Early Days of a Mission Parish
During the Civil War, the Rev. James Fitton, a well known and revered pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston, traveled to Winthrop twice each month by horse and carriage to Point Shirley to celebrate Mass for the Catholics who worked at the Revere Copper plant. Later a chapel was built for these workers close to the waters edge. When the Copper Works closed this chapel was floated over on a barge to East Boston.
For the next twenty years Winthrop remained a Mission Parish, with the few Catholics traveling to the Star of the Sea in East Boston for early Mass, remaining all day for Sunday School and Vespers.
In 1881 the Rev. Michael Clarke, pastor of Star of the Sea Church, made arrangements with Mr. Joseph Jessop of Winthrop to purchase land which would become the site of the first Catholic Church in Winthrop. This land is now at the corner of Winthrop and Lincoln Streets.
In 1887 the Rev. Hugh O’Donnell, the next pastor of Star of the Sea began construction of the structure which would be the basis of the first Roman Catholic parish in Winthrop. This wooden church was dedicated under the patronage of St. John the Evangelist on June 19, 1887. At first, only the summer months saw the need for Mass. However, the church was open year-round by 1895, as a result of the growth of population because of good railroad connections to Boston. During this period between 1887 and 1907, St. John’s was considered a “mission” of St. Mary’s, Star of the Sea, East Boston.
A Permanent Parish
Between 1890 and 1910 the town of Winthrop had a dramatic increase in population. It doubled during the 1890’s and rose from 6,000 to 10,000 in the early 1900’s. We can presume that many of the new people were Catholics. Saint John the Evangelist parish was made permanent on January 3, 1907 by Archbishop John J. Williams. Rev. John H. Griffin was the first pastor, well-known previously to Winthrop residents for his administration to the spiritual needs of the Catholic people of Winthrop while an assistant at the Star of the Sea Church. During his eighteen years as pastor of St. John’s he proved to be a priest of great energy, vision and courage, beloved by his people.
Rev. John H. Griffin – 1907-1925
Rev. John T. O’Brien – 1925-1930
Rev. James A. Crowley – 1931-1934
Rev. Mark E. Madden – 1934-1945
Rt Rev. Richard J. Quinlan, S.T.L, LDD – 1940-1955
Rt. Rev. Aloysius R. Finn, S.T.L – 1955-1968
Rt. Rev. John J. McDevitt – 1968-1981
Rev. William H. Morgan – 1981-1986
Rev. Paul Sullivan – 1987-1999
Rev. Charles E. Bourke – 1999-Present