History of the Parish
In accordance with Bishop Wright’s philosophy supporting smaller parishes, the diocese created a new Northborough parish on January 21, 1959: St. Bernadette. Reverend Edward F. Kane was appointed administrator, and parishioners designated for the new parish began attending Mass at the town hall.
A little more than a year later, October of 1960, Father Kane had been named pastor; and the new church, built on land donated by the Charbonneau family, opened.
A Holyoke native, Father Kane was ordained in Springfield in 1942, and served in several parishes of what is now the Springfield diocese. He was assigned to St. Paul Church, Worcester, which became the cathedral church when the Worcester diocese was formed. While there, in March of 1950, Father Kane was appointed Scout Chaplain and remained in this role until 1958. He received high accolades for the growth and vitality of the diocesan scouting program during his tenure.
Interest in Catholic education, which remains a primary concern for St. Bernadette parish, was reflected in the catechetical program of the new parish. Parishioner Jean McGranaghan, its first director, was supported by enthusiastic volunteers. In a short time, many classes functioning simultaneously in the Church proved undesirable, and the parish arranged to use the facilities of Trinity Church for instruction.
The first Christmas in the church, the new choir gave a concert and sang in Latin for High Mass at midnight.
Services began just after a fierce snowstorm which provided the perfect Christmas atmosphere. The church was full despite the many unplowed roads. The enthusiasm of the new parish family verified the Bishop’s concept that smaller parishes foster more personal, enriching interaction.
Father Edward F. Kane remained as pastor until 1968. After serving in a variety of roles, he was named rector of Vianney House, a residence for retired priests. While in this role, he retired from active ministry in 1975. Father Kane died in January of 1995.
Father John J. Murphy, who was born in Clinton, was appointed pastor on February 28, 1968. He, like Father Kane, was ordained at St. Michael Cathedral, Springfield. After serving in many Worcester County parishes, he was named to his first pastorate at Holy Cross Church in East Templeton in 1962.
While a curate at St. Stephen Church, Father served as moderator of sports at the high school. This concern for young people was reflected in his support for the growing CCD Program at St. Bernadette Church. At this time also, the Diocesan program of parish councils began.
In July of 1971, Reverend Anthony DiPucchio, a Worcester native, was named pastor of St. Bernadette Parish.
Following his ordination in Italy on June 7, 1951, Father DiPucchio had been associate pastor of several parishes in the diocese. After his tenure at St. Bernadette, he became pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish where he remained until October 1, 1984, when he was appointed pastor of St. Thomas-a-Becket, South Barre. He retired from active ministry in August, 1991 and died April 22, 1998.
Reverend Anthony Marteka received his first pastorate, St. Bernadette Parish, on July 1, 1981. Born in Whitinsville, Father Marteka was ordained in St. Paul Cathedral in 1961. Though he had been associate pastor at various churches, his assignment before coming to St. Bernadette was as campus minister at Worcester State College form 1972 until 1981.
During Reverend Anthony Marteka’s pastorate, extensive redecoration, and repairs were completed in the Church, restoring it to pristine condition.
Father was reassigned to St. Philip Parish, Grafton, on may 31, 1985, where he still serves.
Reverend Charles Dutram, a Webster native, served with the First Army across France and Germany, earning six battle stars. He then worked in civilian life before beginning studies for the priesthood in 1950.
Ordained in St. Paul Cathedral on January 6, 1958, Father Dutram was assigned to many parishes as associate and pastor before being appointed to St. Bernadette Church on May 31, 1985. He retired from active ministry on July 28, 1991.
Assigned as administrator of St. Bernadette Parish in June 28, 1991, Father Chester J. Devlin was named pastor on June 28, 1992. Prior to this assignment, Father Devlin had served in a variety of roles in the diocese, most of which were related to education.
Born in Webster, Father Devlin was ordained on May 15, 1971, by Bishop Flanagan in Notre Dame Parish in Southbridge. He served as temporary administrator of a number of parishes while working in his educational ministry. From 1971 through 1990, he was faculty member and/or administrator at a variety of diocesan schools.
In January of 1990, Father Devlin was appointed diocesan director of education for pro-life, a role he retained when named pastor of St. Bernadette Church.
Under Father Devlin’s pastoral leadership, the church was renovated. The walls were painted, flooring was added under the pews, and the pews were repositioned to face the altar. New carpeting was also installed through the rest of the church. In addition, a number of new items were added: an organ; new statues of St. Joseph, the Risen Christ, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus; and shrines to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette. A Eucharistic Chapel was constructed and Adoration of the Blesses Sacrament initiated. Stained glass windows were designed and installed, and a new altar and pulpit were added. The church was then officially consecrated by Bishop George E. Rueger.
The rectory was also repaired. New siding, a new roof, a refurbished interior, and a second floor added to the existing garage restored and enlarged the buildings.
Father Devlin encouraged parishioners to begin and preside over 25 new ministries. He also spearheaded the beginning of the International Festival and, in the spiritual realm, began the annual Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette, yearly parish mission, and the concept of Christian stewardship.
In recent years, the parish has made a major commitment to the education of its adults and youth. A parish center was built as a meeting place for the many new parish ministries designed to support an active Christian life for all. In 1997, the parish school, the first new one in the diocese in 46 years, opened in this facility. Expansion in numbers and grades prompted construction, in 1998, of a separate school building.
Fr. Stephen M. Gemme was appointed Pastor in 2003 and
re-appointed in 2009 for a second six year term. In 2004, the parish welcomed the families from Saint
Ann Parish and Saint Mary's parish in Marlboro when they were closed by the
Archdiocese of Boston. Saint Bernadette Parish grew from 400 to 800 families.
In 2006, a Capital Campaign was launched that raised $800,000, providing for many capital improvements to the campus, including a new roof and air conditioning for the parish church, a new playground for the school, a new floor for our gym, and $75,000 a year for 4 years for tuition assistance.
In 2009 the parish celebrated its 50th anniversary with mass with Bishop McManus.
Parish Youth Ministry has continued to grow, with Fr. Gemme naming a Director of Youth Ministry for the first time in the history of the parish. The parish Religious Education program now includes over 400 children and St. Bernadette School has grown to 535 children in Pre-K3 to 8th grade.
In August of 2011, Meg Boland, a parishioner, joined the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist. Her brother James is in his 4th year at Saint John's seminary, set to be ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Worcester in 2014.