HISTORY OF HOLY FAMILY PARISH
Holy Family Parish was established on Sunday, August 13, 1922 with the approval of William Cardinal O’Connell, Archbishop of Boston. It was to serve the immigrant Italian people of the area. For the first time Italians, as newly naturalized American citizens could worship God in their won catholic church! Fr. Paul Sozzi, the first pastor, celebrated Mass on Sunday morning, August 13th at the 8 & 10 and gave the homily in Italian. During the many years which followed the Stigmatine Fathers provided clergy to serve the Community of Holy Family.
There was once a building behind Holy Family Church. This second building was erected by the parishioners to serve as a function hall. Many dances, penny sales, banquets and other functions were held to raise money to some day erect a permanent church. (Parishioners were worshipping in a portable wooden structure). Other property & a structure were purchased facing the right side of the church so that the priests had a rectory next to the church.
On December 25, 1926, to the heartbreak of its parishioners, a disastrous fire leveled the Holy Family church to the ground following the last Mass on Christmas day! Officers of Saint Joseph’s Catholic Total Abstinence Society donated the use of the Society’s hall on Chestnut St. for Sunday Masses and other religious services during the winter months. In the spring, the social hall in the rear of the church property was used for Mass and other services.
After the disastrous fire that leveled Holy Family Church on Christmas Day in 1926, Fr . Paul Sozzi and his staff began the arduous task of organizing plans for a new Holy Family Church. Within 14 months, through the untiring efforts of energetic and devoted parish committees, fund raising activities were completed. The new Holy Family church was blessed by Fr. Sozzi on Sunday morning February 12, 1928 at a Solemn High Mass attended by more than 600 parishioners. The new church was a basement church of 100 feet in length and 50 feet wide with 2 additional altars for special Mass celebrations. The main altar was donated by St. Mary’s church. The basement church, which we today refer to as our “lower church”, grew under the guidance of the succeeding Pastors, Frs. Fontana & Costa.
Because there was such an increase of Italian families who had migrated to West Lynn, known as the Brickyard session of Lynn, a mission and extension of Holy Family was established in 1925. Through the efforts of Fr. Sozzi, the St. Francis Chapel was founded on Blossom St for West Lynn Italians. (Sadly St. Francis Church closed a number of years ago). In 1929, Fr. Sozzi was transferred to San Paulo, Brazil.
Rev. Louis Fontana was assigned to Holy Family Parish. Through the continued support and tireless efforts of the parishioners, money was raised so that Fr. Fontana was able to pay off the total mortgage on the church property, which now included a Rectory directly across the street from the church. Fr. Fontana was responsible for the formation of the Blessed Virgin Sodality, our Lady’s Guild, the Holy Rosary Society and the Holy Name Society. A social club was also started which held numerous activities for the benefit of the church. Fr. Fontana left Holy Family Church in 1936.
Rev. Joseph Costa became the third Pastor of Holy Family Church. With the ever increasing members of Holy Family parishioners, a larger rectory was now needed to house several priests. It was during his pastorate that the Holy Family Rectory was enlarged to its present size. Two houses were put together to make one, with an addition in the middle to connect both houses. This edifice still stands today! Fr. Costa implemented parochial life through the updating of existing facilities and the growth of parish societies. Fr. Costa left in 1942 to join the United States Army Chaplain corps with the rank of Major.
Beginning in 1942 and during the ensuing 19 years, Holy family parishioners were blessed with the spiritual leadership of the Rev. Erminio Lona. He was called a “saintly Priest” by the late Richard Cardinal Cushing. His quiet, persuasive and able way transmitted a spirit of love and brotherhood between the clergy and the people. Under Fr. Lona’s guidance, Holy Family Parish flourished. Across from the Rectory, there was a small court (in place of the parking lot we have today). On the left of this court was a three decker house, which housed the Sisters of Mercy with Sister Mary Neri as its superior. They had a nursery school & kindergarten (which some of you probably attended). The nuns began the “Daughters of Mary” for teenage girls. In the back of the court was our very own skating rink and clubhouse that belonged to the church. It was the meeting house for the many activities at our parish.
In 1960, Fr. Lona at age 81 stepped down as Pastor to remain in the Parish as Pastor Emeritus. He was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Amodia, a native of Italy. In seven years, Fr. Amodio liquidated the parish debt and renovated the exterior and interior of the rectory. He also organized the C.C. D. Program. Before leaving Holy Family Parish, he began discussions to realize the dream for the parish to build an Activity Center. The center was built in 1967, under the guidance of the next pastor, Fr. Joseph Massaro. With Holy Family still a strong Italian parish, continued to grow. Under Fr. Massaro’s leadership, the parish council of Holy Family and many of the committees were begun. The interior of the church was renovated according to the requirements of the new liturgy.
Our Activity Center was dedicated on Sunday, April 12, 1972 by Humberto Cardinal Medeiros following a Concelebrated Mass. In the evening a banquet was held in observance of the Golden Jubilee of Holy Family Parish! In the years 1973-1976, Rev. Rinaldo A. Ribezzi, C.S.S. was the pastor of Holy Family Church. He focused his attention on the parish liturgical and Religious Education Programs. The Cursillo movement flourished under the direction of Rev. Anthony Nuccio. Ceramic classes were offered at the parish!
Rev. Richard Ahern was the next pastor from 1976-1979. A scripture class was Introduced as an Adult Education Program. A Prayer Petition Service in honor of Blessed Gaspar Bertoni founder of the Stigmatine Fathers began in 1978. For the first time in Holy Family’s history, Special Ministers of the Eucharist were solemnly installed on Sunday, May 20, 1979 by the Episcopal Vicar, rev. John McCormack. The 20/20 club was begun as a way to increase parish income. Youth, Cub Scouts, Brownies and basketball teams were organized. Fr. Ahern culminated his term as Pastor here when he celebrated
Rev. Charles J. Grady, C.S.S., was appointed Pastor in 1979. During his term as pastor, the property to the right of our church was acquired. A house on this property was moved. With the help of the properties committee, the church was completely renovated. Through the cooperation and generosity of the parishioners of Holy Family, Fr. Grady was able to pay the complete assessment of the Cardinal’s Stewardship Appeal. During this time, he found one less associate on staff. He hired Sister Jane Hogan, a member of the Franciscan Community of Lynn as coordinator for the Religious Education program. Parish priest and associate, Rev. James G. Shea, took an active role in the program as well as instructing and training the Altar Servers. Fr. Grady served Holy Family Parish as Pastor, for 12 1/2 years.
Fr. Grady left Holy Family Parish in 1991 after 12 1/2 years as Pastor. He was replaced by Rev. Joseph Fellin. At 70 years young, Fr. Fellin became our pastor. Fr. Fellin helped put this parish on a solid base financially. The success of Bingo, the 20/20 club and the Annual Festa helped with parish support. He set out to make many changes in the rectory, church and activity center. He was instrumental in helping us put in the beautiful stained glass doors in the front of the church. The activity center was renovated and the heating system was converted to a more efficient system. These are some of the major changes made by Fr. Fellin to update the parish. We are grateful for his six years of service in his ministry to Holy Family Parish. Fr. Fellin celebrated his 50th Anniversary to the priesthood and the 75th Anniversary of Holy Family Church in 1996. He retired to St. Joseph Hall in Waltham. Fr. Fellin and Fr. Shea were the last priests of the Stigmatine Order to Serve Holy Family Parish.
Fr. Fellin retired in November of 1996 and Rev. Gregory Mercurio was appointed administrator. It was the first time in Holy Family Church’s 75 year history, that the Stigmatine Fathers did not staff the parish with parish priests. Fr. Gregory was assigned to Holy Family Parish by Bernard Cardinal Law. His Eminence knew that Father Gregory’s Italian roots & heritage would make him an excellent candidate to serve this Italian Community. Fr. Gregory arrived in Lynn with his dog Nubbs, who became a well loved mascot of the parish. Fr. Gregory came to Holy Family with experience as a Pastor, Parish Priest, Chaplin & teacher. During his first years here, he focused his attention on parish ministries. He implemented liturgies for children, sustained the religious education program and established a youth committee. His goal was to encourage young families to become more involved in their parish through participation in Mass, religious instruction and family friendly parish social activities.
In 1999, Fr. Gregory was officially named Pastor of Holy Family. Without any additional parish priests, he continued building up parish ministries by empowering lay people to participate more fully on committees and in ministry as volunteers. Because of Fr. Gregory’s interest in gardening, more concentration was giving to landscaping the church grounds by the planting of many prolific flowering plants, shrubs and ornamental trees as well as a memorial statue of St. Joseph in front of the church, a brick structures for plants and new signage to border the newly surfaced parking lot.
In 2004, the parish learned the shocking news that Holy Family Parish was to be among the parishes likely to close as part of the reconfiguration of the Archdiocese and need for it’s consolidation. While discussions were being held at the chancery, devastated parishioners were desperate to save their beloved parish from the bleak gate that seemed to be eminent. With the same dedication and commitment to their faith and church as displayed by their founders, the parishioners in a test of faith, turned to prayer. Under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Gregory, a portable chapel was constructed in the parking lot of the church. Parishioners took turns keeping a constant 24/7 vigil of prayer. This demonstration of a peaceful protest and a testament to the power of prayer, attracted people from all over the area, including media and newspaper coverage. This crisis reinforced a strong bond between parishioners, families, old friends and new. In the midst of despair, the people of Holy Family remained positive and hopeful. They concluded their week long vigil with a Mass outside at the cornerstone of the church building.
After deliberations at the Chancery, a parking lot full of parishioners and local media anxiously awaiting the decision of what seemed to be impending doom. Against all odds, everyone witnessed the joyous sound of the church bells tolling the announcement that Holy Family would remain open!
Recognizing the need for increased revenue, Fr. Gregory secured permission to lease the parish activity center to a charter school. From 2005- 2012, KIPP Academy became tenants of Holy Family Church. Sound financial planning resulted in the parish remaining solvent during a difficult economic crisis and recession.
In 2007, we were honored to have Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrate the 85th Anniversary of Holy Family with a Mass of Thanksgiving. Under Fr. Gregory’s direction, the interior of the church was refurbished and an elevator lift was installed to make the church assessable for our handicapped and elder parishioners to attend Mass. An air conditioning system was installed in the church and to make the rectory more energy efficient, new windows and doors were put in and an outdated kitchen remodeled.
In 2012, the parishioners of Holy Family celebrated 90 years of a people of faith, with many liturgical, sacramental & social activities celebrated throughout the year. A liturgy celebrated by our regional bishop, The Most Reverend Peter J. Uglietto and a dinner dance was the highlight of the yearlong festivities.
The preceding paragraphs are the legacy of Holy Family Parish. Many priests, pastors and parishioners have contributed to the spiritual and financial success of Holy Family Parish during the past 90 years. Italian families of four and five generations and people of many diverse nationalities, have left a little part of themselves as at Holy Family Parish during the past ninety years. Holy Family has been blessed with wonderful dedicated staff, custodians, assistants and countless volunteers who have given so much to the pastoral life of the parish. To all who are no longer with us and to those who still give freely of their time we own a great debt of gratitude. A continuing commitment to serve and spirituality of the priests and parishioners of Holy Family will measure our future. We pray that Holy Family Parish will always be a beacon of the Catholic Faith in the city of Lynn. Let us pray that all of our members will continue to exemplify the way of the Lord and show the world the Lord’s call to “Love one another”.