Rev. Quan Prominent in St. Louis History  
Thursday, July 5, 2012

WEBSTER ¡X The history of the region¡¦s oldest Catholic parish, St. Louis of Webster, has been published of late as parish bulletin inserts.

The early years have been of great interest to some, and particularly the ministrations of the Rev. James Quan, the second pastor of the St. Louis Church. He came into his Webster assignment with a parish of about 2,000 Catholics in 14 towns.

¡§In the beginning some of these towns were only visited once every three months,¡¨ says a historical report. Churches were subsequently built elsewhere, allowing St. Louis to be relieved of such widespread coverage by 1865. A couple of personal and business matters made Father Quan different. He was ¡§so loved by the people of all faiths in Webster and Dudley that for several years after his death, people observed his birthday each August 15.¡¨

For another, he purchased an area at Webster Lake known as Eliot¡¦s Shore from the Slater family in 1874. Townspeople had free use of the property for swimming and picnics.

The site had been one of the Indian praying towns established in 1634 by John Elliot and Daniel Goodkin. A Massachusetts Bay Colony marker, installed in 1930, and located on Thompson Road just behind the lake parcel, declares its historical significance.

Father Quan sold the lake property to a W. Janakowski in 1885, and it was subsequently purchased by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, a St. Louis Church group. The location was subsequently developed as an amusement park, and included food shops, vaudeville performances, an outdoor theater, watersports, including a major water slide, and lake excursions in the years around World War I, when it was designated as Beacon Park.

Trolley lines carried crowds of people from Worcester and elsewhere on weekends. The lake venue was actually developed by a rail and streetcars group organized by a Boston lawyer, Edgar S. Hill, who had a home in Dudley and owned motion-picture houses, including the State Theatre and the Liberty Theatre, both in downtown Webster. The location is now a condominium complex with 90 waterside units.

Most interesting is Father Quan¡¦s final resting place. He bought land in Dudley and established Calvary Cemetery, but he selected a burial lot near the church for himself. A granite memorial, with a large marble bust, marked the location.

Father Quan¡¦s 35 years as pastor brought additions to the church and construction of a rectory and other buildings, including the first parochial school in town. He was probably the only person ever interred on church grounds anywhere in Webster and undoubtedly on Lake Street. There had been a cemetery on Birch Island Road, the so-called Robinson family cemetery, developed before Webster was incorporated. Ironically, the family burial place was near the lake acreage once owned by the legendary priest.

The marble bust of Father Quan deteriorated over the decades. It disappeared sometime in the 1950s, and a town newspaper speculated it had been vandalized.

This brought a statement by Msgr. James I. Mitchell, then pastor. He had had the bust removed because of its poor condition. The intent was apparently to replace it, but this never happened.

The memorial was to the east side of the original church. That edifice and an adjacent building known as the Community House were torn down when the existing church was built.

The main entrance was relocated, providing access to a parking lot.

The granite memorial was in the way, so it was replaced by a ground marker in a green near to the church.

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Addendum: St. Louis Church of Webster and Dudley, as it was designated for more than 150 years, now has a separate Dudley congregation, St. Anthony of Padua.

Both parishes have new pastors. The Rev. Joseph Marcotte is well-known to his new community as the former longtime pastor of St. Louis Church of Webster. St. Louis was partitioned several decades ago, and merged with St. Anthony of Padua when that parish was moved from Webster to Dudley.

Father Marcotte serves a community with many descendents of one-time St. Louis Church members.

The Rev. William F. Sanders is the new pastor of St. Louis Church. This is to extend best wishes to both pastors on their new assignments.

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Mapfre/USA sponsored a major fireworks display Tuesday evening, taking on what had long been a night before the Fourth of July 4 event, as originated after World War II by the Webster-Dudley Veterans Council.

It means that Mapfre, with its USA affiliation, is a full-fledged participant in the American tradition, a local sponsor of the nation¡¦s birthday and a worthy successor to Commerce Insurance Co.

The fireworks show was Mapfre¡¦s way of saluting its larger community on behalf of its affiliates and all the people it employs.

There¡¦s another line for our Spanish sponsor: Welcome to America!
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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