Church cleaning leads to discovery of historic chalice

BROOKLINE -- Father Jonathan Gaspar made a surprising discovery shortly before his installation as the new pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in late June.

While cleaning and reorganizing the church basement, Father Gaspar came across a box containing several old liturgical items. Among the reliquaries, monstrances, and ciboria, there was one unique item: a chalice that Father Gaspar read about in the parish history. The document reported that Pope Pius IX, pope from 1846-1878, gave the chalice to Father Joseph M. Finotti, the second pastor of St. Mary's, in honor of his parish being the first in the United States to be dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.

"It's a part of our parish history," Father Gaspar said. "It's something that we're very proud of. It's what makes our parish a bit unique. There's always been this strong sense of faith to Our Lady and to the dogma of the Assumption, even before it was promulgated by the Church as official teaching."

In fact, when Pope Pius XII declared the dogma of the Assumption in 1950, the Archbishop of Boston at the time, Cardinal Richard Cushing, came to St. Mary of the Assumption to celebrate with the community. A plaque in the sanctuary marks that occasion.

Speaking to the Pilot, Father Gaspar proposed a theory for why the chalice was packed up and placed in storage. After the Second Vatican Council, some people interpreted the Council documents as saying anything that was considered too "old-fashioned" was no longer to be used. In many places, Father Gaspar said, this led to metal vessels being replaced with those made of glass or ceramic.

Father Gaspar hopes to restore the chalice so it can be used again, possibly reserved for special occasions.

"We have a number of parishioners who are interested in supporting this, a number of parishioners who are also interested in memorializing loved ones. The cost to restore a chalice like this is not insignificant, but the chalice has enough historic significance" to warrant the expense, Father Gaspar said.

"Its value is much more than just what it's worth in its metal, but what it means to us as a link to the universal Church, and also part of the history of Boston, as an important diocese in the country, and this parish in particular, as one of the earliest parishes in the archdiocese," he added.