The Mother Church in the Catholic Diocese

The Mother parish of two early dioceses, Springfield and Worcester, was built after much difficulty of procuring land. Catholics were banned from owning land at the time and  Worcester was quite an unfriendly community to Catholics as stone work on the Blackstone Canal brought the first permanent Catholics to the region - the Irish. Finally in 1834 with the help of three non-Catholics, William Lincoln (whose brother eventually became Governor of Massachusetts), Francis Blake and Harvey Pierce, the Irish were able to buy meadowland at the site of what we now know as Temple Street in Worcester.

Christ's Church was built and paid for in two years.  Rev. James Fitton, known as the "Apostle of New England" became its priest after having wandered throughout New England since 1827 spreading the Word of Christ and His Sacraments. Father Fitton was a beloved priest whose popularity can be readily found in archival records. Father Fitton was also a strong proponent of a Catholic education and this strong advocacy led to the founding of Holy Cross College in Worcester.

Father Fitton stayed at the Church, which later became known as its present name, St. John's Church, for seven years. Every summer, he attracted scores of Penobscot Indians who followed him from his earlier days roaming in Maine. These Indians would live in their tents set up near Grafton and Franklin Streets for the summer just to worship at Christ Church. In fact, the story goes that these Indians would also kneel outside the Church, after the service, in the dusty cartpath until Father Fitton personally blessed them individually.

Other history states that Army militiamen also worshipped at St. John's Church on their travels to Florida for the Seminole War when they were encamped on Brown Street.

The present red brick structure was built in 1845 and to its right is the parish rectory. Its proud history has included Father John Boyce (aka Paul Peppergrass of literary fame), Father Patrick O'Reilly who became the first Bishop of Springfield, Monsignor Thomas Griffin who brought the Sisters of Providence to Worcester to found St. Vincent's Hospital, the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Xaverian Brothers to staff the parish schools. Many other priests also played a strong role in Worcester's history.

(This historical information was taken from Jack Frost's 1956 book on Worcester County's Roman Catholic Churches titled, The Church in Worcester, New England. It has a foreward by Bishop John Wright, whose name can be seen on many dedication plaques throughout Worcester County as presiding Bishop in the 1950s.)