The Paulist Fathers, the first American Catholic religious order of priests (sometimes called “missionaries to Main Street”), came to Boston in the late 1940s. With the enthusiastic support of Boston’s Archbishop, the Paulists established what was then called a “Catholic Information Center” on Park Street. In the mid-1950s, the Church built the present structure: Holy Spirit Chapel, classrooms, and office space. This allowed the Paulists to expand to include a vibrant weekend community, most of whom come from the greater Boston area.
In the 1960s, when the Catholic Church had an international meeting known as the “Second Vatican Council,” the Paulists responded in new and lively ways at 5 Park Street. The Council called for active participation by all at the Mass (Liturgy), and the then-growing Paulist Center weekend community responded with contemporary musical styles and strong lay participation in its worship.
At the same time, many were finding in the Paulist Center Community a renewed Catholic consciousness for reaching out to the poor. They started a tradition of “Wednesday Night Supper Club” to feed homeless and hungry people. This continues to today where we feed close to 200 people every week. Recognizing a need to fund this important new outreach ministry, the Paulist Center Community began the Annual Greater Boston Walk for Hunger, now under the aegis of “Project Bread.” It is the largest single-day effort to combat hunger in the United States. Working for justice for the poor or marginalized has gone in many directions: retreats for the disabled, support groups and welcome for the divorced and remarried, prison reform and visiting ministries, and engagement with the suffering Church in Central America (continuing to this day with our sister parish in El Salvador, Hacienda Vieja).
To these were added “welcome” ministries to some who felt left out by their local parishes, including gay and lesbian people, singles, women, and all who were searching for a parish in which they felt both challenged and welcome with their questions. Moreover, during the 1970s, the Paulist Center developed vibrant a religious education program for children and families.
Today’s Paulist Center Community continues many of these initiatives, always seeking to adapt to the needs of our time according to our capacity. Most recently, recognizing Boston’s large number of Millennials (those born after 1980) many of whom are turning away from active Church membership, the Paulist Center Community has amplified its outreach to 21-39 year-olds by adding a staff person whose mission it is to specifically speak to this group.
Our mission statement continues to echo the yearnings of the age in the same mission in new refinements:
Attentive to the Holy Spirit and nourished by vibrant liturgy, we are a Catholic community that welcomes all, fosters healing and reconciliation, and acts for justice.