History of St. Bernard Church
Saint Bernard was born in a castle in Burgundy, France. At an early age he was sent to the best schools. He studied theology and the Holy Scripture. After his mother's death, fearing the temptations of the world, he made up his mind to become a monk of the Cistercian Order. His superior sent him with twelve monks to start a new monastery called the Abbey of Clairvaux. Bernard was at once appointed abbot. Every day, Bernard asked himself this question: "Why have I come here?" He never allowed himself to forget that his main duty in this world was to lead a holy life and to save his soul. The poor and the weak sought Bernard's protection; bishops, kings, and popes asked his advice. Bernard started many monasteries. He is known for his writings which have earned him the title of "the Last of the Fathers and Doctor of Holy Church." He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin and composed the beautiful prayer called "The Memorare." Bernard died in the year 1153. His greatest devotion was to Jesus Crucified to whom he dedicated all his love.
(From the text: "History of the Archidiocese of Boston, The Churches of Middlesex and Essex")
In the northern part of the City, St. Bernard's, West Newton was the first church to be erected. The beginnings here were marked by one of those unpleasant episodes so common on our Catholic history. Father Bernard Flood, of Waltham, who seems to have said Mass in this section occasionally from about 1866 onward, bought a lot at Washington and Prospect Streets on May 17, 1869, and, wishing to gather all the local Catholics to discuss church building, hired the Town Hall for services on Sunday, May30. The arrangement was made with constable Cole, who had authority to let the building. It was announced from the altar in the Waltham church on Sunday the 23rd. Two of the Newton Selectmen, however, having strong Evangelical convictions about "Popery", induces their colleagues to counterman this agreement and deny Catholics use of the hall. When this decision was noised about, it aroused much commotion, and the Unitarians, with characteristic courtesy, at once offered the use of their church. Father Flood, however, preferred to make other arrangements. On Sunday, June 6th, he assembled his people on their lot, where Mass was said in a tent. Three hundred people crowded within, while twelve hundred knelt in open air. So indignant were the Catholics at the insult put upon them that $1,600.00 were raised that day to build a church. Apparently that tent had to be used for many long months until the following spring, when a new board of selectmen came into office, the use of the town hall was finally obtained.
The cornerstone of St. Bernard's was blessed on November 12, 1871, and on August 23, 1874, Bishop Williams dedicated the tasteful Gothic brick church, which had cost about $45,000.00. Two years later, West Newton was made a separate parish under father Michael T. McManus (appointed April 20, 1876). Under its third pastor, Rev. Lawrence J. O'Toole (1886-1911), the church was almost completely destroyed by fire on the evening of June 23, 1889. Once more, the congregation went for a season to the Town Hall, but, thanks to the resolute efforts of the pastor and the people, the church was promptly rebuilt - substantially along its old lines, but larger and more beautiful than ever - and rededicated on April 27, 1890.
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