The story of St. Angela Parish begins in 1907. On December 28 of that year (1907), Cardinal O’Connell appointed Fr. Francis Ryan as first pastor to the new Mattapan parish. For sometime, the Catholic families of Mattapan and surrounding had been served by St. Gregory’s of Dorchester, Sacred Heart’s of Roslindale and Most Precious Blood’s of Hyde Park.
The time had come for the growing Catholic population of Mattapan to have its own pastor, and eventually its own place of worship, “The pasture of the Dorchester plantation” was now a pasture in its own right. Within a few days of its arrival Fr. Ryan celebrated the first Mass in Oakland Hall. This was a large hall over a group of stores that stood on what is now the gracious lawn of the former Holy Spirit church in Mattapan Square.
One could imagine the excitement on that Sunday, January 5, 1908 when the people came together for the success of this latest addition to the Archdiocese of Boston.
On May 6, 1909, ground was broken at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Fremont Street. Some months later, on October 17, His Eminence William Cardinal O’Connell blessed the cornerstone for the new church. The dream was being fulfilled. As the year 1909 neared its end, so too did the work on the basement of St Angela’s church.
On Christmas Day of 1909, the first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Ryan. One can almost hear the strains of the “Adeste” and picture the faithful as they picked their steps through the snow. Everybody wanted to be on time.
It was said by some that Fr. Ryan had eyes in the back of his head. It was not a day to be late for Mass.
Throughout this time; Saint Angela’s parish was developing rapidly. In 1919 the Upper Church reached completion. Fr. Ryan wrote to the Archdiocese requesting permission to dedicate the church at the 11:00 AM Sunday Mass on June 1. Permission was granted.
Fred Walsh remembers his conversation with Fr. Ryan and the pastor’s burning desire to complete the physical development of the parish by providing a Parochial School – St. Angela’s School of Mattapan, now Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy Mattapan Campus.
In August 1936, parishioners were invited to visit the completed St. Angela’s School, the fulfillment of Fr. Ryan ardent wish. The Sisters of Saint Joseph arrived at the parish and moved into the new convent on Fremont Street. The convent consisted then of a single house nearest the school. And many men and women went from the parish to become Priests and religious Catholic Sisters and to proclaim the Good News of Jesus even to the ends of the earth. Parishioners had taken their place in all the trades and professions and many in business. There were doctors, lawyers, teachers, government workers, nurses, politicians, tax collectors, homemakers the list was endless.
On November 3, 1981, a working sacristy in the upper church was converted into a chapel. The chapel was formerly dedicated to St. Martin DePorres, a Dominican lay brother who served the poor and sick in Lima, Peru in Latin America. To this day, the chapel is used for daily masses on weekdays, Exposition and Adoration of the Eucharist all day on Mondays and Fridays, and for weekly meetings for prayer groups.
[Related: St Angela Fire of October 24-25, 1996]
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