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Carmelite 'Chapel in the Mall' marks 60th anniversary

  • Cardinal O’Malley celebrates a Mass to commemorate the 60th anniversary of St. Therese Carmelite Chapel in the North Shore Mall, Jan. 3. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
  • Carmelite priests pose with the cardinal following the Mass. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault
  • Cardinal Richard Cushing holds up plans for the original Carmelite Chapel in 1959. Cardinal Cushing dedicated the chapel in Jan. 1960. Pilot file photo

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PEABODY -- Cardinal Seán O'Malley led the celebration of a Mass at the St. Therese Carmelite Chapel on Jan. 3 to honor the 60th anniversary of the chapel's dedication.

The chapel and its adjoining gift shop are almost hidden on the lower level of the Northshore Mall. The stairs and elevator leading to them are located next to Not Your Average Joe's, across from one of the mall's entrances.

Dedicated by Cardinal Richard Cushing in 1960, the St. Therese Carmelite Chapel was the first chapel built in a mall in the United States. It was one of several "workers' chapels" that Cardinal Cushing established to make the sacraments available where many people work and travel. The chapel was run by the Order of Carmelites until 2016, when it was transferred to the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.

"The Chapel-in-the-Mall offers daily communicants what might not be available at their home parishes," Father Jilson George, CMI, told The Pilot Jan. 6. Father George has been the director of the chapel for the past three years.

Each day, the chapel holds Eucharistic Adoration for three hours, and about 30 to 40 people come to receive the Sacrament of Confession. Mass is offered twice a day during the week, three times on Saturdays, and as many as six times on holy days of obligation.

Kimberly Murphy, who frequently attends Mass there, called the chapel "a hidden treasure."

"I often think of how very happy St. Therese of Lisieux must be about her beautiful little Chapel in the Mall, and how much she must cherish her beloved Carmelite priests, who are carrying on her vocation," Murphy said.

Over 250 people attended the chapel's anniversary Mass on Jan. 3, including Peabody's former mayor Michael J. Bonfanti and retired Chief of Police Robert St. Pierre.

Pastors of local parishes joined Cardinal O'Malley and the Carmelite priests in concelebrating the Mass. Carmelite nuns provided musical accompaniment.

The celebration took place on the feast day of St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church calendar. In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley remarked on the history of the Catholic Church in India, pointing out that the Syro-Malabar Church is the second largest Eastern Rite in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal O'Malley congratulated and thanked the Carmelite friars present, saying they "remind us of the catholicity of the Church, that we're not just Latin Rite Catholics but there are Catholics from many different rites of the Church and all of us together form a wonderful mosaic that is the Catholic Church."

The gospel reading in the liturgy was about John the Baptist proclaiming Jesus to be the Lamb of God. Cardinal O'Malley spoke about the hunger for God that John's disciples must have felt as they followed him into the desert.

"I suppose, for many people, a mall is like a temple of consumerism. It might be a spiritual desert. But we have an oasis in this desert, where people can come to be renewed and refreshed spiritually," the cardinal said.

At the end of the Mass, Father George joyfully thanked the cardinal and the many visitors and honored guests for their presence. He also expressed his gratitude for those who visit every day and "make this chapel a house of prayer."

"It is so moving to see how God touches so many of you in so many beautiful ways, and without your prayer, presence and support, this chapel would not have completed these 60 years. I am deeply touched by your faith, your presence. We are all very grateful to every one of you," he said."

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