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The History of Our Lady of Sorrows Church

            The present church of Our Lady of Sorrows, begun in April of 1929, was dedicated by Bishop Thomas J. Walsh in June of 1931.  In 1984, Archbishop Peter L. Gerety authorized the renovation of the church which was rededicated by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in December 21st, 1986.  It is the second church building erected by the parish; the earlier church (formerly known as St. Mary’s) stood on the corner of Academy and Fourth Street (on the site of the present auditorium) and was dedicated in September of 1889.

The church was designed by the Boston architectural firm of Maginnis and Walsh in the French Gothic style, a popular idiom of church architecture in the 1920’s.  It is part of the Catholic church-building tradition since the earliest ages to ornament churches in such a way as to instruct the viewer in religious themes significant to the builders.  There are three themes particularly visible in the decorative program of our church.  The first, appropriately enough, is the participation of Jesus’ mother in His passion.  This theme is carried out in the exterior doorways of the building, as well as in the great window at the rear of the central nave.  The second theme is particularly visible in the program of stained glass windows in the nave and transepts: the heroic men and women throughout the ages who have carried Christ’s message to their own times.  The third theme visible in our church’s decoration is the piety of Roman Catholics in the 1920’s.  The figure of Christ the King over the main door is one of the clearest examples of this piety, as is the choice of the Sacred Heart and St. Therese of Lisieux for the dedications of the two transept shrines.

Another major item of interest is the massive pulpit in the sanctuary.  It is an elaborately carved and painted oak structure.  It is ornamented with carved figures of the twelve apostles, and with painted panels representing five doctors of the Latin Church:  St. Robert Bellarmine vested as a cardinal, St. Ambrose with a beehive at his feet, Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Augustine of Hippo with a flaming heart and St. Jerome hold a miniature church.

The stained glass windows of the church are another of its dominant features.  The windows of the side naves represent saints and episodes from their lives.  The great east window, over the main door, depicts the Coronation of the Virgin, surrounded by a whirling circle of cherubim and the great saints and doctors of the Church.  The lower panels of the window contain emblems of the Blessed Virgin, and the tracery panels contain other emblems, including two larger panels showing her as the Seat of Wisdom and Cause of Our Joy.  The central window in the apse depicts the Annunciation: the two windows flanking it contain images of the Four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The lower panels of these windows, and the medallions on the other window of the apse, all depicts aspects of the Holy Spirit.  The small window above the chapel of the reconciliation contains medallions of the Flight into Egypt and the carpenter shop in Nazareth.

The Church of Our Lady of Sorrows owes its history to the many pastors who have guided the church and its school through over one hundred years of existence.  It is the story of steady expansion and ambitious building programs.  It is the evidence of the loyalty of its host of parishioners displayed in contributions of talent, time and treasure.  It is a sacramental life, represented by countless Holy Communions, Baptisms, Confirmations and Marriages.  It is the countless number of graduates of its parish school and the sisters and lay teachers who have taught them.  And all is colored to some degree by the character and spirit of the times as they changed from the early years to the present.