Our History – Page 7
By 1998 St. Margaret had just one priest, no deacon, no parochial vicar, a CCD director, and Religious Sister as principal of the parish school. There were three weekend Masses (4 PM on Saturday and 8 and 11 AM on Sundays).
The Parish Finance Council initiated the Monthly Maintenance Fund in March 1992. At that time the parish owed the Archdiocese over $109,000. This fund helped reduce the debt and help pay other bills. In 1997, Father Ruggeri (who was called Father Joe) established the Renovation Fund. This fund has helped to pay for many of the repairs and changes to the church.
The ten stained glass windows on the sides of the upstairs church were repaired through the generosity of ten individual parishioners. The handicap ramp was a donation of the Sodality and another generous parishioner and was built by still another parishioner. The beautiful signs outside the church and the school were donations of other parish families. The vital repairs to the carillon were made thanks to the generous gift of another anonymous parishioner.
Father Ruggeri retired as a priest in good standing in June 2004. Father Joe served out his pastorate until Archbishop Sean O’Malley appointed Father Thomas S. Domurat his successor in August 2003. Father Domurat had spent more than 14 years in Bolivia serving as a member of the Society of St. James the Apostle. During his short term here he established Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays from October through April. With the reconfiguration of parishes in the Archdiocese, a new parish was formed in Lawrence needing a priest who was bilingual and familiar with Spanish culture and heritage. Archbishop O’Malley asked Father Tom if he would end his assignment here at St. Margaret’s to combine three parishes in Lawrence into the newly formed Corpus Christi Parish. Father Tom agreed.
The reconfiguration of parishes in the Archdiocese saw the 14 parishes in Lowell reconfigured to seven. Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in the Highlands was closed, and its records were transferred to St. Margaret’s. Father Joe and Father Tom had prepared us for this transformation, and several times we met in fellowship with the parishioners at Notre Dame in preparation for this day.
Notre Dame Parish was established for Franco-American Catholics living in the South Common district of Lowell. Father Joseph Campeau, O.M.I. of St. John the Baptist Parish purchased the old Branch Street Baptist Church (a.k.a. Tabernacle Baptist) for $26,000 in 1908 as part of Cardinal O’Connell’s drive to create new parishes in the diocese. The first pastor was Fr. Michael Dubreuil, O.M.I., and the parish numbered 500 families when the building was blessed on August 6, 1908. The second pastor, Fr. Leon Lamothe, established the first parish school in 1910 with approximately 200 students who were taught by the Grey Nuns (Sisters of Charity of Ottawa) and a few lay teachers. The student body grew as did the parish. In 1911 a credit union was formed and flourished for many years. In 1912 two adjoining houses beside the church were purchased as a rectory and a convent. In 1940 the city of Lowell voted to rent the Franklin School on Branch Street to the parish for $5 a year, and in 1945 the parish bought the building for $1,500, and was renamed Notre Dame de Lourdes School. In 1962 a new Notre Dame de Lourdes church building was opened on Smith Street; the cost was $420,000. The mortgage was burned in 1972. The parish school closed in 1975.