When Benny Tauro immigrated from Avellino, Italy to East Boston in 1952 he brought with him a strong sense of family and the belief in the Catholic Church.
It was here that he found a second home among the Italian community that was part of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish.
“If it wasn’t for this Church I probably would have gone back to Italy,” said Tauro outside his beloved Church. “Here I found a second family and we all became very active members of the church and community.”
Tauro went on to become a successful businessman in Eastie and he, along with his wife Deb were devoted volunteers at the church for decades.
“We kept this church going,” he said. “We raised money, had parties and festivals…it was a close knit community.”
Tauro was so dedicated that after his heart transplant a decade ago he vowed that if he survived the surgery and recovery he’d go to Italy and bring back a statue of Padre Pio, an important figure recently sainted to the Italian community, to the church.
He kept his promise and the statue now stands in front of Mt. Carmel convent across the street from the Church.
Then, when it was announced on Columbus Day weekend seven years ago that the Archdiocese would close Mt. Carmel, Tauro and his neighbors banded together and have held a vigil at the church since the announcement.
Since the official closure of the Church there have been Masses, the Rosary that is said every Wednesday, weddings have been held and also funerals like the one of Tauro’s late son Stephen whose Mass drew thousands of parishioners to the church.
“We hoped that the Archdiocese would see our commitment to the church and change their mind but it never happened,” said Tauro.
After several weeks of consultation and reflection Cardinal Seán O’Malley has made several decisions regarding Mt. Carmel and seven other Church buildings in the Archdiocese of Boston. Mt. Carmel and five other Churches have been relegated to profane use and two Churches have been designated or transferred by the Archdiocese for other future ecclesial uses.
The term “relegation” is used in Church law for the conversion of a Church building from sacred to secular uses. Once a Church is relegated to profane use, it will no longer be used for Catholic liturgical worship, any remaining sacred items are removed, and the building can be sold for use in an appropriate and dignified manner. The funds derived from a sale of these Churches will be used for direct support of parishes of the Archdiocese.
“The consultation process was very important and of great assistance to me in making decisions on each of these properties,” said O’Malley. “I know how difficult the parish closings were, especially for those parishioners directly impacted. I want you to know I have heard you. I appreciate your strong commitment to your parish. What I have heard from these consultations is that we have reached a point as a community of believers where we must relegate these Church buildings as part of the continuing healing and rebuilding of the Archdiocese.”
Tauro said he was disappointed in the Cardinal’s decision regarding Mt. Carmel because it was a Church built by the Italian community in 1906.
“The Italian immigrants living here at the turn of the century were very poor but each would buy five bricks a week for 10 cents a piece,” said Tauro. “Fifty cents a week may not seem like a lot of money but in 1906 for families with nothing it was a great sacrifice.”
These decrees by the Archdiocese were sent to those keeping vigil at Mt. Carmel last Thursday and became effective on Monday.
As far as selling the church people like Tauro said it is now out of the community hands but hopes what happened at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Parish in 2006 does not happen at Mt. Carmel.
In February 2006, the Archdiocese accepted an $850,000 offer to buy St. Mary’s and surrounding property, which the new owner allegedly planned to turn into a photography studio and condos.
Nineteen days later, the church property was sold for $2.65 million to an evangelist church based in Brazil – the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God resulting in a $1.8 million profit.
The purchase of the church for $850,000 and its subsequent sale for $2.6 million 19 days later caused an outcry from the local community and it also placed a peculiar light on the archdiocese’s seemingly odd sale procedures.
However, in a statement from Archdiocese spokesman. Terrence Donilon, the final formal steps in the sale of a Church building depend on local circumstances.
“The building is listed for sale and negotiations are undertaken with potential buyers. Prior to a sale, and depending on the value of the property, the Archdiocesan Finance Council would also be involved,” he said. “As stated above, no church which is relegated for profane use (like Mt. Carmel) will be sold for any purpose which is unbecoming, immoral or offensive to Catholics.”