Welcome back to the Caught In Southie History Lesson, where we (eventually) get to the Bicentennial of Southie Hidden Gem!
When we think back on the first European settlers in Massachusetts, we tend to think of what we learned in 2nd grade: people, in funny hats, escaping religious persecution, coming to a land where they could be “free.” What we fail to consider is that not everyone was allowed the same “freedoms” as our founding, settler forefathers.
During the seventeenth and much of the eighteenth centuries Catholicism was illegal in Massachusetts. When Revolutionaries needed the support of Catholic France to help fight the British, opinions towards Catholics began to soften. Drafted by John Adams in 1779, and ratified on June 15, 1780 the Massachusetts Constitution granted the freedom of worship. Yet, even with that freedom, the first public Mass wasn’t celebrated in Boston until 1788. Crazy, right?
It’s with that shaky start that we can turn our eyes to one of our South Boston hidden gems: the St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery The Chapel is the oldest surviving Catholic Church in Massachusetts, an example of the Gothic Revival Architectural style in Boston, and the Cemetery is the first Catholic Burying Ground in all of Boston. The Cemetery was opened in 1818 and the Chapel was dedicated on July 4th, 1819, eleven years after the founding of the Diocese of Boston in 1808.
If you are good at math, which I’m sure many of you are, you’ll have figured out that this year and next year are special anniversary years for the Chapel and Cemetery. The Chapel, currently, but temporarily, part of the Gate of Heaven & St. Brigid Parish Collaborative, holds Mass every Saturday at 4pm. If you want to see the Chapel and the Burying Grounds the gates are unlocked during that time. Planning is also underway to celebrate this special Bicentennial. More information can be found here!
The Chapel is located at 181 Dorchester Street