Every so often one of the newspapers in the area does yet another profile of the Carmelite chapel at our local mall in Peabody, Mass. The St. Theresa chapel was founded by Cardinal Richard Cushing back in 1960 as the first large shopping malls were just popping up around the country. Cushing’s idea was to bring Christ to where the people were. In the old days, when people shopped downtown, there were churches there. Now that people were shopping at the malls, that’s where they need to be. And St. Theresa’s was one of the first.
On the last Wednesday in July, as tank-topped teens and others prowled the lengthy commercial corridors of the mall above, 40-plus faithful, mostly elderly and middle-aged, reverently celebrated the feast of Sts. Joachim and Ann at the 3 p.m. Mass. Saturday’s later Masses, which fulfill Catholics’ Sunday church obligation, can pack the chapel, Jones says.
“If I’m in the mall, doing any shopping at all . . . it isn’t that much time to take to come over here and kneel down, say a prayer,” says Ed Flynn, a widower from Peabody who did just that before the Wednesday Mass.
I’ve always appreciated having the chapel there. In the Christmas shopping season, I always take a break from the madness upstairs to go down to the chapel, sit in the quiet and pray, remembering what Christmas is really about.
During the rest of the year, it’s a convenient place to go for confession. My group used to get together on a monthly basis to go to confession on a Saturday morning and then go to lunch together afterward at a restaurant in the mall. It was nice in that it helped us remain accountable to another, it made it easy for confession to become a habit, and it was a nice chance to get together after. The priest’s comment that it’s become the confessional for the North Shore is right on target. They have confessions before every Mass and there’s always a line. I think part of that is because: (1) Confession times at most parishes are all on Saturday afternoon which is a pain if that’s not a good time for you and (2) as more and more people have stopped going to confession and as more and more confessionals are ripped out, the welcome anonymity of confession has eroded. Thankfully, St. Therese chapel still has the old-style confessional booths.
By the way, they also have a small book and gift shop next door (emphasis on the “gift”) that’s also convenient when you need to buy a confirmation or communion present.