On March 7,
1950, a new sound echoed throughout downtown Worcester. It was the
peal of a twenty-five hundred-pound bell that had been hung only the
day before in the hundred forty-five-foot tower of massive St.
Paul's, and it proclaimed the installation of Most Reverend John J.
Wright as first Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester. The joyous
ringing meant too that St. Paul's, the queen of the city's churches,
was now formally a cathedral; it had become that for which it had
always seemed destined - the chief church of a diocese.
St. Paul's is
a dark granite structure, strong and noble, of Gothic architecture.
It faces Chatham street at the corner of High, cresting the sharp
grade that rises to the west off Main street. And in its location
there is to be found an interesting story that reflects the temper
of the times in which our ancestors labored so valiantly to lay the
foundations of the Faith hereabouts.
1866, Father John J. Power, pastor of St. Ann's Church on what is
now Shrewsbury street, at the suggestion of Most Reverend John J.
Williams of Boston took steps to establish a parish for Catholics
arriving in large numbers into the west side of the city. He
purchased the pear orchards of George T. Rice and John Milton Earle
at Main and Chatham streets for $15,000 and planned to front a
church on Main street. Immediately the project became the subject of
heated controversy and the city fathers suddenly announced that they
proposed to widen Main street at that very point. In the light of
this development Father Power decided to go up the hill and erect
his church on High street. It is felt that he was influenced in his
decision by Bishop Williams , who, eager to avoid whatever might
excite or increase anti-Catholic bitterness, followed a policy of
building on side streets.
matter was not settled, for Father Power's neighbors on High street
suddenly were seized with worries about the depreciation of their
property. One of them proposed an exchange of lots. This was agreed
to and thus St. Paul's came to be constructed facing Chatham street.
In the Spring
of 1868 ground was broken, and on July 4, 1869, the basement was
completed, roofed and the first Mass said therein by Bishop
Williams. Father Fitton, pastor of the first parish in Worcester,
preached the sermon. That same day the cornerstone was laid.
years after these ceremonies, in 1874, the superstructure was
completed, except for the tower, construction of which was delayed
until 1889. Most Reverend Patrick T. O'Reilly of Springfield, to
which See Worcester in the meanwhile had been attached, performed
the dedication and Most Reverend James A. Healy of Portland gave the
is a hundred and sixty-eight feet long, ninety-one feet wide and
ninety-six feet to the apex. Originally the design called for a
lofty spire, but the tower appealed to the corrected taste as more
in keeping with the character of the building.
has served the faithful well over its four score and more years.
Structural changes have not been necessary, although recent
renovations inside have introduced a strong note of spiritual
buoyancy and a modern, colorful decorative scheme. Light shades have
given an air of greatly increased spaciousness, and new shrines and
other objects of devotion have heightened the reverential and
cosmopolitan aspects one associates with cathedral churches.
just a few of the latter, there are now in St. Paul's shrines to St.
Joan of Arc, St. Wulstan, St. Patrick and St. Pius X; a Marian
shrine that features Domenico Morelli's Mater Purissima; a Sixteenth
Century wood carving by the German master Jorg Syrlin the younger; a
three hundred year old icon of Our Lady of Kazan; Flemish tapestries
illustrating scenes of the Passion; a portrait of St. Paul by Van
Dyke, and a jewel-encrusted representation of Our Lady of
recent addition to St. Paul's Cathedral to which the attention of
visitors is particularly directed is an oaken plaque in the
vestibule. The tablet was suggested by an inscription in the porch
of the medieval cathedral church of the "sister city" of Worcester,
England, and reads as follows:
"Whosoever thou art that entereth this
Cathedral leave it not without first offering humble prayer to God
for the Bishop of this Diocese, for its priests, religious and
people and for all members of Christ's Church, the living and the
dead, and for those not yet of His fold for whom Christ died and for
whom we pray."