Our History – Page 3
Daily Masses took place in the rectory. Then Lowell had its “night of the Big Wind” on the Saturday evening of January 28th. This was only 13 days after the tent had been put into use as the first church of St. Margaret Parish. The “Big Wind” blew part of the tent down; one of the big rings which held a pole broke and that portion of the tent collapsed. As a safety precaution, the rest of the tent was taken down, and services were again transferred to the rectory. On Sunday, February 12, 1911, a wooden chapel was ready for occupancy, and five Masses were celebrated there. St. Margaret’s very First Holy Communion class, consisting of 25 girls and 38 boys, was photographed outside the wooden chapel on May 30, 1911.
Due to the rapid growth of the parish, within a short period of time, 600 parishioners of St. Margaret’s started work on the construction of a permanent church. The church lines were laid out on April 18, 1911; the blessing of the site and the turning of the first sod of earth took place on April 19th; excavating for the new church began on April 24th; the cornerstone was laid in July, and eight months later the beautiful new church was finished and filled to overflowing for the first solemn high Mass in the church building. The enthusiasm of those first parishioners was so great and their zeal so extraordinary that in less than a year they had built a church which was a credit to their Faith and a landmark of beauty in their city. Father Harkins, who had first held the Sacred Host aloft in a room of the parish house and then in a tent on Stevens Street in January, realized the great joy of celebrating the first solemn high Mass 11 months later on Christmas day in the present structure dedicated to St. Margaret.
The church building, designed in the Spanish-Colonial ecclesiastical architectural style of the American Southwest of the 17th and 18th centuries, was built to seat 1186. On Christmas morning 1914 a Solemn High Mass of a dedicatory nature was held, and Rev. J. J. Coveney, S.J. of the College of the Holy Cross preached. In 1914 there were stain glass windows in the sanctuary and in the choir loft. Those in the center over the altar depict the Crucifixion, the Nativity, and the Resurrection. On the sidewalls of the sanctuary are depicted the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The stained glass window of St. Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music, is in the choir loft. Pictures taken as late as 1928 show that the side windows in the body of the church were plain not stained glass. However, in the Divine Plan, Father Harkins’ work was soon to be finished. He had established St. Margaret Parish, and he had celebrated the first Mass of Christmas in the beautiful new church, and he was still a young man.
Two months from that Christmas Eve, Father Harkins was dead. The first pastor of St. Margaret Church had performed a lifetime’s work in scarcely a year’s time. He was 44 years old when God called him home to his reward. He died unexpectedly on January 24, 1912.
Growth Between the Wars: 1912-1948
His successor was Father Charles J. Galligan, who served as pastor from February 1912 to November 21, 1948, a span of 36 years. On October 26, 1912, Cardinal O’Connell dedicated the church and confirmed a class of 90 boys and girls. The sermon was delivered by Rev. Thomas Gasson, S.J., President of Boston College. In 1913 Cardinal O’Connell commissioned Father Galligan to build an orphanage in the parish. For more than ten years this was home to children from broken homes as well as for those who were orphans. It was known as St. Peter’s Orphanage and was staffed by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. Later it became Keith Hall, a Catholic high school for girls, and is now the home of Lowell Catholic High School.