Cardinal Sean O’Malley celebrated a special Mass at St. Leonard Church on Sunday, May 26th, including a blessing of new wood-carved statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare, as well as the newly re-constructed pipe organ. Following the Mass, the Cardinal also blessed the newly renovated St. Leonard’s Church Hall.
The latest restorations complete an ambitious and extensive multi-million-dollar renovation project. The restoration project took about a year to complete until the church was officially reopened with a December 17th Mass celebrated by Cardinal O’Malley.
The North End remembered more than a century of service by the humble Franciscans with an outpouring of financial support. Led by St. Leonard’s Fr. Antonio Nardoianni, O.F.M., the restoration effort resulted in thousands of individual contributions toward the $4 million project. Support was aided by benefactor Nick Ferreri who challenged the business community to support St. Leonard’s with a $1 million matching program.
In the North End, it was the St. Joseph’s Society who stepped up with a $1 million dollar gift toward the restoration. Beyond that, however, in an agreement with the pastor and the Archdiocese, the St. Joseph’s Society went further and pledged to restore the church hall (a further $350,000 investment), which is now nearing completion (see below).
St. Leonard Church, founded in 1873, is the first church in New England built by the Italian immigrants, which became the center of spiritual activity for the fast-growing Italian immigrant residents of the North End. When the church opened to the public in 1891, it already had an estimated 20,000 parishioners. The upper church construction project, in Romanesque revival architectural style, was dedicated on November 6, 1899.
Downstairs is the newly renovated hall, originally St. Anthony’s Hall, which will now be available for a variety of community needs. The back area will serve as the future home of the St. Joseph’s Society which funded the restoration of the entire church hall. The large function area will also serve as the new home for many of the religious societies in the North End and can be utilized for special youth and resident activities.
With these latest restorations, the parish turns a new page in its history and looks for future ways of serving the people of the community.
Cover photo: Cardinal Sean O’Malley and Fr. Antonio Nardoanni with benefactors from St. Joseph society at the newly restored church hall.