A note from JPNDC

If you traveled back in time to the 1970s, you might not recognize JP. More people were leaving than moving in. If you wanted to buy a home, you probably needed cash because in most of the neighborhood, banks wouldn’t approve a mortgage. It seemed like fire sirens could be heard every night as another house burned.

And our government had essentially said “we don’t care” and ordered hundreds of homes and businesses bulldozed to make way for a proposed eight-lane I-95 connector.

But a group of determined long-time residents and newcomers did care, and they worked hard for an alternative vision: bringing back jobs and building homes that people of modest incomes could afford. And over the next 40 years the organization they founded, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), invested where no one else would:

–in the crumbling former Haffenreffer brewery. Today 500 people work at The Brewery, one of the largest historic sites in the country to be restored and operated by a non-profit—with income reinvested in free programs like employment services.

–in 670 affordable homes all over JP.

–in hundreds of local small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, primarily women and people of color.

That group of founders links us to today. Because even though three out of five JP residents were born after 1977, our neighborhood is still home to amazing people who work hard for social and economic justice. And JPNDC is not only still around but is redoubling its efforts to build an equitable community in which people of limited resources have a fair chance to build assets, live in healthy homes, and create a better future for their families.

Our pipeline of affordable homes is larger than ever, with 91 to be created in the next three years. We are a Boston leader in economic prosperity services that are bilingual in Spanish and English with at least 750 people taking part each year. Our newest initiatives include an intensive focus on improving people’s credit, a pilot to help contractors of color benefit from Boston’s building boom, and research and education to help low-income people avoid excessive overdraft and credit card fees.

JPNDC is turning 40 in some of the most challenging times in our history. In the neighborhood, powerful market forces have pushed the median price of a single-family to $800,000—more than twice what JPNDC paid for the entire brewery back in 1983. And in our nation, a powerful minority is pushing the values and policies of greed, white supremacy, and general meanness.

But no administration in Washington can take away the victories to which hundreds of people have contributed. We’re more fired up than ever! So we hope you’ll join JPNDC on Saturday, June 17 for our 40th Anniversary celebration, a “Bash at The Brewery.” This free festival will feature live music, food trucks, local vendors, mural painting and much more. Check it out, and more about our 40th, at jpndc.org!

Bashier Kayou, JPNDC Board President

Richard Thal, JPNDC Executive Director

GOP is unprepared

After eight years of criticizing Obamacare, the GOP showed up totally unprepared to replace it, offering a slipshod alternative that does nothing to improve the existing program. The House and Senate GOP majority could care less about the average citizen, about creating jobs with a comprehensive infrastructure bill, about sustaining efforts to clean the environment.

Their talk of caring for future generations is just that: ALL TALK! They are in power for one thing only- making sure that the special interests (PROFITS) of corporate America – especially Oil and the Arms industry – are not only protected, but enhanced. The poor suckers who voted for them, tragically, just don’t get it.

Michel L. Spitzer

Jamaica Plain resident

Remembering the Blessed Sacrament Parish

Almost thirteen years have passed since the suppression of the Blessed Sacrament Parish and closing of the church in Hyde Square. The last Sunday Masses took place on August 31, 2004. The closing was part of an overall reconfiguration of parishes in the Archdiocese as a result of declining Mass attendance and a shortage of priests to staff every parish. However, had the suppression of Blessed Sacrament not occurred, three events would be remembered this month of June. The founding pastor, Msgr. Arthur T. Connolly took charge of the parish 125 years ago, on June 7, 1892. The great church was dedicated 100 years ago, on June 10, 1917. Msgr. Edward F. Sweeney, fourth pastor from 1964 to 1967, died suddenly, fifty years ago, on June 5, 1967.

The first Blessed Sacrament Church was a combination two story school and chapel building alongside Creighton Street. The Redemptorist Fathers purchased the land and oversaw the erection of the building beginning in 1891. The church was blessed on May 22, 1892. Around 1911, Fr. Connolly announced plans to build a more suitable church for a thriving parish. The cornerstone was laid on September 28, 1913. Newspaper accounts of the dedication on June 10, 1917 tell us despite heavy rain that morning, the great church was crowded to the doors as Cardinal O’Connell presided. Of Romanesque architecture and designed by Charles R. Greco, the church was a most impressive addition to ecclesiastical architecture in the United States. Thereafter, the old church was remodeled for parish activities and renamed St. Gerald Hall. A fire in 1977 badly damaged the building and led to its demolition.

Msgr. Sweeney had big plans for the parish during his short time as pastor. In 1966, amidst the parish celebrating its 75th anniversary, he announced plans to demolish the school and convent and build a new educational complex. Parishioners were saddened at his death at the young age of 49, 50 years ago this month.

Its all gone today. The great church stands abandoned with boarded up windows and the interior empty of pews and the lovely all wood baldachino structure in the sanctuary all gone. The Hyde Square Task Force has occasionally used the church for community use. On a positive note, many works of art in the church found new locations in other churches. The stained glass windows in the clerestory level were installed in the new Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth. The statues of angels in the narthex were moved to St. Patrick Church in Watertown. The pipe organ found a new home in a church in Texas.

Patrick E. O’Connor

Boston resident

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