By Ray Flynn, former Mayor of Boston and U.S.Ambassador to the Vatican
After stopping by St.Augustine’s Chapel and Cemetery in South Boston yesterday to say a prayer and take a look at how the renovation were going, one of the construction workers said, “ The Church is making a lot of improvements here, it’s going to look great when it is finished for the 200 th Anniversary in September”. It seems like the community is really behind this effort. We were soon joined by a gentleman from Springfield, who drove all the way down to South Boston to visit the historic cemetery. He said he had heard a lot of important stories about the oldest Catholic Church and Cemetery in Massachusetts built in 1818, and the official grand re-reopening dedication scheduled to take place on Saturday, September15, at a 4 pm Mass. But what he said to me next certainly gave made me pause. He said, “ I heard you on radio talking about this, but why all the enthusiasm? What make you think that young Catholics or newcomers to Boston will support this historic cemetery and chapel in the future?”
I was a little caught off guard, but I’ve heard this argument many times before, so I was determined to make the most positive case I could, and not give in to cynicism and doubt. I didn’t question his sincerity as a Catholic, if he was a Catholic. But I did politely yet assertively tell him about a couple of experience that I had, one just the other day and the other many years ago, right here in this community. You probably heard about the little three year old boy who was killed by a car while being walked in his stroller on L Street, I said. It broke the heart of the people of Boston. My wife Kathy, my son Eddie, my 11 year old Special Needs grandson Braeden, and I arrived at the funeral Mass 45 minutes before it began. Before the Mass began, the Gate of Heaven Church was not only filled, but hundreds of young adults, many in their 20s and 30s, were standing up. Their demonstration of love for young Colin McGrath, his family, and their faith in God was not only evident, but remarkable. People were crying and praying at the same time. I was one of them. Many of these young people were from the Mass General Hospital where Colin’s mother was a medical doctoral and from Boston’s Financial District where his father worked. These dedicated and caring young people who filled the Church spoke volumes about the future of the Church.
Yes, the priesthood has experienced some difficult times recently, but you would not see any evidence of that with the priests on the altar the other day. You would only see and hear concerned and caring priests. That’s tha priesthood I know: always there in time of need. The other little story I told our visitor from Springfield was about my two immigrant cousins from Ireland, who lived directly across the street from St.Augustines Cemetery. Every few days, they would scrub the floor and wash the windows of the Chapel. They even baked Irish bread and made hot tea for the poor homeless men who would wait outside the Chapel after Sunday Mass or the daily morning Lenten Masses – poor Irish immigrant domestics helping the homeless. This is the Catholic Church I grew up knowing about; this is the same Catholic Church I saw at the funeral Mass for our new, beautiful, lifelong friend Colin McGrath the other day. I only wish that we had a more effective way to tell the real Catholic history and story. People who have no idea of our history are criticizing us and lying to the public. On Sunday we attended the 10:30 Mass at St. Brigid Church. Young Colin was still on everyone’s mind, I’m certain. During the Mass we were all invited by Fr. Tom to wish the people around us “Christ’s Peace.” After I helped take up the collection, my wife whispered to me , “ Colin’s Mom and Dad are sitting directly in front of us.” Everybody after Mass came up to the family with a sincere expression of sorrow. A little three year old boy had done something that no politician or Hollywood movie star could ever do – bring people and a community together.
Later in the day, I saw construction crews hard at work to improve the traffic safety conditions on L Street to make sure that this never happens to anyone else. Colin’s life is already making a difference.