St. Theresa of Lisieux Parish History
In the early nineteenth century, Billerica was a typical Yankee farming town. By 1868 there were approximately 60 Catholic families living in town and efforts began to establish a church for them. In November of 1868, Father Andre Garin, an Oblate Father, started a parish in North Billerica, which became known as St. Andrew. By the time the Archdiocese took over in 1913, the church had become too small to accommodate the growing population. Thus a mission church was established in 1927 and construction was completed with its first Mass at the new St. Mary Parish in 1937. The Catholic population increased rapidly and by 1938 it was obvious that East and Central Billerica would need a parish of its own. A fund drive was held and on June 7, 1939 the white church on Concord Road (formerly owned by the Baptist Community) would be purchased. The church continued to be a mission church of St. Andrew Parish until Cardinal Richard Cushing appointed Reverend Daniel O’Keefe pastor of the newly established St. Theresa Parish in 1945. Fr. O’Keefe, upon his arrival had a church, but no rectory. He lived on Concord Road across the street from the church. In September, the house next door was purchased for $9,000.
Billerica was starting its tremendous growth with the return of WWII veterans. Young families from Greater Boston, Everett, Somerville, Malden, Cambridge were settling in this area by the hundreds. The first year, there were 2 marriages and 8 baptisms. In only 20 years the numbers jumped to 44 marriages and 245 baptisms.
By 1953, church enrollment continued to grow and Mass attendance became so large that there was standing room only. Time had come for a new church. Committees were formed and fundraiser began. Finally in 1959, the culmination of years of planning, meetings and activities came to the end with the ground breaking and construction of a new church on Boston Road – the present day St. Theresa.
In August of 1974, two major moves were made. First the rectory that had served so well was now too small. With activities ever multiplying, larger living quarters were needed and office space and meeting rooms were in demand. The old church on Concord Road was still used for meetings, but the purchase of the home at 80 Concord Road would be the new rectory.
By 1978, the fourth pastor, Rev. Henry Ronan arrived. Uppermost in his priorities was the CCD program. At this time there were approximately 3000 families. The former church became known as “the hall” and the former rectory was used for CCD offices and classes. Most often the classes were held in the homes of parishioners.
Soon it was evident that a new parish center was urgently needed. A committee was formed for the construction of the parish center that would hopefully accommodate the needs of the parish. There was a large area behind the church and consideration was given to building a rectory adjacent to the new hall or moving the present rectory building to this spot. Those ideas were tabled but the construction for the parish hall proceeded. It was October 1986 when the hall was officially dedicated and Cardinal Bernard Law celebrated a noon Mass.
In November of 1992, there was a farewell Mass and celebration as St. Theresa said good-bye to its fourth pastor, Fr. Ronan. The following month Cardinal Law announced the appointment of Reverend Eugene Tully as the next pastor.
And so the fifth pastor in fifty years came with a boundless energy, tremendous talent, and a love of liturgy.