The Archdiocese of Boston has sold a former East Boston church for $3 million, signaling to former parishioners the ongoing transformation of the working-class Italian-American neighborhood into an increasingly lucrative real estate hot spot, sought out by wealthy investors.
State records indicate the buyer, Frankfort Gove LLC, was set up in June and is run by Richard Egan and Timothy White, both of whom list a unit at the Four Seasons in Boston as their address. They could not be reached for comment, but the archdiocese said the buyer plans to turn the hulking brick church, which was built by Italian immigrants in 1905, into housing.
The news triggered a fresh wave of anger and sadness from former parishioners, who had waged a decadelong fight to save Our Lady of Mount Carmel, appealing all the way to the Vatican, after the archdiocese officially closed the church in 2004.
"I feel part of me has gone with the church, but what can I do?" said Benito Tauro, 82, who had worshipped at Our Lady of Mount Carmel since emigrating from Avellino, Italy, in 1952. "It's a shame what they did to us, and what they did to the religion."
Gina Scalcione, 75, who lives across the street from Our Lady of Mount Carmel and had been one of the protest leaders hoping to stop its closing, said she was not surprised that the building was sold for a hefty sum.
"I knew it was coming — they're heartless," she said. "The big investors who are buying the property, they want every inch of everything in East Boston."
The archdiocese said the sale, which includes the church, rectory, convent, parish hall, and parking area, was undertaken with care and respect for the history of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
"We understand that those who opposed the closure of the parish in 2004 will be disappointed by this news," Terrence C. Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in a statement. "Many parishioners of the former Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish have joined other parishes. For those who remain opposed and are not involved in other parishes, we continue to encourage them to join a welcoming parish and become active participants in parish life in the archdiocese."
Proceeds from the sale of the church, he said, will be used for the "support of parish life and ministry in the archdiocese and to offset expenses of other closed parish properties."
The archdiocese closed Our Lady of Mount Carmel as part of a round of about 75 parish closings aimed at addressing a shortage of priests and declining Mass attendance.
But parishioners fought back and occupied the church for years, determined to save an institution that had been part of the lifeblood of the neighborhood, the scene of feasts, weddings, baptisms, and funerals for generations.
"In the beginning, it was an Italian community church," said Lorenzo Grasso, 63, who had attended the church since emigrating from Italy in 1966 and saw his children baptized there. "All my friends, all the Italians, were there as a unit, as a group."
The archdiocese ended the occupation in 2012 when it changed the locks on the doors, and the former parishioners' appeals to the archdiocese and to the courts were all turned down. The final rejection came in 2014, from the Vatican's high court.
After that, the defenders of Our Lady of Mount Carmel knew that a sale was inevitable, Grasso said.
"We pretty much put our minds at ease, and said, 'OK. If it happens, it happens.' Period," he said.
Only one of the churches closed by the archdiocese in 2004 — St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Scituate — remains occupied by former parishioners. That group is continuing to battle the archdiocese in court.
In East Boston, about 20 former members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel still gather every Sunday across the street from the church to pray at a statue of Padre Pio that Tauro brought from Italy in 2004.
Grasso said he could not imagine going to another parish to pray.
"As far as I'm concerned, after this, if we do dissolve, I will either watch the Mass on TV, or not go anywhere," he said.