Saint Andrew Parish History
The history of the Catholic Parish of Saint Andrew in North Billerica reveals wonderful indications of the self sacrificing cooperation of the people through the years. You’ll see a culture of people grounded in their faith coming together to build up the Church in their community as it was in their distant homeland. Through the tumultuous times of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Catholics of Billerica have persevered. They focused their energy in and around their parish—the center of their lives.
- The old church on Rogers Street in the late 1800’s. The stained glass window of the Holy family still exists in today’s church.
Before Saint Andrew Parish was established, thousands of Irish people, due to political oppression along with the great potato crop failure of the 1840’s and 1850’s, made the trek to New England in order to seek jobs in the nearby Talbot and Faulkner mill complexes. They brought with them few material possessions, but they did bring with them a sound and living faith. The Billerica Catholics had to walk about five miles to the nearest Catholic church in Lowell to worship. In 1868, the remarkable Father Andre Garin of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate established a mission parish for the town of Billerica. He helped the small congregation arrange to buy the now-abandoned Universalist church. After the purchase, they moved it to Mill Street, now known as Rogers Street, and placed it under the patronage of the Apostle Saint Andrew. In the end, $4000.00 had been spent; but the people finally had their own church.
For forty years, Saint Andrew Parish was in the care of the Oblate Fathers. They would come in from Lowell, at least once a month, to celebrate Mass and handle all pastoral matters. Some of these priests served for but a few months, while others remained for several years. In 1890, Father James Maloney, O.M.I. realized the need for enlarged facilities to accommodate the increased number of parishioners. His program of renovation and expansion was carried out with the physical as well as the financial help of the people. Through their generosity and selflessness, the dedicated people managed to complete a $6,910.44 renovation that increased the size of the church by one third. Imagine the sacrifices that were made considering that the average daily wage was about 85 cents!
By 1913 the parish, which consisted of the entire town of Billerica, had grown enough to be taken over by the Archdiocese of Boston. Father David Murphy was its first diocesan pastor. With the help of the altruistic parishioners, he set out to build a new rectory at 45 Talbot Avenue, closer to the main roads into Billerica center. By 1921 a new, five hundred seat church was built next door to accommodate the burgeoning parish.
- Fr. Garin from the Oblate Fathers
- Saint Andrew altar in 1969
During the years of growth in Billerica during the 20s and 30s, it soon became apparent that the Pinehurst and Nutting’s Lake areas required special provision for Mass. In 1929, a mission church for the Pinehurst area was started and eventually completed in 1937. It was raised to the status of a parish and dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. In 1938, it was decided that a mission church was also needed for the center of town. The old Baptist Church on Concord Road was purchased. The Saint Andrew men spent many hours preparing the building for Catholic worship. It eventually was raised to the status of parish in 1945 and named in honor of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus.
- Saint Andrew interior in 1969
- Saint Andrew interior 1970’s-1990’s
Today, like many of the Catholics whom came before us, we find ourselves in a time of war and economic uncertainty. As we look back to the history of our own town, we can be reminded that difficult years can bring simple pleasures and family togetherness. Many of these pleasures have found their focal point in the parish, with activities that provide wholesome entertainment and opportunities to share the happiness of a common faith.
- The rectory on Talbot Ave in 1969
1810-1839 Francis Lowell establishes the first textile mill in America in Waltham, MA. Francis Faulkner constructs a small woolen mill in Billerica, MA. Tabot Brothers start a dye-wood mill in Billerica, MA
1845 Irish Potato Famine. One million die from starvation or disease. Another million emigrate.
1860-1865 Abraham Lincoln is elected as the 16th President of the United States. American Civil War caused 620,000 soldier deaths. Lincoln is assassinated on Good Friday in 1865 by John Wilkes Booth.
1868 Fathers Lucien Lagier and Andrew Garin, of O.M.I. arrive in Lowell from Montreal. Bishop Williams purchases a lot on Mill St. (Rogers St.) from the Talbot Brothers for $200. Fr. Garin helps a remote Irish congregation in North Billerica purchase their own church.
1869 Pope Pius IX convenes the First Vatican Council.
1876-1877 Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone, Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.
1890-1893 St. Andrew on Rogers St undergoes a renovation and is enlarged by one third.
1913-1914 St. Andrew comes into the Archdiocese of Boston. Father David Joseph Murphy is pastor. A new rectory is built on Talbot Avenue at a cost of $8,000.
1914-1918 WWI. Over 40 million casualties and approximately 20 million military and civilian deaths. St. Andrews has 86 of our own men in uniform and loses William H. McGrath. The St. Andrew stained glass window is dedicated in his name.
1920 St. Andrew new church is completed on Talbot Ave. Cardinal O’Connell officiates. The Red Sox sell Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000.
1922 After a postwar depression, a stock market “boom” ignites the Roaring Twenties. The Decade of the Automobile arrives and a Ford could be had for $600. Gas is 7 gallons for a dollar.
1928 Construction begins on the Pinehurst mission (St. Mary’s) but is suspended during the Great Depression.
1929 “Black Friday”. The New York Stock Market crashes.
1933-1939 Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated as 32nd president of the United States. He would serve 4 consecutive terms. Adolph Hitler assumes dictatorial power in Germany. Old church on Rogers Street is sold, and soon after, torn down. Pinehurst mission church completed and status raised to parish. It is dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. Father Charles Johnson is named pastor. The dirigible “Hindenburg” crashes in Lakehurst, NJ. Mission church is established in central Billerica and named in honor of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.
1941-1945 The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Boston’s Archbishop, William Cardinal O’Connell dies at age 85. St. Andrew loses 4 men to WW II: Paul J. Horman (previously omitted), Francis J. Connolly, Daniel Francis Shea, and Albert H. Solomon. St. Theresa becomes a separate parish. Father O’Keefe is first pastor. St. Theresa becomes a separate parish. Father O’Keefe is first pastor. Franklin Roosevelt, in the beginning of his 4th term, dies of a cerebral hemorrhage. New President, Harry Truman makes fateful decision to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More than 35 million persons killed and an additional 10 million died in Nazi concentration camps.
1950’s Age of the Television. Start of the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. Pope Pius XII dies and is succeeded by Pope John XXIII. Pope John XXIII calls Ecumenical Council to be known as Vatican II.
1960’s John F. Kennedy becomes President and is the first Catholic to reach that office. Kennedy is assassinated in 1963. U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War peaks in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. In 1969, Neil Armstrong is the first person to set foot on the moon.
1970’s U.S. Supreme Court decides that individual states may not prohibit abortions during the first six months of pregnancy. American losses from the war number 56,246 dead and 303,640 wounded. Watergate matter causes President Nixon to resign. Gerald Ford becomes 38th president. 1978 is The Year of the Three Popes. Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul, Pope John Paul II. John Paul II is the first non-Italian elected Pope in 456 years. Saint Andres interior gets a “modernized” look.
1980’s Saint Andrew roof has a structural fault and must be repaired. For 6 months, daily Mass is celebrated in the Rectory and the kitchen doubles as a confessional. Sunday Mass is held at the Marshall Middle School.
1990’s Father Joseph Wilson stabilizes the stained glass windows and restores the church exterior.
2000’s Father Michael Parise leads a $1.1 million restoration of the church with inspiration from the original interior as well as King Solomon’s Jerusalem Temple as described in the Old Testament.