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3 Historic Catholic churches you have to visit in Boston


You may know Old North Church, but have you been to these old churches?

When most people think of Boston churches, the Old North Church, Boston’s oldest surviving church, comes to mind. Founded in 1722, it was made famous by Paul Revere held two lanterns from the church’s steeple to signal that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord. Less well-known, but also of historical signficance, are these three beautiful Catholic churches that are deeply intertwined with the city’s rich history and worth a stop while visiting the city.

1. St. Stephen’s Church

Felix Lipov | Shutterstock

Just a 3-minute walk from the Old North Church, following the Freedom Trail, is St. Stephen’s Church, dating back to 1804. It is the last remaining church in Boston designed by the architect Charles Bulfinch, who built the United States Capitol.

St. Stephen’s was not always a Catholic Church. Originally called New North Church, it was first a Congregationalist and then a Unitarian house of worship. In 1862, as the North End of Boston had become heavily Catholic due to an influx of Irish immigrants, the church was sold to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and became St. Stephen’s.

While it is no longer a parish church, and is run by the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, daily Mass is celebrated there. For more information go to Located at 401 Hanover Street.

2. Cathedral of the Holy Cross

Bill Damon | CC BY 2.0

The largest Roman Catholic church in New England, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross was built in 1866 after the Catholic population in the city outgrew the old Holy Cross Church, built — by Bulfinch — in 1803.

A Requiem Mass for President John F. was celebrated here on January 19, 1964, and broadcast on national television. The church was honored by a visit from Pope John Paul II who held a prayer service in 1979. Located at 1400 Washington Street. For Mass times click here.

3. Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Roman Archdiocese of Boston | CC BY-ND 2.0

Build by the Redemptorists in 1874 in the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Our Lady of Perpetual Help is both a basilica and a shrine, and has always served immigrants and the poor.

After a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was installed over the altar, the church became known for a number of cures that were attributed to Our Lady’s intercession. Starting in 1887 the infirm would flock to the church for weekly blessing’s of the sick, earning the New York Herald 1901 headline: “A Lourdes in the Land of Puritans.”

Before Senator Edward Kennedy died in 2009, he asked that his funeral be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a place dear to his heart from the time he prayed there every day when his daughter was in a nearby hospital battling cancer. Located at 1545 Tremont Street. For Mass times click here.

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