(Re-posted with permission)
LOWELL — St. Joseph the Worker Shrine is a sanctuary in the heart of the city for many.
Located at 37 Lee St., the origins of the shrine date to 1868. The building had been a Unitarian church, but it was vacant in 1868. The French-speaking mill workers saw an opportunity. They needed a Catholic parish.
Hearing that the old Unitarian building on Lee Street was vacant, they pooled their savings together. They placed a down payment on the building and established St. Joseph’s Parish in 1868. It remained a parish until 1956 when it became a shrine to St. Joseph the Worker.
But you can’t understand the history of the shrine, unless you also understand the priests responsible for St. Joseph the Worker. Since 1868, the church has been in the care of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The oblates are missionary priests and serve across the globe. Currently, there are oblates in 64 countries around the world serving the poor. Inside St. Joseph the Worker Shrine, up on the fourth floor, is a small but fascinating museum that chronicles the oblates’ work.