Parish History

History of Sacred Hearts Parish 

~Formerly Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary~

Late in 1890, Catholics on the east side of Malden recognized that the Catholic population in their part of Malden was sufficient to create a new parish. A committee of 15 men was formed and on July 16, 1890 a first meeting was held. The time had come when it was necessary for better church accommodations to be provided for the people residing east of the Boston & Maine Railroad.

A vote was taken to accept the resolutions to form a new parish, which were then presented to Fr Flatley, Pastor of the Immaculate Conception Church. The "die was cast" and the dream of a new parish was on its way to becoming a reality. Rev. John J. Williams, first Archbishop of Boston, granted the request. Rev. Thomas H. Shahan was appointed first pastor of the new parish.

Fr. Shahan celebrated the first Mass for his worshipers, 800 strong, on June 14, 1891, at 10:30 a.m. in the old Barrett Opera House on Main Street, and continued to do so each week until January 1893.

In May 1892, the well-situated Bell Estate on Main Street, became available for $12,000. The location was considered most suitable, as it was in the center of Malden, on "one of the most beautiful thoroughfares in the city." Fr. Shahan called a meeting at the opera house to announce the purchase; the news was received with great pleasure and an immediate collection and pledge netted $2,000. He further announced that construction would start immediately, and the basement would be available for services within a year.

In July, excavation was begun and, true to his word, Fr. Shahan celebrated Mass for the first time for his grateful parishioners on Christmas Eve 1892, in their new basement church. The building had no windows, there were no benches, and the worshipers had to kneel on the floor. But there were no complaints, for these people of deep faith who had worked diligently and generously for three years, finally had their own church.

By 1894, the congregation of Sacred Hearts had almost doubled from that band of 800 that had attended Fr. Shahan's first Mass at the old opera house. In June 1894, Fr. Shahan purchased the Dr. Langdon Sullivan house at 310 Main Street, a roomy wooden structure ideally situated directly opposite the church. After making some badly needed repairs, Fr. Shahan had a very comfortable home for himself and his growing staff of assistants.

Fr. Shahan was also fortunate in obtaining the architectural services of Patrick C. Keely for the design of the new church. Like his friend Shahan, Keely was a native of Ireland who had designed over a period of 30 years as many as 600 churches, including Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal, the Immaculate Conception Church on Harrison Avenue, and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. Keely died, however, before the drawings for Sacred Hearts were completed, and his son-in-law, Thomas Houghton, concluded the project.

As prophesied in The News, the finished church is indeed a thing of beauty. Built in the Gothic Romanesque style of architecture, it has a paneled vaulted ceiling. Twelve renaissance Corinthian columns support the great arches and on either side are immense buttresses which give an imposing appearance to the structure. About the walls are the fourteen stations of the cross beautifully carved. Of particular interest are the beautiful stained glass windows, the first group of which were donated in 1905 by members and friends of the parish.

It was not until Easter Sunday, April 7, 1901, that the beautiful upper church of Sacred Hearts was used for the first time. The sublime Easter service was attended by a large throng of people from Malden and the surrounding cities. On May 5, 1901, at 10:00 a.m., Archbishop Williams dedicated the church, and the goal of the East Side Catholics, after more than ten years, was finally realized. On April 27, 1902, a group of around 500 men assembled for the purpose of organizing the Holy Name Society. On November 29, 1902, Fr. Shahan died at Carney Hospital after a brief illness.

Fr. Patrick J. Hally, who became the second pastor of Sacred Hearts in December 1902, proved to be a worthy successor to Fr. Shahan. An early Christmas present arrived for the parishioners of Sacred Hearts in on the  north side of Irving Street, owned by James G. Hill of Washington DC, had been purchased as the site of the Cheverus parochial school and convent for the Sisters of Providence.

Mr. E. E. Burns had been sexton of the church for over ten years and was a staunch supporter of Sacred Hearts as well as of Fr. Hally. Mr. Burns owned about 3500 s.f. of land on the north side of the church. Fr. Hally purchased about 6500 s.f. of land around Mr. Burns' property. They entered into an agreement to exchange the land recently purchased. Fr. Hally had his land for a rectory next door to the church and Mr. Burns could build on his new property with no loss of square footage.

‚ÄčThe organizations of the parish were still going strong in 1911 with the Holy Name Society (directed by Fr. George P. O'Connor), Married Ladies Sodality (directed by Fr. Hally), Single Ladies Sodality (with Fr. O'Connor as Chaplain), Children of Mary (directed by the Sisters of Providence), and Boys' Friday Night Class (taught by Fr. O'Connor). The new Sacred Hearts Cheverus Centennial School formally opened its doors on Irving Street on Ash Wednesday, March 18, 1911. The Sisters of Providence had moved into the two frame houses in August.

In May 1915, Fr. Danield Lenehan, third pastor, had the happy task of presiding at the first graduation of Cheverus High School which had been established in 1912 as a commercial high school for girls. This class received the highest honor in the state for proficiency in Gregg shorthand.  

In January 1916, Fr. Lenehan wrote to Cardinal O'Connell's secretary, Rev. R. J. Haberlin, and among other things, requested that he be permitted to start work on the convent as scheduled. A very happy entry in the Convent Diary of late March 1917 reads: 

After completion of the new convent, Fr. Lenehan turned his attentions to his next major project--a new rectory. This was considered a top priority, for the rectory at that time, the third house used since the establishment of the parish, was in a dilapidated and unsanitary condition. However, all plans had to be postponed due to the high cost of labor and materials brought about by the war. In April 1919, Fr. Lenehan requested approval for the new rectory, to be made of brick, at a cost of approximately $40,000. Parishioners made contributions, sponsored fund-raising activities, and private donations were received for the new rectory building. In June construction began at 297 Main Street. The new house would be built behind the old one and when completed, the old house would be torn down. The old rectory was vacated in September 1921, and before the end of the year, the priests were in their new rectory.  

On January 6, 1924, Fr. Lenehan announced to his parishioners that the church was out of its $40,000 debt and had a treasury balance of close to $10,000. He has wiped out the parish debt in nine years. In addition to paying these bills, he built a convent and a rectory. From December 1922 to April 1925, the beauty of the church was enhanced by donations of additional stained glass windows.

The decade of the 1930s is remembered in history for the worst worldwide depressions in modern history. Sacred Hearts parish, however, reached a high point in its development in both church and school. It had a talented, dynamic group of curates who happened to be in the right place at the right time. The CYO program, which had as its forerunner the early Boy's Club under Fr. O'Connor, was established in 1933 and was placed under the direction of Fr. Sheehan, who came to Sacred Hearts right after his ordination in June of that year. The famous Sacred Hearts Drum Corps, World's Fair National Champions and winners of the Cardinal O'Connell Cup in diocesan competition, had a membership of 62 while the Junior Corps Class B diocesan champions, had 40 members.

Later in 1946, the name of the "CYO Mothers' Club" was changed to the "Sacred Hearts Women's Club" thereby increasing the membership of this very active group which did so much for the parish in general and for its youth in particular. In time, this organization was enlarged further when it became "Sacred Hearts Women's Club-Sodality."

In December 1952, Fr. Lenehan quietly celebrated with his priests the 60th anniversary of his ordination with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 9:00 a.m. During the following year, his health failed, and he died on Friday, December 3, 1953 in the rectory which had been his home for 32 years, and which he had built. Fr. Lenehan had seen the parish grow and develop over a period of almost 40 years.

On January 12, 1954, Rev. Edward J. Riley was appointed by Archbishop Richard Cushing as the fourth pastor of Sacred Hearts parish. Fr. Riley found that rather extensive renovations would have to be made on the rectory, lower church and school. He soon had surveys done and plans made for the necessary work, which would entail an outlay of many thousands of dollars which would soon deplete the surplus he had found in the treasury upon his arrival. The months ahead were busy ones for Fr. Riley. He may have found during that first year that some physical facilities of the parish needed repairs, but he also found the spirit of the parish alive and well, the school and the Sunday school classes flourishing under the guidance of the Sisters of Providence, and the parish organizations with large and active memberships. It was a time of strong involvement in the parish community and the community at large.

The year 1958 marked the death of Pope Pius XII, who had been Pope for nearly 20 years. After a three-day conclave, the Cardinals elected an aging "compromise" pope the Patriarch of Venice, Angelo Cardinal Roncalli, who chose the name "John XXIII." He would become one of the most beloved men of the 20th century and would write an exciting new chapter in church history.

In 1958, a group was formed for young adults from ages 19-24 and called "Chi-Rho." In September 1959, a new organization was introduced into the parish by Fr. Riley, called the Damien Guild, whose work would be preparing bandages from used sheets cut into strips, and johnnies made from men's used shirts, to be distributed by the Catholic Medical Mission Board in New York to the unfortunate lepers of Molokai and wherever else the need was.In April 1960, Fr. Riley was elevated to the rank of Monsignor. Also, for the first time in its 70-year history, bells tolled from the steeple of Sacred Hearts Church on Sunday, November 20, 1960. The famous "Marian" bells were purchased by Fr. Riley through a bequest left to the parish by Mrs. Arthur (Eva) Benoit, proprietor of the Benoit Duff store. In November 1961, Fr. Riley introduced the Pre-Cana Conference, held at Cheverus School Hall, for all engaged couples planning to be married within six months. It was conducted by priests, doctors, and a panel of married couples. Monsignor Riley was transferred as pastor to St. Joseph's parish in Belmont in May 1964.

The Sixties, for our church, the country and the world, saw an astonishing number of turning points. It was a time of great openness and communication. In 1965, Pope Paul VI (successor to Pope John XXIII) gathered approximately 2,500 prelates in Rome for the 4th and last session of Second Vatican Council. Vatican II resulted in historic resolutions on religious freedom for the Catholic church, and had a tremendous effect on American Catholicism. English replaced the traditional Latin used in the Mass; parishioners were encouraged to take an active part in the workings of their parish; parents must now take an active part in sacramental preparation for their children.

Although it seemed an insurmountable task, the decrees of Vatican II were implemented. Priests now celebrated Mass facing the people, and the altar was moved closer to the congregation. Our fifth pastor, Fr. Jeremiah F. Foley, received his appointment to Sacred Hearts from Richard Cardinal Cushing on June 5, 1964. Fr. Foley announced that when Cardinal Cushing appointed him as pastor, he was told that his main assignment was to build a Parish Center. Though no definite plans for construction had been made, he hoped the center would be in operation by the time the parish marked its 75th anniversary in 1965.

Architect John Heffernan of Somerville was chosen in January 1965, while surveyors were busy looking over the school property. Fr. Foley announced in May 1965 at the Holy Name Society's Annual Communion Breakfast that the Parish Center would include an auditorium-gymnasium with a balcony, a basketball court, stage and seating capacity for 900. It would also include two modern classrooms and a school cafeteria which could also be used for parish functions.  

In June 1967, Fr. Foley was elevated to the rank of Monsignor. In 1978, Rev. Robert J. Higgins, S.J.,joined the Sacred Hearts family. He was often seen outside the church wearing his Red Sox cap, "cheering his team on," or announcing "what a good day for the beach," (no matter what the weather). An echo in the church of "Good Work!" would let you know that Fr. Higgins was near. Radiating the Holy Spirit in all that he did he attracted young and old alike.

There have been many changes since Msgr. Foley came to Sacred Hearts in 1964. Only one pastor before him, Msgr. Lenehan, had served longer. Together they made up over half of the 100+ years of the history of Sacred Hearts. The years were ones of change and acceptance in the way Catholics worldwide were to worship, pray, sing and praise Almighty God. Msgr. Foley retired as pastor in January 1985, and reached the age of 80 in April that year. He remained as Senior Priest in Residence until 1988, when he went into full retirement at Regina Cleri in Boston.

Rev. Daniel J. Hickey was appointed by Archbishop Bernard F. Law as the sixth pastor of Sacred Hearts on January 8, 1985. A formal Rite of Installation for the new pastor was held on March 16, 1985, with the Most Rev. John J. Mulcahy, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, as principal celebrant. More than 60 parishioners participated in the ceremony as members of the choir, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, cross bearers, candle bearers, ushers, greeters, etc. It is interesting to note here that throughout its history, Sacred Hearts Parish has been represented, not only by thousands of its parishioners, but also by eight of its parish priests, in every war in which the United States has been engaged during the 20th century, and representing all the military branches. 

One of Fr. Hickey's goals as pastor was to bring to the parish a liturgy made more meaningful through music, and so the adult and youth choirs, with encouragement from the music director and organist, continued to grow and inspire parishioners with beautiful music at the liturgies, a constant reminder that "music is twice praying." Fr. Hickey expanded the ministries of lectors and Eucharistic ministers among the laity, as well as making many improvements in the upper and lower churches, reflective of Vatican II norms, yet retaining many of the traditional features of the beautiful old church. In May 1985, Fr. Hickey embarked upon renovations in the rectory. The whole plant had been surveyed by archdiocesan engineers who determined that extensive work was necessary. Besides work on the priests' suites, offices and conference rooms were modernized, soundproofed, insulated, and painted

Sacred Hearts Parish celebrated it 100th anniversary in 1990. Much celebrating was done. Dances, picnics, a history book, a fair and a Cheverus reunion were just some of the activities that marked the special year.  

Sacred Hearts Convent, which at one time housed 40 Sisters of Providence, because of the so few Sisters living there and teaching in our parish school, closed its doors in August of 1992.  

Father Hickey has dedicated much of his term as Pastor to the restoration of the church. A bathroom had been installed in the downstairs church. Most of the upper church has been painted during this time, carefully preserving the original design. In fact directly above the main altar, a painting of the holy spirit was revealed for the first time in decades. The many years of smoke from the candles and incense had hidden it’s beauty. The lower church has been painted. New lighting and all new electrical work was installed throughout both lower and upper churches. Restrooms have been installed in the lower and upper church. All ceiling tiles have been restored. Within the last few years, two lifts have been installed to all handicap access to both levels. Presently work is being done of the exterior of the window frames. The bricks need to be pointed and the tower louvers replaced.

Father Hickey’s term as Pastor has restored much of the church building’s beauty. More importantly, the parish family has grown both spiritually and in numbers.  He retired September 1st, 2013 after 28 years of service.

The combining of Sacred Hearts Parish and Immaculate Conception Parish is scheduled to happen in the near future.  At that time a new pastor will be appointed for the Collaborative.  When Fr. Hickey retired Fr. James T. Kelly was appointed as temporary administrator to bridge that gap.  Fr. Kelly, however, was reassigned after one month and replaced by Fr. Mark J. DeAngelis, a second temporary administrator.  Fr. DeAngelis was originally scheduled to be at Sacred Hearts for only two months, but his tenure has been extended.  He has been named as long-term administrator and will likely remain at Sacred Hearts at least until the Collaborative with Immaculate Conception is formed.


Father Hickey has dedicated much of his term as Pastor to the restoration of the church. A bathroom had been installed in the downstairs church. Most of the upper church has been painted during this time, carefully preserving the original design. In fact directly above the main altar, a painting of the holy spirit was revealed for the first time in decades. The many years of smoke from the candles and incense had hidden it’s beauty.



Our Parish




     Father Shahan


     Confirmation 1945

    Wedding from 1970


Catholics Come Home Catholic TV