Jesuit Urban Center to close; money woes cited

Jesuit Urban Center to close; money woes cited

Here’s a “parish closing” I don’t think will be protested by many here: The Jesuits are closing the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston. The JUC has long been known as a gay cruising spot, having once been voted as the top such place by “Boston” magazine.

In addition, it’s been known for the extent of heterodoxy spread about in that place, which has come to bear little resemblance to the actual Catholic faith. As Diogenes said, the rainbow sashes hung over the sanctuary are superfluous.

How about this Feast of Christ the King homily by Fr. John Loftus, SJ?

… I’m sure there are many more in our community who can say that they have had some first-hand experience with Queens. But I’ve decided that it’s probably best not to go there! (Although it has been seriously suggested by some, like Matthew Fox, that the contemporary church does need to learn to speak of the Queendom of Christ). Personally I don’t think that image really helps much. And the more neutral “reign” of God doesn’t help many either.

And let’s not forget last year’s Ash Wednesday homily that advised parishioners to “Let this Lent be a Brokeback Lent.”

So, why are they closing this font of so-called Jesuit values? Money.

The Rev. Thomas J. Regan , the superior of the New England Jesuits, said in an interview that the rationale for the closing is purely financial. He said that the order, long associated with education, has become financially reliant on the salaries paid to priests who teach at Boston College, the College of the Holy Cross, and Fairfield University — all Jesuit schools — but that as many of those priests retire or die, the order is being forced to cut back on its activities.

Regan said that he had received no pressure from the Vatican, the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, or the Archdiocese of Boston, to close the church, and that the sexual orientation of the worshipers played no role in his decision.

As I said when Fr. Walter Cuenin was removed from his parish for financial improprieties and not his track record of heterodox advocacy, why not? Why wasn’t the place reprimanded or pressured to change its wayward activities?

Incidentally, I wonder when Voice of the Faithful and the Council of Parishes will issue their press releases deploring this parish closing and when the parishioners will occupy the church to keep it from closing and accuse the Jesuits of being money-grubbers and insensitive to the pastoral needs of the people.

Where will they go?

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  • From the beginning, the existence of the JUC seemd an insult to the archdiocese, its cathedral (4 short blocks away), and the faithful congregation of the cathedral parish. As Jesuits transformed the old Immaculate Conception into the JUC, those associated with the cathedral parish—hispanic and black residents of the housing projects, faithful gays (who did not make their sexual orientation a badge; nor did the black and hispanic families), homeless of the area, some of the richer couples gentrifying some parts of the area, and some struggling “working class” who had held on to brownstones over many decades—wondered why the Jesuits thought that they should start a congregation. Was it that they thought gays were afraid to join with blacks and hispanics and the homeless and the crying babies in the 200-year-old parish?

    The multi-generational and completely inter-racial, multi-lingual parish community of the cathedral continues to be a blessing in the area. Start a gay ghetto? Why would that be a better witness to the gospel? Thank God it did not survive. And thank God for the parish that still lives on two housing-project shadows away.

    From a whole other angle, the 150-year old Immaculate Concetion to be sold? The cradle church for BC and BC High? This story is important to follow from the architectural and preservationist angles as well.

    Why not have BC buy it? They found a way to use the old Sacred Heart campus in Newton and the old Dominican priory in Dover. Couldn’t they use an edifice across the street from huge hospitals for their nursing school, or, or….

    Tom Ryan

  • If memory serves from the controversy of the conversion of the church to the JUC in the 1980s, the vision of the then-rector (Fr McMillan, who had succeeded the legendary Fr Gilday) was to create a base for ministry to the caregivers, medical staff and patients at the two hospitals across the street.  Eventually, the church hosted the protracted and vexed negotiations concerning the merger of the two hospitals (I had a friend who was involved in this.) It was not really intended to be a pseudo-parish as such. At least in the original vision back then, which quickly took a back seat to the landmarks controversy that followed the Jesuits’ assault on the interior of the church (which caused more letters to be written to the order’s general than any previous issue in history, so I was once told). Then, with AIDS in the late 80s to mid 90s, the place got heavily involved with various gay communities, with archdiocesan encouragement (again, so I was told). There were other “communities” as well – a daily Mass community that drew largely from the hospital community, and a 8AM Sunday Mass community that drew from decades-long residents of the neighboorhood; that Mass was, I believe, discontinued earlier this year.

    As for purchasers, if there are no ecclesiastical buyers, I think the ideal secular use for the space would be as a performance space. It is one of the acoustical gems of New England for choral and ensemble music, and has hosted some of the finest musical ensembles on the planet (for example, Les Artes Florissants – its concert I attended there was probably the finest concert I have ever attended, and that is saying a lot). And perhaps someone could help repair the once-magnificent organ, which almost all of my organist friends mention in reverential if agnst-ridden tones. I do believe that the Jesuits explored selling the place to Boston Conservatory years ago, but that nothing came of it, and that they even tried to sell the organ to the cathedral some 20 years ago but that Leo Abbott was busy renovating the Cathedral’s organ at the time or something like that. There was some idle speculation many years ago that the place might ably serve as a pro-cathedral in the event someone decided to undertake a more comprehensive renovation of Holy Cross Cathedral than was actually done a decade ago.

    The preservationist community will be outraged, as Historic Boston has helped finance some things there (like the fire doors that were done a few years ago). I have a preservationist acquaintance who is sure to call me in high dudgeon at some point, as the JUC has been on his watch list for some years.

    In any event, it’s interesting to note the almost simultaneous closure of Holy Trinity and the Immaculate. Both were founded by Jesuits, and both places were once at the vanguard of liturgical splendor in the archdiocese.