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UPDATED Oct. 13: A celebration of the 150th anniversary of the church that predates St. Agnes is set for Sunday, Oct. 23.

Congregants plan to gather for noon Mass at St. Agnes. Presiding will be Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, followed by a reception at Arlington Catholic High School.

The anniversary recognizes the contributions of all the parishes that have served Arlington over the years — St. Malachy, St. Agnes, St. Camillus, St. James, St. Jerome and Immaculate Conception.

As Father Marc Bishop, the pastor, wrote at cparl.org/150yearsofcatholicism: "A faith that saw much growth and good works over the last century and a half: a faith that has developed in response to new trends and a community that has never forgotten the importance of worship and service."

Local church history

The local Catholic faithful initially found a home in Arlington with St. Malachy Church, now St. Agnes. Before the establishment of St. Malachy in Arlington, in 1872, Arlington Catholics traveled to St. Peter’s in Cambridge. When the Arlington parish began, it included territory in Belmont and Lexington, which later became their own parishes.

In 1900, St. Malachy’s was renamed to honor St. Agnes, referring to Agnes of Rome (c.  291 – c.  304), a virgin martyr

Since those early days in Arlington, parishioners have made many personal sacrifices to support the needs of their church. Through their generosity, Catholicism has prospered in Arlington, and St. Agnes Parish has provided a strong foundation for Catholics here.

As the needs of the parish grew, funds were raised to build many facilities, including St. Agnes Elementary School, St. Agnes convent (now the Parish Center); Fidelity House, with its Monsignor Flaherty Gymnasium, and Arlington Catholic High School, with the addition of Monsignor Linnehan Library.

According to the sources cited below, each facility has touched the lives of parishioners, enriched the education of the community's children, served in the performance of charitable works and brought many together in a spirit of Christian community.

For more information about the Catholic Parishes of Arlington (St. Agnes and St. Camillus), click here >> 

Historical additions

Local historian Richard A. Duffy provided additional background, adding the former Immaculate Conception in North Cambridge and St. Eulalia, whose parish territory covered part of Winchester and Arlington from the time it was established.

St. Eulalia continues to be a Winchester/Arlington parish in 2022, though Duffy notes that in the link to the Archdiocese of Boston, some internal archdiocesan administrative organization includes just St. Agnes and St. Camillus. 

He adds that 1872 is recognized as the establishment year of the parish of St. Malachy, but Arlington’s Catholics attended worship in the church still standing as St. Agnes starting on Christmas Day of 1870.  The church functioned as a mission of St. Peter's in Cambridge, but Arlingtonians didn't need to travel there, he wrote.

When St. Malachy's was established as a parish, it not only included Arlington, Belmont and Lexington, but also Bedford. Duffy wrote that the latter two towns had previously been mission churches out of Woburn.


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This news announcement was published Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022, based on information provided by Chris Doyle and Marianne Comeau of Arlington. Sources also include cparl.org/stories, cparl.org/bulletins and this historical source. It was updated Oct. 13, to add information from Richard A. Duffy.