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Memorial to Father Garin

Fr. Garin MemorialThe news of Father Garin’s death on February 16, 1895 stunned the city. The loss of the goodly priest who had done so much for Lowell was universally felt. Immediately, a popular subscription was begun to erect a suitable memorial. The committee, formed of Lowell’s French, Irish and Yankee citizens, collected $8,000 and entrusted the project to the famous Canadian sculptor, Louis Philippe Hebert. Thursday evening, October 22, 1896, 20,000 people crowded Merrimack Street in front of St. Jean Baptiste church to witness the unveiling of the bronze statue. The simple inscription “He went about doing good” eloquently resumes the life of the humble Oblate.

In 1904, many Franco-Americans having settled in Centralville, St. Louis de France parish was formed and a grammar school built. A high school for girls was opened in 1918. In 1908, Notre Dame de Lourdes parish and grammar school was founded for the Highlands, in 1923, Ste. Jeanne d’Arc for Pawtucketville and finally in 1931, Ste. Marie for South Lowell.

Lowell had become the largest center of French culture in Northeast Massachusetts. Along with the religious organization, ethnic pride and identity were also maintained and encouraged by a series of parallel institutions.

Seeing the pressing need for an orphanage to care for the homeless Franco-American children, the old Ayer estate on Pawtucket Street was purchased in 1908, and converted into the Franco-American Orphanage, under the direction of the Sisters of Charity of Quebec. The financial welfare of the Franco-Americans was also seen to when in 1911, the Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union was founded, one of the first such institutions in New England, since, unlike a bank, depositors in a credit union are all share holders. To the churches, schools, bank and orphanage, a new institution was added on November 1, 1930, when the old Lowell Corporation Hospital was transferred to the Grey Nuns of the Cross and became St. Joseph’s Hospital.