St. Margaret Parish, Lowell

A Parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

374 Stevens Street, Lowell, MA 01851-3607 | 978-454-5143 | parish@stmargaretlowell.org

Our History – Page 2

In 1093, as she lay on her deathbed after a long illness, she was told that her husband and eldest son had been treacherously killed at the Battle of Ainwick in Northumbria. She died soon after at the age of just forty-seven. She was buried alongside Malcolm in Dunfermine Abbey, and the reported miracles that took place in and around her tomb supported the canonization of St. Margaret of Scotland in 1250 by Pope Innocent IV. The feast of St. Margaret was formerly observed by the Roman Catholic Church on June 10th, but is now celebrated each year on the anniversary of her death, November 16th.

Founding of the Parish in 1910

To make up this parish, newly dedicated to the life and works of St. Margaret, sections were taken principally from the former territory of St. Peter’s (1842) and a portion of St. Patrick’s (1831) parishes. In this area in 1910, there were approximately 1,100 Catholic souls and 235 Catholic families. As determined by the then Archbishop O’Connell, the boundaries of the new St. Margaret Parish were: “Starting at west side of Plain St. and Hale’s Brook running across Chelmsford St.; along the west side of Powell St. to Library St.; along the south side of Liberty St. to the intersection of Liberty and School streets; along the west side of School St. to Branch St., but including Branch; side streets running into the south side of Branch St.; then side streets running into the south side of Middlesex St. to Stevens St.; along the south side of Middlesex to the intersection of Middlesex and Pawtucket; thence along both sides of Middlesex to Baldwin, to Hale’s Brook and along North St. to starting point. No houses on Branch St. or on the north side of Middlesex St. until Pawtucket St. intersects, are in St. Margaret’s parish” More than 90 years later, these are still the boundaries of St. Margaret Parish.

To found this parish, the Archbishop in December 1910 appointed a young, zealous priest, Rev. John J. Harkins. He came straight from the Citadel of Catholicism in New England, South Boston, and fresh from his duties as assistant to the pastor of St. Augustine Church in that district, to become the founder and first pastor of St. Margaret Church in Lowell. St Margaret’s had its beginning in the first piece of parish property purchased on Stevens Street. This was a house at 374 Stevens Street (now the parish clubhouse) which was to serve as the parochial residence for 17 years. On January 10, 1911, the young priest from South Boston moved into the rectory-without-a-church. Father Harkins immediately had a room fitted up as a chapel, and on the next day Mass was first celebrated in the Highlands section of Lowell. On January 15, 1911, a Sunday five days later, over 550 people crowded the parochial residence to hear Mass. A week later a canvas tent was erected, and on the second Sunday of St. Margaret’s history, Mass was celebrated in this tent. Approximately 450 people heard Mass on that memorable day. Although the temperature outside hovered around the 15 degree mark, 18 ancient gas radiators kept the inside temperature at a “less-than-tropic” 60 degrees for those hardy pioneers praying the Mass in Lowell’s newest parish.

The tent, which was about 50 feet long by 35 feet wide, was “guaranteed to withstand the severest blasts of the winter season.” The 18 gas radiators were going full blast all the time, and they served their purpose well. The seats were arranged in a semi-circle and placed on a raised platform. There were plans to bank up the sides with dirt and to reinforce the sides and top to “withstand any tests the weather may put to it.” Father Rossette O.M.I. of the Tewksbury Novitiate assisted Father Harkins in celebrating the Masses, and Father Harkins preached at each Mass.

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