The Kennedy Church

The simple white church that sits on South Street in Hyannis has a noteworthy Kennedy family past.

St. Francis Xavier Church opened in 1874 as a mission chapel named St. Patrick’s just a few blocks away. As the local Catholic community grew, a parish was created and part of the old chapel was moved to the current location and incorporated into a new church dedicated in 1904.

In the 1920s, after the Kennedy family bought their summer house in Hyannisport, St. Francis Xavier became their local church. John F. Kennedy’s mother, Rose, attended Mass every morning and all of her sons, including the future president, served as altar boys. Joe Jr. was tragically killed flying for the U.S. in World War II, so in 1946, when the church was enlarged, the family donated an altar in memory of him. If you visit the church today, you can see the naval insignia that represents Joe Jr. above the cross over the altar.

In 1960, President Kennedy, Jackie and their children always attended the 11 a.m. Mass on Sundays during the summer. They would sit in the second row of the east wing, with the Secret Service in the first and third rows. The church was packed with both parishioners and guests whenever the president was in town. Outside, hundreds of tourists would gather, hoping to catch a glimpse of the young and stylish First Family as they went to and from their summertime place of worship. 

–Lisa Cavanaugh

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