Vision for 2022
The day is warm and the sun shines bright as people from all over the city and well beyond stream into Saint Cecilia. The church calls to parishioners and passersby alike, drawing them in under joyful, colorful banners that offer an authentic welcome. We’ve found a way to figure out who around us is not coming to church and we’ve drawn more of them in. Saint Cecilia is well-known throughout the city, recognized as a vibrant, passionate, and relevant church. We’re reaching beyond our parish boundaries and bringing people back to celebrate the Word in worship, prayer, and song. “The barn is full,” fuller than it has ever been.
A Feeling of Welcome
Immediately upon entering, the presence of the Spirit permeates through Saint Cecilia, spreading a feeling of calm joy. Rigid social barriers so evident in day-to-day life crumble here. God’s grace lives in the warm smiles of those who greet all parishioners and guests, the handshakes and hellos between strangers, and embraces of old friends. The narthex is home to our Welcome Center. The Welcome Center is staffed with helpful volunteers ready to receive and assist folks in a variety of ways. Technology is appropriately incorporated in the Welcome Center, informing parishioners of ministry opportunities and upcoming events, and allowing for easy online parishioner registration. After Mass, everyone flocks down for some hospitality and fellowship at our coffeehouse. No one feels on the fringes as newcomers and seasoned parishioners connect over fair trade coffee and locally baked goods.
A Place and Space for Everyone
Saint Cecilia Parish is truly a “family friendly” parish. Families and individuals of all definition find a supportive space here. Those who have in the past felt abandoned by rigid faith institutions experience a joyous homecoming to a supportive and challenging religion. Seniors feel rejuvenated and find reverence for their wisdom and varied experience. Young people are drawn to the Young Adult Ministry that continues to grow and connect members to the greater church community. New and young families feel valued and integrated into parish life. They have a space that is in tune with their needs. There is child-care for very young children. A family restroom and a peaceful spot for nursing moms is available.
The sense of belonging and recognition reveals itself through the liturgy, the music, hospitality, ministry and fellowship. Each liturgy has its own distinct feel. The 9:30 liturgy has evolved so that children have a more central role. The music is family friendly and readings are often done by children. During other Masses, it is obvious that there are more teens, college age kids, and young adults filling the seats. We’ve found a way to reach them through our new Campus Ministry which draws from the many schools in the Fenway/Back Bay/South End neighborhoods.
Led by a dynamic, grounded, fresh, and genuine pastor, our diverse community comes together to reflect the light of Jesus through recognizing the dignity and worth in one another. Saint Cecilia Parish is our spiritual home.
The Brick and Mortar
The physical space reflects the power of the spiritual space. Both outdoor and indoor areas are designed to invite people in to stay awhile. The church is open to all beyond Mass times, for quiet, private reflection and prayer. Bright and cozy meeting spaces house our variety of programs. Cheerful and thoughtfully designed play spaces are safe and comfortable for young families. We have the right number of offices to support our growing staff. Outside spaces are lush and green and open to all. The coffee house has helped us to make parishioners and prospective parishioners feel comfortable. At night, the church is lit warmly, a reassuring beacon in the center of the city.
After all, St. Cecilia is our Patron Saint
Music resonates. It is an integral part of the liturgical experience. Everyone sings and feels uplifted and comforted. There is a broad mix of music and musicians with a diverse expression of their ministry. We capitalize on our Berklee-NEC neighbors, and tap into the musical and creative talent that their community provides. Music is integrated into our faith formation and ministry programs. Music is not merely conducive to prayer, but it is prayer.
The Gospel in Action
Many parishioners are involved in our Sunday celebration, including greeters, altar servers, lectors and Eucharistic ministers who mirror the varied make-up of the parish. The scripture is made relevant through thought-provoking and inspirational homilies. Strong connections are made regularly to the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. Further exploration of teachings continues through programs like “Scripture Study” and “Homily Dig Down.” It is immediately evident that church does not end with Mass. Indeed, some of the most meaningful and spiritual connections are made after the closing hymn.
Gospel teachings come alive through a broad variety of ministry programs designed to empower lay leadership and support the constant parish ministry outreach. Children participate in religious education classes, where learning is engaging and fun. Parents, family members, and other adults are actively taking part in the programming and service opportunities for the students. Throughout the week, couples with newborns or expectant parents participate in a baptismal preparation program led by Saint Cecilia families. There is also a marriage program led by Saint Cecilia couples to prepare engaged couples and shepherd them through their first year of married life. Regular programming is available to all parishioners, touching on variety of topics relevant to the beautifully diverse lives of our community members. For every parishioner, it seems there are retreats, social offerings, service programs, support and opportunities to deepen our relationship with God.
Gathering Around the Kitchen Table
Our kitchen links the Eucharistic table upstairs with other tables downstairs where people are nourished and are the recipients of our care and love. Just as the kitchen is the heart of most homes, the parish kitchen will be at the heart of our Parish Pastoral Center. It has been thoughtfully designed to consider sustainable practices and care for the environment. Meals are carefully planned to include locally-sourced food that has minimal impact on the environment. The kitchen is the centerpiece of fellowship during the week where folks gather to share meals, laughter, struggles and faith. It seems like something is always cooking in there – meals for Pine Street Inn, Nativity Prep, Prison & After, parish-wide dinners, pancake breakfasts, and more.
Our coffeehouse is an extension of our kitchen. Those who have struggled to secure jobs and housing will find the dignity of consistent work in our coffeehouse, a true social justice initiative. Because customers pay what they can, all people, including many that are typically relegated to the outskirts of society, will find a true and welcoming space here. Those with material abundance and those without, regardless of where they are on their faith journey, will sit together, sharing conversation and coffee. Many will come to listen to local musicians, poets and storytellers, while others come to be surrounded by books and discussions that help them consider bringing Jesus into their lives.
We continually strive to be a relevant parish of the present, grounded in a rich Catholic tradition with openness for merciful service to the most vulnerable. We want to be the church where no one is lost or forgotten. The unseen anonymity of our city is spiritually cared for. Every stage of life is engaged. People are accompanied through life’s ups and downs. At once vivacious and profound, the experience at Saint Cecilia leaves people with an eagerness to return to this blessed community.