Worship and evangelization on the waterfront

Our Lady of Good Voyage Shrine in the Seaport district of Boston was dedicated by Cardinal O'Malley on April 22. Six months in, it's time to see how things are going. Although the building is new, much of the interior is "old"! It is fitted with windows, pews, Stations of the Cross, and other sacred items from parishes that have closed -- precious history. Visitors from those closed parishes are deeply touched to see that a part of their parish lives on.

The shrine's doors are open and people come -- some out of curiosity, others with prayer intentions. In the summer, vacationers from around the country and around the world -- from across Europe to Australia, to Japan -- were drawn to this simple, A-frame brick structure that welcomes people as they walk over Fort Point Channel across the Moakley Bridge. Surrounded by tall steel, glass, and brick buildings, the shrine grabs the eye with its simplicity. Area residents and workers frequently comment, "I watched this being built and I'm dying to see how it turned out." No one is disappointed. Visitors who knew the old Seaport Chapel are amazed and delighted at the new shrine. A few weeks after opening, parishioners from St. Denis Parish, Westwood, visited the shrine on their annual spring trip to Boston. They stayed for the daily 12:10 Mass and Father Jim Flavin, shrine rector, and Father Matt Williams, chaplain, related some of the shrine's history. Priests from Regina Cleri, the archdiocesan residence for retired priests, visited and concelebrated the afternoon Mass -- impressive to see and hear these men, who have served the Church for so many years, offering Mass in this new place.

The shrine is aesthetically beautiful. Several architects, Catholic and not, have come with professional curiosity, each giving the shrine high marks. But the shrine is also a sacred place, an oasis of peace and calm in a neighborhood that moves at a frenetic pace. Looking out from the narthex (foyer) one sees and hears the rush of traffic. Ongoing construction in the area means that there is the constant clatter of 18-wheelers. And the area is filled with purveyors! Purveyors of fresh fruit, grass-fed meats, and elegant desserts, truck their way to nearby hotels and restaurants. Sight-seeing trolleys pass by throughout the day. The work-a-day world is outside. Inside, Jesus waits: "Come to me all you who labor and I will give you rest."

Here are a few shrine stories:

-- Two recent college grads flew in to Boston early one morning and discovered the shrine. They were leaving the same night for Ukraine to teach English in the Catholic seminary there.

-- Just inside the door of the shrine is a small area with a statue of Our Lady of Good Voyage, candles, and a kneeler (Cardinal O'Malley calls this the "shrine within the shrine"). A man who recently lost his wife to cancer comes in and lays a flower at the feet of the statue of Our Lady and brings his elderly mother-in-law to Mass.

-- A woman and her toddler grandchild come by every day. The child just wants to see Our Lady, so the grandmother wheels the stroller to the door, the baby smiles at the statue, and they head home.

-- Two young workers from the nearby courthouse stopped in on their afternoon break. Their day was not going well so they came to pray and said that the peace of the shrine was what they needed.

-- Construction workers with their orange vests and hard hats under their arm come in every day. One young worker said that his grandmother recently convinced him to live Cursillo (an intense weekend retreat experience). He admits that it was life changing. Daily, he comes to the shrine and prays on the step of the sanctuary, "I just have to speak with my Father."

-- Men and women in business suits, with laptop cases over their shoulders, come before and after work and for daily Mass.

-- Two businessmen came and prayed for some time. One explained, "He came through for us today -- big time -- we're just out of an important meeting. Had to come in and say thank you."

Buildings can evangelize. It seems a safe bet that visitors who come by -- once or daily -- are touched by this sacred space, and share what they have seen and heard with others -- Come and see!

The history of the shrine is available at www.bostoncatholuic.org. Watch for news of upcoming programs and events. Come and see.