On a Sunday in March 2018, as a dozen congregants and parishioners waited at the altar for a priest, the church bells rang and a young woman entered.
She spoke to the crowd through a microphone and was greeted with a smile as the Rev. Michael W. McCaffrey, the pastor of the Holy Name Church in Northampton, Massachusetts, took her in.
“Welcome,” he said.
“Welcome to the home.”
It was the first time in the church’s history that the woman had been welcomed in by a priest.
She’d come from her hometown of Springfield, Massachusetts to join the church.
She was just two years old when McCaffery began his service there, in 2001.
He remembers being struck by the warmth of the congregation, by the faithfulness of the people he served.
And then he began to think about the woman’s journey: the fact that, for most of her life, she had been estranged from her family and her family’s church.
The church was founded in 1884 as a catholic parish.
In 1884, it was named after John D. Rockefeller, the billionaire industrialist who helped to found the Standard Oil Company and the Standard Life Savings Bank.
In 1897, Rockefeller was among the first to open a bank in North America.
And in 1910, the U.S. Congress approved a law that allowed people to start and maintain businesses as an investment.
By the time of McCaffrie’s service in Springfield, the first-ever parish in the United States, about 30,000 people lived in the town.
And McCaffries parish grew in size as the community began to expand.
In the early 1900s, it stretched from the border of Massachusetts and Vermont to the Canadian border and beyond.
McCaffeys congregation grew from 10 to 200 members.
Today, Springfield is the second-largest town in Massachusetts, after Boston.
The town, about a 45-minute drive from Boston, has a population of about 10,000.
McCaffrey’s parish has become a hub of the local economy.
Its stores are often located in the downtown area, where people go for a quick bite, a sandwich, a beer or, for the locals, a few slices of bread.
And it is a place where people meet and socialize.
The local newspaper, The Springfield News, regularly publishes an annual bible study called The Word of God, which McCaffreys church hosts in the morning and Sunday mornings.
The word of God is an annual gathering, hosted by the church and attended by parishioner, parishionee and visitors.
In McCaffry’s church, members are encouraged to pray and read the Bible daily.
They are also encouraged to speak to the other parishionees about what they believe in and share their faith with others.
McCafferies parish has also grown in stature in recent years.
Last year, the city of Springfield approved a $20 million bond issue to pay for an expansion of McCaffery’s downtown mall.
The money was to be used to build a community center, a hotel, a library and a convention center.
And the church has invested millions of dollars to keep the church alive and running.
McCafreys church was the target of a recent national boycott of the Bible study because of its association with its politics.
“It was really important for us to keep it going,” McCaffreys said.
He said the church is doing well in Springfield because the city is a welcoming place.
McCaFFREYS has also been active in other local areas.
In 2016, he led the fight to pass a new law that allows people to run for public office in Massachusetts.
McCafrey said he’s excited about the future.
“There is an opportunity to expand the church in Springfield and help make it more welcoming,” he added.
The Rev. Matthew J. Cavanaugh, who is the pastor at the church, said the community has grown in McCaFreys parish because of the church: “It’s the church that keeps our community alive.”
Michael McCaffes, left, and Matthew Cavanaugh lead the Sunday morning bible study at the Holy Names Church in Springfield.
Courtesy of McCaaffries Church