byFather Robert M. O'Grady
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. has accepted the request of Father O. Wendell Verrill to retire as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Waltham and has granted him senior priest/retirement status. Both actions are effective when a new pastor is named for St. Mary’s.
Father Verrill was born in Cambridge and grew up in Hingham. He is an alumnus of archdiocesan seminaries and Cardinal Cushing ordained him to the priesthood at Holy Cross Cathedral on Feb. 2, 1963.
His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Ipswich which was up the coast from his Hingham home. He moved inland to St. John the Evangelist, Chelmsford in 1965 where he was also assistant until 1968. He signed up for the then fledgling Society of St. James the Apostle and served happily in the archdiocesan mission society.
In 1974 he was named an assistant at the El Centro del Cardenal while living in residence at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and in 1975 he was named director of El Centro while remaining at the cathedral.
For the next eight years he served the growing population of Spanish speaking immigrants from many nations and cultures in Boston’s South End and across the city.
Between 1983 and 1994 he served in a number of parish and archdiocesan positions, sometimes overlapping and not infrequently with two assignments at once. He was parochial vicar at Blessed Sacrament, Jamaica Plain (1983-84); communications liaison for the Hispanic Community (1984-88) while living in residence at St. Patrick, Roxbury. He was interim director of the Hispanic Apostolate of the archdiocese (1987-90) and returned during that time to be parochial vicar at the cathedral (1988-94) at the same time. From 1990 to 1993 he was also director of the archdiocesan Radio Apostolate.
Cardinal Law named him pastor at one of the oldest parishes in the archdiocese, St. Mary, Waltham on July 26, 1994.
Father Verrill took on a special challenge at St. Mary’s. Not only is St. Mary’s venerable by age, but it was a very large parish with its own grammar school and separate boys and girls high schools, as well as residences for the sisters who staffed the grammar and girls’ high, and the Christian Brothers staffing the boys’ high.
The schools had closed and the buildings had been sold or leased for various uses. At the same time then population aged and new peoples arrived, in great part these were and are Spanish speaking.
In addition to providing services, liturgical, pastoral and social for this new population, Father Verrill oversaw the process of the sale of parish property that was developed into affordable housing for the elderly. Students of St. Mary’s were now living in suites, which had once been their classrooms.
Father Oliver Wendell Verrill bears the names of two famous Yankees — the American poet and his son the American Supreme Court Justice — Oliver Wendell Holmes. Somewhat of a wordsmith himself, Father Verrill has occasionally penned articles for this journal, a memorable one was on June 30, 2000 about the topic of priests and weddings. He showed his wit and insight in fine prose if not 19th century poetry. Those who have worked with him can also tell you that he is judicious in his plans and decisive in his actions — usually with a touch a dry humor.
Father Verrill also won praise for his role as vicar of the Newton vicariate of the West Region, especially during the recent reconfiguration of the entire archdiocese.
Cardinal O’Malley granted Father Verrill’s request to retire because he has been recently experiencing some health concerns. He will remain at the Waltham parish until his successor is named.