The story of the birth of St. Mary of the Annunciation School begins with a death. When the Reverand James Canarie, beloved pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Danvers died in 1943, he was succeeded by the Reverand Stephen O'Brien. Father O'Brien, the parish's eleventh pastor, was a man of vision and determination, an opportunist, and an exemplary fundraiser. He accomplished much during his twenty years as pastor, and was often awestruck by the extraordinary generosity of his flock.
When World War II ended in 1945, Father O'Brien took his first major initiative as pastor of St. Mary's. He initiated the construction of a new rectory to stand alongside the new church that had opened in 1937. Father O'Brien moved in with his two curates in May 1948.
Once the rectory was completed, Father O'Brien set his sights on building an elementary school. Beginning in 1950, he quietly started a savings account for that purpose. By mid-1956 he had accumulated more than $200,000. In October of that year he organized a small group of men, along with Father John Sheehan, to serve as leaders of a campaign, with the goal of doubling that fund. By December of that year they exceeded their goal, earning the blessing of the Archdiocese to build an elementary school.
Construction began on a property on Otis Street in Danvers located about a mile from the church. The Otis Street land was available because of the generosity of Joseph Graham, a longtime St. Mary's communicant. A six-acre parcel that was part of the Graham family farm was donated.
John McPherson, the architect for the church and rectory, was commissioned for the school project. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur were appointed as faculty and were thrilled when the school opened for classes in September 1958.
Important Dates in the History of St. Mary of the Annunciation School
Groundbreaking by Monsignor Augustine Hargendan Dean.
Laying to the cornerstone by Archbishop Richard Cushing.
School opens and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur welcome 255 pupils in the first three grades.
The first graduating class of forty-seven students receive their diplomas.
The east wing of the school opens. A library and faculty room are added to the basic facilities, and new classrooms bring the total to twenty-four.
A successful capital campaign of $1,000,000 affords the construction of a new office, chapel, learning center, technology lab, and music, band, and art special rooms.
The auditorium renovations are completed, which include new lighting, HVAC system, floor, and gymnasium.