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October 24, 2013
Gate of Heaven Celebrates 150 Years

Gate of Heaven has a long and storied past.  In its early years, the Church was known as a haven for protest against the city’s strongly anti-Catholic policy.  A devastating fire in 1895 decimated the original interior, and caused community members to rally for the cause of a new Church dedicated to Our Lady of Gate of Heaven in 1912. Gate of Heaven has sent parishioners to two world wars, weathered the depression, and continues to thrive.     

The Parish has also demonstrated a strong commitment to education since 1863, educating over 100,000 South Boston children, which continues today in the combined South Boston Catholic Academy.  In the same year that Gate of Heaven was dedicated, a school staffed by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur was opened, enrolling 270 girls in its first year of operation in the church basement.  In the 1870’s, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston began teaching at Gate of Heaven Parish. Mother Regis, with magnificent courage emanating from a great love of God, opened a grammar school for girls, known as St. Agnes School, in September, 1879. On the opening day, Sister M. Clare, the Superior, enrolled 379 girls.  In the 1920’s, the present school building was built and the school became co-educational.  The parish also operated a high school from 1934-1975, enrolling some 1200 students at its height in the 1960’s.  In 2009, Gate of Heaven School joined with nearby St. Brigid’s School to form South Boston Catholic Academy.     

 “We are honored to celebrate this historic milestone,” said Gate of Heaven Pastor, Rev. Robert E. Casey.  “The parish’s longevity is a testament to the strength and faith of the community that has always been at the heart of this Church.”Casey, who has been pastor since 2002, has overseen a $6 million dollar restoration of the Gothic Church located at the corners of 4th and I Streets in South Boston.   

 “As a new immigrant at the turn of the century, my great-grandfather served as an usher at Gate of Heaven,” continued Rev. Casey.  “For me, for my family, and for our larger church family, Gate of Heaven has long been a place where the outsider could seek refuge, find solace, faith, and a welcoming community.  Our parishioners are proud to be a part of that continuing legacy.”  Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, Mayor of Boston, and a lifelong Gate of Heaven parishioner, Ray Flynn, said of the Church, “In challenging times and good days, Gate of Heaven parish has always been at the center of our proud South Boston community. A place where we came to celebrate new life, see our children develop into fine citizens, search for answers to our problems, meet wonderful neighbors and yes, return a loved one back home to God, in the presence of family, parishioners, and clergy. It is who we are and what we believe. Some people moved, served abroad or stayed away, but we never really  left. Life long resident or new comer, this is our parish and this is our home.” 

The Parish will mark the occasion of its 150th Anniversary with a noontime mass on Sunday, October 27, 2013, celebrated by Cardinal Séan O’Malley.  A luncheon will follow in the Parish Hall.   



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