She has sat on Northern Avenue in Boston for 65 years, a beacon of hope and a prayerful place of respite for weary fishermen, longshoremen, dock workers and their families. But alas, as our city continues to burst at the seams with development, she will be torn down and replaced with office buildings or condominiums.
However, much like her strong symbolic presence of faith, community and comfort, she has risen again just a few blocks away.
Our Lady of Good Voyage on Northern Avenue was built when the now fashionable Seaport District in Boston was nothing but docks and warehouses. Cardinal Richard Cushing built the church in 1952 to serve the spiritual needs of the men and women who worked the docks and as a sacred place for their families to await their safe return. She has always had the latest Mass in Boston, and for many Southie residents scrambling to get to Mass on Sunday has enjoyed the moniker “Our Lady of the Last Minute.”
Pastoral Associate Javier Soegaard was kind enough to chat with CIS about the old chapel and the new chapel which will open next month.
CIS: Do people still use this original site to worship?
“Absolutely, we are still open for daily masses. While our demographics have changed, we have one fellow who comes every week. He said the place always smelled like a fish market, but it was the most comforting place to be after a long stint at sea.”
CIS: Why the decision to demolish and rebuild?
“Cardinal O’Malley is very dedicated to keeping a place of worship in this neighborhood, especially as it is growing so rapidly. We know that churches can build community and what better structure to enhance the lives of condominium residents and local workers”.
CIS: When is the first Mass open to the public?
“The chapel is set to open to the public after the first ceremonial Mass on April 23rd. We will have daily Mass and confession available at 11:30 am and mass at 12:10 pm. We will have capacity for just about 200 worshippers.”
According to a Boston Globe article, the land for the new site at Sleeper Street and Seaport Boulevard was acquired as a land swap between the Archdiocese and Boston Global Investors. BGI will build on the site of the old chapel on Northern Avenue.
The new chapel is the first new Catholic Church to be built in the city in 60 years. Details inside the new chapel are meticulous. The stain glass windows in the new chapel are re-purposed from Holy Trinity Church in the South End and St. Augustine in South Boston. The windows that are on the Sleeper Street side of the chapel are too close to the abutting building to get natural light so they are backlit with LED lights so the beauty of the windows can be fully appreciated. The wooden hand carved crucifix was just installed this week.
Just below the stain glass windows are small wooden carved depictions of the Stations of the Cross. The wooden support beams on the ceiling of the church are designed to look like the hull of a ship. The stone altar was hand built by a father and son team from Italy. And the names of the major rivers of the Near East are engraved on the stone support beams in the church.
A choir loft is one level above the church seating area and the building is wired for sound with Bose technology. The location is absolutely stunning and the chapel is sure to be a big hit with brides and grooms looking for an intimate space for a Catholic wedding in downtown Boston. Daily Mass will be offered as well.
“We are dedicated to building community here in the city and we are hopeful that this beautiful new chapel is just the place to start achieving that goal,” said Javier.