In the bitter cold of winter, in the most cheerless surroundings, in a house-turned rectory, and in a district without a church, St. Margaret Parish was born. The history of St. Margaret Parish stretches from a tented church in a then sparsely-settled area of the Highlands to today’s beautiful Spanish-styled church on Stevens Street in the very heart of one of Lowell’s most populous residential districts. The history of St. Margaret Church goes back to a wintry morning in January nearly 100 years ago. On that Sunday morning of January 22, 1911, the first Holy Mass in the newly-created parish was celebrated. Even as there was “no room in the Inn” for the Holy Family on that First Christmas, there was no church building to house the few hundred souls who were to form the first parishioners of St. Margaret’s a century ago.
Native born William Cardinal O’Connell (then Archbishop O’Connell) envisioned the potential growth of this area for spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this reason he set aside a new parish in the Highlands section of the city of Lowell. The new parish was to be dedicated to St Margaret of Scotland, Queen of Scotland and wife of King Malcolm III.
St. Margaret of Scotland
Margaret was born in 1046 and was a member of an ancient English royal family. She was a direct descendant of King Alfred and the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside of England. Along with her family, Margaret had been exiled to the eastern continent when King Canute and his Danish army overran England. Beautiful, devout and intelligent she was raised and educated in Hungary. She and her family returned to England toward the end of the reign of her great-uncle, Edward the Confessor, as her younger brother Edgar the Aetheling attempted to reclaim the English throne. The attempt proved fruitless as Duke William of Normandy, otherwise known as “William the Conqueror,” invaded England and established himself as King.
As some of the last remaining Saxon Royals in England, Margaret’s family feared for their lives. They fled Northumbria, intending to return to Hungary when their ship was blown off course and landed in Fife. The Scottish King, Malcolm III, offered his protection to the royal family. Malcolm was particularly protective towards Margaret. She initially refused the king’s proposals, preferring a life of piety as a virgin. Malcolm was a persistent king, and the couple was finally married in Dunfermline in 1069. Their union was exceptionally happy and fruitful for both themselves and the Scottish nation as Margaret and Malcolm became the parents of eight children, helping to securing the future of the monarchy.
Queen Margaret was renowned for her moderating influence on her husband and for her devout piety and religious observances. She was a prime mover in the reform of the Church in Scotland bringing the Celtic Church closer to Rome. As a patroness of the Benedictine Order, Margaret invited English Benedictine monks to establish monasteries in her kingdom. Though she was Queen, Margaret was active in works of charity, frequently visiting and caring for the sick. On a larger scale, Margaret had hostels constructed for the poor and orphaned.