Before the establishment of a parish in Hanover, the Catholics of Hanover were under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pastor of the church in Lebanon, NH. There is evidence of Catholic residents of Hanover as early as 1840, but their number was too small to warrant the building of a church of their own. Various priests from Lancaster, Laconia and Lebanon visited Hanover periodically and celebrated Mass and administered the sacraments. As far as we can discover, Mass was first offered in Hanover in 1845 by the Rev. John B. Daly of Rutland, VT, who was missionary-at-large in Vermont and western New Hampshire. This first Mass was celebrated in the home of Arabella Doe, and the house occupied the lot on the corner of Lebanon Street and Sanborn Rd. Mass for the Catholics in Hanover was also celebrated for a number of years in the O’Leary home at 21 Lebanon Street, as well as in Precinct Hall. The Rev. Louis M. Laplante, Pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Lebanon from 1881-1886, purchased land for the building of a church in Hanover on East South Street. His successor, the Rev. Cyril J. Paradis, began the building of the church in July 1887. Work was begun on July 6 and the church was completed on December 29, 1887. This original wooden church stood on the lot where Ramunto’s Brick Oven Pizza is now located, on the southwest corner of South Street and Currier Place.
The first Mass was celebrated in the new church on East South Street on Sunday, January 1, 1888 by The Rev. Fr. Roy of the Seminary in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. Music was provided by the choir from Sacred Heart Church in Lebanon. The church was formally consecrated and dedicated on July 8, 1888 by the Rt. Rev. Denis M. Bradley, D.D., the first Bishop of Manchester. The Sacrament of Confirmation was conferred for the first time in Hanover on that occasion.
In 1893, the Rev. Martin H. Egan succeeded Father Paradis as pastor of Sacred Heart, Lebanon, and under Fr Egan’s administration various improvements were made and the church decorated. In May 1907, by decision of the Bishop and his Council, Hanover was erected as its own parish with a resident pastor. The Rev. James E. McCooey was appointed the first Pastor.
Father McCooey, the first pastor, was a native of New Hampshire, having been born in Dover in October 1875. He attended le Grand Seminaire in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Denis Bradley in December 1898. He served as Associate Pastor at St Mary’s Church, Claremont NH, St Joseph’s Cathedral in Manchester and at Immaculate Conception in Portsmouth. He was named Administrator of St Mary’s in Newmarket, NH before being appointed as Pastor of St Denis in 1907. The congregation of St Denis at that time numbered about 40 families, along with a varying number of students and employees of Dartmouth College. At the same time that St Denis was erected as a parish, the church in West Lebanon, NH, Holy Redeemer, became a mission church of St Denis, Hanover. The rectory during this time was a white, single-family home at 5 Sanborn Rd, purchased on May 9, 1917, where the Dartmouth College South faculty house now sits. The parish sold that house on November 30, 1966.
Father McCooey was pastor until 1918, when he was succeeded by the Rev. John Sliney, who would remain as pastor of St Denis for the next 27 years until 1945. It was under Fr John Sliney’s pastorate that the land on which the present church sits was purchased on December 29, 1921, with the cornerstone of the church being laid in 1922. They broke ground for the construction of the church in 1923. The first Mass in the present church was celebrated on the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1, 1924 and it was formally consecrated and dedicated on the Saturday, May 23, 1925 by the Rt Rev. Georges A. Guertin, D.D., Bishop of Manchester. The Bishop, later that same day, conferred the Sacrament of Confirmation on the young people of St Denis parish.
Father John Sliney was greatly loved by the whole community and even received an Honorary Degree from Dartmouth College during his years as pastor of St Denis. He was succeeded as pastor of St Denis by his blood brother, the Rev. Francis Sliney. Both Sliney brothers, John and Francis, would receive the Papal Honor and the title “Monsignor” during their years as pastor of St Denis. Fr Francis Sliney was pastor for fourteen years from 1945 until 1959. It was during the second Msgr. Sliney’s pastorate that an Associate Pastor was assigned to St Denis in 1950, with a particular ministry to the Catholic students of Dartmouth College, the Rev. William Nolan. Thanks to his devotion and vision and drive, the Catholic campus ministry at the College thrived, and it was under the leadership of Monsignor Nolan that Aquinas House was established and built. Msgr. Nolan, still fondly remembered and loved by the older generation of Catholics in Hanover, retired as Director of Aquinas House in 1987. He lies buried in Pine Knoll Cemetery, Hanover.
The Rev. John Pitts replaced Fr Francis Sliney as pastor in 1959. It was during his pastorate that the present St Denis Rectory, located at 8 Sanborn Rd., was constructed in the early 1960s. After having only three pastors between the years 1917-1966, St Denis Parish had that many more pastors in a span of thirteen years.
The Rev. Thomas Hannigan became the fifth pastor of St Denis in 1966. It fell to him to implement the liturgical changes of the Second Vatican Council during his years as pastor. These were tumultuous years in the life of many parishes. In April 1971, the Rev. Robert Carty took over as pastor of the parish, and he too remained for five years, continuing the work that Fr. Hannigan had begun, implementing the changes of Vatican II. He was followed by the Rev. Daniel LaMothe in 1976 who displayed great talents as an administrator and organizer. These skills were needed in another part of the Diocese and after less than three years as pastor, he was given another assignment. In Fr LaMothe’s place, the Rev. Paul Gregoire was assigned as the eighth Pastor of St Denis, and he, too, served for three years until 1982. After a succession of four pastors in sixteen years, the next pastor of St Denis would serve sixteen years and certainly leave his mark on the parish and on the Town of Hanover. Upon Fr Gregoire’s reassignment, the Rev. Arthur J. Kelliher was appointed pastor of St Denis in 1982. Fr Kelliher was particularly attentive to building up the community/social life of the parish. This is from a tribute to Fr Kelliher by Barbara Mack in the book, St. Denis Centennial History: 100 years of Love and Gratitude, which the parish published for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the parish in 2007:
“Father K put to rout most folks’ idea of a proper member of the clergy. He was highly intelligent and very sophisticated, but too diffident to let it show. A true gentleman, he could blend into just about any social situation on any cultural or financial strata. He knew and appreciated fine art and was a voracious reader. He was almost obsessively concerned with neatness and ‘tidying up.'”
Fr Arthur Kelliher unexpectedly and suddenly dropped dead of a massive heart attack while entertaining the clergy and staff of the parishes in the Upper Valley deanery of the Diocese during a luncheon he was hosting for them at the Hanover Inn in 1998. The “reading room” in the church hall at St Denis was named in his honor, where an oil portrait of him, done by a parishioner, hangs. When a council of the Knights of Columbus was establised at St Denis in 2017, the Knights petitioned the Diocese to name themselves the Rev. Arthur J. Kelliher Council No. 16697.
With very big shoes to fill, the Rev. A. Stephen Marcoux was appointed the pastor of St Denis. It was his first assignment as a pastor, and for that reason, St Denis parish and its people still hold a dear place in his heart. He served for four happy years, including during the Jubilee Year 2000, during which he led a group of parishioners on pilgrimage to Rome. During a private audience with Pope John Paul II on January 27, 2000, the Holy Father presented to the pilgrims from St Denis, Hanover, NH a beautiful reproduction of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland, which graces the parish church to this day. Fr. Marcoux presently serves as pastor of Sacred Heart parish, Manchester, NH.
After four happy years, Fr Marcoux received a new assignment in 2002 and was replaced by the Rev. Kevin Connor. In his five years as pastor, it fell to him to get the parish ready for its centennial celebration in 2007. In the parish bulletin dated May 13, 2007, there was an announcement of a Centennial Lawn Party to be held on Sunday, May 20, 2007 from 3:30 – 5:00 PM to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of St Denis Parish. The Bishop of Manchester at the time, the Most Rev. John B. McCormack, D.D. came to St Denis that day both to participate in the centennial celebration and also to celebrate a Mass of Confirmation at which he confirmed eighteen young people of the parish. In that same bulletin of May 13, 2007, the parish received the news that their pastor would be leaving the parish in a month’s time. In his last Mass in the parish on June 24, 2007, the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, Fr. Connor told the people of St Denis: “If I leave you with anything, I hope it is a deeper sense of your own baptismal dignity and calling in this life. There is much work to be done for God here on this earth. The local parish is a very important center within a community from which the work of the Lord is meant to radiate.”
As of July 1, 2007, the parish bulletin lists Fr. Michael J. McCormack, O.P. as interim administrator of St Denis Parish. Bishop McCormack (no relation), two years earlier, had invited the Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Joseph (New York) to take over the Catholic campus ministry to Dartmouth College at Aquinas House. Fr Michael McCormack, O.P. was one of the first Dominicans to be assigned to the ministry at Aquinas House and to Hanover, NH, so when St Denis Parish needed a new pastor, the Bishop approached the Dominican Friars to see if they could expand their ministry in the Diocese of Manchester and provide a pastor for St Denis, in addition to their ministry to the Catholic students at the College. The date, July 1, 2007, marks a new era in the history of St Denis parish, because it marks the moment when the parish was entrusted to the pastoral care of the Dominican Friars, during the centennial year of the parish’s founding.
The Rev. Dr. Warren Becket Soule, O.P. was appointed the first Dominican pastor of St Denis parish in February 2008. An academic by training, with an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything, Fr. Becket thrilled the parish community with a different homily for each of the three Sunday liturgies, with Mass frequently celebrated in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (“in Latin’), and by starting the Tuesday morning “Scripture and Scones” bible study sessions. It fell to Fr. Becket to conclude the parish’s centennial celebrations, which he did with two festive Eucharists: one on the patronal Feast of St Denis, October 9, 2008, and the second three days later on October 12, 2008, to mark the dedication of the four mosaics that were commissioned for the interior or the church that depict that life of St Denis and his companion martyrs. The homilies preached on those occasions, by visiting clergy, can be found on this website under Centennial Reflections
After less than three years as pastor, the pull of academia was tugging at Fr. Becket, and he accepted a position at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, OH as a Professor of Canon Law. In his place, Bishop McCormack appointed Fr. C. Francis Belanger, O.P. as the next Dominican pastor of St Denis, Hanover. A member of the Dartmouth College Class of 1989, Fr Francis served as both Assistant Campus Minister at Aquinas House and Parochial Vicar at St Denis under Fr Becket until being appointed as Fr Becket’s successor on the First Sunday of Advent in 2010. About a year after Fr Francis’s becoming pastor, the Diocese of Manchester received a new Bishop, the Most Rev. Peter A. Libasci, D.D. He was installed as Bishop of Manchester on December 8, 2011, having served previously as an Auxiliary Bishop of his home diocese of Rockville Center on Long Island.
Under Fr Francis’ leadership, the various ministries of the parish continued to expand and flourish, and social activities to boost parish relations and build community were encouraged. During his tenure as pastor, St Denis received permission from the Diocese of Manchester to purchase a single-family home, located at 14 Hovey Ln — adjacent to the St Denis rectory property — and refurbished it to be the center of the Youth Ministry in the parish. The house was “christened” Frassati House, after Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, O.P. Fr. Francis brought Matej & Rhoda Bevc on to the parish staff to be the Youth Ministry team.
In the Spring of 2014, Fr Francis was elected as a delegate to the Dominican Provincial Chapter to be held on the campus of Providence College in June of that year. While at the Chapter, Fr Francis was appointed by the Chapter to be the next Novice Master for the Dominican Province of St Joseph, which required his moving to Cincinnati, OH where the Novitiate is located. Reluctantly and with much regret but also best wishes, the parish community said “Farewell!” to Fr Francis at a reception on Sunday, July 10, 2014. With Fr Francis’ departure for Ohio and his new responsibilities, Fr. Brendan Murphy, O.P., the newly-appointed Director of Aquinas House, was asked to serve as the interim administrator of St Denis until the Province of St Joseph could propose the name of the next Dominican friar to Bishop Libasci for his appointment as the next pastor of St Denis. In a letter dated December 5, 2014, Bishop Libasci appointed Fr. Brian M. Mulcahy, O.P. to be the next (fourteenth) pastor of St Denis and the third Dominican friar to fulfil these responsibilities. Fr. Brian’s first Masses as pastor of St Denis were on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2014.