Origins of St. Bartholomew Parish
St. Bartholomew Parish was founded in 1952 to better serve the growing Catholic population in Needham. After the war, there was a tremendous increase in people able to purchase homes due to the GI Bill, and Needham provided the perfect spot for young families to settle down. Archbishop Cushing envisioned St. Bartholomew’s as a church and school, entwined by faith and connected both spiritually and physically. The school/church structure was created with the understanding that if either the parish or the school were to grow, a new church building could be built on the property, and the school could convert the former church into a gym or auditorium. In 1952, Reverend Mark Keohane was named the first pastor. By December of 1953, the first Mass was said in the unfinished church, and, finally, on February 2, 1954 the completed church held its dedicatory Mass.
What is now the rectory and parish offices was originally built to house the Notre Dame de Namur nuns who taught at the school. In 1973, the nuns left the school. That, coupled with the drop in enrollment it had suffered, lead to the closing of St. Bartholomew School, but the parish community remained active. In 1982, St. Sebastian’s school moved from Newton to Needham, and started leasing the school building. They also purchase some land across the street and have created a school complex for their students. The marriage between the church and school was strengthened when Fr. John Arens became the school chaplain while remaining in the service of the pastor of the parish. Fr. John is now the full time chaplain at the school. St. Sebastian’s school, and St. Bartholomew Parish work closely together to provide their parishioners and students with opportunities for spiritual and educational growth.
In 1984, the stained glass windows were installed. They are not only beautiful, they also serve to elevate the experience of worship during Mass and have become a distinctive feature of the church family. They focus on the life of Christ, starting with the Annunciation, followed by the Nativity, The Good Shepherd, the Glorified Christ and finally the sacraments on one side. The other side features the Ascension and Pentecost. There are three spaces that remain open, but we hope they will eventually be home to back-lit stained glass panels, that will complete our story of Christ’s life and work.