In September, 1926, The Catholics of Boylston attended Mass for the first time in their newly built mission chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption. Almost four decades before, local Catholics had erected another chapel on the banks of the Nashua River dedicated to the Sacred Heart. The creation of the Wachuset reservoir had destroyed the edifice and from 1900 to 1926, Catholic in Boylston were forced to attend services in neighboring towns.
On September 3, 1952, a newly created parish was formed in Boylston and in the adjacent section of Shrewsbury and the former chapel was rededicated as St. Mary of the Hills by the Bishop then John J. Wright. Father Harold Griffin became the first pastor. There were about 300 parishioners at that time.
Under the second pastor, Rev. Michael Shea the church was enlarged. Rev. Joseph E. Lynch served as our third Pastor from 1964 until 1967. Our Fourth Pastor was the Rev. Charles Friel. The Rev. Charles Lenk served as our fifth Pastor and the Rev. Thomas Lonergan as our Sixth Pastor from 1979 until 1982. By 1982 St. Mary of the Hills Parish had grown considerably from its humble beginnings.
On October 1, 1982, Rev. Paul J. Tougas was named seventh pastor of St. Mary of the Hills by Bishop Timothy J. Harrington. Within a year, Fr. Tougas and his staff had concluded that the current church complex was fast becoming inadequate. The parish numbered 1500 souls and it was projected that the slow but steady growth would continue. This increase required better educational, liturgical, counseling and youth needs.
In November, 1983, The Parish Council appointed a Study Committee to examine the church building and to offer a recommendation on what the parish should do: enlarge and refurbish the old building or build a new one. The committee of six under Donald Wilson’s chairmanship was definite. They recommended that no “serious money be put into the present building”.
And so the long and tortuous process began. In January, 1985, a real estate appraisal on all parish property was sanctioned by the Parish Council. By August, 1986, the Parish Council voted to hire an architect and authorized Fr. Tougas to inform the parishioners that a Study Committee had been formed to investigate all the options open to the parish.
On December 28, 1986, the parish Council voted unanimously to choose a site located at the corner of Route 140 and Sewall Street for the new St. Mary. The newly created Building Committee began weekly meetings on July 28, 1987. It consisted of Ronald Croaken, Patrick Healy, John LaMalva, and Mary Lavin. After considerable architectural and engineering work, not to mention a highly successful fund raising drive, the parish was ready to begin building when the dioceses unexpectedly offered a 13 acre tract of land at Barlin Acres off Cross Street.
After considerable soul-searching, the Parish Council voted on January 7, 1989 to accept the new site. Throughout several months of litigation, appeals, financial challenges and bureaucratic obstacles, the first shovel of earth was turned over by Bishop Harrington on Saturday, April 6, 1991.
God’s people have traveled a long and often difficult road from their little chapel on the Nashua to the pristine site of yet another House of God. The journey has made us all stronger in our faith and allowed us to more fully understand how important we are to one another – a community of faith, looking forward to a new and more beautiful St. Mary of the Hills Parish.
On June, 2013, our beloved Pastor for over 31 years Fr. Paul Tougas retired. With grateful heart we, at St. Mary of the Hills, wish him a happy and restful retirement. Fr. Manuel Clavijo was appointed by Bishop Robert McManus as the eighth pastor of our beloved parish. He initiated his ministry with us on July 6, 2013. May the Lord continue to bless his priestly ministry with us.