Ste. Rose de Lima, the Grattan Street congregation in the heart of Chicopee.
- In the 1880’s, Edward Alden had purchased a tract of land measuring 600 acres for the sum of nine thousand dollars. While living in the old Chapin Farm at the corner of Grattan (formerly known as Ferry Road) and Meadow Streets, he made plans for the development of a community that would bear his name. He was planning to build “a little city on the hill.” Alden divided his Chicopee land into lading lots, dubbed the area “Aldenville” after himself and created a mini-land rush.
- The first land sale in the new tract was to Marcele and Mary Croteau of West Springfield. According to local legend, Mr. Alden had tried for a year to sell his first parcel to Mr. Croteau. He was a multi-talented carpenter, who would build Aldenville’s first house on the corner of Grattan and Mary Streets. Marcele would go on to build about 30 homes in Aldenville; he also built the Aldenville School once located at the Aldenville Common, and the original Ste. Rose de Lima Church.
- Alden offered free trolley rides to bring prospective buyers to the site, enticing them with promises of gifts and prizes to go along with the purchases. He advertised in French and English to attract French-Canadian factory workers from the Falls and Chicopee Center to the new settlement in Aldenville, which was promoted as the ideal place to live.
- The Ste. Rose de Lima Parish began as a mission in 1897. Rev. Hormsadas Hamelin, pastor of the Nativity Church in Willimansett, was the visiting priest at the tiny mission. There were 75 families in the mission, tallying 377 communicants and 155 children. Mass was said in a private home for some months.
- On September 23, 1897. Most Reverend Bishop Thomas Beaven informed Father Hamelin that Edward Alden, founder of Aldenville, intended to donate a 34,000 square foot plot of land, situated at the corner of Grattan and Chapel Streets; his sole condition was that a chapel be built and outfitted for worship within one year.
- The parishioners wasted no time and broke ground November 29th. The modest chapel, a 42-foot wooden framed building, two and a half stories high, was built by Marvele Croteau, Aldenville’s first settler. The first Mass in the new wooden chapel was celebrated on April 17th 1898.
- On October 30th Most Rev. Bishop Thomas Beaven gave his solemn benediction to the wooden structure and on the very same day, 34 children were confirmed. The first infant baptized in the new chapel was Alfred Croteau, the son of Marcele and Mary Croteau.
- The men and women who attended church ceremonies in the chapel by the light of oil lamps were the little community’s first leaders. The wood frame mission church became the religious and social center of the fast growing settlement. Every Sunday for several years, two loyal parishioners, Amedee Landry and Jerry Beaulieu, went by horse and buggy to Willimansett to transport the priest to say Mass in Aldenville.
- As a new generation of French-Canadian families built their own homes, Aldenville grew from scattered farm houses to a tight-knit little community. The founding families reflected a variety of backgrounds; the French-speaking provinces of Canada, the French provinces of Alsace Lorraine and the Territory of Belfort. Diverse in origin, they were united by their religious faith and their determination to establish a community on the “Chicopee Plains.”
- On December 8, 1909, on the Feast of the
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary and 12 years after the chapel
doors had officially opened, Rev. Joseph A. Fredette arrived and
celebrated his first Mass in the new parish. Rev. Joseph A. Fredette
became the founding pastor of Ste. Rose de Lima, the church “on the
plains” in “the heart of Chicopee”.
The first rectory was a rented house at 19 Percy Street. As Father Fredette settled into his new parish, his biggest concern was the absence of a parish school, in 1914, he set up six school rooms above the chapel, and in September, 178 youngsters registered.
- Although the classrooms were not ready until January of 1915, class was held at the home of Mrs. Rousseau on Percy Street. Her home also doubled as a convent for the nuns. A real convent was built later in 1915 to house the Sisters of Presentation of Mary, who came to staff the school; it was located at 545 Grattan Street, Once classrooms were completed, the students moved in and classes were held at that location until 1927.
- Sometime after the year 1910, Father Fredette purchased 39 acres of land for use as a cemetery. He also purchased the property on Grattan Street between Percy and Trilby Streets, where the current school now stands.
- In 1918, Father Fredette was transferred
and succeeded by Rev. Joseph Brochu. Upon his arrival, Father Brochu
found 200 families; this meant the school was already too small. He had
an addition built to the back of the chapel to provide an additional
large classroom. He also realized that to care for the increase in
parishioners another priest was needed.
In 1919, Rev. Charles Lapiere became the first curate in Aldenville, remaining 3 years, and was a great aid to Father Brochu. Also, in 1919 the rectory was built on the corner of Grattan and Percy Streets. It contained 16 rooms.
- Father Brochu died in 1924, and was sadly
missed. He was succeeded by Rev. Jean B. Lamothe in January of 1925. By
this time the parish had outgrown both the chapel and the school. Fr.
Lamothe decided a new school had to be built. In order to avoid a loan,
he and the parishioners undertook a fund raising effort that lasted 3
years and raised $130,000.00.
Ground for the new school was broken in November of 1926; in October 1927, students were able to enter their new school, named after their patroness St. Joan of Arc, as a symbol of faith and courage. It contained all of the modern features. It was composed of two wings, one parallel to Grattan Street which was 236 feet long and 40 feet wide, the other which was perpendicular to the street, Measuring 96 feet long and 67 feet wide. It contained 16 classes and was able to accommodate 900 students.
It also contained a parish hall in the basement which in 1955 was converted to the school cafeteria. The first floor of the parallel wing contained the provisional chapel which was to serve until a new church could be built.
- By this time the number of sisters had
grown to 19 an as they could no longer be lodged in their little
convent, they exchanged places with the priests. In 1929 Father Lamothe
undertook the construction of a new rectory. The little convent that had
been serving as a rectory for three priests plus the housekeeper,
visiting clergy, missionaries, etc. was no longer adequate. The contract
for the new rectory was given to Zephrin Ducharme. This building was to
contain 22 rooms and for time to come would be a model residence for
In February of 1945, Rev. Lamothe was succeeded by Rev. Charles Fortin. In 1951, Father Fortin built a new convent. In that same year the old church was demolished and plans were made to build a new larger church. Mass was said at the school during the interim.
- The ground breaking for the $492,895 new church began on November 23, 1952, and construction began January 29, 1953, On July 2, 1953, at a simple exercise presided over by the Most Rev. Bishop Weldon, and witnessed by several hundred parishioners, the cornerstone was blessed and sealed. The cornerstone contained the Press clippings pertaining to the building of the church, coins minted in 1953 a silver dollar, a 50-cent piece, quarter, dime, nickel and penny), and an “Act of Benediction” inscribed in Latin on a copper plaque. The Act of Benediction translated reads: “In this year of 1953, in memory of Pope Pius XII, who by Divine Providence, being the Sovereign pontiff governing the universal church; Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States of America; Rev. Charles N. Fortin, designated pastor of the new church with the concourse and approval of the clergy and people and dedicated under the title of Ste. Rose, Virgin of Lima the very Rev, and Illustrious Christopher Joseph Weldon, Bishop of Springfield has blessed and placed this cornerstone.”
- On April 28, 1954, despite inclement weather, several hundred parishioners witnessed the blessing of the three brass bells for the tower. Bishop Weldon officiated at the ceremony, Cast in Holland, the largest of the bells weight 1100 pounds and was named in honor of St. Christopher. It bears the name of Fr. Fortin. The Second bell weighs 640 pounds was named in honor of St. Charles, It is inscribed with Fr. Remy’s name. The third bell weighing 440 pounds was named in honor of Pope Pius X. it bears the name of Fr. Lavoie. Each bell has the coat of arms of Bishop Weldon, a medallion crucifix and a bronze statuette of the Blessed Virgin. They are pitched in A, C and D of the musical scale and are electronically controlled.
- The church is constructed of light brick with Indiana limestone trimming and is of modernistic architecture. It has a seating capacity of 928 person with no columns to obstruct the view to the altars. It was built by the Granger Construction CO of Worcester. The Architect was Albert J. Roy, also of Worcester.
- The first service was held in October of 1954 and a much celebrated Mass of Dedication was held on November 21, 1954. Most. Rev. Christopher J. Weldon Bishop of Springfield was the celebrant. Master of ceremonies was Rev. George A Berthiaume, secretary to Bishop Weldon. Rev. Adrien Remy, assistant pastor of Ste. Rose, assisted as master of ceremonies. Rev. Msgr. Jean-Baptiste Lamothe, former pastor of Ste. Rose delivered the sermon.
- In 1958, Father Fortin was succeeded by Father J. Armand Silvain. He would care for the people of Ste. Rose for 8 years. In 1959, on the celebration of the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of Ste. Rose de Lima Parish (1909-1959), the Most Reverend Christopher J. Weldon, Bishop of the Springfield diocese gave the Apostolic Blessing to the priests and parishioners at the pontifical mass celebrated Sunday morning, Fr. Silvain addressed the gathering eulogizing the pioneers, praising the workers, priests, religious, and all those who attended to celebrate their Golden Jubilee and all those who were unable to be present.
- In 1964, Father Silvain was succeeded by
Rev. Eugene E. Guerin. With the building program at Ste. Rose in place,
Fr. Guerin would continue to care for the people of Ste. Rose de Lima
parish for 12 years. He was then followed by Rev. Roger Viau who was
pastor for a short period of time from 1976 to 1978.
In 1978, Rev. John P. Richard would take the reign at Ste. Rose. He made many renovations in the church, including moving the baptismal fountain to the front of the church on the left side from its original place in the vestibule of the church. He also had the tabernacle moved from the center of the Altar and to the right side of the church. The main Altar table was moved down the steps to the landing in the center of the Altar.
- In 1989, Rev. Leo A. Leclerc came to Ste. Rose de Lima, and he would remain here until his retirement in June of 2005. While at Ste. Rose there was a great deal of work to be done. One his first projects was replacing the school roof. The new roof was installed in 1991 by the Morris Roofing & Sheet Metal Company at a cost of $30,350.
- The church was also in need of updating. In 1995 the elevator was installed and a new handicap accessible entrance was built with access to the church, the hall downstairs, and the restrooms. This enabled our elderly parishioners as well as hose with a disability to come to church. Pews in front of the church were reserved for handicap use with space designated to fit wheelchairs. This improvement not only brought our church building up to code, but most importantly it brought our parish family closer.
- In 1996, after a long process of evaluating the Catholic Schools in the city of Chicopee (7 at that time), it was recommended that St. Joan of Arc School merge with St. George School and the school’s name was changed to St. Joan of Arc-St. George School.
- During the year 2000, the new millennium, the sound system in the church was updated, air conditioning was installed a t a cost of $71,750.00, spot pointing and water proofing was done to the exterior at a cost of $29,685.00 and the project to replace the school windows with the new energy efficient windows with screens was started. In 2001, with the convent now empty for 3 years, the pastoral offices were moved from the rectory to the new “Pastoral Center”. This move enabled all parish offices to work together and provide space for committee meeting and future expansion. Also during 2001 computers were updated and the original website for Ste. Rose was established.
- In June 2005, our current pastor Rev. William A Tourigny succeeded our beloved retired pastor Rev. Msgr. Leo Leclerc. Father bill had great shoes to fill. However, he quickly became right at home in his new parish of Ste. Rose. There was a great deal of work to be done and we were blessed with a pastor who was able to tackle the many areas that needed attention. The properties that make up our parish require a great deal of care but most importantly the people that make up our parish community required care as well and Father Bill was up for the challenge of both. In order to make our church more inviting, one of his first duties was to work with the parish council and building committee to have all of the fencing removed from the front of the church, rectory and pastoral center. New landscaping was then added.
- Fr. Bill’s first major structural improvement was the replacement of the church roof. This would be a major undertaking as the cost of the roof was estimated at half a million dollars. A major fund raising campaign was launched and the parishioners of Ste. Rose once again showed how much they loved their church. With the roof now in place some much needed interior repairs and renovation are planned in the future.
- Early in 2007, a Centennial Committee was formed to begin planning the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of our parish. A year full of activities was planned in thanksgiving to our founding families and all parishioners. Starting with a Communion Breakfast in January, it culminated in October with a Centennial Mas followed by a dinner reception at the Castle of Knights Banquet Hall.
- 2009 was a year full of celebrations, as we looked back with thanksgiving to the prior generations of parishioners, 2009 was also a year of change. Once pastoral planning was implemented in Chicopee the former ten churches now became five. Ste. Rose was chosen to remain open to welcome many new parishioners displaced by the closings. We now look ahead to what tomorrow holds for Ste. Rose de Lima Parish, the church in the Heart of Chicopee.
This excerpt was taken from our Sainte Rose de Lima Centennial Celebration yearbook. 2009
History provided in articles published by Stephen R. Jendrysik in the Republican and Chicopee Plus;
and by Sharon McConnell published in the “Chickuppy” magazine article of April 1982.