Next month, St. Jude Parish in Norfolk will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the church building’s consecration. A special Mass will be held on Sunday, December 8 at 10:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon in the church hall.
Town and state dignitaries and local clergy have been invited to the event, as well as former St. Jude clergy. Several parishioners will share personal reflections.
“We hope to emphasize our connection to the community at large with this event,” said Father Stephen Zukas, the pastor of St. Jude. “Everybody is welcome to our celebration, not just the Catholics in town.”
St. Jude is part of a collaborative with St. Edward the Confessor, located in Medfield. The two parishes share a staff and resources as part of the ongoing effort by the Archdiocese of Boston to deal with a shortage of priests as well as dwindling attendance at Mass.
Ideally, Catholic collaboratives are temporary arrangements, with the ultimate goal to break apart because the numbers of active parishioners and of people entering the priesthood have increased, explained Father Zukas.
St. Jude has 1,593 registered parishioners. About 50% of Norfolk residents identify as Catholic.
A town-wide spirit of cooperation helped establish the only Roman Catholic church in Norfolk.
The first Mass at the current St. Jude Church was celebrated on December 20, 1959. Prior to that, the approximately 300 Catholics in Norfolk worshipped in surrounding towns, with some taking a bus on Sundays to Blessed Sacrament Church in Walpole.
In 1947, the members of the Norfolk Grange offered the use of the hall for Catholic Mass. Boston’s archbishop at the time, Cardinal Richard Cushing, assigned Father Edward Bailey (a chaplain at the Norfolk prison) to Norfolk, and the new parish was established.
With the permission of the archdiocese, the parish was named in honor of St. Jude, one of the original disciples of Jesus Christ. St. Jude, also known as Thaddaeus, was known for preaching the gospel in difficult circumstances, hence he is the patron saint of “hopeless cases, and things almost despaired of.”
In “Norfolk Stories II,” an oral history book by the Norfolk Historical Commission, interviews with long-time Norfolk residents describe a combined effort by residents of all faiths to get St. Jude established.
Brothers Richard and Paul Connors, now deceased, were interviewed in the book. They explained how their father Ross, who served in the Navy during World War II, arranged through the Navy to get chairs and benches with kneelers for Mass at the Grange.
“We had to set that up every Sunday morning for a 9 a.m. Mass and then after Mass was over, take it down and put it away,” they noted. “In those days the community of Norfolk was such that everybody got together to do whatever they could to raise money for the church. We had card parties and whist parties. (Our) father brought up boxers from Quonset Point and we brought up a football team and they played against the prisoners inside the wall. Everybody in Norfolk was big on community service for the church.”
By 1950, parishioners had raised enough money to purchase a large building in the center of town for church services. Mann’s Store, where Santander Bank is now located, was converted into a chapel and the attached home became the new rectory. Father Bailey was soon joined by Father Frederick Walsh, and St. Jude now celebrated three Masses each Sunday.
Fundraising continued for the next few years with the ultimate goal of building a new church for the parish. Dances were held at the Legion Hall on Myrtle Street, and fairs were held in City Mills, and the entire community rallied behind the efforts.
In 1957, the parish purchased the parcel of land where St. Jude now sits for $4,000. The church was built and the first Mass at the new St. Jude Church was celebrated two years later, presided over by Cardinal Cushing. A young priest named Robert Connor was the cross bearer for the ceremony. In 1991 he would become the pastor of St. Jude.
A new rectory for the church, situated next door, was built in 1982.
Father Zukas has been the pastor of St. Jude for one and a half years, but was familiar with the town because he had friends in Norfolk while growing up. The anniversary celebration next month will touch on the church’s history and celebrate its future, he said. The church is striving to make inroads with the youth of the parish by building community through peer ministry and the Faith in Action program, which offers outreach opportunities to serve people in need.
Through events like the recently-held church picnic and outdoor Mass (220 people attended the Mass, and 140 people attended the picnic), as well as youth outreach, Father Zukas hopes more people will identify with the parish.
“Getting families to connect to the church and practicing their faith, that’s the goal for the future,” he said.
Parishioners serving on the anniversary planning committee include Deborah Bergerson-Moore; Beth Budny; Maureen Cappuccino; Ann Cisneros; Terry Davis; Eileen Heneberry; Jane Hoffman; Mary Sheedy; and Joann Squitieri. Contact them with any questions by calling the church rectory: 508-528-0170. The committee is also looking for old photos and memorabilia to display at the celebration.
The luncheon after the Mass will be provided by James Breakfast and More in Wrentham.
Historical information in this article was provided by Anthony Cappuccino.