Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail

4. The ‘Kennedy Church’

St. Francis Xavier Church, located on South Street in Hyannis, was the church Rose and Joe Kennedy chose to attend after buying their home in Hyannis Port in the 1920s. St. Francis Xavier became the summer parish for most of the Kennedy family. It was also the site of several important family events, so much so, that the locals often call it the “Kennedy Church.”



The Kennedy Church
Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy regularly attended mass here, at the St. Francis Xavier Church. Cape Cod and the St. Francis Xavier Church were the Kennedy family’s catholic spiritual center. Until her death in 1995 Rose sat in the front row in the east wing of the church. When her first son, Joe Kennedy Jr., brother of JFK, died in WWII in 1944, the service was held here. The main altar of the church is now a memorial to Joseph Kennedy, Jr. President John F. Kennedy attended Sunday Mass here with his family during the summer time. Church historians recall that the Kennedys would sit in the second row of pews while Secret Service Agents would bracket the president in the front and third rows. Senator Ted Kennedy’s youngest son Patrick was baptized here. It was here in 1986 that Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s daughter Maria married Arnold Schwarzenegger. The funeral mass for Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, was held here in 2009.



The Shriver Family
Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of John F. Kennedy Jr., is the fifth of Joe and Rose Kennedy’s nine children. Eunice, known around the world for her charity work and dedication to children issues, was the founder of the Special Olympics. Born in July 1921 in Brookline Massachusetts, Eunice was educated at Stamford University. She married Robert Sargent Shriver in New York City in 1953. Shriver, a graduate of Yale University and a US Navy Veteran, had an active political career. Shriver founded the Peace Corp during JFK’s presidency, served as US Ambassador to France from 1968 to 1970 and was democratic presidential hopeful George McGovern’s running mate in 1972. Eunice and Sargent had five children. Their daughter, Maria, married Arnold Schwarzenegger at St. Francis Xavier Church in 1986. Schwarzenegger went on to serve as Governor of California. Eunice passed away August 11th, 2009 and Robert Sargent Shriver died in January, 2011.


President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis leaving the St. Francis Xavier Church in the 1960s.