The Church Expands to Serve Newer Immigrants

By Robert Johnson Lally

Front cover of a March 17 1850 edition of The Pilot newspaper depicting a procession on St. Patrick's Day.

Archdiocesan Archivist and Records Manager
During the early days of the Boston diocese, first the French and then the Irish, were the dominant immigrant groups. But throughout the latter part of the 19th century, new immigrants began arriving in large numbers. Economic and political disruptions in Europe, combined with economic opportunity in America, brought Catholics from Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Portugal, Syria, Germany, Greece, Ukraine, Armenia and Canada.
For the Archdiocese, this generated a need for ethnic parishes. The purpose of these parishes was not to set up separate places of worship based on culture but rather to accommodate different language needs. For although the Mass was said in Latin, sacramental and other services were provided in English, a language the newer immigrants did not understand.
The result of this influx of immigrants was a significant leap in the growth of the Archdiocese. It was during this time that Archbishop Williams bought the Brighton property and opened St. John’s Seminary. New Church buildings were added, parochial schools multiplied, several hospitals and charitable institutions were founded, and the dioceses of Springfield and Providence were created.