rest of the parish was joined by neighbors and friends around the flagpole between the church and rectory. Professor Doyle of Boston College began a stirring address, for this was the sixth month anniversary of Pearl Harbor. The talk was a bit shorter than planned because the sky opened and it poured. Everyone adjourned to the nearby parish hall and the program was completed without further difficulty. The names of the 30 men and women in the armed forces were read. The flag and flagpole were dedicated to these young people. Certificates were given to their families. The day ended with a testimonial banquet and entertainment at the Town Hall with Lewis Rabbitt as chairman and toastmaster.

The celebrating wasn’t over then. At the Monday band rehearsal Father received a gift from the band members and shared a huge, specially decorated cake with them.

The band had been established for five years. That also was celebrated with a dinner in the parish hall. Two records were made that evening. One was sent to George Rice and the other to Edmund Nolan. They were the first and, at this time, the only band members to enter the service.

Cushing Hospital had been built in Framingham to care for the wounded. Trainloads of injured servicemen arrived on an irregular schedule. The Guild helped with the furnishing of a recreation room. Members of the parish joined their neighbors visiting the patients and helping in any possible way. The Junior Choir sometimes sang at the Sunday Mass in the Chapel, aided by parents who provided transportation in spite of gas rationing.

Another pastor came to St. Cecilia’s. William J. Conley, who had been ordained during World War I, came to Ashland during World War II. The war caused rationing and shortages but there was no shortage of energy at St. Cecilia’s. Eighty-nine men and women were now in the service.

The Guild was still being helpful. They had their annual banquet at the Kendall Hotel and helped to buy chairs for the parish hall. Father Donahue and Farther Hartigan came back for a St. Patrick’s Day Reunion. Father Conley thought Father Hartigan was the guest of honor and was quite surprised when, after being escorted to the stage by Selectman Martin Mulhall, he was presented with a beautiful wrist watch by General Chairman Lewis Rabbitt. Father enjoyed long walks. The watch was to help him keep track of the time on these walks. Drum major Irene Dzindolet was presented with a trophy suitably inscribed from the band. This was her final appearance as drum major and she was soon to be a bride.

In April the band went to Weymouth to assist at the dedication of a church flag and an American flag at Father Hartigan's new parish.

May brought one of the largest confirmations ever at St. Cecilia’s and the Most Rev. Richard J. Cushing, Administrator of the Boston Archdiocese, came here to confirm the children. There were two sets of twins in this class, Robert and Ronald Saunders and Curtis and Robert Greenwood. The Junior Choir sang at the Confirmation and later in the month they sang at the Spring Concert presented by the Ashland Home Study Club in the school auditorium.

The band was very busy, playing at a Red Cross blood donor rally, at the Marist Seminary, the May Procession, and the Memorial Day parade. In June they brought home a cup from the CYO competition at Boston College and played for the Sisters at Bethany also, demonstrating their ability to execute the drill maneuvers they had been practicing behind the church. They even gave a short concert at the Guild Strawberry Festival and all this before school let out for the summer.

In October another Silver Jubilee was celebrated. Father Conley received many gifts even before the parish gathered at the Town Hall with Father Donahue, Father Hartigan, Rev. Mr. Price of the Ashland Federated Church, State Senator Olsen, Father Lambert from the Marist Seminary, the Board of Selectmen and many priests who had known Father over the years. A substantial purse and a breviary were presented to the guest of honor and the evening closed after the people formed a long line to shake the hand of their pastor.

Soon the Guild members were busily at work on preparations for a Harvest Fair. One feature of the evening was a children’s amateur night. Prizes were defense stamps. Little Johnnie Horne, a piano accordionist, took first prize, a 25¢ stamp, while Carol Ann McManus and Janet Magnani received 10¢ stamps for their songs.

The interests of the Guild had expanded. They still raised money for the parish and contributed money and time to Cushing Hospital. Now they also sent gifts to the Marist Missions in the Solomon Islands. Mrs. Awad was War Bond Chairman and a good salesperson. Members knitted afghans from donated yarn when not otherwise occupied. In March they donated 230 articles of clothing to aid war sufferers. The whist parties continued as they had since the Guild began. Again this year the band played at the seminary, the May Procession and Memorial Day parade and brought home the Division III cup from Boston College. There was a dedication of a hemlock tree given to Henry Warren by the Telechron Associates. The tree was planted in Gordon Green Square to the music of St. Cecilia’s band. In the fall they helped dedicate the World War II Honor Roll beside the Post Office.

The Harvest Fair this year included an OPA Office of Price Administration booth in charge of the local rationing board. This was well-stocked with leaflets on such subjects as "Meat Buying Under Price Control," "How Point Values Are Set" and "Your Fair Share at a Fair Price."

A special event this year was an operetta, “In Mozart’s Time.” It was presented by the Guild and had an all-girl cast, featuring Theresa Dancause in the leading role.

Nineteen forty-five was as busy as the year before. Special events included a lecture and slide show by Father John E. Murphy on “Ireland’s Sacred Glories.” This was naturally the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The Guild met monthly and the band played for the May Procession and Memorial Day. The trip to Boston College was different. Each year the band had returned the trophy won the year before, but when they brought it home this year, it was theirs to keep, for they had won it three years in a row. And there was a new band picture. It was now “Father Conley’s Band” and 23 former members were in the armed forces. The whist parties continued and the Harvest Fair was held again with members of the 4H Canning Club displaying their work. This really was a time for celebrating, for the war was finally over and the men and women who had gone from Ashland were coming home.

At Christmas time, under the guidance of Sister St. Gabriel, the Sunday School presented “The Pageant,” a series of ten tableaux which told the story of the birth and childhood of Jesus. All of the Sunday School took part either in one of the scenes or as members of the choir which sang appropriate carols for each picture. The pageant was also shown to the Sisters at Bethany.

Nineteen forty- six. This year the town was 100 years old. A picture of the members of the parish was taken near the flagpole. There were two floats to be built. The Guild made plans for a parish float and looked for a girl to portray St. Cecilia. They chose Theresa Dancause. Sr. St. Gabriel took charge of the Sunday School float. There were parts enough and work enough for everyone. Mr. Leverone offered one of his huge trailers on which heavy equipment is carried. He couldn’t lend it for long. Mr. Geoghegan of Sunshine Dairy had some wood but didn’t really want it cut up. A plan was drawn up to Sister’s specifications by John Hogan. Boards were selected, cutting very few. They were marked and stacked. Miles of crepe paper—red, white and blue— were sewn into fringe. Costumes were found or made. Friday afternoon, the workers assembled at Bethany, praying for good weather. By Saturday morning all the platforms had been built, the columns were secure and the whole, even the cab, was covered with fringe and crepe paper. The children climbed on and formed three separate tableaux on the float. The Blessed Virgin stood on a high platform between two fluted columns. Since all the children would not fit on the float, there was a line of children on either side wearing red and blue sashes and holding on to a long gold cord that stretched from the first child by the cab to the last one beside the V-for-Victory at the very end of the float. The parish float of St. Cecilia won a red ribbon which Father Conley presented to the Guild for all they had done.

The band had many engagements through the spring and summer but found time to put on another minstrel show directed by Mr. Daniel Keefe of Framingham. Featured in the show were a boys’ ballet and 11 Hula Boys. Since it produced bother money and enjoyment, everyone felt it was a great success.

In the spring the band played for the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Reunion. Father Donahue and Father Hartigan were honored guests. The entertainment featured Ashland’s talented dance team, young Bobby and Patty Walter. Then followed a dance for everyone, only this time square dances were included, called by Mr. Albert Haynes, the leader of the orchestra.

After taking first prize at the Legion Competition at Stone Park, the band enjoyed another trip to Nantasket Beach and Paragon Park. Since it was a rainy day, the amusement park was far more inviting than the beach.

In September, Father Conley was transferred to a much larger parish, St. Joseph’s in Amesbury. Under his direction, the repairs to the rectory had been completed, but all his plans for renovating the parish hall had to be left to his successor, Father John R. Wall.

Plans for the band’s 10th anniversary were already underway. It was held in the Town Hall which was gaily decorated in red, white, and blue. Fifty-seven active band members attended and many alumni also came. The Board of Selectmen; the minister, Rev. Hampton E. Price and his wife; Father Wall and parents of present and past members enjoyed a turkey banquet. Honored guests were Father Donahue, who gave the invocation, Father Hartigan, Father Conley and especially Mr. and Mrs. Fred Adams. Mr. Adams had been with the band from the start, first as trumpet instructor and now as bandmaster as well. Mrs. Adams was the accompanist for all programs. The success of the band owed much to them. Mrs. Rose Awad, band mother from the very beginning, was thanked for the many times she was there when needed, whether to polish a smudged trumpet, whiten with chalk the stain on shoes or skirt, or comfort a carsick youngster whose excitement had gotten the better of his or her tummy. As part of the evening’s program, amusing and interesting stories from the band’s history were read by one of the former members, Catherine Hogan. A trophy was given to Ernestine Awad, the only charter member still active. Letters came from the Archbishop and Sister St. Germaine who as Irene LeDoux was one of the original drum majors. A program given to each one contained a list of all present members and all the alumni, many of whom had come long distances to attend.

As the band celebrated its tenth anniversary, a new group was forming. About a dozen young women, mostly former members of the Junior Choir, began rehearsing a program of Christmas music to be presented at the Guild Christmas Party. They found the meeting fun and, when Christmas was over, decided to sing together as St. Cecilia’s Glee Club. Evidently they fulfilled a need, for they were asked to sing often. Father Wall joined the group, now 16 in number, when the newspaper asked for a picture.

At the Annual St. Patrick’s Day Reunion, the glee club sang, Charles Garbarino played his accordion, and the Eagles Drill Team of Framingham performed. Bob Augustine, who was drill instructor for the band, was drill master and drummer for this group. The band lost another drum major that night. Marjorie Murphy had retired the previous fall and now Father Wall presented a trophy to Dorothy Mack for her many years of faithful service.

The band and the glee club continued to perform and the Guild worked at fund-raising and other service projects. At Christmas, Father decided to add something new. Dick Fannon arranged a loud-speaker system with the speakers on the rectory roof and the microphone in the parish hall. The glee club arrived at 11:30 Christmas Eve and sang carols until midnight when Mass began. This was repeated for several years.

St. Cecilia’s was blessed by having the seminary of the Marist Fathers so near. Priests from this order had helped out here for many years, until some members of the congregation called Father Lambert, jokingly, the assistant at St. Cecilia’s. Now the Marist Fathers suggested that perhaps the parish would be interested in the Third Order of Mary. Once permission was received from the Chancery, an active unit was begun in the parish.

Sunday May 24, 1949, was a very special day. Fourteen children received First Communion and Father Wall celebrated his Silver Jubilee. The Town Hall was decorated with hothouse plants and blue and white streamers. The glee club sang. Father Donahue returned as did Father Conley. Edward J. Shaughnessy presented Father Wall with a substantial purse, a huge cake was cut and a reception followed. Father Wall, who had been an instructor in the sociology department of St. Margaret’s School of Nursing and who was Archdiocesan Director of the Guild of Catholic Social Workers received tributes from Father Grady of Boston College High School and John Cavanaugh of the Boston College Club and Rev. Taglino, his very old friend and an honored guest. Father Conley came from New York to add his good wishes and said he still took long walks as he had in Ashland.

The busy days passed quickly. Another project to raise money for the parish was planned for February 14, 1950. In spite of a snowstorm there was a good turnout at a Valentine Cabaret in Dennison Memorial Hall. Red and white cupids decorated the windows and red and white cloths covered the tables. The program began with a baton-twirling contest. Louise Demarini received the trophy. The glee club sang and tiny Marla Moran delighted everyone with her acrobatic dancing. Diane Holland, the pride of St. Cecilia’s trumpeters, played two numbers and Father Wall thanked everyone for their efforts and for coming out in such weather.

Again it was time to attend to the church building. The upper church needed fresh paint and the old organ was not doing well. But before Father could attend to them he was notified that he was to be pastor of the Church of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton Upper Falls.

The new pastor, Rev. William J. Callahan, came from Gate of Heaven Church, South Boston. He arrived at this, his first parish, on September 17, 1950, and faced the usual busy year. He added visiting with as many parish groups as possible to his activities and in June was in the hospital, with Father Lambert attending to the needs of the parish during this time.

The parish was still growing and the number of automobiles grew faster than the number of families. Parking on Esty street was a definite problem. There was room beside the church, so parking spaces for 50 cars were provided there.

The Archdiocesan TV Center was airing Mass on Sunday mornings with groups from various parishes attending. Several times Father Callahan said Mass for groups from this area. Since it was necessary to leave very early to be in time for the pre-program preparation not everyone was wide-awake when leaving Ashland. One gentleman was glad the program was in black and white since he found when leaving the studio, that one of his shoes was black and the other brown.

The parish again celebrated the Silver Jubilee of their pastor. On May 20, 1952, in the Central Street School hall, a reception was held for Father Callahan. There was an interesting musical program as entertainment. He received congratulations from the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, George Tegelaar, Jr. and Father Lambert. Then two representatives of the Girl Scouts of Gate of Heaven, South Boston, gave Father a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin, a card and check from his former parishioners as a token of their affection. There was a huge cake and a reception line before the evening closed.

St. Cecilia’s was still growing and indeed there was more than enough work for two priests. It was a happy day for Father Callahan when help came. Father Charles R. Kane was not quite 25 years old and full of energy when he arrived on October 12, 1953. Father Callahan's band, organized by Father Kane, now represented the parish. A major change was the color of the uniforms. Until this time they had worn royal blue but these uniforms were red and the hats were overseas caps.

Now it was the rectory that needed renovating again. The strain of parish worries certainly didn’t help Father Callahan. December found him in the hospital again and Father Kane alone in the rectory. Father Callahan was able to resume his parish duties in January, however.

In September, Marian High School, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, opened in Framingham. This was one of the regional schools organized by the Cardinal. Until this time children from St. Cecilia’s could attend parochial elementary school in Framingham but had difficulty commuting to a Catholic high school. Many were delighted with the opportunity offered and became members of the first class to enter which graduated in 1960.

Several years before, land across from the parking lot had been offered for sale to the Church but the diocesan authorities did not think it a wise purchase. Now the land was offered as a gift, but with the restriction that it could only be used for religious purposes such as a school or convent. Again the offer was refused; but after the restriction was changed to an understanding, the church was happy to accept the land. It was needed, but the danger was that that it would have been impossible to sell the land at any time in the future if circumstances were to make this desirable.

Father Callahan loved to read. In order to make his library available to the parish, a lending library was set up in the church entry. Religious books not usually available through the public library were loaned without charge and new books were added regularly.

With two priests it was now possible to have four Masses each Sunday. But religious instruction between the 8 and 10 o’clock Masses was no longer possible. There were too many children. Classes for all children from the first to the seventh grade were moved to Saturday morning and another Mass added each Sunday. There were many activities provided by the Church for the children. There were troops of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Junior Choir, the Junior Tabernacle Society, and Altar Boys were always needed.

With two priests and a housekeeper living in the rectory there was little room for visiting clergy. Another quite extensive alteration of the rectory was begun and completed just as Father Callahan was notified that he was needed at St. Stephen’s in Framingham.

The new pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Francis Moriarty, had Father Kane and a newly formed parish council to help him. Father Moriarty enjoyed being the pastor of St. Cecilia’s. He wanted to meet his new flock and offered to bless the homes of the new families. Many new homes were being built in town and Ashland was growing rapidly. Property adjoining the parish land was offered for sale. The house at the corner of Esty and Union Streets was purchased.

The grotto was rebuilt and Discussion Clubs formed. The parish wanted an official welcome for Father Moriarty so a testimonial for both Father Moriarty and Father Callahan was organized by a committee composed of the officers of all parish societies and held on October 16. Father Callahan was happy to visit with old friends and now Father Moriarty felt really welcomed to Ashland.

Father Kane’s time at St Cecilia’s, however, was ending. In February, 1957, he left for St. Joseph’s in Medford and newly ordained Rev. Frederick M. Cameron arrived. Two months later, Father Moriarty also left. He had enjoyed his stay in Ashland, but the strain of managing a growing and active parish had been too much. He was unable to continue and retired to spend his remaining days in residence at St. Patrick’s and then St. Peter’s in Dorchester.


New Building

Father James Edward Dunford was a veteran of World War II. He was chaplain with the American Division from Guadalcanal to Japan and was known as the “Father Duffy of Guadalcanal” and “the little major with the big heart.” The people of St. Cecilia’s loved and respected him.

The job he faced was a big one. Not only were the spiritual needs of the parish demanding, the church building was too small and in need of repair.

Even with two priests it was necessary for them to get permission to say extra Sunday Masses, for they still cared for the patients at Cushing.

In May the families of the parish began a new devotion. A statue of the Blessed Virgin was moved to a different home each day. Here it would be set in a suitable place, often among the flowers in the garden, and the neighbors would gather and say the Rosary. There was never any difficulty in finding 31 families ready to welcome the Virgin.

June brought another Strawberry Festival but not much rain. By July the parish was praying every Sunday for showers which didn’t really come until fall.

When everyone returned from vacation the church was crowded, but the parking lot was overflowing. The 8:30 Mass was changed to 8:15 in hopes that that would solve some of the problem. The police restricted parking to one side of Esty Street and threatened to tag illegally parked cars. They were really only concerned with safety and offered to help fit the cars into the parking lot.

Father Dunford and Father Cameron completed another parish census. The parish had increased from 630 families to 900 families. There were 3,212 people belonging to St. Cecilia’s and 762 children attending religious education classes. They included a lot of willing workers. Volunteers helped spruce up the building and grounds, ran more whist parties and paper drives, and sent presents to the patients at Cushing. Forty boys and girls of the CYO sandpapered and washed all the benches and kneelers in preparation for Holy Week. They took off all the initials and then shellacked everything. Another confessional was needed and purchased for Lenten confessions. The women of the Guild replaced the covers on the cushions on the upper step at the communion rail. One woman, all by herself, repaired 14 card tables and a man, 12 banquet tables. The men of the Holy Name Society sanded the floor and put down new tiles in the main church. They also worked on the church grounds. The CYO boys painted the kitchen of the parish hall, while the women of the Guild replaced the curtains, drapes, and shades in the lower hall and kitchen. Money might be scarce but energy was not and it was given freely.

Since there was now no band, the May Procession was much smaller that year and ended with Benediction in the church.

The parking lot was finished, thanks to Mr. Joseph Perini who donated 300 feet of culvert to solve the drainage problems and Mr. Angelo Leverone who did the work at cost, building the new lot and resurfacing the old one beside the church. Esty Street was now one-way on Sunday.

The parking problem was solved but the religious education classes were overcrowded. There were 75 children in the prayer class alone. The basement of the rectory was made into classrooms and 100 more chairs purchased.

A carnival in the new parking lot under the chairmanship of Father Cameron netted $1,249.93. The Tabernacle Society ran a Harvest Fair and the Guild, a Christmas Bazaar. If they couldn’t do it themselves, they would raise the money to pay for it. The men of the parish painted the lines of the parking lot and the Guild donated $525 for a new outdoor crèche. Father cancelled the Sunday bulletins to save money.

In this, the 150th year of the diocese of Boston, Archbishop Cushing announced the founding of the Society of St. James the Apostle, which would provide priests for the missions in South America. By September, 18 priests from the archdiocese had volunteered. On September 21, Father Cameron added his name to this list. He had been very active while at St. Cecilia’s. He had been named Archdiocesan Director of Youth and had started “The Catholic Information Program” over Station WKOX at 12:45 each Sunday afternoon, besides his regular parish duties, but he answered Archbishop Cushing’s call. The parish planned a huge bon voyage party with lots of cookies, cakes, and coffee. To help with the work he had chosen, his friends at St. Cecilia’s wished him well with a very generous gift of money.

Another priest was making plans at this time to return to St. Cecilia’s. Father Ronald Saunders, who had grown up in the parish and served as altar boy with his twin brother, Robert, had been ordained at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., as a Marist priest. He came home to celebrate his first Mass and invited all of the parish to attend.

St. Cecilia’s needed another priest. Father Saunders couldn’t stay, but Father John Emmanuel Gallagher did and continued the duties that had been Father Cameron’s. Since the priests of St. Cecilia’s were still the chaplains at Cushing Hospital, another priest, Father Joseph McGlone, came also.

A group of men who belonged to the Knights of Columbus, but to councils in other localities, had been working to form a council in Ashland. The first officers were installed June 6, 1959, the night of the institution of the Bishop Rice Council, No. 4822, Ashland, Massachusetts. Among the charter members were three nephews of Bishop Rice – George J. Rice, Robert E. Rice, and William E. Rice. Father McGlone was the first chaplain and Luke Capen, Grand Knight.

Again in May the statue of the Blessed Virgin visited in the homes of St. Cecilia’s. In June, the new Dialogue Mass was first heard in Ashland. Now instead of just listening, the congregation made the responses to the priest along with the altar boys. Special classes for practicing these responses were held at the Sons of Mary for the Mass was still in Latin and the words unfamiliar to American tongues.

When Cardinal Cushing came to administer Confirmation in April, 1959, he agreed that a new church was needed and suggested that it be started by the next spring. The parishioners were delighted and began building a building fund. Some gave a little each week; a few were able to pay their entire pledge of $300 at one time. Money-raising projects of all kinds were begun. One little girl came to the rectory and told Father Dunford, “We ran a party for the new church and we want to give you the $6.20 we made!” Father was very pleased and thanked the group from the altar. Soon the children in all parts of town were selling raspberries or lemonade and putting on shows for the new church. The Knights of Columbus ran a carnival in the new parking lot and raised $1,180 and a friend of Father Dunford’s donated $1,000. In eight months the parish raised $90,000. The total cost of the new building would be about $300,000. The census this year included 960 families and 3,609 people. St. Cecilia’s was still growing.

The parishioners had a busy year with all the fund-raising projects but they still found time for the ordinary events of parish life. The scout troops had been disbanded. The Toka Pongo Group of Campfire Girls was organized. There were so many children it was necessary to have another confirmation class this year. To the usual May devotions, the Knights of Columbus added a Living Rosary. This was held at Stone Park with 172 men forming the Rosary. There was also a tableau of Our Lady of Fatima and special permission had been granted for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at the park. During July the Knights held another successful carnival. The priests were busy, too. Father Gallagher continued the radio program on WKOX. Father Dunford bought two houses on Esty Street and arranged for more repairs on the old church and rectory. The building inspector warned him the rectory chimney would fall if not rebuilt. A house across the street had to be torn down. While attending to all this, the time for the census arrived and somehow it was taken. In 1960 there were 985 families, 3,877 people.

Again it was time to say goodbye, this time to Father McGlone who was going to Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain. The Knights of Columbus arranged his testimonial for they were losing both a friend and a chaplain.

Rev. Robert Emmett O’Brien, who had been assistant at Our Lady of Lourdes in Jamaica Plain, now came to St. Cecilia’s. He took over the radio program from Father Gallagher and both were very busy when Father Dunford entered Carney Hospital, too sick to even have visitors. It was a full month before Father Dunford returned to the rectory under doctor’s orders to take life very easy for the rest of the winter.

The trees had been cut across the street and the ground leveled. Now the contractor was working on the drainage. This was a major problem for the water table was only four feet below ground level.

As always, life must go on. First Lent, then Easter passed. The Knights of Columbus sponsored another Living Rosary. Daily the rosary was said in gardens throughout the parish. A new Boy Scout troop was formed and Bishop Thomas Riley confirmed another class of boys and girls. But best of all, there was a party for Father Cameron. He had been very sick during his stay in Peru, but was now taking a vacation at home before returning to South America. A “Welcome Home Party” was held in the high school gym on Concord Street. Money paid for tickets was given to Father for his work in Peru and the people were able to see some of that work. Father showed movies he had taken there and demonstrated his knowledge of the Quechua language which sounded very strange to his audience.

The Knights of Columbus sponsored another carnival in the parking lot. With the last check to the contractor, $137,000 had been paid out and the reserve fund was exhausted.

In quick succession, first the Sons of Mary notified Father Dunford that only three seminarians would be available for religious education classes, then the housekeeper had to leave because of sickness, and finally it was time to take another census. The people of the parish were equally busy with a Parish Rummage Sale, a Harvest Supper, and a Scrap Metal Drive. The contractor was busy also. The church would be ready for Midnight Mass on Christmas. The main altar hadn’t come and a real New England snowstorm did, but it really didn’t matter. The Solemn High Mass of Christmas was sung at midnight with all the priests, a full contingent of altar boys, and a large, happy congregation in attendance.

With the large church it was only necessary to say four Masses each Sunday. In Hanuary, the main altar of Italian marble arrived, the gift of Father Dunford in memory of his parents. The original altar stone of the old church was incorporated in this altar. The new tabernacle which was placed on the altar was a gift of the parishioners in memory of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Callahan. On March 31 the Cardinal laid the cornerstone and the new St. Cecilia’s was dedicated. Father Dunford took advantage of a little used canon law and dispensed all the parishioners and their guests from the law of Lenten fast and abstinence on that happy day. Following Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the Cardinal spoke, congratulating and commending the parish for all they had achieved. Rt. Rev. Msgr. Hartigan, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Wall, and Father Kane came back for the celebration; Brothers from the Sons of Mary aided the Cardinal; the Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard, while Father Gallagher, Father O’Brien and Father Dunford served as Deacon, Sub-Deacon, and Deacon of Exposition respectively. The Sisters of St. Joseph, who had helped with the religious education classes for many years, joined the many parishioners who came to the dedication.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul was organized in the parish that spring and a collection taken up to help these men begin the work for which they had volunteered. Since all their work is done anonymously, few in the parish realize the amount of help they have provided and, in fact, are still providing, to those in need.

Again Father Dunford was taken ill and spent many weeks in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Jamaica Plain. Parish activities continued, however. There was a May Procession, the Living Rosary, a carnival and, since the church was built, the Knights of Columbus began building their own new home on West Union Street. The work went quickly and the annual Knights of Columbus New Year’s Eve Party was held in the new building.

The Second Vatican Council, that5 was to bring such tremendous changes to the whole Church, began on October 11, 1962. Prayers were said at all the Masses for the success of the undertaking and the people waited eagerly for news from Rome.

St. Cecilia’s had been trying to buy all the land needed for first the rectory, then the grotto, then parking and finally the new church. In the area needed for parking, Mr. Esty, the original owner, had laid out a street. The town, after some difficulty, turned this over to the church but there was one more section located in the parking lot which was not available. At the town meeting, the citizens of Ashland voted to sell this lot to St. Cecilia’s for back taxes. That this article passed was due in large measure to Rev. Ernest Croy of the Federated Church who spoke in its favor at the town meeting and to whom the parish was very grateful.

Some problems had appeared with the new church building. There was a leak in the roof and some unwanted cracks. Letters were exchanged with the builder and he promised to fix everything.

The Knights of Columbus and Holy Name Society volunteered to help with the census that year by passing out forms which would be returned to the rectory.

Part of the proceeds from the 1963 carnival was given to the Ashland Firefighters Survivors Fund, for Ashland had been shocked by the deaths of three firemen, including Fire Chief Hubert Moran, in an explosion in Framingham. In November a Requiem Mass was said for President Kennedy. On March 24, the Tuesday of Holy Week, Father Dunford died. He was buried from St. Cecilia’s with a Solemn High Requiem Mass. He was only 59 years old.

Father Joseph B. Corkery, pastor of St. Rose’s Church in Topsfield, was transferred to St. Cecilia’s. At the first Sunday Mass Father Corkery said in Ashland, prayers were said for the soul of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Donahue.

The results of Vatican II began to reach Ashland in May of 1964. When the priest distributed Communion, he said, "Corpus Christi" as he held the host before each persdon receiving and the person was to answer "Amen." It took quite a while for the people to get comfortable with this new procedure.

This year’s May Procession was the biggest and best ever, worthy of a whole page of pictures in the Boston Traveler. Not only were there May Queens, altar boys, scouts, campfire girls and the First Communion class, there were small nuns, priests, bishops, angels and even a pint-sized pope.

Everyone agreed there should be a memorial to Father Dunford. Someone suggested a bell tower and carillon, and again the people gave willingly. The bells could ring the Angelus, Mass calls, and toll for funerals as well as play carols on Christmas or hymns to Mary in May. By September the money was collected and in December the foundation was started.

From Rome word came that sacramental absolution must be given in the vernacular. From now on, the people would understand what the priest said as he spoke the words of absolution. Changes appeared in the Mass also. A new altar was placed near the communion rail so that the priest could face the people. More English was used in the Mass and the people were expected to play a more active part.

And then, just before Advent, workmen appeared around the rectory. A structural engineer examining the building for the diocese found the building was literally caving in. In order to keep the priest from waking up beside the oil burner some morning, it was necessary to install a special steel beam to reinforce the main carrying beam. Father Corkery, father Gallagher and Father O’Brien slept a little better when the work was completed.

Father Corkery was impressed by the beauty of the Della Robia which had been in the old St. Cecilia’s. It had been up so high that few had really seen it. Now cleaned and restored and mounted on a suitable support, he placed it just inside the altar rail for Christmas Day.

The pastor had two reasons for suggesting a parish variety show that spring. Money was one and a chance for the people to have fun together was the second. He was pleased on both counts. The fun began at the first rehearsal in February. Walter Doherty of Woburn was an experienced director. Under his guidance the large cast, many with no previous experience, put on “The Best of Broadway” to the delight of two very large audiences on May 2 and 3.

The Mass kept changing. Still more English was used and the people had to follow their missalettes closely, for there were also more responses. Each week there seemed to be another change or two.

The bell tower was completed in time for the May Procession.

The Confraternity for Christian Doctrine program, as it was now known, had increased to such an extent that the Parish Hall, even when used several days a week, was inadequate. There were also few religious teachers, nuns or brothers, available. The solution suggested was to have lay teachers instruct children in the teachers’ homes. Because of the numbers, even this was difficult, but eventually places were found for all the children.

Now came the biggest change of all for the parish. The congregation was expected to sing at Mass! This has met with more or less success depending on the people who are there, the hymns chosen and other unknown factors.

Father Gallagher had been at St. Cecilia’s for six years. It was time to say goodbye again. He left in June as Father George C. Kenrick arrived. All during Father Dunford’s long sickness, most of the weight of the parish had fallen on Father Gallagher. The parishioners, while wishing him the best, felt a great sense of loss as they shook his hand in fsrewell.

An interesting experience arranged by the Holy Name Society during Unity Octave was a Mass in the Syro-Malankara rite. The Rev. John Melomtaromtil, a priest from India doing graduate studies in Boston, came to St. Cecilia’s on Sunday, January 22, 1967, and said an evening Mass to which all were invited.

Another experience was having Father announce that the Sunday collection had been stolen, not from the church but from the bank. Checks given to the parish were lost and Father asked those who had given by check to please identify themselves. I t took a while but finally all the donors were located and accounts straightened out.

There was another variety show in 1967. This was the third. There were also special meetings to improve the parish singing. The variety show, at least, was successful.

This year’s May Procession was less spectacular than some others, but the depth of devotion to the Blessed Mother had not changed. Nor had the feelings of the parish for their former pastor, Msgr. Hartigan. A busload of his friends went to Everett to celebrate with him the 50th anniversary if his ordination.

This was the year for new and happy events. Through Father Kenrick, three seminarians, Frank Glynn, George Morin and Daniel Graham, arrived the day after the Fourth and opened a Daily Bible School with Bible instruction, some field trips and a few outings included. More than 70 children signed up for six exciting summer weeks. Even the seminarians had a good time.

There was no carnival this year. Somehow dates got tangled and the owner of the carnival had agreed to be somewhere else on the week he was wanted at St. Cecilia’s. Instead, the Knights of Columbus held a raffle, Field Day and dance, which brought in about $1,000. The church was built but not paid for, so Father Corkery was very grateful to them. Since the start of the building fund, the Council had contributed over $22,000.

The death of a parishioner brought sadness to the whole town. Charles E. Cadorette, a member of the Ashland Police Department, was killed while on duty, leaving a wife and children. As a parish, St. Cecilia’s prayed for him and his family. As individuals, they helped raise money for them.

In the fall of 1967, the Interfaith Ministerial Association of Greater Framingham sponsored a school of religion for adults. For six weeks, it met in churches and synagogues of the area, providing an opportunity for all to learn about the beliefs of their neighbors. St. Cecilia’s, with Father Kenrick, had one of the largest groups attending.

That fall a major change was made in the Mass. The canon had been translated into English and the congregation no longer needed a missal to understand the priest.

The Christian Family Movement, which had been active in the parish for many years, now took on the task of welcoming newcomers to St. Cecilia’s. A coffee was held in the parish hall after the 9:00 o’clock Mass each Sunday and new and old parishioners were welcome. The parish in general was remembering the boys in Viet Nam by contributing items at church to be given to the Town Committee and by gathering the names of Catholic boys so that the parish could send a remembrance at Christmas.

In January of 1967, an Ecumenical Service with the Federated Church for the intention of Christian Unity was held at St. Cecilia’s and over 700 people attended. It was repeated in 1968 with equal success.

Not all the changes at church came from Rome. A generous gift from the Magnani family provided hearing aids for all the confessionals. These were given in memory of John and Santina Magnani.

The parish show this year was under the youth group and again a great success. The May Procession was more colorful this year with the girls in pastel dresses and white gloves. Those confirmed by Bishop MacKenzie wore robes for the ceremony. Rented robes were less expensive than new dresses or suits.

Father Corkery, Father Kenrick and Father O’Brien were invited to attend Mass on Wednesday, May 29, 1968. This was a very special occasion. Father R. Michael Guarino, who was born and raised in Ashland, was to say his first Mass at St. Cecilia’s. His grandparents, Bonfiglio and Clementina Perini, immigrants from Italy, settled in Ashland in 1913. They gave one of the beautiful windows in Old St. Cecilia’s when it was being renovated. Their sons gave a new electric organ when the old pipe organ collapsed. When the new St. Cecilia’s was built, one son, Louis R. Perini, gave the altar to the Blessed Mother in memory of his sister, Mary Perini Visalli, and the altar to the Sacred Heart in memory of his brother \, Charles B. Perini. As a memorial to their parents, Bonfiglio and Clementina, the family gave a magnificent window in the choir loft over the entrance. This portrays St. Cecilia with King David and St. Gregory on either side. The parish joined their priests in celebrating a most happy and blessed occasion.

And then Father O’Brien, who had done so much for the CCD program and served those at Cushing so faithfully, left for St. Thomas Aquinas parish in Jamaica Plain. He had been in Ashland for eight years and the goodbyes at his farewell party were sad ones indeed.

Father E. Paul Sullivan came from St. Augustine’s in South Boston and found plenty to do. There was another Bible School this summer under the direction of two seminarians, Tom Ryan and Joe Nicholson, from St. John’s. It closed after six weeks with an outdoor Mass and cookout to the delight of the children.

The parish, at the direction of the Archdiocese, began preparations for establishing a parish council. All summer long, the bulletin explained the purposes and processes involved.

The parish was still working to improve the singing at Mass. In October, guitars were tried as accompaniment, with small success.

But then it was time for Father Corkery to move on to St. Mary’s in Waltham and again there was a sad farewell gathering, this time at the Knights of Columbus hall.

Father William J. Noonan, pastor of St. Joachim’s in Rockport, came to St. Cecilia’s. His welcome to Ashland was also held in the Knights of Columbus hall.

Notices of changes in the Mass continued to appear in the bulletin. There were many new prayers.

Another change was home Masses. In connection with the census and with meetings concerning the parish council, Masses were held in homes throughout the parish. A brief note in the bulletin at the end of June said that the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday could be fulfilled on Saturday if there was a need, and that if anyone felt this need, to please notify the pastor. Mass at 5:30 P.M. on Saturday was first scheduled on September 6. For some time the priests had been assisted not only by altar boys but laymen as lectors. Now women and high school students were invited to become lectors also.

In the summer, “Operation Hospitality” began. Children from the inner city, particularly black children, were invited to spend part of the summer in Ashland.

Just before the new year, an 18-member parish council was elected to assist Father Noonan, but in June, 1970, Father was transferred to St. Mary’s, Walpole, and Father John E. Foley came to Ashland.

Father Foley came from St. Rita’s of Lowell but had grown up in St. Stephen’s parish in Framingham where he had been a Sunday School teacher and so was quite familiar with this area. Father Kenrick and Father Sullivan were still here to assist him, but changes were coming.

Four months after his arrival, the parish celebrated the burning of the mortgage on the new church with a Mass, reception, buffet and dancing at the Knights of Columbus hall.

Some of the men and women of Ashland became acquainted with the work of Hospitality House in Hopkinton and Pine Street Inn in Boston through Father Kenrick. A few volunteered to help. One of these was Kay Whelan, who began making sandwiches for Pine Street. Obviously she couldn’t fill their need for food, even with the aid of her family. The people of St. Cecilia’s were given the chance to help. All that was asked was one loaf of bread made into sandwiches every third week. Enough volunteered to make possible trips to Boston each Monday and Thursday. Only one or two women went in with the sandwiches, so when other parishes offered their assistance St. Cecilia’s was ready to accept their offer. Now Mrs. Whelan and/or Mrs. Jackie Lavoie of Hopkinton pick up the sandwiches at the home of Mrs. Kay Powers on the first Monday of each month. After more than ten years, some of the original sandwich makers continue to bring their loaf each month and some bring four or even more.

Father Kenrick and Father Sullivan couldn’t stay forever. In 1971, Father Kenrick left to work at Pine Street and Father Gerard Barry came here. Father Barry had been doing prison work and just wanted to be where there lawns and grass. St. Cecilia’s definitely met those requirements. After four years he left6 and Father Paul Hugh McEntee came, a redhead with a ready smile. Both Father McEntee and Father Sullivan left in 1979. There were many needs for priests in the Archdiocese. St. Cecilia’s could no longer have three priests. The parish was lucky to have Father David G. Bonfiglio assigned here. He had previously been stationed at St. Stephan’s in Framingham and so, like Father Foley, was familiar with the area before he came. The parish really needed more help. This year Father Foley celebrated his fortieth anniversary as a priest. Instead of retiring he went looking for help and found it in many places. His friend, Father Robert McCabe, wanted to return to parish work. He had been teaching for almost ten years but his health was not good. Since he had to have regular kidney dialysis treatments, he had to be near a hospital offering this service. Father Foley invited him to Ashland. There was a hospital nearby and perhaps the country air and scenery would help. Father McCabe was the one who helped. He had more ambition than energy and used all he had. First a Strawberry Festival was organized where he met everyone, then a "Love Your Neighbor Breakfast" at the Knights of Columbus Hall, and finally he invited the "Adelines" for an evening of music at the Mindess Middle School. Between these activities he entered the hospital regularly but he did not get better. His death in January of 1982 caused much sadness in Ashland.

Another helper came from St. John’s. James Fratus, a young seminarian, took care of the youth activities for over a year. The parish was delighted when he was ordained, though they knew he would not be coming back to Ashland. He is at present planning to lead a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which definitely is not near here. While Father Fratus was here, his friend, Tom Mulvaney, another seminarian, came to help also. Father Mulvaney has returned to the Brooklyn Diocese. Otheres came from Pope John XXIII Seminary. These included Deacon Paul Moynihan, formerly a research librarian who worked with the CCD program; Deacon Tom Shea, an engineer and ex-officer in the Marines; and Deacon Mike Chilton, a grandfather and former Attorney General. All of these men contributed something of themselves, something special to St. Cecilia’s.

The priests from the Marist Seminary and the Sons of Mary have filled in the gaps since the days when Father Lambert practically took up residence in Ashland. Father Stanley Mascarhenas, a Jesuit from India, and Father Jacob Christos from Ethiopia have made the people of St. Cecilia’s much more aware of the happenings in other parts of the Church.

Father Foley also brought Mrs. Carol Zani of Hopkinton to the parish as part-time Religious Coordinator of the CCD program. There are a lot of children in this parish and it takes a great deal of time and energy to find them all and see that they all have teachers. Mrs. Zani has also arranged events for these teachers, such as training sessions, evenings of recollection and breakfasts to keep them happy, informed and inspired for the work they are doing.

Life in any parish has to include a certain amount of repetition. A comfortable pattern has been developing over the past decade. Activity resumes in the fall with the CCD classes which involve more people than most of the parish might expect. The Women’s Club begins work on the Christmas Bazaar and then it’s time for the Thanksgiving Mass. Since the Mass is on Tuesday no one is torn between a football game or holiday preparations and this family liyurgy. The children are being costumed and coached for the Living Nativity before the bazaar takes place. Appropriately at St. Cecilia’s, Christmas features music, carefully chosen and beautifully presented. The women, however, are already at work on the Guilbola. Valentine’s Day brings a special liturgy for couples and a chance to renew marriage vows. Activities in preparation for confirmation are underway as other classes prepare for First Communion and First Confession. March 17th is a special day. Some may celebrate Evacuation Day with Boston or St. Patrick’s Day with the Irish but St. Cecilia’s celebrates Catherine Falvey’s Birthday after morning Mass with a big chocolate cake in the parish hall. At Easter the Christians of Ashland, from St. Cecilia’s and the Federated Church, join in a Sunrise Service. May processions are smaller now but the Prayer Class brings flowers to Mary each year. With all of these activities, Masses each day as well as Sundays, Rosaries, home visits by the Eucharistic Ministers and Father there are special activities which may or may not be repeated. Prayer partners, Evenings of Recollection, Weekend Retreats, and Bible Study groups were part of this anniversary year. All of these are what makes this parish special for the people who are the parish.

Two pieces of sculpture connect the past with the present. Father Delaney was a young man when he came to the new parish of St. Cecilia. The bust by Bob Amendola shows him in his later years after he had watched the parish grow and change, after he had helped celebrate the special times while visiting with old friends. The statue of St. Cecilia which now stands ready to burst into song before the new church, Father Delaney saw on the altar of the old church. There have been changes. Father Foley has tried to make the new ways of Vatican II as comfortable as possible during the 14 years he has been a part of the parish.

One hundred years ago, people with strong, active faith began St. Cecilia’s. Now with faith enriched by Vatican II the people of God at St. Cecilia’s look forward to another 100 years of growth in faith, good works and numbers.