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Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Saint Aidan's Church in Brookline, Mass., is of great historic significance as the church where John F. Kennedy was baptized. Built in 1911 and 1912, the church was designed by Charles D. Maginnis, foremost Catholic church architect of the 20th century in the United States, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Recently, the Archdiocese of Boston has begun to consolidate parishes, close churches and redevelop properties, mostly as housing. Saint Aidan's Parish was merged with another Brookline parish in July, 1999. Since then Saint Aidan's has been leased to the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy as a temporary chancery. The Melkites have been building a new chancery in the Roslindale section of Boston, which will open soon. After they leave, the Archdiocese currently plans to demolish St. Aidan's and build housing on the site.
The Campaign to Preserve St. Aidan's is a Brookline-based, nonprofit civic association, seeking ways to preserve the church structure because of its historic and architectural significance. The group supports housing for low or moderate income households on the site and is working to find ways of combining mixed-income housing development, at a scale compatible with nearby neighborhoods, with preservation and adaptive reuse of the church. ..
Saving the church is a worthy goal -- but there is something sad and more than a little unsettling about preserving such a magnificent structure as a sort of Catholic museum, to be used as an ornate function room, as in the case of this beautiful former Jesuit church in Georgia.
I attended Mass on two occasions at St. Aidan's when it was being used by the local Anglican-use Catholic congregation, and was impressed each time by the place's historic beauty, which somehow had gone untouched by the vandal renovators of the past generation (perhaps having been slated for closure, and thus, ignored). What a shame it would be to save the building but remove its soul. Might it not be put in the care of some orthodox order in need of a church?
The same might be asked of Holy Trinity German Church, a historic church, next to a downtown housing project, that would be truly grand if given a coat of paint and a stained-window-cleaning. The wedding-cake high-altar built by German craftsmen in the 19th century is truly a sight to see. But rumors have circulated for a while about the old church being one of the next to be closed, and given the current Situation, and the likelihood of hundreds of millions of dollars in Archdiocesan properties being sold to meet court settlements, it is hard to imagine this grand old edifice surviving much longer.