Cardinal Sean O’Malley will celebrate Mass at St. Leonard of Port Maurice at noon on Sunday, May 26th. He will also bless new wood-carved statues of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare, as well as the newly re-constructed organ, which was part of the original restoration plan for the parish. Following the Mass, all are invited to attend when Cardinal O’Malley blesses the newly renovated St. Leonard’s Church Hall and a Meet & Greet Reception in the newly renovated downstairs hall.
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. Yet, as poor as these early immigrants were, they sacrificed a part of what little money they had for the construction of their church building.
When the church opened to the public in 1891, it already had an estimated 20,000 parishioners. With continued growth, construction began of the upper church to accommodate its many parishioners. The upper church construction project, in Romanesque revival architectural style, was dedicated on November 6, 1899. From its earliest history, the interior of the church was created by the Italian immigrants who were craftsmen as well as parishioners. Spirituality, fraternity, and deep-rooted tradition continue, even to the present day, as the center of life at St. Leonard’s Parish.
However, with the passage of time, the old building was in definite need of repair which prompted the present pastor, Fr. Antonio Nardoianni, O.F.M. to embark upon 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. As it turned out the restoration project was well received.
The North End remembered more than a century of service by the humble Franciscans with an outpouring of financial support. This became exemplified with a $1 million dollar gift from the St Joseph’s Society of the North End, which met all final restoration costs. 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, which is now completed.
The newly renovated hall, originally St. Anthony’s Hall, will now be available for a variety of community needs. Thanks to the special support from the St. Joseph’s Society, it 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.
The community is invited to participate in the May 26th Mass to witness Cardinal O’Malley’s blessing of the church hall, as the parishioners turn a new page in the history of the parish and look to future ways of serving the people of the community.