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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Wednesday, December 10, 2003 Originally posted at Tom Fitzpatrick's as an over-long comment on the newly-released Boston parish rankings:
It might be said the Church did its job in the city very well, supporting generations of immigrants who thrived to the extent that they moved up and out. While St Monica's in South Boston now has only 50 people at Mass, the church in Franklin is busting at the seams -- they have something like 22,000 on the rolls at the town's one parish. The numbers are also high in North Andover, etc.
As has been said, if only they could take the grand old churches in the city and put them on wheels to move them to where the people are.
The beautiful churches downtown in Boston and Charlestown and Lowell and Lawrence were spared "updating" post-Vatican II because they were poor. Sadly, though, the obsolescence that saved these churches' architecture will now be the end of them. Might the taste and vision that inspired the great old urban churches be employed in the new ones built in the exurbs? Economy combined with modern tastes led to the pre-fab boxes -- what JF Power called the "chicken hatchery with silo attached" model of church -- built in the burbs in the postwar years. Why couldn't a more classic style be employed in new churches in the Franklins and North Andovers?
Sad to say, the numbers are horrible for the magnificent German Church (home of the indult Mass) and the jewel-like Our Lady of Victories in the South End. Both are at the very bottom of the rankings.
I like the idea of inviting in the FSSP or other orders to take over some of the beautiful old church buildings, though wonder if the finances and logistics would be do-able. I wish the Anglican-use congregation could be given the historic old St. Aidan's in Brookline, which currently sits in mothballs awaiting a developer.
The Oratorians' Novus Ordo Masses in Latin are noted for their beauty. Could Newman's order be invited to Boston to work their Brompton-like magic at some parish?