Father James F. Hickey's 50th Anniversary of Ordination
A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOLY FAMILY CHURCH
As a parish family, the Catholic community of Rockland, Massachusetts has grown impressively in nearly one hundred forty years. When Holy Family was founded in 1882, the town had a population of about 4,000 people, of whom only one-fourth were Catholic. Today, Rockland’s population is approximately 18,000 and over 60% are Catholics.
In 1872, a decision was made to establish a Catholic parish in East Abington, which became known as Rockland upon the incorporation of the new town (March 9, 1874). The first Mass at Holy Family was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1882, in what is now the lower church. This was quite an accomplishment for a small Catholic community, to have funded and completed the construction of a church in such a short time. On May 30, 1886, Holy Family Church was dedicated, with Archbishop John Williams presiding.
In the early 1900’s, Holy Family was both the spiritual and social home for parishioners. Many Irish, Italian and Polish immigrants had settled in Rockland, home to a then-thriving shoe industry. The parish became central in their lives, as Rockland retained its small-town feeling well into the mid-twentieth century. In 1941, Holy Family Church opened an eight-room parochial school.
Housing construction in Rockland expanded rapidly following World War II. The town’s population doubled to more than 12,000 during the 50’s. As the population grew, so too did the need for more classroom space, and in the 1960’s a new sixteen room parochial school was built. Enrollment swelled to over 800 students. Due to dwindling enrollment, Holy Family School closed in June 2018.
Over the past forty years, the town has seen further construction: the addition of two senior citizen complexes, a large subsidized-housing development, and a retirement community for persons aged 55 and over. Beginning in the 1950’s, many families moved to Rockland from Boston and its immediate environs. Rockland today has become a quasi-urban setting, all the while retaining its sense of being a small town. The parish has changed with the town, being now less a rural or suburban parish and more like an urban parish (with trees!)
Since its founding over a century ago, the parish has adjusted to meet the needs of its parishioners. We are strong and vibrant, and we’re aware that we have to identify the continually-changing needs of the People of God. The spirit of Holy Family is best expressed in our Prayer for Parish Renewal:
"Lord God, You love us with an everlasting love; and You chose us to share Your love with others. WE ask that You rekindle in our hearts a new spirit of faith, of prayer and of reconciliation. Inspire us to search out and find ways of bringing one another closer to You. We pray for all who form our parish community, that together we may be continually renewed and transformed. All this we ask in the name of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
Our main "campus" is located at 403 Union Street, and includes our magnificent church, our rectory, the Religious Education office, the St. Joseph Center, and headquarters of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. There is substantial parking (and designated handicapped spaces). Both upper and lower churches are handicapped-accessible.
Off Market Street is Holy Family Cemetery, comprising nearly 50 acres of land.