Bicentennial memories and moments: Growing up Catholic

The year was 1946. The war was over and the nation was moving quickly and joyously into peace-time mode. Under the leadership of then-Archbishop Richard Cushing, the Church in Boston was doing the same with plans for new parishes, new schools and new institutions tumbling off the drawing boards of local architects. My contemporaries and I weren’t much aware of what was going on in the wider Church in Boston but we surely knew what was happening in our neighborhood, Holy Name Parish, West Roxbury.

We were just beginning our high school years and now the attractions of the parish CYO program were open to us. For a meeting place and for our activities all we had was what was called the Community House, a long wooden structure next to the church. But somehow, in spite of our numbers, that was not a problem. On Friday night, it belonged to the parish band, a proud tradition at Holy Name in those days. Saturday night was the weekly dance. We even had an orchestra: three college students trying to earn some money for tuition. As I recall, they were far better musicians than we were dancers. On Sunday, the boys served on the altar -- right through high school by the way -- or sang with the men’s choir. I don’t know what the girls did on Sunday morning other than attend Mass, of course. Most likely, they talked about the boys. Sunday afternoon, we all gathered at Brigham’s on Centre Street. After our studies, that was our lifestyle and the lifestyle of thousands of other Catholic teenagers of that era for the next four years.

As a priest for 50 years, I have many wonderful and privileged memories. But for some reason, when invited to offer a bicentennial reflection, that era in the life and history of the Church in Boston came quickly to mind. Maybe because there doesn’t seem to be anything quite like it today, or maybe I’m just showing my age.

Father James McCune is director of the Office for Senior Priests.