Saint Mark Roman Catholic Church

No. 6701 The first building used by Saint Mark’s Roman Catholic Church, circa 1910.

No. 1303 Postcard. St. Marks Church, circa 1920.

In 1899 Father Fitzpatrick of St. Gregory’s bought a piece of land on Dorchester Avenue and Rosemont Street and built a chapel. In 1905 St. Mark’s Parish was set off from St. Gregory’s with J.A. Daly as Pastor. He continued until his death in 1944.

In 1914 the parish commissioned Charles Brigham to design the red brick church in perpendicular gothic style, very derivative of All Saints’.

Note that today the church is at the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Roseland Street. In early days the street was named Rosemont. Then Rosemond Road was the name for what are now St. Mark’s Road, Semont Street and Glenrose. Then there was another piece of Rosemont Street extending east of Adams Street.

For more information, consult:

Dorchester Old and New, 1630-1930. (Dorchester: Chapple Pulishing Company for the Dorchester, Massachusetts, Tercentary Committee, 1930)

Lord, Robert H., John E. Sexton and Edward T. Harrington. History of the Archdiocese of Boston. (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1944) 3 vols.

Parise, Michael. The History of Saint Gregory’s Parish, Lower Mills, Dorchester and Milton, 1862-1987. (Dorchester: Published by Saint Gregory’s Parish, 1987)

Shand Tucci, Douglass. The Gothic Churches of Dorchester. (Issued by the Dorchester Savings Bank. Boston: Tribune Publishing Company, 1972)

The following is from a typescript of unknown authorship.

Brief History  of  St. Mark the Evangelist Parish , Dorchester, MA

On December 17, 1905, under the direction of Archbishop John J. Williams, the Parish of Saint Mark the Evangelist came into being with Reverend John A. Daly appointed as pastor. An all-wood church building on the comer of Roseland Street and Dorchester Avenue had been erected as a satellite mission of Saint Gregory’s Parish six years earlier in 1899.

After living on Centre Street for about a year, Father Daly commissioned the construction of a twenty-three room rectory which still stands at 20 Roseland Street. Father Daly, a seminary classmate of William Cardinal O’Connell, noted the rapid population growth produced by the opening of the Rapid Transit System and the meteoric increase in multi-unit home development. In light of this, he began the acquisition of land surrounding the original parcel.

Because the original wooden church structure was becoming too small to accommodate the burgeoning parish situated on one square mile in Central Dorchester, a new red brick and sandstone edifice in Tudor Gothic style was constructed. This was completed in 1915 during World War I, which saw over two hundred St. Mark’s men in uniform with only three men killed in action.

Five years after the end of that war, Father Daly sensed a strong need for full-time Catholic education of the young. He opened the doors of a nineteen room parish school staffed by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. The school enrolled one new grade each succeeding year until June, 1931, when the first eighth grade class graduated with great pride and satisfaction.

In 1926 a convent was ready for occupancy for the sisters who had been commuting from Saint Gregory’s Parish.
Because of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, Father Daly introduced the Saint Vincent de Paul Society to assist great numbers of unemployed parishioners with their food, heat and rent needs; and in January of 1940, the debt-free Parish discontinued the third Sunday twenty-five cent collection.

In the midst of World War II, Father Daly died after a long period of declining health. This was in March of 1944, one month before his friend Cardinal O’Connell’s death.

Over thirteen hundred Saint Mark’s parishioners served in World War II with forty-six of its young men making the supreme sacrifice.

Father Patrick J. Lydon, later to be elevated to Monsignor, succeeded Father Daly in March of 1944. He proceeded to repair and refurbish the church and expand the rectory and school. He began a Sunday Novena to the Sacred Heart to pray for the end of the war. At that time over 8000 people were attending eight Sunday Masses in both the upper and lower churches. He also started reading the Parish financial statement, a practice which continued for about thirty years.

In 1947, Father Lydon added chimes to the bell tower, and also added a new baptistry. In 1948 he installed a new altar of carved oak and in 1951 he had new lighting placed in the upper church. In 1952, Archbishop Cushing dedicated two new side altars and a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the side yard north of the church. After adding another eight rooms to the school, he constructed a fourth floor for the over-crowded convent in 1954.

In November, 1955, St. Mark’s celebrated a Pontifical High Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Parish. The ceremony was followed by a banquet attended by over one thousand parishioners.

A wrought iron fence was placed around the property in 1956. At that time, also, a garage was installed and extra rooms were added to the rectory.

Monsignor Lydon was in poor health and died in early June of 1961. He was succeeded by Father Walter Donahue, later to be Monsignor, who had been a curate at Saint Mark’s for nearly twenty-three years previously, from 1932 through 1955.

During the next ten years, major revenue systems were introduced: Grand Annual Collection in 1970, the One Thousand-A-Month dub in 1970, Bingo game (earlier called Blitz) in 1971, and an increased giving program in 1972.

After a long battle with heart disease, Monsignor Donahue died on June 31, 1973.

He was replaced by Father Thomas J. Mooney, who was ably assisted by Father Joseph Greer. The lower church, no longer in use, was renovated or transformed into a hall named in memory of Monsignor Donahue. Severe financial problems faced Saint Mark’s in the mid-seventies and Father Mooney began the weekly envelope system for
the Offertory collection. |

In May of 1977, Saint Mark’s first permanent Deacon was ordained and soon after, fifteen Extraordinary Ministers were appointed. It was during Father Mooney’s tenure that the population of the Parish began to change to include more young professionals and some African-American residents. Father Mooney was transferred to the Resurrection Parish in Hingham, in May of 1978.

Father Richard E. McQuade was appointed Pastor in June, 1978. He was assisted by Father Robert Banks, currently Bishop Banks of the Green Bay, Wisconsin diocese, and Father William Devine. Father McQuade was deeply interested in the school and instituted management procedures and policies which accounted, in no small way, for the financial stability of the parish school.

He was able to accomplish significant improvements oh the church property, new windows installed in the school, new heating system installed in the convent and rectory. He was a warm, generous, caring pastor. After eight years here at St. Mark’s, Father McQuade was appointed pastor of the Holy Ghost Parish in Whitman, in December, 1986.

Father Arthur M. Calter was then appointed pastor of Saint Mark’s Parish on March 25, 1987. He was assisted by Father John J. Ronaghan and Father John V. Sutton. During Father Gaiter’s tenure, the change in demographics of Saint Mark’s Parish became more noticeable. Long-time parishioners (either by relocation to another area or by mortality) were being replaced by young urban professionals, African-American, Caribbean Blacks and a significant Asian population.

Father Calter made considerable improvements to the buildings and property of Saint Mark’s Parish. The school roof had to be replaced, a new heating system was installed and asbestos was removed from the school buildings. Also, all underground fuel storage tanks were removed from both school and rectory; and new security school doors were installed.

Tithing was introduced to our Parish, and immediately increased our offertory considerably. This, however, was short-lived, and the substantial increase in the Sunday collections did not continue. This did, however, raise the awareness of many of our parishioners, who have continued increased contributions. In July of 1993, Father Calter was transferred to Resurrection Parish in Hingham, where he is currently serving as pastor.

Father Daniel Finn was appointed Pastor of St. Mark’s effective August, 1993. Father John J. Connolly was appointed as Associate Pastor upon his ordination in 1994. Father Connolly has been appointed for a four-year term, effective February, 1997, to the Clergy Personnel Board of the Archdiocese; and he has also been appointed to Captain Dunford’s Neighborhoods Advisory Police Board for Area C. Although we are a two-priest Parish, Father John Jennings, Chaplain of Saint Joseph’s Nursing Care Center which is located within the Parish, and Father John Doyle, a pastor of St. Peter’s Parish, reside in St. Mark’s Rectory.

The Parish is experiencing a continuation of the demographic, ethnic, religious and socio-economic changes which began over twenty years ago. This was not immediately represented in the Church and school communities; but within the last year, the diversity is being reflected.

The Blessed Virgin Shrine, in disrepair, was replaced by the ‘Madonna of tlte Streets’ and moved closer to Dorchester Avenue, representative that the streets and neighborhood are under the protection of Our Lady. Bishop Boles blessed the shrine in May, 1995, on the occasion of the Ninetieth Anniversary of the Parish. It is a central focus for devotion, as some people stop at the statue to pray; and others utter a quick prayer as they drive by in cars. Also, a side room off the altar (formerly a sacristy) received considerable renovations and recently opened as a Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, where the daily 7am and 9am Masses are celebrated. Since the chapel remains open until 4:00 pm every day, it is our hope that parishioners will make visits to the Blessed Sacrament. There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on the First Friday of each month, immediately following the 9 am Mass and continuing until 4 pm. Parishoners sign up for adoration during this time.

Reader’s comment from: Jack Ryan, August, 2007 

Directly across the street from St Mark’s Church was Mary Ann’s bakery, where my friends and I would buy doughnuts and skip Mass almost every Sunday. The jelly doughnuts brought us as close to heaven as we were ever going to get, so in retrospect, I guess we were not committing what was called mortal sin on the Lord’s Day. Father Lydon terrified me, especially if I went to his box for confession. Father Donahue, a younger priest, seemed more human. I went to St Mark’s school on Monday afternoons for “Sunday School” classes during which rules from the Baltimore Cathecism were studied and memorized. First Communion and Confirmation were rites of passage for all Catholics, and we/I had the honor of having Cardinal Cushing, himself, preside over my Confirmation. Occasionally, it strikes me that I can still hum or even sing the words to hymns I heard while in that church. The first love of my life lived in a house directly behind St Mark’s school.


Posted on

April 17, 2020