The Catholic Community of the Church of Saint Paul, Hamilton/Wenham anticipates the Centennial of our parish with great joy and love.  We are praying that it will be a time of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic.


Please consider sharing pictures and stories of our parish by emailing Joelle Moroney at joelle.moroney@gmail.com.

 We look forward to hearing from you.

What happened at St. Paul’s in 1907? The construction of our present church building started! The church was dedicated in 1908 when Most Rev. William O’Connell was Archbishop of Boston.  Notice the photo on the right during the building process.  There are no stain glass windows in the Church.

During the construction of the Church of Saint Paul in 1907-1908, Father John Donovan of Ipswich assisted in the supervisory direction of the construction of the church.  The stain glass window of St. John the Evangelist to the right of the crucifixion on the front wall of the church is dedicated in memory of him. 

The construction and design of the Church of St. Paul was undertaken by Father John Donovan, pastor in Ipswich.  He was cognizant of the growing number of his parishioners from Hamilton.  The construction which was begun in 1907 is a testimony to the care in which he gave to its design.  He wanted a church which through its beauty would enhance the worship of God.  His assistant priest in Ipswich, Father Albert Ready, was extremely helpful in this endeavor.

 Fr. John Ahearn

In April 1920 Father John Donovan, Administrator of St. Paul Parish died.  In the interim, Fathers Mitchell Durcan and O’Keefe guided the parishioners until Fr. Durcan was Pastor of the combined towns of Ipswich/Hamilton-Wenham.  In June 1922 Cardinal O’Connell appointed Father John Ahearn as the first resident Pastor of the new parish of Saint Paul.  Father Ahearn served as Pastor from 1922-1934.

A Centennial History


The Church of Saint Paul

Compilation by

 Annette Janes and Anne Pearson

On June 18th, 1922, Father Ahern, the first full-time resident priest, celebrated the first Holy Mass in the newly established parish of Hamilton and Wenham in St. Paul’s recently completed church.  As we rejoice in a full 100 years of faith, we as a community have a lot to celebrate and can be proud of the accomplishments of this parish.  Considering the small population of the towns of Hamilton and Wenham, St. Paul’s Church has had a surprisingly long presence as a Catholic Church in this area.

According to several historical documents, as early as 1651 there was a Jesuit missionary from Quebec, Reverend Gabriel Druilletes, working in Salem, Massachusetts.  In 1755, during the great disbursements of the Arcadians from Canada, about 150 of them were dropped off in Salem, establishing a small group of Catholics.  From this small beginning of catholic presence, various priests tended as best they could to local spiritual needs, including those of Hamilton ad Wenham residents.

Rev. John Thayer, ministered to Catholics in the area from 1790. It is interesting to note that he boarded at the time with a protestant minister Rev. William Bentley, who befriended area priests until he passed away in 1819.

In Salem, the Church of the Immaculate Conception which was originally named St. Mary’s, was built in 1826 and Hamilton and Wenham were part of this ministry.

    In Beverly, Massachusetts, by 1870 St. Mary’s Star of the Sea was in operation.  In Ipswich, around 1889, Father Thomas Shahan coordinated an effort to establish St. Joseph’s Church there, and Hamilton’s Catholics became part of this group. Wenham remained part of the Beverly Parish.

     Catholics were growing in number because of the increase of Irish, French and Italian immigrants working in the area mills and on local estates.  Services began to be offered on Sundays in Smith’s Hall on top of Chittick’s Hardware Store located on Railroad Avenue in Hamilton,.  The Masses were conducted by Reverend Francis J. Curran from the  Church of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea, so by 1905 Hamiltonians were once more part of the Beverly parish.  It is interesting to note here that Smith Hall at the time was one of the few places large enough for gatherings, and dances were often held there on Saturday night. 

The Catholic Community of the Church of Saint Paul, Hamilton/Wenham anticipates the Centennial of our parish with great joy and love.  We are praying that it will be a time of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic.

There was momentum to establish a church for the needs of Hamilton and Wenham parishioners, and the Archbishop of Boston purchased the land where the present church now stands for $550 in December 1905 from the estate of Carrie P. Porter.  A rough calculation in purchasing power is $1.00 in 1905 is equivalent to $30.87 at present.  So it is approximately equivalent to about $17,000 in todays’ rates; still a good bargain.

The Reverend John H. Donovan of Ipswich and the Reverend Albert Ready coordinated their efforts in the endeavor to build a new church for Hamilton /Wenham.  It is amazing to note here that construction of St. Paul’s church began in 1907 and was dedicated in 1908!  The first pastor was Father Donovan and he remained at St. Paul’s until he passed away in April 1920.  For a brief time Father Mitchell and Father O’Keefe cared for both Hamilton, Wenham and Ipswich until the Reverend Patrick Durcan became Pastor to a combined Hamilton, Wenham, and Ipswich parish.  

   Father John J. O’Hearn was chosen as the first resident Pastor in 1922 and he oversaw the completion of the rectory in 1924.  Finally, priests serving St. Paul’s parish had a home in Hamilton.  In addition it is recorded that he designed a lovely garden and left the parish debt-free when he, in 1934, was assigned to a parish in Canton.  He also served as Chaplain to the A.P. Gardner Post.

During the summer of 1931, Reverend William S. Mullen was appointed curate and is credited with helping to form many social groups and societies.

In April 1934, the Reverend John H. Cashman from St.  John’s Preparatory School succeeded Father O’Hearn, and he is credited with placing the Madonna Statue on the lawn, and for the installation of the beautiful organ still in service today. 

For a short time in 1937, after Reverend Cashman, the Reverend Stephen J. O’Brien, administrator in Ipswich filled in until the Reverend James. V. Cronin became pastor in 1937.  A major accomplishment of his was the renovation of the Sanctuary.  Reverend Thomas F. Quinn assisted him and worked primarily with the children for about five years.  He later served as a Chaplain in the Armed Forces.

In 1941, Father William Kerrigan was appointed to fill Rev. Cronin’s place and he was of great assistance for his compassion and spiritual comfort during the difficult years of WWII.  Nearly 150 men from Hamilton-Wenham, served.  Six died in service, including, Pierre Erhard, 87th Mountain Infantry, U.S. Army; James Ginty, Lieutenant U.S. Navy; Bernard Greeley, First Sergeant, U.S. Air Corps; Robert Hiller, Sergeant 100th Rangers, U.S. Army; Paul Lewis Sawyer, Staff Sergeant, U.S. Air Corps; Raymond Talbot, C2/c, U.S. Navy.

On November 1, 1946, a special reception was held for all returning WWII veterans with many speeches and prayers of thanksgiving that peace was finally restored.  

Cardinal O’Connell appointed Reverend Edward J. McLaughlin in 1942, to succeed Father Cronin.  As a new pastor, a reception was held for him at the Community House and he was well received by the Selectmen and many community members.

  Many organizations were established at the time of Father McLaughlin’s pastorate. 

Before television and cell phones became ubiquitous, people in general had a little more time for a social life.  From the ‘40’s onward, many organizations were formed at St. Paul’s both societal and liturgical.  Among them are groups such as, the Holy Name Society for men, the St. Paul’s Horse Show Association created in 1947 and the Men’s Liturgical Choir, all of whom were instrumental in creating educational, recreational programs and fundraising programs.  They were responsible for creation of the CYO and many music and choral concerts.  The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin for women and the Catholic Women’s Club were especially helpful supporting bazaars, children’s programs, banquets, and teas.  Popular, too, were the Catholic Youth organization, the Children’s Committee and the Christian Family Movement.  By 1955, a group called the Tarsus Club, (after St. Paul of Tarsus), was formed for married couples and it became a strong focal and social outlet.  Their yearly celebration of St.. Patrick’s Day with a corned beef and cabbage dinner was tremendously popular.

During the latter years of his service, Father McLaughlin was assisted occasionally by Father Gilliece and Father Mark from the Salesians of Don Bosco then located in Ipswich, Mass on Route 1A.  In 1950, during his administration, a major renovation of the church interior was accomplished.  Many remember Father Mac, (as he was affectionately called,) and his two beg friendly black labs that greeted all people who visited the rectory.

During the leadership of Father McLaughlin children’s spiritual education was enhanced by the Sisters from Notre Dame De Namur who were then teaching at St. Margaret’s church in Beverly Farms.  They assisted in preparing children for First Holy Communion and elementary prayer class and education.  The men from the Holy Name Society would help by transporting the nuns on Sunday mornings and other occasions.

 After serving St. Paul’s for over twenty-five years, Father McLaughlin retired because of poor health in 1967.  for a short time after that, the parish was managed by Reverend Thomas Brunnick.

After Father McLaughlin’s retirement, Father Thomas Brunnick was appointed Administrator until November of 1967, when Father Thomas Dwyer was chosen as the new spiritual leader.  He was born in Cambridge and was a graduate of Boston College and ordained a priest from St. John’s Seminary in 1938. 

Parish assignments before coming to Hamilton included:  St. Anthony’s in Cohasset, Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton, St. Michael’s in North Andover, Immaculate Conception in Everett, St. Luke’s in Belmont, St. Patrick’s in Lawrence and St. John-St. Hugh in Roxbury.

When at St. Patrick’s, Lawrence (1960-65) he initiated an Inquiry Class for people interested in familiarizing themselves with the Catholic faith.  He had many converts there to Catholicism and anticipated the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults following the Second Vatican Council.  Fr. Dwyer brought this catechesis to Hamilton/Wenham where he continued to lead people into the Church.  He is remembered for his compassion and spiritual guidance.

He put together a vibrant and well-developed Religious Education Program for Grades 1-12 with special emphasis on the Confirmation preparation in Grade 8 and on the Sunday evening High School instruction, freshmen through senior years.  CYO officers could only serve in the youth group if they attended their religious instruction. 

Many recall how he liked to sing and recall fondly his strong voice when he sang “Galway Bay” and other tunes, on “Irish Night”, which was held yearly in the parish hall. 

It was under Father Dwyer’s leadership that the major building project for which funds had been raised during Father McLaughlin’s tenure was undertaken.  The footprint of the church as we know it today was done at this time. 

In 1975, upon wide consultation and with the support of the Parish Pastoral Council, the Church space was expanded backwards with a daily Chapel on one side and a crying room on the opposite side.  At the time there were seven Sunday Masses with the ten o’clock hour Mass both in the Church and the hall.  With the expansion of the Church the parish hall as we know it today was enlarged with two classrooms added.

The 50th Anniversary of the church took place in 1972.  Fr. Dwyer was assisted from 1968 to 1970 by the Reverend Paul J. Tivnan, in the early ‘70’s by Father Charles B. Howard, who taught at Austin Prep and by Father J. Michael Lawlor from 1973-1978.  Father Dwyer retired in 1987 when he became senior priest at St. Richard’s, Danvers.  He died in August, 1993 while at St. Richard’s where his funeral was held and attended by many.

In May of 1987, Father Daniel Doyle was appointed pastor of St. Paul Parish,.  He was born in Newburyport, the son of John and Mary Doyle.  One of four children, he graduated from Newburyport High School, Class of 1941.  In 1948, Father Doyle was ordained by Archbishop Cushing.  His first Mass was offered at Immaculate Conception Church, Newburyport with his uncle, Rev. Hugh Doyle, serving as assistant priest.

His assignments included St. Charles, Woburn; St. Catherine, Norwood; Immaculate Conception, Weymouth, Sts. Peter & Paul, South Boston; Sacred Heart, West Lynn; St. Mary, Star of the Sea, Beverly, St. Ann, West Newbury, and St. Joseph Parish, Ipswich.

Father Louis Bourgeois was born in Lynn on July 14, 1932, the son of Achille and Marie (Berube) Bourgeois.  He came from a family of five.  He was raised and educated in Lynn, a graduate of the former St. Jean the Baptiste grammar and high school of Lyn.  He entered Cardinal O’Connell Seminary and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston on February 2, 1959.  He was ordained by Cardinal Cushing and offered his first Mass on February 8 at St. Jean Baptiste Church in Lynn.

A true shepherd of the Word of God, Father B., as he was affectionately known, had an enormous impact on people through hi genuine and down-to-earth persona and the true ability to comfort those in need.  This allowed him to connect with young and old alike and also allowed him to connect the Word of the Lord to all.  His hospital ministry, visiting the elderly, sitting with dialysis patients during treatments and celebrating Mass for the Sisters of Notre Dame DeNamur in Ipswich was among the many ways he served others; this brought him great joy.  He consistently incorporated three of the most important lessons learned as a seminarian in his daily life, “be kind, be kind, be kind” and will be remembered for his most often uttered phrases “We are family” and “God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good”.

He had a deep passion for music, gardening, bird watching and Boston sports teams, especially the Red Sox.  His love for family and friends was true and vast.  He relished spending time with his siblings, nieces, nephews and dear friends.  They brought great joy to his life.  





























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