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BOSTON -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley joined the community of Regina Cleri Residence to dedicate the new altar in their chapel on Aug. 21, marking a major step in a series of improvements to the archdiocese's residence for retired priests.
For months, the residents had been celebrating Mass in the adjoining living room while the chapel underwent renovations. In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley compared their experience to that of the Hebrews in the liturgy's reading from Maccabees, which described the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem."You, like the Jews of old, are returning from the exile of your temporary worship space to this beautiful chapel," Cardinal O'Malley said.
One of the guests at the Mass was Joe D'Arrigo, executive director of the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust. He said they were "very pleased" with how the renovation turned out.
"Our priority was, first of all, to get the chapel done first, as all the other work progresses," D'Arrigo told The Pilot in an Aug. 26 interview.
He called the chapel "the heart of Regina Cleri," and said, "it's been the spiritual center of the residence for some 54 years."
The chapel renovation, part of a larger plan for improving Regina Cleri's facilities, was intended to increase its accessibility to aging priests.
The pews have been replaced by chairs with armrests, which can be moved to make room for wheelchairs. The height of the ambo and altar can be adjusted by pressing a button, so that priests who use wheelchairs or walkers can more fully participate.
During the Mass, Cardinal O'Malley called the adjustable ambo "a wonderful invention."
"Priests come in all sizes and shapes -- and some of us (are) in wheelchairs. This technology accommodates everyone," he said.
Speaking to The Pilot after the Mass, Regina Cleri director Stephen Gust said that when he began working at the facility 26 years ago, life expectancy was shorter, so it was rare to have a priest who used a walker or wheelchair. Today, 17 of Regina Cleri's residents are over 90 years old, and mobility issues are far more common.
"Part of the major project was to address those needs," Gust said.
A committee of Regina Cleri residents gave input regarding decisions about the chapel's features. They chose the symbols and materials for the new altar and ambo: both are made of wood, with an Alpha and Omega on the ambo and a Chi-Rho on the altar.
"Everything we made, we wanted to make sure they were involved with, because this is their home," Gust said.
Other ongoing or upcoming improvements at Regina Cleri include new equipment for the kitchen and laundry facilities as well as new furniture for the living room and dining room. Ten new rooms are being built, including six clinical rooms. There will be a larger living area for the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master who work at Regina Cleri and, outdoors, the grounds will be re-landscaped and include a walkway that will be lighted at night.
"I think it's exciting for the priests of Boston. They can be assured they have a place that they can go with their brother priests in their retirement years, and be taken care of, as if they were living in their own home," D'Arrigo said.