St. Mary's in Rochester Marks 150 Years
by John Bozak
The St. Mary Parish community in Rochester is joyfully commemorating the 150th anniversary of its founding as a parish in 1872. The community previously was served by priests from Exeter and Great Falls (Somersworth), who came to Rochester once a month to celebrate Mass in a rented hall.
St. Mary’s first church was a small 30’ x 50’ structure built in 1868 and was quickly outgrown. The parish originally was a part of the Diocese of Portland, Maine. Bishop James A. Healy of Portland facilitated the purchase of land on Charles Street in Rochester in order to build a new church in 1886 that would seat 225. In 1885, the Diocese of Portland split and Rochester joined the Diocese of Manchester.
By 1992, St. Mary Parish needed more space, a parish hall, and off-street parking. Father Richard Vosko, a liturgical consultant, was enlisted in 1995 to assist a parish steering committee in planning for a new facility adjacent to the parish cemetery at 71 Lowell Street. In 1996, Bishop Leo O’Neil approved the plan. Father Francis Kelso and Monsignor John Molan officially broke ground two years later. The present church was completed in 2001.
Father Thomas Duston, pastor of St. Mary Parish, opened the parish’s 150th anniversary celebration in February with the burning of the church’s mortgage. A year-long series of events are planned that will emphasize community service and outreach, parishioners sharing their memories of the role of the parish in their lives, and the history of the many pastors and religious who have served at St. Mary Parish during the last 150 years.