Bishop Dooher recalls S. Boston waterfront, original Seaport Chapel

https://goo.gl/mupYBv

Earlier this month, we sat down with Bishop John Dooher, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, to discuss his connection with South Boston and Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel. Also known as the Seaport Chapel, Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel celebrated its final Mass April 16, Easter Sunday.

Bishop Dooher was born to parents Anthony and Brigid Dooher on May 3, 1943. Though he was raised in Dorchester, his family attended St. Peter's Church, and much of his extended family resided in South Boston.

"You can't live in Dorchester without spending time in Southie," he explained. "In South Boston then, there were closer to 72,000 people living in those three square miles, and, so, you were not going to find housing there. So my parents found a little place to rent in 'three-decker Dorchester.'"

He recalls frequent trips to South Boston, including accompanying his mother on visits to her family, and waiting near St. Augustine's church to watch the St. Patrick's Day parade each year during his childhood.

As a young man, Bishop Dooher attended St. John's Seminary in Brighton.

"As a seminarian, I worked one or two summers on L Street, in the L Street Bathhouse, doing lawns, sweeping, taking care of everyday things to raise some tuition for my first two years in the seminary. Because in those days the first college years you were expected to go out and get jobs in the summers and raise some of that tuition," he said.

Upon completing his studies at the seminary, Bishop Dooher was ordained on May 21, 1969. His first assignment was St. Francis Xavier in Weymouth, where he spent five years. Following that, he would spend the next 22 years in South Boston parishes, first at St. Augustine's from 1974 to 1991, and then 1991 to 1995 at Sts. Peter and Paul.

The following is an edited version of the conversation with Bishop Dooher.

What was South Boston like during your childhood?

A very strong neighborhood community. And while it could be a tough community, any mother, or any woman, could walk down the streets at any time. (Later, while at St. Augustine's,) I remember there was a bag snatching, and you would think the barbarian hordes had come in, that this was an invasion of the Vikings or something, it was such a shocking thing... In one sense, kids could be tough, but every grandmother knew your grandmother, and so there was a tendency to have a certain control there.

Our Lady of Good Voyage Opened in 1952, do you have any recollections of the neighborhood from around that time?

That part of the city was so different than it is today. If you walked down there, you wouldn't recognize it. And in those early years, there were, I think, some factories, but a lot of it was open space from factories and things that had been taken down.

It was always known for a couple of restaurants, and that's really what brought people to that part of the city. Other than that, it was the seaport, the fishermen, people that worked in the fishing industry, and people who were working in different industrial kinds of things.

When did you first become aware of the chapel itself?

Until a certain point, I didn't really know the chapel. And it was always a place where probably the old pressmen from the newspapers might go on Sunday, the split-shift nurses, and (people) like that. And, from out of there was also a kind of ministry to the seaport itself. ... As things arose, and a particular priest was chaplain there, he might all of the sudden draw interest in this particular need.



What type of ministries or services do you recall the chaplains providing?

(I remember Father Philip LaPlante) started working at the chapel, and he would do a lot of work for the hungry going to Long Island. He had a group of people who would work out of the chapel, and they would go to Long Island Hospital which was housing for people living on the streets; they would bus them out there every night because they didn't have enough room to sleep them in town. And at least once a week, he would have a group of people who would bring food out and do the serving of the food there.

I remember one time he called me and said he couldn't make something, and it was because he was having heart surgery...lying in bed, he could make one call, and he called me! He had the surgery, they put in a new valve for him, and the next thing you know he's climbing up the gangplank from low tide all the way up one of those huge cargo ships to do his visiting of workers -- all these third-world people, who had no one really to think about them, but he did. And he had a group of people who worked very generously on that, very dedicated people.

I can remember stories of him, saying that they would bring boxes of whatever they could get -- it sometimes might be a brand new pair of shoes or whatever -- then putting them all on the ground and these people grabbing the shoes looking, saying, 'I have a child that these will fit!' They wouldn't get home for maybe three, four, five months, but now they had something to bring home. A lot of those very human things were done.

Can you recall any other similar stories?

"I guess this was how influential the chaplain could be to the seaport in terms of officials. One time, there was a number of people, I think they were Turkish, and the sailors were very afraid of sailing with the ship, they didn't believe it was safe. I don't know how he got there, or if they got him (Father LaPlante), so then he called the Coast Guard, and the next thing you know they didn't go out until an inspection was done and whatever was needed was repaired. So I think the chaplain there could have a lot of influence.

What about everyday services at the chapel?

"I think we had one Mass on Saturday night, and then we'd have two Masses on Sunday morning, and then we'd have two Masses on Sunday night.

The two Masses on Sunday night were usually pretty well filled because it was the last Mass in the city of Boston. And I can remember parents telling me that maybe it was from skiing, or the cape, the kids (would) come home (and the parents would ask) -- "Did you go to Mass? Well get over to the chapel!" -- and they'd wind up coming to Mass at the waterfront chapel.

Who else attended regular Mass at the chapel?

It was a kind of special place. Some people started coming just because they started coming, and sometimes you don't know the reason why.

There weren't people living at the waterfront itself. You had to come all the way up to St. Vincent de Paul to get that -- the people, the neighborhoods. Basically, you didn't find any residential area until you got up until around First Street in South Boston. And that was a long distance, in terms of a street anyway, to get down to the harbor itself. And that was all land to be developed, and I think much of it, a lot of it, was landfill.

The businesses kind of surrounded it, that whole waterfront development, but they would not be there on Sundays.

What have you seen change since your childhood, since your assignments in South Boston parishes?

Now there is co-op housing that was built through the work of the community, members of the Archdiocese's Housing Office, and rather than just building things, it was co-op housing where people would get in with the idea of buying to own. And that was named after Father Martin (Father Walter Martin, SJ, one of the earliest chaplains.)

Before, when we had Mass, almost everyone drove to the chapel and we parked all along the street. Then they built the first huge performance tent, all of a sudden, across from the chapel. Then, Saturday and Sunday nights there'd be thousands of people there, and I'm out there putting cones out to try to save parking spots! ... It made it interesting, not something I had planned to do as a pastor or administrator. So that's how radically changed it is.

That whole part of the city now, I'm lost in. I couldn't find my way around it. Drop me in there, I'd think I was in New York City. It is totally different. Before there was nothing for three or four blocks, now there are apartments. The expensive restaurants that we thought were there top of the line are closed.

How do you feel about the new development taking place in the area?

I think people saw the development as good because there was nothing there, it was not like they were driving into green fields, it was a place where once there were buildings, but they were no longer.

The chapel was better than most, but that area was in need of development, so I think people just said "Well, it's not going to stay like this." They could see South Boston itself was developing in all sorts of places, in all sorts of ways.

It's a great place for people to live, always a terrific place. And now it's taken on a whole new population, those cities and towns and sections have a way of turning over, and I think that whole part of the city is turning over.

World
Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

World
Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

World
Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

World
Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Nation
Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Nation
Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

World
Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Nation
Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Nation
Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Nation
Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Nation
Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Nation
Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

World
Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

World
Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

World
Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Nation
Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

World
Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Nation
Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

World
Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

World
What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

World
Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Nation
Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Nation
Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Local
Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

World
Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

World
Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

Nation
'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Local
Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Local
Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

Local
CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Local
Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

Local
From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Nation
Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Nation
Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...