Jump to content

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston

Coordinates: 42°12′47″N 71°02′29″W / 42.21306°N 71.04139°W / 42.21306; -71.04139
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Archdiocese of Boston

Archidiœcesis Bostoniensis
Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, 2007
Coat of arms
Country United States
TerritoryEssex County, Middlesex County, Norfolk County, Suffolk County, and also Plymouth County except the towns of Marion, Mattapoisett, and Wareham[1]
Ecclesiastical provinceBoston
Coordinates42°12′47″N 71°02′29″W / 42.21306°N 71.04139°W / 42.21306; -71.04139
Area6,386 km2 (2,466 sq mi)[2]
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2021[2])
1,989,396 (45%)
DenominationCatholic Church
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedApril 8, 1808; 216 years ago (1808-04-08)
CathedralCathedral of the Holy Cross
Patron saintSaint Patrick
Secular priests952 (600 diocesan; 352 religious)[2]
Current leadership
ArchbishopSeán Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap
Auxiliary Bishops
Vicar GeneralMark William O'Connell
Bishops emeritus

The Archdiocese of Boston (Latin: Archidiœcesis Bostoniensis) is a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory, or archdiocese, of the Catholic Church in eastern Massachusetts in the United States. Its mother church is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. The archdiocese is the fourth largest in the United States.[3] As of 2023, the archbishop of Boston is Seán Patrick Cardinal O'Malley.

The Archdiocese of Boston has six suffragan dioceses:


The Archdiocese of Boston encompasses Essex County, Middlesex County, Norfolk County, and Suffolk County in Massachusetts. It includes most of Plymouth County except for the towns of Marion, Mattapoisett, and Wareham.

As of 2018, the archdiocese had 284 parishes with 617 diocesan priests and 275 permanent deacons. In 2018, the archdiocese estimated that more than 1.9 million Catholics lived within its territory.[2]


Early history[edit]

New England's first settlers were Congregationalists and, in Rhode Island, Baptists. Many of them left England because they were disappointed in the lack of reforms in the Church of England. These dissenters followed Martin Luther and John Calvin in rejecting the selling of indulgences, the celebration of a Latin Mass, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and papal authority.[4]

As these dissenters set up colonies in New England, they enacted legal restrictions on Catholics, including bans on Catholic worship. Massachusetts made it a crime, with a potential life sentence, for a Catholic priest to reside in the colony.[4]

The political necessity of gaining Catholic support for the American Revolutionary War drove a change in popular attitudes in the colonies. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, written by John Adams and ratified in 1780, established religious freedom in the new state.[4] With the Massachusetts constitution being the first state constitution in the United States, its framework of government became a model for the constitutions of other states and, eventually, for the federal constitution.

In 1788, the Abbé de la Poterie, a former French naval chaplain serving in Boston, celebrated the city's first public mass in a converted Huguenot chapel at 24 School Street in Boston, which he named Holy Cross Church. Two refugees from the French Revolution ministering to Boston's Catholic population at the turn of the century, Reverends Francis Anthony Matignon and John Cheverus, raised the funds to build a larger building, the Church of the Holy Cross. These buildings no longer exist, but they were the foundation of the Catholic Church in Massachusetts.[5]


Bishop Cheverus

Pope Pius VII erected the Diocese of Boston on April 8, 1808, taking all of New England from the Diocese of Baltimore. The new diocese consisted of the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts (including present-day Maine), New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.[6] The pope named Cheverus as the first bishop of Boston.[7]

The exponential growth of the Catholic Church in New England through the nineteenth century led the Vatican to create new dioceses out of the Diocese of Boston and later the Archdiocese of Boston.

Dioceses created out of the Diocese and the Archdiocese of Boston
Date of diocese Diocese name Territory taken from Diocese and Archdiocese of Boston
1843 Diocese of Hartford Connecticut, Rhode Island and counties in southeastern Massachusetts[1]
1853 Diocese of Burlington Vermont.[1]
1853 Diocese of Portland Maine and New Hampshire .[1]
1870 Diocese of Springfield Counties in western and central Massachusetts[8]

Diocesan offices[edit]

In the 1920s, Cardinal William O'Connell moved the chancery from offices near Holy Cross Cathedral in the South End to 127 Lake Street in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.[9] "Lake Street" was a metonym for the bishop and the office of the archdiocese.[9]

In June 2004, the archdiocese sold the archbishop's residence and the chancery and surrounding lands in Brighton to Boston College, in part to defray costs associated with numerous cases of sexual abuse by clergy of the archdiocese.[10] The archdiocesan offices of the archdiocese moved to Braintree. The archdiocesan seminary, Saint John's Seminary, remains on the property in Brighton.[11]

Clergy sexual abuse scandals and settlements[edit]

Cardinal Law

At the beginning of the 21st century the archdiocese was shaken by accusations of sexual abuse by clergy that culminated in the resignation of its archbishop, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, on December 13, 2002. In September 2003, the archdiocese settled over 500 abuse-related claims for $85 million.[12] Victims received an average of $92,000 each and the perpetrators included 140 priests and two others.[13]

Additional sex abuse allegations within the Archdiocese of Boston surfaced in later years as well. This included alleged abuse at Saint John's Seminary and Arlington Catholic High School.[14][15][16]

Coat of arms[edit]

The coat of arms of the archdiocese, shown in the information box to the right at the top of this article, has a blue shield with a gold cross and a gold "trimount" over a silver and blue "Barry-wavy" at the base of the shield. The "trimount" of three coupreaux represents the City of Boston, the original name of which was Trimountaine in reference to the three hills on which the city's original settlement stood. The cross, fleurettée, honors the Cathedral of the Holy Cross while also serving as a reminder that the first bishop of Boston and other early ecclesiastics were natives of France. The "Barry-wavy" is a symbol of the sea, alluding to Boston's role as a major seaport whose first non-indigenous settlers came from across the sea.[17]

Communications media[edit]

The diocesan newspaper The Pilot has been published in Boston since 1829.

The archdiocese's Catholic Television Center, founded in 1955, produces programs and operates the cable television network CatholicTV. From 1964 to 1966, it owned and operated a broadcast television station under the call letters WIHS-TV.

Ecclesiastical province[edit]

Ecclesiastical Province of Boston

The Archdiocese of Boston is also metropolitan see for the Ecclesiastical province of Boston. This means that the archbishop of Boston is the metropolitan for the province. The suffragan dioceses in the province are the Diocese of Burlington, Diocese of Fall River, Diocese of Manchester, Diocese of Portland, Diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts, and the Diocese of Worcester.

Pastoral regions[edit]

The Archdiocese of Boston is divided into five pastoral regions, each headed by an episcopal vicar.

Pastoral regions of the Archdiocese of Boston
Pastoral region Episcopal vicar Territory Parishes Higher


High schools Primary schools Cemeteries
Central Cristiano B. Barbosa Boston

Brookline Cambridge Somerville Winthrop

64 6 29 8
Merrimack Robert F. Hennessey N. Essex County N. Middlesex Co. 49 Merrimack College 3 (TBD) 4
North Brian McHugh S. Essex Co. E. Middlesex Co. 64 none 4 6 (?) 11
South Robert Connors (Temporary) Plymouth Co.

E. Norfolk Co.

59 Labouré College 3 (TBD) 3
West Robert P. Reed S. Middlesex Co.W. Norfolk Co. 67 Regis College 3 11 7


Cardinal O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston

Bishops of Boston[edit]

  1. Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus (1808–1823) appointed Bishop of Montauban and later Archbishop of Bordeaux (elevated to Cardinal in 1836)
  2. Benedict Joseph Fenwick (1825–1846)
  3. John Bernard Fitzpatrick (1846–1866; coadjutor bishop 1843–1846)
  4. John Joseph Williams (1866–1875; coadjutor bishop 1866); elevated to Archbishop

Archbishops of Boston[edit]

  1. John Joseph Williams (1875–1907)
  2. William Henry O'Connell (1907–1944)
  3. Richard James Cushing (1944–1970)
  4. Humberto Sousa Medeiros (1970–1983)
  5. Bernard Francis Law (1984–2002), resigned; later appointed Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
  6. Seán Patrick O'Malley (2003–present)

Current auxiliary bishops of Boston[edit]

Former auxiliary bishops of Boston[edit]

Other archdiocesan priests who became bishops[edit]




As of 2018, the archdiocese had 112 schools with approximately 34,000 students in pre-kindergarten through high school.[20][21]

In 1993 the archdiocese had 53,569 students in 195 archdiocesan parochial schools. Boston had the largest number of parochial schools: 48 schools with a combined total of about 16,000 students.[22]


  • Albert W. Low (1961–1972)[23]
  • Bartholomew Varden (1972–1975)[23][24]
  • Eugene F. Sullivan (1978–1984)[25][26]
  • Kathleen Carr (1990–2006)[27]
  • Mary Grassa O'Neill (2008–2014)[28]
  • Mary E. Moran (2013–2014)[28]
  • Kathleen Powers Mears (2014–2019)[20][28]
  • Thomas W. Carroll (2019–present)[29]

Colleges and universities[edit]

Former colleges[edit]

Primary and secondary schools[edit]

High schools of the Archdiocese of Boston
School Location Affiliation with religious order or independent Founded
Academy of Notre Dame Tyngsboro Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 1854
Archbishop Williams High School Braintree Independent 1949
Arlington Catholic High School Arlington Independent 1960
Austin Preparatory School Reading Independent 1961
Bishop Fenwick High School Peabody Independent 1958
Boston College High School Dorchester Society of Jesus 1863
Cardinal Spellman High School Brockton Independent 1958
Cathedral High School Boston Independent 1926
Catholic Memorial School West Roxbury Congregation of Christian Brothers 1957
Central Catholic High School Lawrence Marist Brothers 1935
Cristo Rey Boston High School Dorchester Independent 2010
Fontbonne, The Early College of Boston Milton Sisters of St. Joseph 1954
Lowell Catholic High School Lowell Xaverian Brothers 1989
Malden Catholic High School Malden Xaverian Brothers 1968
Newton Country Day School Newton Society of the Sacred Heart 1880
Notre Dame Academy Hingham Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 1853
Notre Dame Cristo Rey High School Lawrence Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 2004
Sacred Heart High School Kingston Congregation of Divine Providence 1947
Saint Joseph Preparatory High School Brighton Sisters of St. Joseph 2012
Saint Sebastian's School Needham Independent 1941
St. John's Preparatory School Danvers Xaverian Brothers 1907
St. Mary's High School Lynn Independent 1881
Ursuline Academy Dedham Ursuline Sisters 1819
Xaverian Brothers High School Westwood Xaverian Brothers 1963
Former high schools of the Archdiocese of Boston
School Location Religious order Opened Closed
Cambridge Matignon School Cambridge 1945 2023
Academy of the Assumption Wellesley
Academy of Notre Dame Boston
Blessed Sacrament High School Jamaica Plain
Boys' Catholic High School Malden Xaverian Brothers 1936 1968
Cardinal Cushing High School South Boston
Cheverus High School Malden
Christopher Columbus High School Boston Franciscan Friars 1945
Don Bosco Technical High School Boston Salesians of Don Bosco 1998 1998
Elizabeth Seton Academy Boston 2003
Girls' Catholic High School Malden 1992
Holy Trinity High School Roxbury 1966
Hudson Catholic High School Hudson 1959 2009
Keith Academy Lowell 1989
Keith Hall Lowell 1989
Marian High School Framingham Sisters of St. Joseph 1956 2018
Mission Church High School Mission Hill 1926 1992
Monsignor Ryan High School South Boston
Mount Alvernia High School Newton 1935 2023
Mount Saint Joseph Academy Boston Sisters of St. Joseph 1884 2012
Nazareth High School South Boston
North Cambridge Catholic High School Cambridge 1951 2010
Notre Dame Academy Roxbury Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur 1854 1954
Pope John XXIII High School Everett 1965 2019
Presentation of Mary Academy Methuen Sisters of the Presentation of Mary 1958 2020
Saint Joseph Preparatory High School Boston 2012 2023
St. Anne's School Arlington
St. Augustine High School South Boston
St. Bernard High School Newton
St. Clare High School Roslindale
St. Clement High School Medford Sisters of St. Joseph 1925 2017
St. Columbkille High School Brighton
St. John the Evangelist High School Cambridge 1921 1951
St. Joseph Academy Roxbury
St. Joseph's High School for Girls Lowell 1989
St. Louis Academy Lowell 1989
St. Patrick High School Lowell 1989
St. Patrick High School Roxbury
St. Peter's High School Cambridge
St. Thomas Aquinas High School Jamaica Plain
Savio Preparatory High School East Boston Salesians of Don Bosco 1958 2007
Trinity Catholic High School Newton 1894 2012
Our Lady of Nazareth Academy Wakefield Sisters of Charity of Nazareth 1947 2009

Other facilities[edit]

The archdiocese previously used a headquarters facility in Brighton but sold it to Boston College in 2004 for $107,400,000.[30]

Steward Health Care System operates the former archdiocesan hospitals of Caritas Christi Health Care.


  1. ^ a b c d "Boston (Archdiocese)". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. February 13, 2024. Retrieved March 24, 2024.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Metropolitan Archdiocese of Boston". GCatholic. Gabriel Chow. March 4, 2024. Retrieved 24 March 2024.
  3. ^ "About the Archdiocese of Boston". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Lally, Robert Johnson. "Freedom of Religion Comes to Boston". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  5. ^ Lally, Robert Johnson. "Building the Church in Boston". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  6. ^ "Baltimore (Archdiocese)". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. February 13, 2024. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  7. ^ "Jean-Louis Anne Madelain Cardinal Lefebvre de Cheverus". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. February 25, 2024. Retrieved March 24, 2024.
  8. ^ "Springfield in Massachusetts (Diocese)". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. June 16, 2023. Retrieved March 24, 2024.
  9. ^ a b "Changes come to Lake Street - The Boston Globe". archive.boston.com. Retrieved 2023-10-26.
  10. ^ Zezima, Katie (2004-04-21). "Boston Archdiocese to Sell Land to Raise $100 Million". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-02.
  11. ^ "Archdiocese of Boston finalizes property sale to Boston College". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2024-01-02.
  12. ^ Kevin Cullen and Stephen Kurkjian (September 10, 2003). "Church in an $85 million accord". Boston Globe.
  13. ^ Howe, Peter (September 10, 2017). "Largest sexual abuse settlements by Roman Catholic institutions in the U.S." San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved January 2, 2023.
  14. ^ "Cardinal to miss World Meeting of Families to tend to seminary matters". Crux. 2018-08-15. Archived from the original on 2019-06-27. Retrieved 2023-12-22.
  15. ^ Hillard, John (May 23, 2023). "Lawsuit alleges Cardinal O'Malley, other church leaders failed to prevent abuse of three former Arlington Catholic students". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  16. ^ Rios, Simón; Creamer, Lisa (May 22, 2023). "3 people sue cardinal, bishops, over alleged sex abuse by Arlington Catholic High ex-principal". WBUR. Retrieved December 22, 2023.
  17. ^ "History of the Coat of Arms". Archdiocese of Boston. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  18. ^ "Bishop Richard J. Malone | Diocese of Buffalo". www.buffalodiocese.org. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  19. ^ See: List of Catholic bishops of the United States#American bishops serving outside the United States.
  20. ^ a b "Members of superintendent search committee named". Boston Pilot. January 2, 2024. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  21. ^ "Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Schools At A Glance". Catholic Schools Office. Retrieved January 2, 2024.
  22. ^ Nealon, Patricia. "Parochial pupils add X factor to city school-choice equation." Boston Globe. April 28, 1993. Retrieved on September 28, 2013.
  23. ^ a b "Xaverian brother named school head". The Lowell Sun. March 4, 1972.
  24. ^ O'Toole, James; Quigley, David (January 8, 2004). Boston's Histories: Essays in Honor of Thomas H. O'Connor. University Press of New England. ISBN 9781555535827.
  25. ^ "Lakeland Ledger - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  26. ^ Butterfield, Fox (July 21, 1984). "Boston's St. Francis de Sales isn't your ordinary Catholic school". New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  27. ^ Williams, Christine (April 7, 2006). "Sister Kathleen Carr to step down as school superintendent". www.thebostonpilot.com. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  28. ^ a b c Fox, Jeremy C. (July 26, 2014). "Boston Archdiocese appoints career educator as superintendent of Catholic schools". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 7, 2016.
  29. ^ "Carroll appointed Superintendent of Catholic Schools". Boston Pilot. April 5, 2019. Retrieved 2019-04-25.
  30. ^ Paulson, Michael (2004-04-21). "Diocesan headquarters sold to BC". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2020-06-27.

External links[edit]