Side view of St. Mary's Church, constructed under the leadership of M. E. Barry in the 19th Century. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

Side view of St. Mary’s Church, which was constructed under the leadership of M. E. Barry starting in 1881. Construction was completed in 1885. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

Barry, Michael Edward (1844-89)

M. E. Barry Rare Book Collection

More About M.E. Barry

(Continued from entry under “B” for Barry.)

Michael Edward Barry was born in Boston in 1884, son of Michael and Annie L. (Cunningham) Barry, both of whom had been born in Ireland.

At the time of the birth of his son, Michael Barry had been in Boston for almost ten years and had become a successful building contractor. The son attended public schools in Cambridge and New York City, and St. Mary’s Latin School in Boston. In 1863, he graduated from St. Charles College, Ellicott City, Maryland, and entered St. Bonaventure’s Seminary in Buffalo, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood on 12 June 1869, and was assigned to St. Michael’s Church in Springfield, Massachusetts, which became the Cathedral for the new Diocese of Springfield on the exact first anniversary of his ordination.

Four days after his consecration as the first bishop of the new diocese, the Most Rev. Patrick T. O’Reilly celebrated a pontifical high Mass to mark the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and the Fourth Anniversary of the consecration of the Cathedral. Father Barry served as master of ceremonies.

After the new rector of the Cathedral warned against ostentatious funerals, Father Barry emphasized the positive by walking the entire route of a funeral procession which met the rector’s guidelines for dignified simplicity. The Springfield Republican noted this particular mark of respect.

Father Barry’s name also appeared in print when he won one of the door prizes at the fair held to assist the new St. Joseph’s Church for French-speaking Catholics in Springfield. There were also complimentary reviews of his homilies at Sunday Masses.

In early 1872, the bishop named Father Barry as the founding pastor of the new Immaculate Conception Church in Easthampton, Massachusetts; however, when the bishop learned that Father Patrick V. Moyce, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Northampton, Massachusetts would have to give up that pastorate because of his illness, Bishop O’Reilly instead transferred Father Barry to that assignment. According to Rev. John J. McCoy, Moyce was succeeded by Barry, “who after enlarging and beautifying the old church on King Street, decided that a still larger edifice was needed due to the rapic growth of Catholic faithful in the area.”

Father Barry brought a new spirit to Northampton’s Catholics. Before the end of his first year there, he took over the Town Hall for a week-long fair. The Springfield Republican noted that “many from the city and Mittineague made an excursion thither Saturday evening,” and reported that “they spent liberally, ate heartily, and enjoyed the trip greatly.” The newspaper reported that the tables displayed neatness and good taste, and the demeanor of the fair canvassers was quiet and creditable. The article noted that the fair was “under the management of the Rev. M. E. Barry.”

Father Barry’s fairs became more and more elaborate with a week-long series of concerts (including one in French) and plays. He also included French tables at the fair for people of French-Canadian lineage who were coming into Northampton.

After Father Barry purchased the Mansion House, a closed but once famous hotel that gave its name to the hill at the western end of Main Street, he turned the west wing into a hall in which meetings, lectures, and dances were held. Reporting on such events, The Springfield Republican‘s Northampton correspondent noted: “The average Puritan soul must be greatly shocked by the way folks are dancing and amusing themselves.”

St. Mary's was constructed on Elm Street in Northampton, Massachusetts, just across the street from Smith College. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

St. Mary’s was constructed on Elm Street in Northampton, Massachusetts, just across the street from Smith College. Photograph taken for the purpose of
The Elm Tree.

St. Mary's was built on the site of the Freight House, also the site of the Northampton-New Haven Canal in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

St. Mary’s was built on the site of the Freight House, also the site of the Northampton-New Haven Canal in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photograph taken for the purpose of
The Elm Tree.

The shock became greater when Father Barry announced that the old hotel would be razed to make room for a new church opposite of the main entrance to Smith College. According to McCoy, in 1873, Barry purchased the site opposite of the main entrance to Smith College from the Fitch Brothers of Hatfield. One letter writer to the public press asked if the students would be required upon leaving their campus to face a Romish church. Smith College sought to buy the property from Father Barry, and also offered to give Father Barry Professor Benjamin C. Blodgett’s estate about a half-mile away on Prospect Street in exchange for the Mansion House site. Father Patrick J. Harkins of Holyoke, acting for the bishop, made the decision that the new church should be erected on the Elm Street site.

The rectory, the house next to St. Mary's, was built first. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

The rectory, the house next to St. Mary’s, was built first. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

Another view of the rectory at St. Mary's, which includes a grotto. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

Another view of the rectory at St. Mary’s, which includes a grotto. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

There, Father Barry built the present St. Mary of the Assumption Church. Father Barry retained Patrick W. Ford of Boston as the architect. The cornerstone was placed on 14 August 1881, and the completed building was dedicated on 10 May 1885. In the beginning of the construction of the rectory next door, Father Barry had the guidance of a hand-written letter from his bishop, the Most Rev. Patrick T. O’Reilly, who described the ideal house for a priest. The bishop included a fatherly warning that Father Barry was overtaxing himself and might not live to reside in the new rectory. (The original letter is located in the Archives, Alumnae Library, Elms College.)

The bishop was correct. In late March 1889, Father Barry attended the funeral of Father John J. McMahon who had died at 33 while serving Annunciation Church in the Florence section of Northampton. Upon his return from the services, in which he stood in the freezing rain to pay his last respects, Father Barry was felled by a bronchial attack and died three weeks later.

Current sign at St. Mary's in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

Current sign at St. Mary’s in Northampton, Massachusetts. Photograph taken for the purpose of The Elm Tree.

The Northampton Daily Herald editorialized on 18 April 1889, “In the death of Father Barry, the valued, beloved, and able pastor of St. Mary’s Church of the Assumption, the Roman Catholic Church of this country loses one of its finest representatives and ablest leaders, and this city one of those useful and honored citizens whom no country can ever afford to lose.”

Father Barry is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Northampton.
 
 
Photographer: Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith


Sources

Richard C. Garvey, “Rev. Michael E. Barry,” in Mary E. Gallagher, SSJ, comp., The Barry Collection: An Author-Subject Catalog (Chicopee, MA: College of Our Lady of the Elms, 1990).

Rev. John J. McCoy, “The Diocese of Springfield,” in History of the Catholic Church in the New England States 2 (Boston: Hurd and Everts, 1899), pp. 730-31.


Click here to view the finding aid for the M. E. Barry Rare Book Collection, which is based on Mary E. Gallagher, SSJ, comp., The Barry Collection: An Author-Subject Catalog (Chicopee, MA: College of Our Lady of the Elms, 1990).