St. Paul Catholic Church in Wellesley is looking to bring back the joyful noise of its 96-year old historic church bell after many years of silence. It’s not that there’s anything seriously wrong with the gong itself—just a ringing mechanism that’s no longer functional, but that’s an easy fix. The larger reason the church chimes have been out of commission is because tests conducted by Salem-based engineering firm, Structures North, reflected that supports for the 3,000-lb. bronze instrument have weakened to the point where safety was compromised, making replacement of the old wooden beams essential.
Work to get the bell back into tolling shape is underway. Scaffolding has gone up around the St. Paul bell tower so that the team from Aniceto Historical Restorations out of Milford can replace badly deteriorated wood framing that supports the bell; repair crumbling sections of the bell tower’s masonry; and repair the parapet. A crane will be brought in to lift the bell while new beams are put in place. The church may still be accessed through the main doors during construction.
“I am thrilled that St. Paul Parish is able to undertake this important project, which is being made possible by the generosity of our wonderful community. We look forward to the day when we can proudly ring the bell at St. Paul Church once again,” said Rev. Jim Laughlin in an email. Laughlin is recovering from injuries sustained in the spring when, as a pedestrian, he was hit by a vehicle. Although it will be some time before he can return to ministry, the pastoral staff including Rev. Bryan Hehir have things bell in hand. (Sorry, not sorry for the pun.)
An inscription on the bell notes that it was donated to the church in 1926 by Salvatore DeFazio and family. The DeFazio family is still a contributing force to be reckoned with around town. Salvatore’s great-grandson and Wellesley resident Tory DeFazio in a phone interview said soon after the church opened in 1916, Salvatore promised the pastor that he would donate a bell. Pastor Edward Welch held him to it. “It took my great-grandfather about ten years to raise the money, but he did it,” said DeFazio, owner of the Windsor Press in Wellesley Hills, a Wellesley’s Wonderful Weekend committee member, and a past president of the Wellesley Historical Society
Total repair costs are expected to be over $485k. The parish has obtained a short-term loan from the Archdiocese of Boston for up to 75% of the budget. Income from St. Paul’s leasing of the school building to Star Academy will be helpful to cover part of the project, however, the St. Paul community has been called on to help repay the loan. You don’t have to be a church member to chip in, so if you enjoy hearing the peal of church bells, or just like the idea of preserving a part of Wellesley’s history, don’t be shy about contributing to the St. Paul Bell Tower Fund.
Once repairs are complete, those who have been sauntering to mass, unprompted by the bell to quicken their pace, will lose their excuse to slide into the pews after the first, “Lord, hear our prayer.”
You know who you are.