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. 


















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