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5 Catholic sites not to miss in Massachusetts

5 Catholic sites in Massachusetts

Wikipedia | St. Joseph the Worker Shrine - Facebook | BestStockFoto | Shutterstock | Collage by Aleteia

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 04/19/24

If you find yourself visiting Massachusetts, or you call The Old Colony State home, don’t miss these special Catholic places.

Boston, Massachusetts, was once known as “the most Catholic city in America” for its high percentage of Catholics out of the total population. Even today, more than one-third of The Bay State’s residents identify as Catholics. 

But it certainly didn’t start out that way. Founded as a Puritan colony, in 1700 Massachusetts passed a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution. 

Over a century later, Massachusetts became an increasingly Catholic stronghold thanks to waves of immigration throughout the 1800s and 1900s. Portuguese and French Canadian, Italian and Polish, and of course, many Irish immigrants made a home in Massachusetts throughout the 1800s, bringing their Catholic faith with them. 

But the anti-Catholic sentiment lingered, and these immigrants were not always welcomed by the existing population. Local residents burned an Ursuline convent in 1834, and in 1837 a mass riot between English and Irish Americans shook the city of Boston. Over time, however, so many Catholics dwelt there that the faith became a part of Boston’s identity.

More recently, populations of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and other Latin American and Caribbean communities arrived in Massachusetts and renewed the Catholic population there. These 20th-century immigrants typically found a warmer welcome than did early Catholic immigrants, thanks to an existing large Catholic community.

Today, the Catholic Church is declining in Massachusetts, as documented in the book The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture. Yet Boston’s historical role as a central hub for American Catholics means that the area still has many significant and beautiful historic churches and sacred sites.

If you find yourself visiting Massachusetts, or you call The Old Colony State home, don’t miss these special Catholic places.

1
National Shrine of Divine Mercy, Stockbridge

The National Shrine of Divine Mercy is a ministry of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Located in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts, it is nestled into 375 acres known as Eden Hill for its incredible beauty. 

Here you can explore the National Shrine chapel itself (the “Shrine Church,”) which offers daily Mass, Confessions, Adoration, Rosary, benediction, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the blessing of religious articles, and a blessing with a first-class relic of St. Faustina. 

Other shrines on the grounds of Eden Hill include the Mother of Mercy Outdoor Shrine, the Shrine of the Holy Innocents, the outdoor Life-Sized Way of the Cross, the Holy Family Shrine, and the Lourdes Grotto and Immaculate Conception Candle Shrine. 

Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Boston MA
Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Boston

2
Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Boston

Built in 1871, this shrine features an altar made of Carrara marble and was dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The church was named a basilica in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. The church building is beautiful, with stained glass windows, original murals, and other artistic features to explore. But even more beautiful is the history of the church as “A Lourdes in the Land of the Pilgrims” owing to accounts of miraculous healing there.

Today, “Boston’s Basilica” is a diverse community, offering Sunday Mass in Spanish and Haitian Creole as well as English. The parish has a strong focus on Catholic social teaching, with ministries to support people in need in the local community, and many events and devotions are offered each week.

3
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston

The first public Catholic Mass in Massachusetts took place on November 2, 1788. The Abbé de la Poterie, a former French naval chaplain serving Boston, celebrated it in a converted Huguenot chapel located here. He renamed the building Holy Cross Church, and although it has moved locations a few times, that parish community still exists today as The Cathedral of the Holy Cross

The largest church in New England, the mother church of the Metropolitan See of Boston and the seat of the Archbishop of Boston, this vast and stunningly beautiful edifice is well worth a visit. Today the Cathedral of the Holy Cross serves a large and diverse population with regular Masses and sacraments offered in English, Spanish, the Extraordinary Form in Latin, and the Ethiopian-Eritrean Rite in Ge’ez.

4
St. Joseph the Worker Shrine, Lowell

St. Joseph’s Parish was established in 1868 by Father Andre Marie Garin, OMI, to serve the immigrants working in the mills and factories of Lowell. The church developed into a “Workers’ Shrine,” and in 1956, Richard Cardinal Cushing rededicated the site to St. Joseph, Patron of Workers. The Shrine features many events throughout the year, including processions and Holy Hours offered for special intentions.

St. Joseph the Worker Shrine’s award-winning Gift Shop and Bookstore is one of the largest religious goods emporiums in Massachusetts north of Boston. It is a ministry of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and all proceeds are in support of its missionary activities at home and abroad. 

5
St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine, Boston

Staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, this Eucharistic Shrine in the Archdiocese of Boston is home to Our Lady of Grace Seminary, which forms future OMV priests and brothers. The entire mission of this shrine is to promote Eucharistic Adoration, which is offered 24/7. 

The active community at the shrine offers all kinds of ministries and small groups, in addition to beautiful devotions centered around the Eucharist. If you visit, don’t miss the carved angels, copied from Fra Angelico, against the back wall of the sanctuary.

BONUS SITE
Madonna Queen of the Universe, Boston

You can’t miss the 35-foot statue of the Blessed Virgin overlooking Logan Airport! The Madonna Queen of the Universe Shrine was founded by the Don Orione Fathers in 1954 and today is the headquarters for the Don Orione order in the United States. It overlooks the city from the northeast, and features spectacular views of Boston Harbor and the sprawling runways of Logan Airport to the south.

The immense gray granite block structure and its gold crown-like top are visual distinctions in East Boston. The 35-foot-tall bronze and copper statue of the Blessed Mother was created by Italian-Jewish sculptor Arrigo Minerbi, who escaped persecution during the 1940 invasion of Italy by German Nazi forces in part due to the refuge provided him by the Don Orione Institution in Rome.

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