Irish Pastoral Center staff members are pictured at the celebration following the ribbon-cutting. Left to right are: Senior Program Coordinator Peggy Conneely, Ignatian Volunteer Corp Anne Finn, Executive Director Mary Swanton, Media and Communications Officer Amy O'Carroll, Health and Wellness Program Coordinator Patsy Dineen, Immigration Coordinator Maryann Casavant, Director of Operations Audrey Larkin and Operations and Programs Assistant Jennifer Molloy. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
DORCHESTER -- The Irish Pastoral Center has moved to new premises at Adams Corner, but its dedicated staff maintains the same mission since its founding in 1987, preserving Irish heritage and serving Boston's immigrant community.
Mary Swanton, the center's executive director, explained that their previous location was "not conducive to the people we serve," because it was located on the second floor of a building. The new space, in an office building just a short distance away, is located on the ground floor near a parking lot, making it more easily accessible to visitors. Local community contractors donated their time and resources to build the new center.
"It was a massive effort, on behalf of the community," Swanton said.
She added that the new location makes them more visible to the community and has allowed them to expand their programs. They have doubled their capacity, increasing their staff from four to 11 people, and added many new events and initiatives to their already diverse range of programs.
The Irish Pastoral Center offers a wide variety of spiritual, social, legal, and educational services. They run immigration clinics, an employment center, a mother and toddler program, and a senior center. They host social events, classes, and clubs for different activities, such as knitting, card-playing, cooking, and music. They offer meal support, care packages, and phone check-ins to those who are sick, homebound, or live alone. Their chaplaincy program provides sacramental support and conducts prison ministry. They recently added sobriety programs and plan to launch a grief counseling program in January.
"Above all else that we do, we have to maintain the dignity of each person that we serve," Swanton said.
The center moved into the new space on Aug. 1, when construction was still underway, as the lease for their previous location expired. A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on Nov. 26, followed by a reception in the new hall.
Notable guests at the reopening included Boston City Councilor At-Large Erin Murphy, City Council President Ed Flynn, and former State Representative Gene O'Flaherty. Shane Caffrey, vice consul for the Consulate General of Ireland, and Marty Walsh, former Boston mayor and current U.S. Secretary Of Labor, addressed a crowd who came to celebrate.
Speaking to The Pilot on Nov. 29, Swanton said that the Consulate General of Ireland is one of the center's primary donors, providing about 40 percent of their operations budget each year.
"They're extremely supportive of our mission, and that is maintaining the continued presence of Ireland in Boston, and being a great resource for anyone who shares an interest in our heritage. So having Shane (Caffrey) there was extremely important for us, because we were honoring him with our gratitude for all they've done for us," Swanton said.
In his remarks, Caffrey said the Irish government and consulate are proud to be associated with the Irish Pastoral Center, which he called "a lamp guiding those in need of a sanctuary."
"It's a safe place. It's a home. It's a refuge. It's a support, and it's a community, above all else, for everybody here," Caffrey said.
Walsh, who is the son of Irish immigrants, addressed all those present who came from Ireland themselves or have parents or grandparents from Ireland. He thanked the Irish Pastoral Center "for keeping roots grounded here at Adams Corner in Dorchester."
"There's still a need for the Irish Pastoral Center. And the beauty of the Irish Pastoral Center is no matter where you come from, you walk through these doors, they'll take care of you," Walsh said.
Swanton told The Pilot they learned "an awful lot" during the coronavirus pandemic. She estimated that before the pandemic, they served about 3,500 people per year. Now they reach about 8,500 people.
"All are welcome, and the kettle is always on," Swanton said.
More information about the Irish Pastoral Center is available on their website, www.ipcboston.org.