St. Monica’s History
The history of the parish began with the persevering spirit of the Catholics who settled in Barre after the Civil War. Though small in number (the total population of the town and village together was only 2,700), they nevertheless took great pains to continue in the practice of their faith, first by traveling each Sunday to St. Augustine in Montpelier and later, in 1881, arranging for the Montpelier pastor, Fr. Joseph Duglue, to say Mass once a month in Barre.
By 1885, the granite industry in Barre had begun in earnest, and as workers poured into the area from other parts of Vermont and New York, Fr. William J. O’Sullivan, who succeeded Dr. Duglue, leased the old Spaulding Academy to accommodate the growing needs of the Catholics who had come to work in the quarries.
Yet even this space was not adequate for long; in 1887, the ground was broken for a new church, and on October 2, Bishop DeGoesbriand blessed the cornerstone of what would be, sixteen months later, St. Monica Church. The cost of the original structure, which was built of brick and trimmed appropriately with Barre Granite, was about $25,000.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the parish had grown and flourished to such an extent that it was evident that there was a need for some type of regular religious education for St. Monica’s youth. In 1900, three Sisters of Mercy arrived from Burlington to begin the Barre convent community. The original convent of the Sacred Heart, located at 115 Summer Street, was replaced by the new structure at 73 Summer Street, built in 1939. The school, today called St. Monica-St. Michael School, offers pre-k through grade 8.
The church building also changed. In 1968, the sanctuary was changed in keeping with the decrees of the Vatican II Council. In 1973, the entire church was renovated. The bell tower and the enclosed stairway to the balcony were removed. In addition to the front of the church formed the heated lobby and entrance to the balcony. And in 1997, the church bell was once again enclosed in a structure above the sacristy, at the back of the church.
Though many structural changes have occurred in the 100 years since the parish was founded, the spiritual growth of the parish has more than kept pace with its material development.
From less than 100 families who contributed their money and labors to the erection of the church, the parish has grown to over 1,500 families. Involved in their faith on both the parish and community levels, the people of St. Monica still share the faith and generosity that characterized the parish’s founders.