A History of the Church of Saint Paul


Saint Mary’s Church in Salem, the third Catholic Church to be built in Massachusetts in 1826, included Hamilton in its parish with the Reverend John Mahoney as the first pastor.

The history of the Catholic church in Hamilton and Wenham prior to that time is entwined in the history of the development of Catholicism in New England by the apostolic Jesuit missionary, the Reverend Gabriel Druilletes, who came from Quebec, Canada, to Salem in 1651.  Various priests in the Salem area from that time administered to the spiritual life of the North Shore communities.

In 1870 the parish of St. Mary Star of the Sea was established in Beverly with Ipswich as one of its missions.  Father Thomas Shahan of this parish built St. Joseph Church in Ipswich in 1889.  Following the establishment of this new parish, the Catholics of Hamilton were affiliated with the newly formed community.

Because of the growing needs of the Catholics in Hamilton, services were conducted in Smith Hall in South Hamilton by the Reverend Francis J. Curran from the Church of Saint Mary Star of the Sea in Beverly.  In 1905, Catholics of Hamilton were again part of the parish in Ipswich.

Construction of the Church of St. Paul in Hamilton started in 1907 and the church was dedicated in 1908 during the episcopacy of Archbishop William H. O’Connell, D.D., who later became the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston.  The Reverend John H. Donovan of Ipswich was assisted in the supervisory direction of the construction of the church by the Reverend Albert Ready.  Father Donovan became pastor of the newly constructed church and remained so until his death in April 1920.

Father Mitchell and Father O’Keefe administered the affairs at both Ipswich and Hamilton until the Reverend Patrick Durcan was appointed pastor of the combined towns.  In June of 1922 Father John J. Ahearn was named the first resident pastor of the new parish of Saint Paul.

The first Holy Mass at St. Paul’s, which included Catholics of Hamilton and Wenham, was celebrated by Father Ahearn on June 18, 1922 marking the creation of the parish.  In the spring of 1924 Father Ahearn completed the magnificent rectory.  Many societies were formed at that time.


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