Boston, Seaport district: a recent sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady amongst skyscrapers, startups and old docks, and a priest amongst engineers and business men: testimony from the U.S.A

abandoned the harbor for years: the ships weren’t harboring and the area had become a parade of docks and empty warehouses broken up by parking lots and restaurants. In 2010, the mayor at the time announced a plan to transform the Seaport district into a modern neighborhood, young and hipster. As a result, in these past few years they’ve built modern condos and futuristic office buildings and shops: startups and young professionals moved to the area, transforming it into a modern and lively neighborhood where finding parking is a challenge.
Entering the Seaport district, however, you notice right away a building that’s different than the others, a small structure that seems almost out of place among the glass buildings and the neon signs. It’s the sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Voyage. The church was built in April 2017 and for a year Fr. Stefano and I have been in charge of the pastoral care of the sanctuary: we mainly celebrate mass and spend many hours in the confessional but we also celebrate marriages and meet many different people.
The sanctuary, though not big, is artistically very beautiful and well cared-for; but it’s best quality is definitely it’s location. No one expects to see a church at the entrance of a part of the city where people think to find everything (money, work, fame, entertainment), except God. The sanctuary has become, however, a sign of hope for many. Engineers, lawyers, and biologists come to mass during their lunch break or stop to pray for a few minutes before going to work or on their way home. Tourists and visitors stop by continuously and among them there are many non-Catholics that come to find peace, rest, and hope in the complicated journey of their lives.
The optimal location of the sanctuary offers the possibility of encounter and mission. I often spend the whole day in the church and during breaks between masses and confessions I walk around the Seaport area. At first, people were surprised, almost in disbelief to see a priest get in line with lawyers, computer engineers, and bankers to buy a coffee or sandwich for lunch.
Little by little, this incredulous wonder transformed into curiosity and became an occasion to encounter even those far from the Church. After a few weeks of going to breakfast at the café next to the sanctuary, I met one of the people that works there. Kevin is originally from Long Island but he moved to Boston a few years ago. He’s catholic, but he hasn’t gone to church in years. “When my dad got sick, now over ten years ago”, he told me one day, “I stopped going to church. I felt betrayed by God. I don’t know, maybe one day I’ll go back”. Recently, Kevin got married but unfortunately in the past few months his life has been shaken up by some personal and family drama that have intensified our dialogue. Kevin is still searching for something: when we see each other, we talk about our experiences and he asks me his questions, then he listens to my responses with attention and interest. My desire, for him and for all of the people that I meet, is to be a witness of hope. And this hope comes from the One who lives in the sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Voyage.

(Fr. Paolo Cumin has been a priest since 2002. He’s the chaplain of the sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Voyage in Boston – in the picture -, and parochial vicar of St. Clement in Medford, Massachusetts).


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