The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

St. Ann Parish closes after 25 years of service

Amidst both sad and hopeful faces, St. Ann University Parish on St. Stephen Street celebrated its final Mass Sunday afternoon after 25 years of service in the Northeastern University and Fenway area.

The Roman Catholic church overflowed with students and families attending the final Mass, which was said by the Rev. John Unni. With the pews full, many parishioners sat in folding chairs set up on either side of the altar and in the rear of the church, while others stood.

“Students come to St. Ann without being told to and I think they will continue to come,” said Newman Club President Charlene Wong. The Newman Club is a campus Catholic organization that meets in the building across from the church and hosts various charity events. “Father John is a driving force that will encourage our students to follow no matter what space we are in.”

Wong, who is also a senior graphic design major, is confident the transition to St. Cecilia Church near the Berklee College of Music and the Hynes Convention Center will be a smooth one.

“The diocese may have been able to shut down St. Ann, but they will never be able to shut down this community,” she said.

Many factors contributed to the May 25 decision by Bishop Sean O’Malley to close the church. Not only are the Archdiocese of Boston’s finances hurting in the wake of recent the sex-abuse scandals, but the St. Ann church building also requires over $1 million worth of repair, Unni said.

The service began at 1 p.m. and was arranged so parishioners from both the 10 a.m. Mass, attended mostly by local residents, and the 6 p.m. Mass, geared toward college students, could all take part.

The new schedule at St. Cecilia Church will maintain the same morning and evening times and include an 11:30 a.m. Mass. The 6 p.m. Mass will continue to be a student-oriented service ministered by Unni.

Bryan Wood, former president of the Newman Club and Northeastern alumnus, spoke to worshippers and said although the unique Masses at St. Ann will be missed, it is time to “move forward into a new faith community.”

“[The Masses at St. Ann] break down the gospel and explain it in the context of the modern world,” Wood said, expressing how St. Ann has affected his life. “It is unlike any other church I have ever been to.”

With the two Masses merged into one final gathering, students sat among members of the community both old and young. They shook hands and said peace with the elderly, children, mothers and fathers. “Take a look around,” Unni said. “There is a rich array of faces, smiles and waves; wrinkles, skin color and faith background.”

The final Mass was even more animated than usual, with three-sided posters placed around the main hall displaying pictures, news clippings and letters full of memories. After Mass, those involved in the parish music ensemble played a jam session and Polaroid snapshots of parishioners were taken for a guest book. Later in the evening, a buffet supper was served in the church basement.

Along with the concluding rite said during Mass, symbolic items including an icon and relic of St. Ann, holy water and the altar cloth were carried out of the church to be brought to the Curry Student Center until next week’s welcoming Mass at St. Cecilia.

Hai Ok Hwang, the campus minister, said although it was a sad day, she remains encouraged by the eagerness of the students at Northeastern, Berklee, Wentworth and other surrounding schools. She described their perseverance to “do what needs to be done” in the wake of the forced closing, and Unni echoed that sentiment.

“Faith transcends all the injustices in life,” Unni said. “It empowers us to keep on keeping on. There’ll be bumps and bruises along the way, but with a sense of community and a deep faith, we can move forward.”

Unni, who has already assumed duties as pastor of St. Cecilia in addition to his work as pastor and campus minister at St. Ann, later expressed his frustrations at not being able to keep the church open.

“There is a vibrant ministry of students here from Northeastern, Emerson and [other nearby colleges],” he said as the tone of his voice began to grow desperate. “What happens to these students? Where is the vision, I ask, in the diocese for campus ministry?”

Acknowledging that it is not easy, Unni reassured parishioners the move can be a beneficial one and that tougher transitions have been made in God’s name.

“We have moved not across the Jordan,” he said, beginning to crack a smile, “but across Mass. Ave.”

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