Opinion: Help Preserve Blessed Sacrament Church for Our Youth and Families

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The following is a public statement about the sale of Blessed Sacrament Church from the Friends of Blessed Sacrament.

Protesting the sale of the Blessed Sacrament Church.

We represent the voices of hundreds of residents, small business owners, former parishioners, youth advocates, artists, and community leaders in Jamaica Plain and the City of Boston. We are united in our commitment to preserve the Blessed Sacrament Church’s legacy as a shining jewel of the Hyde-Jackson Square neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Many of us live, work or have businesses near Blessed Sacrament. Others were faithful parishioners for many years and sent our children to Blessed Sacrament School. Still others organized to convince the Archdiocese of Boston to sell the church campus for community-friendly development and have continued to rally against displacement and in support of programming and cultural spaces for youth and families.

Together we are speaking with one voice to let potential developers know that we are ready to work together to make sure that future development of the former Blessed Sacrament Church building meets the vision of the residents, artists, merchants, and young people of Jamaica Plain and Boston’s Latin Quarter.

Numerous planning efforts in Hyde-Jackson Squares have resulted in a consensus that the church building should be converted into a cultural center that would serve youth and families in Jamaica Plain and surrounding neighborhoods, celebrate our diverse cultures, and serve as a destination point for residents from across Boston.

Blessed Sacrament Church came into the hands of the community thanks to the organizing efforts of hundreds of residents, including many neighborhood youth leaders. At that time a promise was made to the young people of our community and we are committed to following through on that promise.

We support the work of the Hyde Square Task Force, which is selling the church building, in fact many of us have been directly involved as volunteers or staff. We understand that the Task Force feels that their only option is to put the church up for sale at a high market rate with no restrictions or formal guidelines for potential buyers. However, we strongly believe that if we all work together, we can rescue the building and reach a positive outcome for Blessed Sacrament that meets the needs and priorities of the Hyde-Jackson Squares neighborhood, Jamaica Plain, and indeed, all of Boston.

In that spirit we are asking potential buyers, elected officials, and the Hyde Square Task Force for the following commitments:

To potential developers we ask that you:

• Follow the values and priorities described in the 2019 Latin Quarter Cultural District Plan, including addressing displacement and gentrification, celebrating Afro-Latin culture, and ensuring that community members have a strong voice in decisions that affect them
• Honor prior commitments to the youth of our community by including cultural/performance spaces in any development proposal
• Collaborate with the community to seek public/private funding that will make inclusion of cultural/performance space more feasible
• Agree to respect the historic nature of the building and not to demolish or raze the structure
• If the proposed project is residential, include a significant mix of housing affordable to local residents, not just high-market condos or rentals
• Work with community on creative ideas to activate the front of the church and first floor, such as a “mercado” and maintain the front plaza for community use
• Include ideas for honoring the legacy of Blessed Sacrament Church and the thousands of ex-parishioners for whom it was their spiritual home.

To elected officials:

• Play a leadership role in identifying existing and new public funds to support community priorities, including funds previously allocated for youth facilities in the neighborhood and funds approved in the 2018 state bond bill for redevelopment projects in Hyde-Jackson Squares
• We request a meeting with interim Mayor Kim Janey and top officials from relevant city agencies to discuss ways the city can support the community priorities laid out in this statement
• We will be reaching out to all mayoral candidates, as well as candidates for District 6 and At-Large City Council to support the community’s wishes around Blessed Sacrament.

To Hyde Square Task Force we ask that you:

• As the managing partner of the Boston Latin Quarter Cultural District, inform potential buyers of the values and priorities contained in the Cultural District Plan and give preference to proposals that include cultural/performance spaces and other community priorities
• Be flexible with the final sale price to encourage creative development ideas and partnerships
• Collaborate with the community as we seek funds to subsidize inclusion of cultural/performance space as part of any development deal
• Maintain transparency with the community before finalizing the sale of the property.

The time has never been more critical for all of us to come together to preserve and restore the church, given the recent falling of stones from the façade of the building. It is vital that the church building be sold to a developer willing to maintain and restore the building for the benefit of the community.

We pledge to continue the dream that started more than 15 years ago to make sure that the Blessed Sacrament Church building will once again be a jewel and a resource to families in the Latin Quarter neighborhood, Jamaica Plain, and the entire city of Boston. While the ownership of the building will change, our commitment to realizing the dreams of youth and families remains strong and unwavering.

Friends of Blessed Sacrament/Amigos de Blessed Sacrament

Signers to Friends of Blessed Sacrament public statement as of Feb. 16, 2021:
Betsaida Gutiérrez, neighbor, former parishioner
Damaris Pimentel, owner of Ultra Beauty Shop, former parishioner, Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Vanessa Snow, Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) alum
Dorothy Vitello Malcolm, former parishioner and Blessed Sacrament High School (BSHS) alumni
Cisnell Baez, HSTF alum/organizer
Patricia Feeley, neighbor
Christine Harris, former parishioner and BSHS alum
Alvin Guerrero, owner of Pimentel Market
Katherine Lebron, HSTF alum
Mark Hanser, artist, Jamaica Plain resident
Chrismaldi Vazquez Casado, HSTF alum
Paloma Valenzuela, artist, Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Tom Kieffer, neighbor
Eduardo Vasallo, owner of Mr. V Auto Parts, Inc.
Harry Smith, Jamaica Plain resident
Karen Chacón Jr., HSTF alum
Enerio “Tony” Barros, former parishioner and neighbor
Sujei Lugo, neighbor
Kelly Ransom, neighbor, coordinator of Latin Quarter World’s Fair
Frank Sepulveda, neighbor
Ivonne Cruzado, neighbor
Monica Cohen, artist, Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Carlos Espinoza-Toro, neighbor, Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Oriana Nir, HSTF alum
Zilma Gonzalez Acaba, neighbor
Rocío Medellín, neighbor
Armando Franqui and Jacqueline Peguero, owners of Banilejos Unidos en el Exterior
Maura Twomey and Tamara Pitts, neighbors
Silvana and David Stephen, neighbors
Ramon Vasquez, owner of Vasquez Insurance
Ruddy L. Castillo, owner of Centre Tailor
Yvette Fernandez, owner of Fernandez Travel Agency
Gabriela Leyton-Nolan, HSTF alum
Peter Barros, former neighbor, parishioner
Aurelia Gonzalez, neighbor, former parishioner
Wendy Tejeda, owner of Old Havana Cuban Restaurant
Juan Carlos Matos, owner of Tropical Market
Elaine Mondy, Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Sarah Freeman, Jamaica Plain resident
Betsy (Cowan) Neptune, neighbor
Kendra Hicks, neighbor, HSTF alum
Jose Miguel Nuñez, owner of Centre Street Tailor
Sol Tangvik, HSTF alum
Ramon Emiliano Vazquez Jr., HSTF alum
Juan C. Gomera, owner of Fashion Style Salon
Jen Douglass, neighbor
Kathy Brown, JP resident
Juan Leyton, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Alexis Agrinsoni, HSTF alum
Pam Bender, JP resident
Red Burrows, JP resident
Lucy Peña, former parishioner
Maria Peña, former neighbor, parishioner
Arielys Jimenez, former neighbor, parishioner
Marina Baez, former neighbor, parishioner
Ana Elvira Ruiz-Myrick, HSTF alum
Kevin Whalen, Jamaica Plain resident
Margaret Connors, Jamaica Plain resident
Sarah Horsley, JP resident
Gregory Zuboff, supporter
Karen Buzzelle, JP resident
Marie Kramer Wyatt, former parishioner and Blessed Sacrament School (BSS) alum
Courtney Sharpe, neighbor, former member of Latin Quarter Advisory Committee
Catherine Iannuzzo, JP resident
Ana Belliard, HSTF alum
Jeffrey Barros, HSTF alum, former BSS student
Michael S. Keane, JP resident
Linda Hart, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Isabel Costa-Smith, HSTF alum
Peggy Hanbury Hallion, former parishioner, BSS alum
Patricia Goode, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Sheila York, former parishioner
Allison Delaney, JP resident, BSS alum
Marianne Gately Pierson, former parishioner, BSS alum
Donna Sylvester, former parishioner, BSS alum
Cathy Tobin Conlyn, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Cathy Lydon Rideout, former parishioner, BSS alum
Francis Vitello Murphy, former parishioner
Joan Bresnahan Fierstein, Friend of Blessed Sacrament, alum
Kathy Hourihan, former parishioner
Barbara A Danesco D'Amato, former parishioner
Jesse Downing Former, former parishioner, BSS alum
Gerry McQueen Thistle, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Maggie Faretra, former parishioner, BSS alum
Cindy Brown Cardile, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Cynthia Fisher, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Ellen O'Donnell Prokop, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Jeanne Martel, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Gerrie Mohr, former parishioner, BSS alum
Susan Carroll Berry, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Mary T. Wright Boylen, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Mary Tobin Beers, former parishioner, BSS alum
Joanie Devlin McFarland, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Paul Walsh, former parishioner, BSS alum
Anne Coakley, former parishioner, BSHS alum
B.J. Ward, former parishioner, BSS student
Dan d’Heilly, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Barbara DePalmer, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Christa Culhane, artist, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Yazmin Maria, former parishioner, BSS alum
Helen Magee Cohane, former parishioner, BSHS alum
Nancy Brown, former parishioner, BSS alum
Peggy McHallam Ariel, former parishioner
Linda Brennan, former parishioner
Frances Beach Miller, former parishioner
Joann Whalen Lohan, former parishioner
Rosemarie Fontana Buckley, former parishioner
Frankie Treml, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Samantha Driscoll, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Salvatore Pistone, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Rose Trovata, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Sharyn Dahn, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Jean Lyons, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Mary Jenkins, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
JoAnn Baker, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Timothy Morgan, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Portia Riviera, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Ruth Brenner, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Elizabeth Hopkins, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Sam Growsome, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Peggy Spencer, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Patty Burke, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Bruce Fox, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Marsha Bryant, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Charles Kollars, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Donna Snyder, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Lauran Scheer, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Dan Walter, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Sir Denis Castleton, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Colleen Sloan, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
John D. Flynn, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Mike Flack, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Constance Gordon, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Mark Olson, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Mariane Brown, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Paul Oliveira, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Val Irving, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Sheila Brooks, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Suzanne Fournier, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Richard Bunbury, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Thomas Reddy, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Katherine Beery, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Hector Cabrera, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Leign Corcoran, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Quinn Moore, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Maureen Nolan, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Peachie Doherty Fitzgerald, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Dana Rashti, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Dolley Carlson, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
To Ni, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Marion Swartz, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Donna Kinzie, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Bob Ambrosino, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Patricia Abisi, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Cindy Ozuna, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Joan Seavy, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Evelyn McKay, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Eva Szabo, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Eleanor Meadowcroft, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Yazmeen Karfa, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Dorothy Kelley, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Bob Applegate, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Joseph O'Meara, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
John William Harris, Friend of Blessed Sacrament
Graeme Fisher, Friend of Blessed Sacrament