St Mary's, Foxboro, MA

St Mary's, Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA


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Mystery Worshipper:
Church: St Mary's
Location: Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA
Date of visit: Tuesday, 15 August 2017, 9:00am

The building

The parish church is Neoclassical, with a single steeple and white columns on the outside. The inside has old fashioned pews reminiscent of those more commonly found in New England Congregational churches. In addition, the only stained glass appears to be a single round window situated directly above the altar. In general, the architecture is not typical to a Catholic church. There are three reliquaries that hold fragments of the earthly remains of St Christine of Persia, St Pius X, and St Francis Xavier.

The church

The parish dates to 1859, which is special because that means the parish predates the establishment of the neighboring Diocese of Fall River. At one time its boundaries extended all the way to the Rhode Island border and throughout much of southeastern Massachusetts. They have a chapter of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of America. There are three Sunday masses plus the Saturday vigil, and one weekday mass except on Mondays.

The neighborhood

Foxboro, or Foxborough, lies about 20 miles southwest of Boston. It is a somewhat blue collar town populated by many residents who have relocated from Boston over the past 40 years. Foxboro was once the site of Union Straw Works, the largest manufacturer of straw hats in the world. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1900 and never rebuilt. Foxboro today is home to the New England Patriots football team.

The cast

The Revd William Sweeney, SSC, a retired priest of the Missionary Society of St Columban (better known simply as the Columban Fathers). He grew up in nearby Norwood, Massachusetts, and is listed as living at St Anne parish, about 20 minutes away by car. A woman organist and two older gentleman lectors were not identified.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

About 90 per cent. Not bad for a Tuesday, but then the feast is a holy day of obligation. The church is surprisingly small, seating only a few hundred.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

A man smiled at us when we entered, if that counts.

Was your pew comfortable?

More or less. The kneelers were in good shape. However, as with most older churches, my feet hit the kneeler in the pew behind me when I knelt – and my legs aren't that long.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet and reverential.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good morning."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A hymnal and music book from OCP Publications.

What musical instruments were played?

An electric organ placed to the right of the altar. Not a bad sound overall.

Did anything distract you?

There were two young children who every so often would sing perfect two part harmony. The priest seemed to know who they were and commented at one point that "In about 15 years they would be the best singers the church had ever seen." Actually quite nice. While I enjoy quiet, I am always happy to see young children treated as full members of the congregation, not hidden in a cry room like they do at my home parish. I don't think that St Mary's even has a cry room.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

It was formal, but the priest had a nice way of making it feel sort of down home, by working in a bit of humor where appropriate.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

8 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

7 – It was a nice down-to-earth off-the-cuff sermon (he told us at the beginning that he had forgotten to prepare anything).

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The women in our lives are cooperators in the plan of faith. Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, yet they enjoyed worldly pleasures; while Mary had obeyed God and had her heart pierced by the sword of sorrow.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I was impressed by the gusto with which the congregation sang the nice traditional Marian hymns.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

A pet peeve: the recessional was "Hail Holy Queen, Enthroned Above," which was sung with nice gusto, but only the first verse, when I would have happily stuck around for all four.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

This was a Tuesday morning so there was nothing after. However, upon returning to our car, we discovered that Father Sweeney was parked right next to us. As he opened his car door, he made a point of telling our little five-year-old how nice it was to see her at mass this morning. And another humorous moment: the vacation Bible school had left sticks in the ground with pages from a book about Jonah and the whale, which I read to the little one. Always a pleasure.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?


How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – I like the fact that the parish has traditional devotions and the traditional fraternal organizations.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

Yes, church always does. The Feast of the Assumption also happens to be our wedding anniversary, so it holds a special place in our household. I confess some bias in that regard.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

Reading the story of Jonah and the Whale.

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