Latest Posts

Post Library




When The Catholic Information Center and Holy Ghost Chapel opened in their new facility at 5 Park Street in 1957, George Fitzgerald and I were attending a special school located at the Boston College Intown at 126 Newbury. The school was known as the School of St. Philip Neri for Delayed Vocations. BC Intown was also the location of the BC School of Nursing and the original location for the School of Social Work, the School of Management and various other programs. I had some contacts with Paulist priests when they had spoken at the campus ministry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. When I began at St. Philip Neri I made contact with a couple of them, Fr. Walter Gouch and Fr. Edward Kron; they in turn had put me in touch with Fr. John Kelly, the Vocation Director. I had also introduced George to the Paulists. The upshot of these contacts was that George and I were invited to attend the dedication of The Paulist Center and Chapel at 5 Park Street by Archbishop Richard Cushing. I don’t remember many specifics about that ceremony, but it was attended by an overflow crowd which spilled-out onto Park Street, which I think was closed for the occasion.

Some background to the opening of the Center at 5 Park Street. After Bishop Richard Cushing became the archbishop of Boston in 1944, he invited the Paulist Fathers into the Archdiocese of Boston to establish an Information Center and take responsibility for St Ann’s Parish near Symphony Hall and campus ministry for several college and educational programs in the area. In 1945 the Paulist Fathers opened The Catholic Information Center at 5 Park Street and this was followed in 1947 by the opening the Chapel of the Holy Ghost at 4 Park Street. The archbishop also arranged for the purchase of the properties on Park Street, three parcels, that would become the future home of both the Information Center and Holy Ghost Chapel. The Archbishop wanted a Catholic presence on Beacon Hill and, even though the facility was not located on Beacon Street itself, it would certainly be an obvious location in the Beacon Hill neighborhood. Sitting between the offices for Houghton Mifflin Publishing and the Union Club, the new facility, by its location made a statement. On the occasion of the dedication, both of the major newspapers, The Globe and The Herald, published special sections with photos and comments on the new facility and the ministry of the Paulist Fathers.

To appreciate the significance of the opening of the Catholic Information Center and Holy Spirit Chapel, it might be well to recall some of the realities of the time. Dwight Eisenhower was the U.S. President, Foster Furculo was the Governor, and Thomas Hynes was the Mayor. The language of the Catholic liturgy was Latin. The altar in the new chapel faced the wall, and of course there

was an altar rail where people knelt to receive communion under one form. The pope was Pius XII and he had begun his reign in 1939. Boston was a notably Catholic city and the vast majority of the Catholic population had immigrant roots, Irish, Italian, French, Portuguese, German, etc. Daily Mass was available in several churches and chapels located throughout the city and daily attendance was a common practice for many. In terms of the history and culture of the city, Catholics “had arrived.”

But time does not stand still. Shortly after George and I, along with 18 other men, had begun our novitiate with the Paulists in the Fall of 1958, Pius XII died and another Italian Cardinal, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who took the name John XXIII, was elected to succeed him. Within the first year of his pontificate, John announced that he planned to convene an ecumenical council, and so he did. This same pope also made Archbishop Cushing a cardinal in 1958.

The reason I touch ever so briefly on these pieces of history is to underscore the dynamic that I believe has been the constant challenge for the Paulist Fathers’ leadership, the pastoral ministers and lay leaders and membership of the Paulist Center community to struggle with – constant change – both in the larger society, in the city, and in the Church. By the time George Fitzgerald and I were ordained as Paulist priests in 1965, the Church was in a period of enormous change as a result of the vision of the Vatican Council II. Today the language of the Liturgy is the language of the people. The altar no longer faces the wall, the altar rail is gone, far fewer people consider themselves Catholic, the Paulist Fathers and other religious communities have far fewer members and our political situation presents some distinctly different challenges. But as I look back over 60 years that the Paulists have been in this location, there is still an important role that the ministry of the Paulist Center plays in the city and in the Church: to bring the healing and liberating message of Jesus to all those people among whom we live, and to spend ourselves in the service of others in building the Kingdom of God. It has not been an easy journey for anyone involved. There have been some major bumps along the road. But I believe the Holy Spirit, or, if you prefer, the Holy Ghost, has kept us on the path and headed in the right direction.