Cardinal Sean O'Malley, archbishop of Boston, performed mass at Sunday to celebrate the parish's 100th anniversary.
"One hundred years ago, it wasn't easy to be a Catholic here in Massachusetts. Some people say it's not easy today," O'Malley said in his homily to nearly packed pews.
"As we celebrate these 100 years, we do so with great gratitude," he said.
Saint Clement Parish was founded in April of 1912 in an era when Catholics were moving out of ethnic enclaves in Boston and into outlying communities like Somerville and Medford, according to a history of the parish distributed Sunday.
The first services were held in a tent, and for most of its first 30 years the church was a relatively small stucco building.
The current building, at the corner of Warner and Boston avenues, near the Powderhouse Rotary, was dedicated in 1942. is next door.
Though the church building is on the Medford side of the city line, the parish serves a congregation that lives in Somerville and Medford.
A parishioner nearly as old as the parish
Ida Azzolino is one of those Somervillians. At 99 years old—she turns 100 in September—Azzolino has known all four of the parish's pastors (Father Thomas McCarthy, the founding pastor; Monsignor Robert Barry; Monsignior Peter F. Hart; and Father Dennis Dever, the current pastor).
One of 11 children, Azzolino, from West Somerville, performed the Presentation of the Gifts at Sunday's mass (during this part of mass, a member of the congregation presents bread and wine to the priest. Communion follows shortly after this presentation.)
Speaking at a reception after the ceremony, Azzolino joked, "I haven't slept for two nights worrying about it."
When she was younger, Azzolino went to the church's 6 a.m. mass every morning for 31 years, she said.
During those early days in the parish, things were much different, she said. For one thing, priests performed mass with their backs to the congregation. Also, "If you were not there five minutes before mass started, you wouldn't get in, and people were all squished together" because it was so crowded.
A large celebration
There was a large crowd Sunday, as former parishioners who've moved to other areas came back to celebrate. Former students of the school also came back to celebrate.
Anne Campbell, a longtime parishioner who, herself, has known three of the parish's four pastors, said, "It's a wonderful day, believe me."
"It's wonderful to see people who've been with us went away come back."