Visitors of a Watertown cemetery this week found several gravestones vandalized including the grave of a prominent Catholic priest.
The graves lie in the Sandy Banks Cemetery, also referred to as the Catholic Mount Auburn Cemetery, near Cottage Street, and one of the defaced gravestones belongs to Father Manasses P. Dougherty, who helped found many Catholic churches in the Cambridge area.
Dougherty is one of many graves that had been researched by Newton resident Bill McEvoy, who spotted the red spray paint on the monuments and headstones on Aug. 10.
First McEvoy and others approached Mount Auburn Cemetery, however, while the Catholic Cemetery abuts the Mount Auburn Cemetery, it is not part of that property, said Bree Harvey, Vice President of Cemetery & Visitor Services at Mount Auburn Cemetery. However, some members of the Mount Auburn Cemetery staff went to see the vandalism and contacted the Watertown Police, Harvey said.
The Catholic Cemetery, which sits on the Watertown/Cambridge line, is run by the Archdiocese of Boston, and representatives from the Archdiocese also contacted police and told Wicked Local Watertown that they are in the process of having the graffiti cleaned off the monuments.
While he lives in Newton, McEvoy has been attending Sacred Heart Church in East Watertown for six decades and he met his wife at the church. For several years, he has been researching the Catholic Cemetery, cataloging the graves and looking at the state of the monuments. He wrote about Dougherty on FindaGrave.com in 2010. McEvoy has also worked with Historical Society of Watertown member Joyce Kelly to cataloging the Civil War Veterans buried in Watertown.
Dougherty was born in Ireland in 1816 and founded the Parish of St. Peter’s Church in 1849. It included the St. Peter’s Church on Concord Avenue in Cambridge, but the borders included not only Cambridge, but Belmont, Lincoln, Lexington, Bedford, Medford, Malden, and part of Somerville.
He went on to found so many parishes that he received the sobriquet as the “Founder of Churches,” according to McEvoy’s piece. The last church he founded was St. Paul’s Church in Harvard Square.
This was not the first time that gravestones at the Catholic Cemetery have been damaged. McEvoy said that he has documented 226 headstones or monuments in the cemetery that have fallen over or been broken, he told Wicked Local Watertown.