Holyoke was originally founded as a prosperous mill town. The first Polish immigrants settled there in 1887, and in 1896 the growing Polish community established Mater Dolorosa Church in order to serve the Polish residents of the region.
Their choir today is small in comparison to its state in the mid-twentieth century, when it boasted 80 members and was renowned as a high-quality concert choir of the area. They have been featured in operas and musicals, on radio broadcasts, and have released a few CD’s over the years.
Recently, however, the city of Holyoke has been in steady economic decline, and the 2010 census is expected to report a nearly 50% drop in population (from 60,000 to 35,000) over the last 10 years. Because of this, as well as declining attendance at Mass and the expenses of keeping churches open, heated, and up to code, the Catholic Diocese of Springfield announced in August 2008 that they would be closing certain churches in the diocese and merging various parishes together. One of the recommended actions was the merging of the Mater Dolorosa parish into Holy Cross parish, an Irish-American church.