With very little public attention, the Boston Archdiocese has undertaken the process of relegating to profane use Holy Trinity Church in Boston. Assuming Holy Trinity is relegated to profane use, the property will be sold. The future of the beautiful neo-gothic style 1877 church building and its potential demolition will likely be tied to large-scale redevelopment of the South End being driven by the City of Boston.
A short bulletin notice at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross says the following from the rector:
Holy Trinity Parish Church: After thought and consideration I have informed the Parish Council on May 9, 2012, that I will petition His Eminence, Sean Cardinal P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap. To begin the process of relegation of Holy Trinity Parish Church from sacred to profane use.
BCI wrote extensively about Holy Trinity in 2011, when the archdiocese listed the property for sale with a realtor but never went through a process of relegating the church to profane use. See:
When the property was taken off the market, in 2011, note what the then-Chancellor communicated to former Holy Trinity parishioners:
The second step in this [relegation] process is the consultation of the Catholic faithful. At present, we are in the midst of this stage of the relegation consultation process for seven area churches. Holy Trinity was not included with this grouping because we had not yet obtained the needed information for the consultation. Cardinal O’Malley will be announcing a new series of consultations soon and this grouping will include Holy Trinity Church.
Please be assured that during the planned consultation period, you and all who wish to be heard will have ample opportunity to give your input to Cardinal O’Malley and to Father O’Leary, the pastor of Cathedral Parish, which welcomed the former parishioners of Holy Trinity. I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and provide thoughtful comments so that the Cardinal may make an informed and just decision as to the ultimate use of the church building.
Did we and others miss the announcement of the public consultation? Did it even occur at all?
Here is what is in store for this area:
Anchored by the dramatic rebuilding of the former Boston Herald property, the corridor of blocks between Harrison Avenue and Albany Street could soon host more than 1,000 new units of housing, dozens of new storefronts, improved roads, and new smaller roadways and sidewalks carved out of the large industrial blocks that dominate the area.
Reader, “Servium” had this to say recently about the fate of Holy Trinity Church:
Its historic and patrimonial significance to the Church and the City of Boston at large should not be minimized. Currently, there is a move afoot by the Boston Redevelopment Authority [BRA] and developers to take the entire block. No longer a place of worship, the political apparatus of the City of Boston has imposed a stiff property tax on the property. The legalized extortion is now forcing the Archdiocese [RCAB]‘s hand to unload HTC into the hands of the BRA and interested developers, who have strong ties to both the City and the Pastoral Center. The potential ethical conflict of interest is astounding but continues to fester. Isn’t interesting that Peter Meade that formerly headed the Meade-Eisner Reconfiguration Review Committee for the Cardinal, now heads the BRA. Do you think any inside information has been shared with the City? Have properties been promised political allies before any transaction? One can only conjecture, given the track record exposed on this blog.
We excerpt from a previous post and reader submitted piece to give more details about Holy Trinity:
The beautiful neo-Gothic-style building located on Shawmut Avenue had a turreted white altar flanked by golden angels. Here you can see the now-empty tabernacle between them.
“The thought of what is planned for this Domus Dei (House of God) sickens me,” one concerned parishioner wrote to Boston Catholic Insider last year. “Two religious orders (the FSSP and the ICRSS), have previously expressed interest in maintaining the property and the Cardinal has showed no interest…A utilitarian understanding of ‘worship space’ seems to have been prevailed upon at least two generations of Catholics in Boston, reducing sacred architecture and the theology of the Domus Dei to a managed asset,” the parishioner said. “This has paved the way to massive church suppressions in Boston with little or no outcry from clergy or laity alike. Does anyone question the secular model of Church, currently peddled by the corporate wizards at the Pastoral Center?”
Holy Trinity was designed by noted architect Patrick Keeley. A massive 2,880-pipe organ dominates the loft; the church can seat 1,200.
Six-foot high Stations of the Cross line the blue-and- gold walls. Above each station stands a tall hand-carved wooden statue of an apostle. These alternate with 30-foot-high stained-glass windows bearing images of Michael the Archangel and other saints.
Peering down from higher on the walls are frescoes of St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis Xavier and other canonized Jesuits. The Society of Jesus ran the parish from 1848 to 1961, when it was transferred to the Archdiocese.
Pictorial pages of salvation history here surrounded generations of worshippers, who could point to them as they showed their children real faces from the Communion of Saints.
Over the years, this ethnic German parish opened schools, an orphanage and a home for the elderly. In 1990 it was designated to host the celebration of the Roman-rite in the Archdiocese, and soon a thriving Latin Mass community grew.
The German-Americans and the Latin Mass group did not just cohabit the building; they bonded. Together the parish had five active choirs, including a Gregorian chant ensemble, and a contributing membership from 94 zip codes. It hosted an Oktoberfest and a Christian Arts Series that offered orchestral and choir music concerts free to the public.
In 2008 it was closed and its assets transferred to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. BCI understands from knowledgeable sources that the structural condition of the building may not be good, but in the absence of seeing an independent engineering report, we cannot say unequivocally what condition the building is in today.
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BCI will close with the words of former Vicar General Fr. Erikson, who told Catholic faithful how important it is to consider input from former parishioners before churches are relegated to profane use. He said in the Globe:
“Our buildings are important to us in the Catholic faith,” said the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, the archdiocese’s vicar general. “They’re places of high honor, where many of us have experienced first communions, marriages, the burial of loved ones. Church is like another home for us, so any time we consider a use other than the sacred, it’s a very serious matter, a very serious decision.”…
“To those skeptical” that their input will be considered, Erikson said, “I ask them to put their confidence in this process, which may be unprecedented, which is designed to be thorough, thoughtful and efficient, and which was developed with sincere intent.”
BCI hates to see any churches sold and/or demolished. Admittedly, BCI has a soft spot for older churches with stunningly beautiful architecture such as Holy Trinity. The relegation to profane use of Holy Trinity and its sale are no doubt a fait accompli. Has a thorough, thoughtful process of consultation been followed for Holy Trinity? If so, it has been a rather private one. To what extent did the RCAB ignore or otherwise dismiss potential Catholic buyers of this building? Are there conflicts of interest in this situation that have not been addressed by key players recusing themselves?
Sadly, this is probably not the last church to be closed and sold off in Boston. Following an open process, free from conflicts of interest, where the faithful can at least participate and be heard is very important. Did that happen here, or did it not? If not, why is it so difficult for this archdiocese to do what they say they will do?