Bicentennial memories and moments

The bicentennial celebration for the Archdiocese of Boston begins this weekend with the opening liturgy at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and my thoughts are rambling through my own “faith” history as the day draws near. History celebrations have a way of doing that. It is funny how so many memories surface looking back on one’s life in the parish and in the Church.

I have a tapestry of emotion when I think about attending St. James Grammar School in Haverhill. The old school was on a back street, close to railroad tracks and the Little River, and I can still picture the fenced-in school yard -- I think it was on Granby Street -- something like that! I remember the nuns! At St. James, it was the Sisters of St. Joseph who taught us. Almost every day as I walked to school (we did that then) the bus carrying the sisters from the convent would go by and we would wave, probably trying to garner a few “points” before the school day began.

The parish was “ruled” by Msgr. Frederick Mulrey. I was telling a story about him the other day and it occurred to me that, although I thought he must have been in his 90s -- he was so old -- he was probably younger than I am now. I was recalling to the grade two parents that I received first penance face-to-face back in 1952. I was sick the day of first penance and missed the sacrament. The following Monday morning, there was a knock on the classroom door and Msgr. Mulrey asked sister to send out the people who had missed the moment. I went out and told my sins to monsignor in the coat room. (Not that this sacramental event had that much impact; I only remember it precisely.)

Time sure flies, and how we change. As I remember that moment, memories are flooding my mind. Perhaps that is happening to you as well. And most are good memories. Life growing up as a Catholic in Haverhill was pretty good. Over the coming bicentennial year, we will be inviting people to share some memories or moments. We hope they will be positive, uplifting, poignant, reflective and special. Above all, they will be ordinary people sharing ordinary stories that helped to build 200 years of Catholic history in the Church of Boston. May God bless us as we move forward together.

Father Bob Connors is chair of the archdiocese’s Bicentennial Committee.

Share your “memories and moments” by sending them by e-mail to Father Connors at