Seaport Shrine celebrates fifth anniversary

SOUTH BOSTON -- Our Lady of Good Voyage Seaport Shrine is one of the first buildings visible to those crossing over the Evelyn Moakley Bridge, greeting both locals and tourists with an atmosphere of peace and community as they enter the busy Seaport District.

Since relocating to its current site five years ago, the shrine has provided people with opportunities to pray and receive the sacraments, whether they were looking to put down roots or just passing through on a journey.

The original Our Lady of Good Voyage Shrine was located on Northern Avenue and was one of the "workers' chapels" established by Cardinal Richard Cushing to serve those employed in the seaport's fishing industry or freight yards. It opened in 1952 as a spiritual home for seaport workers and their loved ones who prayed for their safety. As the neighborhood developed in recent years, the original shrine was demolished, and the present shrine was built to take its place.

Ground was broken on the new site in 2014, and the shrine was dedicated by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley on April 22, 2017. It is an apostolate of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross but also has ties with the South Boston-Seaport Catholic Collaborative.

Deacon Paul Kline, who serves in the collaborative and is involved in the shrine's outreach ministry, said the new shrine is in "a much different seaport" than the old one.

"As the community has grown, the shrine has evolved and grown with it. We've hung on to the best of what the old shrine shared with us, and we've grown in ways that represent the diversity and new challenges of ministry in the new seaport," Deacon Kline said.

Visitors can conduct self-guided tours using booklets about the shrine's different features. Its architecture and decorations are in keeping with the nautical theme, with statues of St. Peter the Fisherman and Our Lady of Good Voyage, who holds the infant Christ in one arm and a ship in the other. Model ships hang from the ceiling in the side aisles, representing actual vessels that have frequented the seaport, including the U.S.S. Constitution. Stenciled along the walls are words from Psalm 106 about people who "go down to the sea in ships" and "have seen the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep."

Deacon Kline said that visitors to Boston who stop by the shrine will often tell the staff their reasons for being in the city and share prayer intentions. Travelers may come before or after a cruise to ask or give thanks for a safe journey. Families visiting colleges will pray for their children. Medical students, healthcare workers, and hospital patients bring their anxieties and pray for healing.

"It's a wonderful space, where there's always something new emerging out of the stories that people are kind enough to share with us," Deacon Kline said.

While serving people's spiritual needs by providing the sacraments and a place of prayer, the shrine also has an active ministry of outreach to the poor, the homeless, and people struggling with addiction.

Deacon Kline elaborated on this when he spoke about the Good Samaritan Ministry at St. Monica's Kitchen, a food pantry and hospitality ministry that was born out of the old shrine and now operates out of St. Monica Church.

"All of that spirit has been transplanted from there to the new shrine, where you bless the legacy of those who came before you and continue that spirit through Monica's Kitchen," he told the assembly.

Stephen Ryan, a frequent volunteer at the shrine, spoke about his connection to the shrine. He explained that he had grown up in South Boston and moved to the Seaport District just a year before the opening of the new shrine.

"It's like a hidden gem, but I think the word is out now that we are here," he said.

In addition to offering daily Masses and confessions, the shrine has its own religious education program and hosts numerous baptisms, confirmations, and weddings. In 2021, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the shrine hosted over 25 baptisms and over 50 weddings. Six adults were received into the Catholic Church this past Easter.

Ryan noted that they had an overflow of people at Easter, which he took as "a sign of hope."

He said some people attend Mass at the shrine before having Sunday brunch in the seaport's restaurants. Others find the shrine unexpectedly and are drawn in by its beauty and history, regarding it like a museum.

"The shrine is unique. It's not a parish, it's more people passing by, and then when they stumble upon it, they're really impressed by it," Ryan said.

The fifth anniversary of the dedication of Our Lady of Good Voyage Seaport Shrine was marked by special Masses and receptions on April 24, which was also Divine Mercy Sunday.

Celebrants at the Masses included Bishop Robert Reed; Father Luis Hernandez, F.S.C.B., the shrine's chaplain; Father Paolo Cumin, the previous chaplain; Father Scott Surrency, a Capuchin priest who helped with Masses during the pandemic; and Father Peter DeFazio, rector of the shrine.

Even city and state officials came to acknowledge the shrine's significance to the neighborhood. Senator Nick Collins attended Bishop Reed's Mass in the morning and presented the shrine with an official citation congratulating them on their anniversary. Boston City Council president Ed Flynn was present for the midday Mass and reception, where he expressed thanks and congratulations to the shrine community for "five years of good work."

"This parish is always there helping people, always giving back," Flynn said.

"I expect that this church -- yes, the newest church built in the Archdiocese of Boston -- will be here for a long time to come. I think we will ensure that it continues," said Father DeFazio in his homily at the midday Mass.

The midday Mass was followed by a reception at Tuscan Kitchen, a restaurant across the street from the shrine. There, Father DeFazio and other staff, volunteers, and friends of the shrine had the chance to share remarks with the community. They also recognized Susan Abbott and Kathy Stebbins, who are evangelization associates and members of the advisory board, as well as Kathleen Crozier, the music director.

Speaking to The Pilot during the reception, Father DeFazio said the shrine is "a center for the Divine Mercy." They often have visitors who ask to see a priest and make their first confession in many years.

The fact that the Sunday closest to the anniversary was Divine Mercy Sunday seemed providential or a "God-incidence," he said.