the Rev. Paul J. Tougas looked about the new colonial style St. Mary of the Hills, he
admitted there were times when he wondered if the church would ever get built. "But I
never gave up. Dont forget, Im the pastor and the pastors job is to
lead, " he said.What he has led his flock to after years of working and waiting is a
breathtaking open-space church, the first to be built in the Worcester Diocese in line
with the reforms of Vatican II.
interiors exposed laminated truss structure has a natural wood finish and exposed
wood ceiling. The walls are painted gypsum wallboard; flooring is natural finished wood in
the church proper and carpeted in other spaces. There is not an obstructed view of the
altar. Instead of stained glass windows, the church has clear glass windows to allow the
natural beauty of the hillside setting to be seen from within the church.
Ronald B. Croaken, chairman of the churchs
building committee, pointed out that the seating surrounds the altar so the priest becomes
part of the congregation. At the entrance is a gathering area where the priest and the
members of the parish can visit before and after Mass.
Vatican II said the tabernacle should not be part
of the church proper. At St. Marys a small chapel has been built to the rear of the
church so the tabernacle is visible but separated from the church, Croaken said. He noted
that the altar is an octagonal platform so that people can walk around the altar. Croaken
said, "We wanted a colonial interior in keeping with the setting of Boylston and we
also wanted it contemporary."
Planning for the $ 1.3 million church began in
1983 when the Parish Council appointed a study committee to examine the former church
building and decide what the parish should do. The churchs population had been
growing and the church complex was fast becoming inadequate. The study committee was asked
if the old building should be enlarged or if a new church should be built. The
recommendation came back that "no serious money should be put into the present
In August 1986, the Parish Council voted to hire
an architect and on Dec. 28, 1986, the council voted to choose a site at Route 140 and
Sewall Street. After months of architectural and engineering work and a successful
fund-raising drive, the parish was ready to begin building when the Diocese unexpectedly
offered a 13-acre tract at Barlin Acres off Cross Street. The Parish Council voted to
accept the new site on Jan 7, 1989.
The new church would be financed through
donations, a mortgage and the sale for the old church property. This is where the church
ran into its major problem. "The real estate market went south at this time,"
Croaken said. "We were asset rich but cash poor. We had to sell the property before
we could begin to build the new church," he said. The site was scrutinized and
rejected by an auto parts store, a developer thinking of converting the church and parking
lot into shops, and various religious groups and others.Finally, the church and parking
lot was bought by Mount Zion Assembly of God. Under the agreement, Tougas could
continue to hold a Mass on Saturdays and Sundays until the new church was built.
But before ground could be broken, a new problem
popped up. Boylston has a 35 foot height limitation on buildings and the church planned a
steeple that would bring the height to 82 feet above the ground. The church was granted a
variance by the Zoning Board of Appeals but the variance was opposed by some neighbors. At
a special town meeting April 3, churches were exempted from the zoning regulations.
On April 6, 1991 ground was broken. Keefe
Associated Inc. of Boston was the architect and RL Jeanette Inc. of Shirley was the
The dedication of the 400 seat church was held on
December 13-15, 1991 with the dedication of the organ and entombment of relics Friday, the
dedication of the church Saturday and an open house and services Sunday.
Despite the years of work to build the church,
several comments over that weekend probably showed Tougas and the parishioners that they
made the right choice. Tougas said a priest visiting the church told him, "When you
see a building that with decorations reflects God, then you know it is a good
building." A woman touring the church said it simpler - "It makes we want to
move to Boylston so I can go to church here."