History of Our Parish
A "Brief" History of Saint Agnes Parish
In Massachusetts the early Catholic population grew out of Irish and French-Canadian immigration. The largest numbers first settled in and close to Boston. In 1788 the Church of the Holy Cross was established with a congregation of sixty. In 1799 this church had to be rebuilt to accommodate a congregation of seven hundred.
In 1810 the Diocese of Boston was established. This diocese encompassed all of New England. By 1825 the diocese consisted of nine churches from Damariscotta, Maine, to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and had a total congregation of seven thousand.
Catholics of the Reading area, which included South Reading (Wakefield) and North Reading had to travel to Boston or Lynn to attend Mass. As the Catholic population grew, new churches in Malden, Stoneham and Woburn were built.
The need of a church in the Reading area was made evident by the experience of Rev. Thomas H. Shahan. On his way to visit relatives in Melrose, he had an hour lay-over at the train station in South Reading (Wakefield). When some of the Catholics of the area learned of this, they prevailed upon Fr. Shahan to say Mass for them while waiting for his train. Mass was held at Malachy Kenney's home in July 1851 and was attended by approximately three hundred people.
Father Shahan felt the need of the people of the area who were a community of believers in the Lord a community that could work and worship together. He was instrumental in the founding of St. Joseph's mission of Wakefield in 1852. By 1873, when St. Joseph's was elevated to parochial status, Reading had become a separate mission. Reverend Michael Flatley, pastor of St. Joseph's would travel to Reading to say Mass at Lyceum Hall.
In 1886 Fr. Flatley purchased land in Reading on Washington Street to build a church. It was completed in 1887 and was still under the direction of the Pastor of St. Joseph's as St. Agnes' Mission.
Reading received parochial status in 1904. The first pastor was Fr. Dennis Lee appointed June 4, 1904. From its beginning, St. Agnes' life was marked by the shared effort of priest and people. Father Lee set the mode for generations to come in his first sermon, when he said:
"I come to you this morning as the first priest of a new parish in Reading. I am sent here by the Archbishop and I believe you will receive me as loyally and trustingly as I come, for I am glad to come. I have yet to prove myself to you. I have heard glowing accounts of the parish and that encourages me to give you the best that is in me We must remember, you and I, that first of all we are working for the glory of God without Whom all labor is in vain. We are here for the advancement of religion and your spiritual welfare. You and I, you as you have always done in the past, and I as your priest, must do our share towards making the beautiful town of Reading better and advancing its welfare." (Reading Chronicle, June 18, 1904)
The first Baptism of the newly created parish was that of Alfred Freeman Doucette on July 12, 1904.
By 1908 the young church of St. Agnes outgrew her first home. The congregation of thirteen hundred needed a new home. Priest and people, working together, bought land on Woburn Street and built a new church. It was completed in l909. Bishop Brady laid the cornerstone on June 6, 1909. The first service in the new church was the marriage of Hannah Welton and George Meaney on October 25, 1909. The first Mass in the new church was said on Christmas Day, 1909.
Six months later Fr. Lee was transferred to St. Joseph's Church in Amesbury. Reverend Francis J. Walsh succeeded Fr. Lee as pastor of St. Agnes.
On October 7, 1910, Fr. Lee returned to St. Agnes to celebrate the dedication Mass, which was presided over by Archbishop Anderson. At this celebration the new church held its first Confirmation and 125 children were confirmed.
For the next seven years Fr. Walsh continued in the same spirit as Fr. Lee, working together with his congregation to bring greater spiritual growth to all. Father Walsh traveled to North Reading, ministering to those hospitalized in the North Reading Sanitarium, as well as attending to parish needs. In November 1917, Fr. Daniel F. Whalen succeeded Fr. Walsh.
Father Whalen set up a schedule of Masses for North Reading residents in Henry Orpens store in 1923. He also converted the basement of St. Agnes into the Chapel of Our Lady of Sorrows. The sudden death of Fr. Whalen caused much grief in the community.
St. Agnes needed a new leader, and her need was answered with the appointment of Fr. Dennis Brown. Father Brown continued the growth of St. Agnes and was instrumental in establishing a mission church for North Reading residents. Saint Theresas Chapel was completed in 1927. Father Brown died suddenly in 1931, and Fr. Joseph A. Brandley took up his mission.
Father Brandley's pastorate was full, but burdensome, for he shepherded his flock throughout the Great Depression. His people were burdened by unemployment, loss of savings and oftentimes, loss of homes. He sustained them with his spirit and many times with unpublicized financial aid. Despite these hard times, Fr. Brandley managed to renew the church grounds including new walks, driveways and beautiful stained-glass windows in the upper church. Our first pastor, Fr. Lee, donated one of the new windows and another was donated by Fr. Corkery, one of our early parish assistants. In June 1938 Fr. Brandley was transferred to Dorchester.
Saint Agnes new pastor, Rev. Myles J. McSwiney, came at a time when Reading people, like people everywhere, were called upon to face up to the sacrifices of World War II. Families separated by war needed the spiritual ministering of pastor and community. Those grieving a loss of someone loved, needed consoling again, a parish working together priest and people together ministering and consoling. There was much work to be done at this time, and yet there was still room for celebrating in the midst of sacrifice and work. The town of Reading was celebrating the 300th anniversary of its incorporation.
There were other causes of celebration too. The joyful First Solemn Masses of newly ordained priests who were parish members were celebrated at St. Agnes. They were Rev. James Connelly, Rev. Daniel F. Barrett and Rev. Walter Goff.
In 1947 St. Agnes acquired her Wurlitzer Organ, which increased the joyful participation during Mass.
A community of God has many needs, and some of the ways in which St. Agnes parish grew were in response to those needs. The parish sponsored Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops. The Lambs, a group interested in dramatics, was formed, and the activities of this group offered newcomers to the parish a chance to meet other members of the parish. Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), which encouraged youth participation in sports activities, was formed.
In November 1945, North Reading was established as an independent parish of St. Theresa’s Church with the aid of Fr. McSwiney. For eleven years under his leadership the parish had grown both spiritually and physically. The community had increased to over three thousand people. Bartholomew Lehan donated the property across the street at 183 Woburn Street to St. Agnes in memory of his wife. This house became the Catholic Center House.
In 1949 Fr. McSwiney became pastor of St. Josephs in Lynn. The new pastor, the seventh for St. Agnes, was Fr. William F. Reilly.
Father Reilly proceeded with plans for a parochial school, and remodeled the Catholic Center House to be a convent for the teaching sisters who arrived in 1950 Sr. Romuald, OP, Sr. DePaul, OP, Sr. Francis Grace, OP, and Sr. Marian, OP. The sisters were able to obtain the use of the Prospect Street School to begin classes until the new St. Agnes School was completed in 1951.
In 1951, after much hard work, Fr. Reilly announced the opening of St. Agnes School for grades one through four. On November 25 of that year, Archbishop Richard J. Cushing dedicated the new school and convent.
Notable for its activity in connection with St. Agnes new school was the organization of women known as St. Agnes School Guild. This group served lunch and supervised the children during the noon recess and also organized many fund-raising events to defray the school costs.
The first annual St. Agnes Fair, sponsored by the Catholic Daughters, was held in the fall of 1952. This fair and the others that followed each year until 1969 were a tremendous financial support for the school and also a great day-long social event for the parishioners.
The complete renovation of St. Agnes chapel took place during the summer months of 1953.
In June 1954, St. Agnes celebrated its Golden Jubilee. The Jubilee Celebration also served to honor St. Agnes pastor, Monsignor Reilly, who had been elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate by his Holiness Pope Pius XII.
In 1956 The Parochial Council of Catholic Women was organized at St. Agnes.
The Legion of Mary was another active group in St. Agnes around this time. The Legion was a part of the spiritual life of the church. It consisted of lay people who were reaching out to people who were shut-in or sick.
Soon after the new school had been started, Monsignor Reilly began the task of acquiring enough money to construct a second building for grades five through eight. Through his diligent efforts and the generosity of the parishioners, the new school was built and completed in 1958. In June of 1959 an open house was held for all to view the new school.
In 1960 the Archdiocese of Boston saw that St. Agnes Parish had become so large that there was need for another Catholic parish in Reading. Saint Athanasius was founded in 1961. The first pastor was Fr. Dennis OLeary, who served for eight years, until the time of his death. He was succeeded by Monsignor Russell Collins, and more recently by Fr. Francis C. OHare.
In 1964 the 60th Anniversary of St. Agnes Parish was celebrated. As part of the observance, an open house was held and people of all faiths were invited. The entire event was family-oriented, and host couples showed the visitors throughout the church, the two school buildings and the convent. Representatives of the various lay organizations were on hand to explain their participation in the family life of St. Agnes.
The following year the people of St. Agnes were invited to visit the Congregational Church. The people and priests of St. Agnes enjoyed the ecumenical relationship they now shared. This new spirit was to be shown in years to follow in the celebration of Christmas on the Common, the Ecumenical Joy in Faith Conferences and the work of the Church Women United.
During the 60s there were many causes for celebration at St. Agnes. Father Doyle celebrated his Silver Jubilee (fifteen of those years were at St. Agnes), and Monsignor Reilly celebrated the 45th Anniversary of his ordination. The parish hosted a retirement party in 1968 for Monsignor Reilly, who had served the people of St. Agnes for nineteen years.
Reverend Joseph Healy succeeded Monsignor Reilly. Father Healy was very involved with the youth of the parish, personally directing many of their musical performances. He undertook the renovation of the rectory and began the renovation of the lower church the work which was to be later finished under Fr. Matthew Coughlin’s administration.
In 1970 it was announced that St. Agnes School would be closing. This closing was due to a lack of Sisters to staff the school, which required the hiring of lay teachers. This, in turn, caused increased tuition and thus decreased enrollments. With large enrollment drops, it was not financially justifiable to keep the school operating.
In 1971 Fr. Matthew Coughlin succeeded Fr. Healy. In this year Monsignor Reilly returned to St. Agnes to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood.
Meanwhile, a small group of parents met to share about having a special Mass for families that would welcome children and parents in a more intimate setting for worship. Thus the present Family Liturgy was born in 1972 and has flourished each Sunday of the school year in the lower church.
In 1973 Fr. Coughlin celebrated the 35th Anniversary of his ordination.
Around this time a steering committee was formed at St. Agnes to lay the foundations for a parish council. The committee did all the business to prepare for the council, which was installed in 1974.
Father Arthur Flynn joined the pastoral staff at St. Agnes in March of 1974 succeeding Fr. William Commane as Assistant Pastor. Father James Hickey joined the staff in June of that year.
The first Mass in the Town Forest was held on May 19, 1974, and there have been four such Masses since that time.
Tina Nalbone and Fran Spulher arrived as our new full-time lay coordinators of religious education in the Parish on July 1, 1974, succeeding Sr. Marie Valerie, CSJ.
The Ashes to Easter program began on February 9, 1975. This program was designed to make Lent a growing time and to share a common faith with the mutual strength and assurances of a gathered family of people of God. The program met with great success and was repeated annually during Lent for several years.
In the summer of 1975 plans were set in motion for the GIFT Program (Growth in Faith Together). Some 500 parishioners took part in home discussions and a town meeting-like event. Many issues were raised and discussed in Adult Education courses and events in the ensuing three years.
At this same time, a deep need surfaced among some college youth. At college they met many other youths who were deeply committed to Jesus Christ, and wondered why they were not. Father Hickey began to meet with these young people to share prayer, music, thoughts and social activities. However, he soon found that his numerous pastoral duties did not afford him the time he needed for the youth program, and so a part-time youth minister was hired. At the GIFT program open meeting, one of the main topics on parishioners minds was the fact that there was a need for more than a part-time youth minister for the young people. Thus, in 1974 the parish hired Robert Doolittle as the first full-time youth minister. Bob held the awesome position of guiding the youth of St. Agnes. His goal was to offer experiences that encourage youth to commit their lives to the Person, Message and Church of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, for some years, several people had been meeting weekly for prayer at a home. They invited the priests of the parish to attend on August 27, 1975. On October 12, 1975, the first meeting of the prayer group was held in the church. It was a Sunday evening service and there were about forty people in attendance. This continued on every Sunday until the lower church was completely renovated and reopened in November of that year. Then the group moved downstairs and rapidly grew to over 300 people. They changed their night to Thursday the following June. The people who attended were from St. Agnes and other parishes. As a result many prayer groups were formed elsewhere as people returned to their home parishes. The Prayer Group consists of people who are committed to Jesus and who gather to praise Him and witness to His power in their lives.
In response to a deep desire to involve people in worship, many parishioners were installed as Lay Ministers of the Eucharist, Lectors, Leaders of Song and Ushers. This was a commitment of one year of service. The general response was most favorable.
On December 1, 1976, Fr. Coughlin retired for reasons of poor health, after being here only five short years.
Father Arthur Flynn became the tenth pastor of St. Agnes on December 1, 1976.
On February 22, 1977, Fr. Flynn celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood and at this celebration he was installed as Pastor of St. Agnes.
On May 7, 1977, Richard Felone was ordained as the first Deacon of St. Agnes Parish and parishioners rejoiced greatly.
The Pope John Mission was installed on July 25, 1977. This group consisted of four young women of the parish who were to be a praying community of dedicated church women who lived together and did Christian services within the parish.
The Parish Council inaugurated the Future Planning Committee of St. Agnes in November of 1977 to determine and define the mission of St. Agnes Parish. Beginning in early February of 1978 this committee of ten parishioners met bi-weekly. It presented its final report on September 5, 1979, calling all parishioners to deeper praise and worship of God, to provide time and space for growth in the Christian life, and to continue out-reach to those in need through a Christian Service Coordinator.
In June 1979 Fr. Edward Malone joined the Pastoral Staff as Associate Pastor. He had spent a year in residence prior to this while studying on sabbatical leave.
Early in 1979 the parish began looking forward to the celebration of its Diamond Jubilee. Thus a committee was formed in February of that year to begin planning for a gala two-day event to celebrate the seventy-five years of parish life. Many people worked diligently on the preparations, serving as a steering committee to organize the celebration, and enlisted the aid of many other parishioners as volunteers to work on the various committees.
The celebration was officially opened at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 15, 1979, at the Parker Junior High School Field. The gray skies and rain forecasted by the Weather Bureau gave way to sun and warm breezes with only an occasional wisp of a cloud, as answer to the power of prayer. After giving thanks to God and asking for His Blessing on the parish and the celebration, hundreds of balloons imprinted with "St. Agnes Diamond Jubilee" were released to float upward to heaven. A full day of family fun was planned with races for all ages, clowns, pony rides, games, hotdogs, juice, cotton candy, lots of St. Agnes buttons and balloons, a puppet show and an award ceremony for the race winners.
The evening's festivities were equally well attended, with over twelve hundred parishioners enjoying a spaghetti and meatball dinner. The Encore group from the Colonial Chorus performed a repertoire of hit songs from Broadway shows. Finally, a coffee hour was held after the show to give the parishioners an opportunity to reunite with the former priests and nuns of the parish who had come to celebrate.
The high point of the weekend came on Sunday, September 16, when Mass was celebrated at the Hawkes Field House of Reading Memorial High School in order to accommodate the more than 2500 parishioners who came to worship as one family to give thanks to "God, Our Father, for the blessings showered on this community and to re-consecrate our parish family to His Son, Jesus, Our Lord, and to entreat the Holy Spirit to guide us and His Church in the Future," as the Mass Book noted.
The principal con-celebrants were: His Eminence, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros, Archbishop of Boston; Rev Francis D. Garrity, Episcopal; Vicar; Rev. Matthew J. Coughlin, retired Pastor; Rev. Arthur C. Flynn, Pastor; Rev. James F. Hickey, Parish Priest; Rev. Edward T. Malone, Parish Priest; and Rev. Mr. Richard Felone, Deacon. It was a joyous celebration and one that will be long remembered by all who attended.
When St. Agnes School closed in 1970, Town officials rented both buildings for the education of Town children. Under the title, Woburn Street School, these buildings became public schools. However, the school-age population rapidly dropped throughout the Town. So in 1978 the Town withdrew from the Upper School and in 1980 withdrew from the Lower School.
The Parish responded to this crisis by selling the old Convent/Parish Center in 1979 and converting the Upper School into a modern and efficient Parish Center. The Religious Education Office, headed by Carol DeLeire, is housed on the second floor. The Youth Program is housed on the third floor. The Parish Center has become a most busy place accommodating all sorts of parish meetings and programs.
On May 17, 1980, Jack Fenton was ordained as the second Deacon of St. Agnes Parish and the parish rejoiced again. Both he and Deacon Felone ministered regularly for many years.
Saint Agnes Parish repeatedly responded to the challenge of renewal as called for by Vatican Council II. In 1979 the Adult Education Board initiated a program entitled, "Baptism and Confirmation Revisited" to assist people to be renewed by accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This program has been offered many times over the years and has helped hundreds of parishioners in their faith-growth.
As a result of the sale of the old Parish Center, the parish was able to respond to the renewed Liturgy requirements by renovating the upper church. A new Altar was commissioned, along with a Pulpit and Baptismal Font. Shrines in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Agnes were erected. A Blessed Sacrament Chapel was inaugurated. Cardinal Medeiros consecrated the Altar and celebrated the Eucharist on October 22, 1982 a most blessed moment in the history of St. Agnes Parish. Soon afterwards, ramps were built allowing total access of the handicapped to the upper and lower churches.
At this time, it was a regulation that Pastors and/or Teams be evaluated upon the completion of a six-year term. This was accomplished in the Spring of 1982 and a second term was granted by Cardinal Medeiros.
The Lower School remained vacant after the withdrawal of the Woburn Street School personnel. The parish used the building on a couple of occasions only. In 1982 the parish and the Archdiocese leased the building to Reading Gymnastics Academy, Inc., and has continued to do so until the present.
In response to the evangelization efforts of the Church the Catechumenate was established in 1983. Officially it is entitled: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Since then many people have been received into the Church through the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) and a good number of Catholic adults have been prepared for Confirmation.
Early in 1985 St. Agnes Parish experienced a change in its Pastoral Staff. Father Jim Hickey was appointed Administrator of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Roxbury. In June of 1985 Fr. Ron St. Pierre joined the Pastoral Staff. Since then the Parish Council has called parishioners to reach out to the people of St. Francis Parish with financial and prayerful support. Free-will offerings have been sent on a quarterly basis up to the present. A feeling of Christian bonding of the two parishes was felt from the very beginning.
In conjunction with the writing of the "Bishops Pastoral Letter on Women in the Church," a Women’s Listening Session was held on March 9, l986. This event offered the women of the parish a unique opportunity to come together to share their hopes and dreams for the future. The responses were collated and sent to the Bishops for their consideration.
In the Fall of 1986, the Parish Council commissioned a renewal program entitled RENEW, a five-semester program which focused on personal renewal and the issue of reaching out to the needs of the world. Small groups met in homes, liturgical events celebrated renewal themes and large group events brought many people together in fellowship and faith. The program ended in the fall of 1988.
Ever conscious that the parish life is but a small part of the larger church scene, a Parish Reflection Session was held in 1987 so that parishioners could reflect on issues raised in preparation for the Eighth Archdiocesan Synod. The Mission Statements on Laity, Worship and Vocation were chosen. Team members and participants were able to comment and share and all observations were sent to the Synod office. Thus the local church of Reading experienced a special share in the Archdiocesan church. Both clergy and Laity journeyed twice to the Cathedral for the opening Liturgy of the Synod (1986) and its closing Liturgy (1989).
One of the "signs of the times" that parishes have had to face into the recent years is the shortage of parish priests. The Archdiocesan response was to cut back on parish personnel. Thus did St. Agnes Parish experience the pain of losing a priest Fr. Ed Malone in June 1987 and the shock of becoming a "two-priest parish". In the midst of the vibrant parish life enjoyed at St. Agnes, this became a severe problem.
The Pastoral Staff and the Parish Council responded by hiring Carol Gaudette as a part-time Pastoral Associate in 1987 and as a full-time Pastoral Associate in 1988 and up to the present time.
The Reading Clergy Association has been operative for many years. Saint Agnes Pastoral Staff has been involved since the early 1970s as members and officers. Sharing faith and pastoral concerns, prayer, town events and issues all are topics and experiences of the monthly meetings. Christmas On The Common, Follow The Star at Epiphany, Good Friday Service, Pulpit Exchange are among the events that bring both clergy and laity of all Reading churches together in prayer and fellowship. Cordial relations and Gospel values have been enjoyed and fostered happily over the years.
As 1990 dawned, the Staff and Parishioners were notified that the six-year Visitation would be presided over by His Eminence Cardinal Bernard Law. The Visitation took place on June 9 and 10, 1990. Great crowds attended all our Masses and the Cardinal was most affirming in regard to the ministries of St. Agnes Parish.
The 1990's were to be a season of change and growth. We began to fulfill a longed-for desire. We were able to share the Eucharistic Cup of Jesus Precious Blood at all Masses. This occurred on February 10 and 11 to the great delight of many parishioners.
An Unemployment Support Group was formed a sign of the times. Also, a Bereavement Support Group began for those grieving the loss of a loved one. The process of revamping somewhat our Parish Council according to the guidelines of the Synod of 1988 took place.
Changes began to occur in our Pastoral Staff. Carol DeLeire, our CCD Coordinator, resigned after many years of service with us. In 1991 Robert Doolittle, our Youth Ministry Coordinator, resigned after many years of service with us. Carol D’Agostino and Eileen McGrath succeeded to the role of Co-Coordinators of our Religious Education Program, and Lynne Boucher became our Coordinator of Youth Ministry. Meanwhile our Confirmation Program was expanded to a two-year program and presided over by Maureen and Ronald DAddario.
A "first-time event" occurred on March 10, 1991, when the combined choirs of all churches in Town gave an Ecumenical Concert to an overflow congregation.
Our Family Liturgy reached the esteemed age of twenty years and a great celebration was held on November 8, 1992. Many of the members who have outgrown the experience returned to reminisce and celebrate. Over the years, people of all ages have joined us in worshipping the Lord in creative and loving ways.
Another Staff change occurred. In 1993 new Personnel policies required that Fr. Ron St. Pierre’s term be limited to eight years. Fr. Mark DeAngelis succeeded him.
The Parish Finance Commission recognized that St. Agnes buildings and facilities were victims of the aging process. As a result, the Capital Fund Campaign was inaugurated and parishioners pledged $705,000.00. This remarkable response spoke volumes about parish spirit
Ordinary parish life continued in 1994, but, behind the scenes, many of the Capital Projects were completed: new heating, lighting, roofing, air-conditioning, painting, repaving, etc., in the Church, Parish Center and Rectory.
The Town of Reading celebrated its 350th Anniversary in 1994, and St. Agnes took part in both the Religious Observance in January and the historic two-week Celebration in May. It was a magnificent opportunity to join all the town folk in thanking God for His bountiful blessings on our Town.
Nineteen hundred ninety-five will not be outdone in change and growth! Father Mark was called to join the U.S. Navy as a Chaplain. And so he did. Father Thomas Powers came to St. Agnes on June first as a newly ordained Priest. Four young girls who are real pioneers in the field, increased our Altar Servers ranks. A superb Youth Music Ministry has enhanced the Youth Mass. And, we hosted the Senior Baccalaureate Ceremony for the graduates of area high schools.
September 1995 marked another milestone as St. Agnes Charismatic Prayer Group celebrated its 20th Anniversary. Over 1,000 people have experienced the In-filling of the Holy Spirit and they have blessed many another place by their love for Jesus.
The Rite of Christian Initiation began in 1983 and still flourishes today. Many people have met Jesus Christ by becoming Catholics or by receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation as adult Catholics. A goodly number of parishioners have attended over the years to learn more about our faith.
We find ourselves in the mid-nineties and looking forward to the Millennium with great hope for growth and a deepening in a love of God in this new age.
Now, as the nineties drew to a close we found ourselves facing the task of again refurbishing our upper church. Scaffolding was built up and new lights were recessed into the ceiling throughout the length of the church. Painting, flooring, carpeting, and varnishing - all gave a new look that also retained the perennial beauty of St. Agnes Church. A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on May 18, 1997. Many recalled the memorable visit of Cardinal Medeiros as he consecrated our Altar of Sacrifice on October 22, 1982.
A personnel change occurred as Lynne Boucher resigned as Youth Minister and Jennifer Brown joined the Staff on August 1, 1997 in that position.
There has always been a great pride in the beauty of St. Agnes Church. So, every effort to sustain this beauty always enjoyed the support of the congregation. The front of the church was repointed in 1998 as well as the Parish Center.
A unique opportunity was seized in 1998 as we took part in the Gift Exchange Program. We met the people of the Chinese Catholic Community of Boston, attended their Sunday Liturgy and enjoyed their hospitality, as they did ours some months later. Customs, ideas and hopes were shared back and forth between the two communities of Faith.
We began the publication of a Lenten Reflection Booklet wherein many parishioners shared thoughts and faith experiences. These inspirational readings gently showed the depth of the prayer life of so many of our Sisters and Brothers. We published a new booklet each year for four years.
One of our newest ministries is our Parish Website (www.st-agnes-reading.org). This step into cyberspace was crafted by and continually monitored by several parishioners who are knowledgeable concerning this computer science. Our Website gets on-going good reviews.
In the summer of 1999 Jennifer Brown decided to move on. David Palmerino then became the Coordinator of our High School Youth.
As the new Millennium dawned Dec. 31, 1999 we joined many of our fellow-citizens in Reading in a joyful and memorable Town Celebration.
In the late Fall and Winter our Youth Board recommended the beginning of a Middle School Youth Ministry. Lorraine Stordy was appointed. Lorraine had accompanied our youth to Rome for World Youth Day in August 2000. Lorraine had to move away in October. Karen Millett was selected as our new and present Youth Coordinator of our Middle School Ministry. We took part in the Archdiocesan Program Pilgrimage 2000 journeying to Foxboro Stadium and Fenway Park as 20,000 youths celebrated their Catholic Faith.
Another personnel change occurred as Fr. Thomas Powers completed his five year assignment. Fr. Edward Malone rejoined our Staff having been with us previously from 1978 to 1987.
Before the Millennial Year closed St. Agnes Charismatic Prayer Group celebrated a 25th Anniversary on September 7th. The Prayer Community has enjoyed many blessings from the Lord and has enabled so many to experience the Gifts of the Spirit in their lives and in our parish life.
The theme of the Jubilee Year has been: "Open Wide The Doors To Christ". Our Holy Father concluded the year on the Feast of the Epiphany by closing the Holy Doors in Rome. We chose that date January 7, 2000 to bless our new doors to the Upper Church. On that evening we enjoyed a celebration honoring our thirty St. Agnes Ministries. In the Spring a new ministry developed the Parish Based Health Care ministry. It is in the midst of growing and flourishing. The first Vacation Bible Camp was held in August and was a huge success.
After many years of devoted ministry in our CCD Program Carol D'Agostino retired and Eileen McGrath became Coordinator. Also, Maureen and Ron D'Addario retired after many years and Elizabeth and Mario Maniscalco became Co-coordinators of our Confirmation Program. Nancy Pothier became Coordinator of our First Eucharist Program and Andrea Cutone as Coordinator of the Confirmation Program.
In June 2007 Fr. Arthur Flynn retired. The parish, though saddened to see him leave our parish after 30 years of faithful, loving and dedicated service, we wished him all the Lord's blessings, our prayers and our thanks. Many of his friends and family joined together in praise of the Lord as Fr. Arthur celebrated mass for the last time as our Pastor. Following Mass hundreds of parishioners enjoyed a farewell reception in Fr. Arthur's honor.
During Fr. Arthur's service both priest and laity worked together to share the Word. Our parish ministries flourished, including Peace and Justice Food and clothing drives "under the Beach Tree", blood drives, youth ministry musical productions and outreach to shut-ins, nursing home and hospital patients.
In June 2007 Fr. Stephen Rock came to St. Agnes as our eleventh pastor. The 100 year tradition spoken to the parishioners in 1904 by the pastor Fr. Dennis Lee "first of all we are working for the glory of God without Whom all labor is in vain" continues to work as "priest and laity" work to grow and share our faith.
This decade has been a full and busy time working to give praise to the Lord through our ministries. The renovation of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was completed. This chapel has become a prayer and beautiful sanctuary. The main alter and Blessed Sacrament Chapel renovations were completed with the kind of the Rose Family estate.
The debilitated condition of the rectory required renovation. Removal of asbestos, a new roof and siding has returned the building to its historical past.
In 2007 Night in Bethlehem came to St. Agnes through the hard work of many under the direction of Erin Gesmundo and her planning team. Many families from many parishes and communities over the last four years have enjoyed the joy of the Christmas Night in Bethlehem.
Bringing parish members together to praise and share faith the Lord through prayer and adoration with offerings and programs as Taize, First Friday adorations, ARISE and Envision and extending welcoming through vacation Bible School, Welcoming Sundays, Youth Friday Pizza Nights, and the Fall Gala are examples of our vital parish life.
During the last four years staff changes have come to the parish. In 2010 Barbara Keville for grades 1-5 and Neal Yetts grades 6-12 became the Directors of Religious Education.
With pastor and laity we entered 2011 using the Envision Program to plan our future with our enthusiasm of our faith so great we will invite all to hear the message of Jesus Christ and to foster gospel values in our society to promote the dignity of each human being.
Thus is our Pastoral Staff replenished and renewed as we look eagerly to the future and our ministry of leadership in St. Agnes Parish, Reading.
The Word of God has repeatedly been a bulwark of strength and source of inspiration for the parish over the years. As history catches up and blends with the present, the Lord quickly calls His People to move on.
For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.
Pastors of the Past to the Present In Service of our Lord and the People of Saint Agnes Parish
1904 - 1910 Fr. Dennis Lee
1910 - 1917 Fr. Frances J. Walsh
1917 - 1923 Fr. Daniel F. Whalen
1923 - 1931 Fr. Dennis Brown
1931 - 1938 Fr. Joseph A. Brandley
1938 - 1949 Fr. Mike J. McSwiney
1949 - 1968 Fr. William F. Riley
1968 - 1971 Fr. Joseph Hewaly
1971 - 1976 Fr. Matthew Coughlin
1976 - 2007 Fr. Arthur C. Flynn
2007 - Fr. Stephen B. Rock
Copyright © 2012 St. Agnes Parish, Reading, MA. All Rights Reserved.
About Our Parish
Deeply committed to Jesus Christ, we endeavor to become a unified community of faith, worship, and service. We strive to be a warm, welcoming and caring parish in which the gifts and talents of all, young and old, are recognized and graciously used to nourish others.
View our parish photo albums of all our activities