Living the Faith: Rafael Bautista and Paula Nova-Bautista

JAMAICA PLAIN -- In 1908 a group of devoted Catholics established Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Jamaica Plain. Under the guidance of their first pastor, Father George Lyons, the congregation grew steadily.

Now, 100 years later, Rafael Bautista and his wife of 23 years, Paula Nova-Bautista, are among those preparing to celebrate the parish’s past and its future.

A parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes since he arrived from his native Dominican Republic 22 years ago, Bautista, 47, is the chairperson of the parish’s centennial committee. With a team of parishioners, Bautista is coordinating a yearlong centennial celebration, which will begin this summer with a week of family-centered festivities.

“I absolutely love this parish,” he declared. “In fact, long after we moved out of the area, we continued to come here because I feel so comfortable here.”

“I think the most special thing about our parish is the way the Hispanic community gathers in the worship of our faith,” Bautista said. “There are also some wonderful programs offered by our parish.”

In addition to serving on the centennial committee, the Bautistas are involved in the parish’s weekly prayer group. They also give pre-Cana retreats periodically throughout the year. Nova-Bautista, 41, is also a part of the Hispanic choir. In addition, the couple, together with their three children, attends weekly Mass together.

Being a part of the centennial committee has given them the opportunity to muse on the history of the parish, as well as to look ahead to its future. Although Bautista sees many obstacles deterring people from deepening their faith -- obstacles such as technology, music, money -- he also sees hope in the future of the Church.

“I’ve seen recently that, despite the problems the Church has faced in recent years, people are starting to come back,” he said.

“I am very happy to see how our parish is doing, and where it is heading,” he added.

For Bautista, the celebrations are also a bit bittersweet, because “after many, many years of having our pastor (Msgr. Charles Bourque) with us, he will be leaving shortly,” he explained.

“Father Bourque is a community man -- he understands very much the Latin community and has done a great job joining the two cultures that are in our parish,” Bautista continued, adding that “[the entire Hispanic community] will be very sad to see him go.” According to Nova-Bautista, this sadness is tempered by a sense of excitement as the Capuchin Franciscans begin to lead the parish.

“We are sad, of course,” she said. “Some people are frightened; some are looking ahead to the future. I think that the Hispanic community will respond well to their presence.”

The Capuchins are not new to the parish. They have been living in the parish convent since 2002, and according to Nova-Bautista, have been accepted by most parishioners.

“Personally, I think that the change will be quite positive,” she said.

Our Lady of Lourdes,

Jamaica Plain

Year established -- 1908

Pastor -- Msgr. Charles Bourque

Deacons -- Jose Perez, Leonard

De Coste, Luciano Herrera, Jesus Ortiz

Religious Education Director -- Maria de Lourdes Ortiz

Elementary School Principal -- Janice Wilson