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BEVERLY -- As a young man growing up in Lynn, Ray Martin took his faith a little bit for granted. Raised Catholic, he would go to church on Sundays with his family, but was not looking to deepen his faith.
All that changed after 1945. Drafted into the army, riding a troop train heading for the West Coast in order to be deployed to Japan, Martin received the news that the atomic bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
One year later, after serving with the occupation troops in the Philippine Islands, Martin returned home and went on a retreat led by Father James Callahan, SJ.
That retreat changed his life.
Speaking from his Beverly home, Martin recalled with clarity that closed retreat he participated in over 60 years ago.
“I’ve taken my religion pretty seriously since then,” he remarked. “My faith is the guiding principle of my life.”
Martin has been a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Church since 1970, when he moved to Beverly with his mother. A retired chemistry teacher for the Lincoln/Sudbury public schools, Martin continued attending retreats, even participating in classes at Blessed Pope John XXIII National Seminary several times while on sabbatical from his teaching job.
Martin is currently an adult altar server, serving every day at daily Mass. In addition, he is both a lector and an extraordinary minister of Communion. Twice monthly he takes Communion to the homebound and to the sick at Beverly Hospital. Years ago, he taught religious education in the parish’s confirmation program, but he has stopped teaching in recent years.
According to Martin, the parish is a very close-knit community, particularly among the elderly.
“Our parish has a very solid group of elderly people who have been with the parish almost since it began,” he said.
In addition, Martin has seen a surge in “young people,” particularly parents with young children who attend the parish school.
Martin praised his pastor, Father William McLaughlin, for his leadership, noting that prior to Father McLaughlin’s arrival, the pastor had been there for many years.
“Father McLaughlin is such a wonderful guy,” Martin exclaimed.
“The parish is still in a bit of a flux from the change,” he said “We are still quite active as a parish, but I don’t think there’s quite as much going on socially as before.”
“Father has done a wonderful job renovating the building,” underscored Martin, noting that the church is housed in what was meant to be the school’s gymnasium. However, the dream to build a separate building for the tabernacle never materialized and the parish remains in the gymnasium building.
In Father McLaughlin’s three years as pastor, he has installed beautiful doors and colored glass windows which creates a peaceful, prayerful atmosphere, Martin said.
In addition, he has brought in a new organist who has done “remarkable work” with the choir, Martin added.
“We have a good parish,” he said.