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St. William Ready to Put Exclamation Point on Diamond Jubilee

Dinner dance, Mass said by Cardinal O'Malley will cap year-long 75th anniversary celebration.

A gala dinner dance and a Mass said by Cardinal Sean O'Malley will put a joyous exclamation point on the year-long 75th anniversary celebration for St. William Parish.

Started in 1935 by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, St. William is easily the largest church in Tewksbury, with the names of more than 3,000 families on the rolls, according to its pastor, Rev. John W. Hanley, O.M.I.

Frank Marino, chairman of the 75th Anniversary Committee, said the year-long celebration, featuring at least one social event a month, has served to strengthen the congregation's bonds.

"I think there have been a lot of positive things come out of this (celebration)," said Marino. "I think it has definitely brought us closer together. We've had all kinds of different events that would appeal to people in all different age groups."

Activities have included a trip to a Lowell Spinners game, a chili cookoff, a golf tournament, and a carnival. In May, the church celebrated the 40th anniversary of Rev. Hanley's ordination.

Along the way, church members have been donating photos and artifacts that will be put together into a collection, commemorating the 75th anniversary.

But the best is yet to come. The dinner dance on Sept. 11 will take place at Lenzi's in Dracut. The menu will feature steak and chicken and the music will be provided by DJ Jon Mansfield.

"We're looking forward to a wonderful night," said Debbie Albano, who is serving as co-chair of the dinner dance, along with Shirley Petilli. "A cocktail hour will start at 6 and then dinner and dancing will be from 7 to 11. We'll also be having a silent auction with lots of great items."

Tickets are $40 and will be available through Sept. 1. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Proceeds from the dinner dance, as well as the other other fund-raising events during the year, will go toward repairing the "downstairs church," which is located in the basement of the sanctuary building.

"The building was severely damaged by the flooding last spring," said Albano. "There is a major project that needs to be done."

Albano said the lower church is used for family Mass, meetings and religious education.

The 75th anniversary celebration will be capped off by a visit from Cardinal Sean O'Malley from the Boston Archdiocese on Sept. 19. Cardinal O'Malley will celebrate Mass at 11:30 a.m. with a reception immediately following.

"We want this to be a real community event," said Marino. "In fact, we've invited the other churches (of different denominations) in Tewksbury to come to the Mass on the 19th if they would like.

For more information on the 75th anniversary events or to purchase tickets for the dinner dance, call the St. William Rectory at 978-851-7331.

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