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About our Parish

We have been serving the Catholic Community of the Nashoba Valley since 1858. Father Edmond Derosier, and the entire community welcome you to Saint Anthony of Padua Parish!

 The Roman Catholic Parish of St. Mary, founded in 1858, is an rural archdiocesan parish located in Ayer, MA.  The parish is a multi-ethnic, socially, culturally, and educationally diverse faith community.

St Mary's Church of Ayer History 

A brief history of Saint Mary Parish
The first Saint Mary Catholic Church was built on West Main Street in 1858 by Thomas and Alfred Page.  The first pastor was Rev. Charles Foley.

In 1857, land was purchased on Bishop Road for Saint Mary’s Cemetery.  It has served Ayer and our neighboring Catholic parishes as a sacred burial place ever since.

Under the leadership of the third pastor, Rev. Joseph Barrata, from 1867 to 1876, a church and rectory were erected on the present site on Shirley Street.  They were dedicated on December 4, 1870. 

St. Mary Parish social activities:  The first Parish Picnic was held on July 4, 1884 at Nutting’s Grove.  On July 2, 1989 the first Lawn Party was held on the Church grounds.

During the early years of the 20th century the towns of Groton, Harvard, Littleton and Shirley were ministered to by the Ayer parish priests.  As the demand grew for more Catholic services, these towns were each granted parochial rights and established as individual parishes.  The spiritual needs of the soldiers and their families at Camp Devens were served by the priests of St. Mary’s.

In 1949, the Shirley Street Public School, located right next to the Rectory, was purchased and after renovations were completed, became St. Mary Catholic School.  The Sisters of the Presentation from Fitchburg were secured to staff the school, and it was formally dedicated on October 8, 1950.  At first, there were only two grades, kindergarten and first grade.  But, in 1951, with foresight for the future, six new classrooms were added so that the school would include space for kindergarten through the eighth grade. The 7th and 8th grades closed in 1968, followed by the remainder of the grades in 1969 and 1970.

In the summer of 2004, parishioners from the five Nashoba Valley parishes were notified by their Pastors that the Archdiocese of Boston had advised them, because of a priest shortage, a reconfiguration was necessary.  The Towns of Ayer, Groton, Pepperell, Shirley and Townsend-Ashby were involved.  The parishes were given eighteen months to devise a plan which would ultimately preserve the five parishes but reduce the number of priests to three.

 On June 1, 2006, the Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Shirley, Rev. Edmond Derosier, was assigned as pastor to St. Mary’s in Ayer.  Fr. Paul Ring was assigned to Pastor both Groton and Pepperell.  Fr. Shawn Allen, who was the interim priest for Townsend-Ashby, became the Pastor.  This reconfiguration of the Nashoba Valley Cluster became the first of its kind in the Archdiocese of Boston. 

In order to better serve the needs of the new reality at St. Mary, a new model of staffing was put in place.  Assisting the Pastor is a full time Pastoral Associate and a Business Manager; as well as a part time Hospital/Nursing-Home Chaplain.  Three Holy Union Sisters, Joan Guertin, Constance Gagnon and Christine Lacroix, now live in the former rectory, which was renamed the Parish House.

Since Fr. Derosier (Father D) arrived there have been some significant changes to the inside of the church.  Father D is an accomplished carpenter and has built a new altar, baptismal font, candlesticks, plant stands, and a pulpit for St. Mary’s.   An anonymous gift was donated, which allowed us to replace the sanctuary carpet with hardwood floors.  With the funds bequest to St. Mary’s from former parishioners, we were able to install new signs and renovate the small kitchen to a full sized, professionally equipped kitchen. 

Saint Mary Parish celebrated its 150th anniversary in June of 2008 with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston.

Do you have an old pictures of the Parish or church 
that you would like to submit to our website? 

Please email them to office@stmarysayer.org and include as much details about the picture as possible. 



About Our Parish

Deeply committed to Jesus Christ, we endeavor to become a unified community of faith, worship, and service. We strive to be a warm, welcoming and caring parish in which the gifts and talents of all, young and old, are recognized and graciously used to nourish others.

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