La Salette Spirit Remains

First Church of the Immaculate
Conception in Holyoke, MA, which
eventually became the Parish Hall
I have fond memories of my childhood and my parish experiences. Recently I received an email from a fellow parishioner of Immaculate Conception Parish in Holyoke, MA. It read:

"I hope you and your family are well. I just got some sad news this weekend. I was talking at all the Masses at our parish this weekend promoting Men's Retreats. Fr. John Higgins, M.S., is here but only temporarily. After 100 years, the La Salette presence will be gone. I’m very sad about it.”

This bit of news set my mind turning so I began gathering information in the internet about my old parish. Fortunately I found the booklet of the 50th anniversary of the parish.

The picture above shows the first church which was eventually used as a Parish Hall when the second Church was built. As the postcard shows, it was a truly majestic Gothic church built in the European style with beautiful stained glass windows and a large pipe organ, donated in 1949. It stood on that site for over 100 years and was all that a church was supposed to be — a very holy place.


Over the Years

Second Church of the Immaculate
Conception in Holyoke, MA
Also in the booklet was a brief history of the growth of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette in North America.

The person who was the spiritual leader of the parish at the time of its expansion was Fr. Marie Julien Ginet, M.S., a native of the Savoy region of France, just a few miles away from the sight of the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette.

"In 1910, at the departure of Abbott J. V. Campeau for Canada, Abbott Horace Gélineau was named administrator of Immaculate Conception Parish. For two years he devoted all his youthful energies to the spiritual and temporal prosperity of the parish. He made great efforts and successful efforts to maintain the parochial spirit through numerous organizations.

L to R: La Salette Frs. Julien Ginet, Camille
Triquet (Curate and then Pastor, 1912-1921),
Pierre Rivoire (Curate, 1912-1914),
Henri Galvin (Curate, 1912-1915)
“He asked the Missionaries of our Lady of La Salette of Hartford to lend him their assistance until the day when the Msgr. of Springfield conferred the care of the parish entirely to the Fathers of La Salette.

“Rev. Fr. Camille Triquet, M.S., Pastor of St. Joseph’s Parish of Fitchburg for eighteen years, came to take his new post on July 3, 1912, with Fr. Pierre Rivoire, M.S. and Fr. Henri Galvin, M.S., as assistants.

“The parishioners of the Immaculate Conception received the Fathers of La Salette with open arms. Their arrival gave rise to the formation of religious parochial societies: the League of the Sacred Heart and of Our Lady of La Salette for the men and youth; the Ladies of Ste. Anne Society for married women; and that of the Children of Mary, for young women. The true spirit of piety of these religious societies soon made Immaculate Conception Parish one of the most active parishes of the Diocese."

Destruction and New Birth

Third church of the
Immaculate Conception
After unfortunately finding out that our beautiful Gothic Church had developed major and very expensive flaws, it was assessed to be unsafe and needed to be torn down. On the very same place a third much smaller church was built.

This third church was built very recently and in order to save money and to protect the memories of those who sacrificed so much to build the impressive Gothic building, as much of the old materials as could be incorporated into the new building as could be used found their way into the reality of the present church. These included the “larger than life” wooden crucifix that occupied the right front column of the church, just in front of the sanctuary. The pews and the Stations of the Cross were preserved as well as well as the commemorative stained glass window that was designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the parish.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Now, 101 years after their arrival, the La Salette Missionaries are leaving the parish and the bishop of the Diocese of Springfield will assure the continued existence of this longstanding parish community.

The departure of the Missionaries is scheduled for June 10, 2013. It is surely to be a sad moment for many people. There are still many of us who owe the spiritual attitudes that we have to the Spirit who guided our early upbringing in the church and the parish school. And not just our lives were nurtured there, but that of our parents and, in some cases, our grandparents.

It is also true that the La Salette Missionaries will find it difficult upon their departure. Many of them owe their vocation as missionaries to the efforts of the valiant La Salettes who dedicated their lives to our parish community. I remember the two dozen or more photographs of alumni who had been ordained to the priesthood hanging on the wall of the main lobby of the school – one of them, a cousin of mine; another of them an intimate friend of mine; and, last but not least, one of them is yours truly.

Parish Life Will Move On

La Salette Facsimile
 in main
church, left alcove
The departure is not a total separation. Like the tearing of the Temple Veil on Good Friday upon the Death of Our Savior, this departure is a passage from the past through an opening into the future. The countless years of dedicated La Salette ministry will never be forgotten. They will continue to be the seed and the fruit of grace alive in the hearts of those who form the extensive Immaculate Conception community of faithful.

Just as the parish served the needs of an important immigrant population at its inception, it continues to do the same today. Then, it was French Canadian, now it is Latino. What better preparation could have been planned?

People of Holyoke, you are witnessing the natural movement of missionary work. Missionaries go in, build and enliven, challenge and serve. Then, in God’s good time, they turn it over and leave the foundation to the local clergy to continue building on their “sure foundation.”

May God continue to work powerfully with the present parishioners as God surely did for all of us who still call Immaculate Conception our true home.


L to R: Rectory and (second) School

Original blog article
50th Anniversary Booklet online
Parish History

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