History/ Inception Years

Inception/ Early Years

The history of St Mary’s of the Annunciation Parish is a testament of great faith and tremendous achievements. The city of Cambridge was an agricultural area when St Mary’s parish was founded in 1867 by Archbishop John Williams. Reverend Thomas F. Scully, a Civil War Veteran and prisoner of war was its pioneer pastor. Built upon the Old Cambridge Town Hall, St Mary’s church cornerstone was laid on July 15, 1866. Its formal creation took place in May 1867 and the first public Mass was celebrated on June 9, 1867. Fr. Scully would spend the rest of his life seeing to the development of the mustard seed that was planted.


Having completed and dedicated this holy edifice to the glory of God and the salvation of souls, Fr Scully thought it expedient to extend his pastoral solicitude to the holistic care and integral formation of the flock placed under his watch. As a man who was indeed far ahead of his time, he recognized education as key to a robust and more effective evangelization. Fr Scully decided to build schools for the children of the neighborhood. At that time, it was a tall dream and he was the first pastor around to embark on such holistic apostolate. Doggedly, he built St Mary’s first school for the girls, St Joseph’s Select School, in 1869. Unfortunately, the school was a tuition school and he was sad that not all could attend because of tuition. He sought to remedy that.

With the establishment of a girls’ school came the challenge of running such a school. To this end, Fr Scully would bring in much-needed female religious, and so from 1870 – 1875, the school was conducted by the Congregation of Notre Dame, Montreal Canada.


Furthermore, Fr Scully built another school in 1875, this time a free school. Between September 6, 1875 and 1914, came a grammar school, a high school, a college, choir room, Guild room and Kindergarten.


From 1876, the Sisters of Notre Dame, De Namur undertook the running of the School for Girls. As at 1877, the Sisters temporarily used the homestead of the Howe Estate as their convent. The high school started in 1876 and in 1881 came the first parochial college, St Thomas Aquinas College, which had its first graduates in June 1883. As expansion became inevitable, a new building replaced the first school building in 1894. At that time, St Mary’s schools had some 2300 students and no less than sixty-five teaching nuns. Also, the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was constructed.


As the surrounding neighborhoods were developing, St Mary’s saw to their spiritual edification until subsequent churches were granted parish status. The parishes that sprang from St Mary’s are the following:


St Joseph’s parish Somerville            1872

St Paul’s parish Harvard Square         1875

Blessed Sacrament Parish                   1905 – 2004 (merged back into St Mary’s in 2004)

St Patrick’s Parish                               1908



Fr Scully was passionate about nurturing not only the soul and the mind but also the body of his spiritual flock because he believed that a healthy mind is found in a healthy body. As an ex-military chaplain, he sought to introduce the young men to some military training and past times. This he did by forming a school band in 1975 and the first public appearance of the School Battalion was on June 17, 1876.

Not done, Fr Scully built a theater called St Thomas Hall in 1883 on the property which now houses a newer building where the priests live presently. In addition, he built a standard gymnasium in 1885, called the Catholic Young Men’s Gymnasium. By 1888, this Gymnasium also began to be used by the state for graded physical education.

Fr Scully had a profound personality that was never exhausted but rather kept unfolding at every turn. In addition to these robust programs, he also championed the abolitionist cause in Cambridge. He built alliances with other religious leaders in the city and other abolitionists too, and their cause was highly successful to a large extent.

Father Thomas Scully was a pastor and administrator par excellence. His influence went far beyond St Mary’s. He was very much instrumental to the development of Cambridge. Little wonder, when news of his death broke on September 11, 1902, not only St Mary’s but the entire Cambridge mourned him as their Mayor-figure. His death was a big blow to community; he had left very large shoes. Who could fit those shoes?