About Our Parish

Humble Beginnings


Saint Mary’s Church in Salem, the third Catholic Church to be built in Massachusetts in 1826, included Hamilton in its parish with 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 priest in the Salem area at 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 parish.

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 St. 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 Saint 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.

Reverend Edward Mitchell and Reverend Daniel 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, Reverend John Ahearn was named the first resident pastor of the new parish of Saint Paul in Hamilton.

The first Holy Mass at St. Paul Church, which included Catholics of Hamilton and Wenham, was celebrated by Rev. 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 and the Reverend William Mullen was appointed curate for the duration of the summer season in 1931. Father Ahearn was succeeded in April 1934 by the Reverend John Cashman, who previously had been the resident chaplain at St. John’s Preparatory School in Danvers. After two years as pastor, Father Cashman died in the spring of 1937. He is remembered for the placement of the Madonna Statue, the focal point of the rectory lawn and for the installation of the church organ.

The Reverend Stephen O’Brien was named administrator during the interim. The Reverend James Cronin became pastor of Saint Paul’s and one of his greatest contributions was the renovation of the Sanctuary. Father Cronin was assisted for five years by the Reverend Thomas Quinn. Following the transfer of Father Quinn, Father William Kerrigan was appointed his successor. He is remembered for his spiritual helpfulness during the trying years of World War II.

In May of 1942, Cardinal O’Connell assigned the Reverend Edward J. McLaughlin as pastor to succeed Father Cronin. A reception to the new pastor was held at the Hamilton Community House and was attended by town officials and religious leaders along with parishioners.

The Sisters of Notre Dame De Namur came from St. Margaret’s Parochial School in Beverly Farms to the parish in the 1940’s to supervise a prayer class and the First Communion groups, as well as the Elementary Sunday School. When a legislative act granted permission to instruct children in religion for one hour in each school week, the parish set up a program for the Junior and Senior High Schools of Hamilton and for those in the upper grades of the Wenham school.

The Carmelite Order established a Junior Seminary in Hamilton in 1945. The priests of the Order offered to assist in the work of the parish. Assistance was also received from the dedicated men of the Oblate Order who conducted the novitiate in Ipswich. The LaSalette Fathers of the Major Seminary and the National Shine of Our Lady in Ipswich also cooperated with the parish when necessary. The Salesians of Don Bosco, whose Sacred Heart Juniorate was in Ipswich, were a welcome addition to the area as well.

Through the years the parish has been lively with activities from the planting of Mary Gardens by children to celebrate the Marian Year to organizations s such as the Tarsus Club for young married couples, Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), the Holy Name Society, and the Saint Paul Christian Family Movement. The Parish Pastoral Council was established in 1969. Social events were popular, including an annual celebration of the Feast of Saint Patrick, receptions for World War II veterans, parish reunions, a Harvest Party held annually for over 30 years at Thanksgiving, and, of course, the Saint Paul Horse Show, which dates back to 1947.

In 1950 a major renovation project was undertaken on the church interior. Also, a completely electrified church kitchen was installed, as well as space for children’s dramatics. In November of 1955 the editing of a weekly bulletin was undertaken. This effort was well received.

The Sanctuary was renovated in 1971, adding the back section of the church building including a cry room and a side chapel.

The Reverend Thomas Dwyer was appointed pastor of the Church of St. Paul in November 1967 and retired in 1987. Reverend Daniel Doyle was appointed pastor in 1987 and served for six years.

The Reverend Louis D. Bourgeois came to St. Paul’s in 1993. The spiritual and social life of this parish continue to thrive, with active organizations such as Family Friends, the Social Committee, the Respect Life Committee, the Parish Religious Education program ( PREP) for children, Liturgical Committees, Youth Ministry, a preschool prayer group, a Small Faith Committee, the Cursillo movement and Ultreya.

In 2003 a renovation of the church was completed. Major structural changes were undertaken, which updated the main structure of the church and made the church more comfortable with the addition of air conditioning and other amenities. As a result of the Second Vatican Council's direction, the altar was moved to a more central location, which invites the assembly to more fully participate in the Mass. The social communitiy of the parish was improved by upgrading the facilities of the parish hall and the kitchen. Other improvements made the church more accessible to handicapped parishoners. An elevator was installed giving handicapped access to the church and to the parish hall.

We remember, prayerfully and with gratitude, those who gave into our keeping the proud heritage of the parish of Saint Paul. With the grace of God, we will keep lighted the torch of faith and pass it on with flame undimmed. 


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