by Badmaa Batbold, guest writer and journalism student at Boston University
Our Lady of Good Voyage, a small catholic chapel located on 65 Northern Avenue on the South Boston Waterfront, will soon be setting sail for a new home. The chapel, built in 1952, is considered a landmark because for many years it was the only building that stood in the neighborhood. The small red brick chapel now stands amongst tall glossy new buildings that were built only in the last five years. Now it too is getting in on the new development craze that has transformed the neighborhood.
The current chapel on Northern Avenue will be demolished but a new chapel will be built on the parallel street, 51 Seaport Blvd.
Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Good Voyage Rev. Gerald Souza, 29, stands outside the chapel looking across the street to One Marina Park Drive, a luxury condominium and office space. Rev. Souza, who has been a priest at the chapel for the past 3 months, is very excited about the relocation. The construction of the new chapel on Seaport Blvd. will be the first new chapel built in Boston in a while. He understands it is a sad situation and people, some who have attended for generations, will be upset and rightfully so, as the church itself is a holy place and holds both sentiment and historic value. Our Lady of Good Voyage was named after the Virgin Mary and was built specifically to meet the needs of longshoremen and their wives who come to pray for the safe voyage and return of their husbands. The current chapel is filled with depictions of the sea and ships.
Today the neighborhood has completely transformed. Rev. Souza sees the relocation of the chapel as an upgrade to better fit the changing dynamics of the area. “The initial chapel was founded to meet the needs of longshoremen [whereas] the present chapel is really remaining in existence to meet the needs of the people who will be living and working here and also visiting for conventions and things like that”, Rev. Souza reiterates.
Souza says the new location on Seaport Blvd, the main street linking the South Boston Waterfront and Downtown Boston, is a major improvement to the smaller Northern Avenue address.
After Sunday Mass, Javier Soegaard, 26, a pastoral associate and Lisa Soper, 23, a second grade teacher at a Catholic School in South Boston say they also support the relocation of the chapel. A new and bigger church would accommodate a higher volume of people and the door will be facing the financial district. Soegaard believes this will “create a spiritual safety when [people who live in the neighborhood] are walking home from work to know that they have a home in the church, that there is an open door waiting for them”. They both acknowledge that the transition will not be easy but as much as the Catholic Church values their physical spaces, what the church really consists of is in communities of people. The new chapel will still have the ‘regulars’ in attendance but also invite new people and expand their community.
Boston Global Investors, a real estate development and consulting firm with headquarters in Boston, bought the land from the Archdiocese of Boston. The land Our Lady of Good Voyage sits on today is planned to be a part of the current BGI development of ‘One Seaport Square’, a high-rise retail and apartment project. Agreements have been made with the Archdiocese of Boston and BGI but the chapel and its land will remain intact until the new chapel has been built and complete in its new location.
One Seaport Square is just the latest development in the transformation of the once barren and abandoned neighborhood. The Central Artery/Tunnel Project, otherwise known as the Big Dig, initially paved the way for development in the Waterfront area. The Boston Children’s Museum, built in 1913, relocated to Fort Point Channel in 1979, the Commonwealth Pier was transformed into the now World Trade Center in 1986, and the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse was completed in 1999. Today, the city’s ongoing development boom has led to the continuing rise of commercial, retail, residential, and office buildings. Construction can be seen almost everywhere in the South Boston Waterfront.
By Christmas of 2016, the Seaport neighborhood will have another new building when the new Our Lady of Good Voyage chapel is due to open.