About the Shrine
The Oblates of the Virgin Mary are honored to welcome you to our beautiful and historic church, Saint Clement Eucharistic Shrine, in the Back Bay, Boston. Our church is dedicated to prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. Our mission is to provide a place of prayer and welcome so that people may come to visit and spend time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in a traditional setting. We invite you to come to know the shrine, our mission, and us.
In fulfilling our call to provide a place of prayer, we offer many opportunities for people to come and be with the Lord. We provide liturgical services throughout the day, including Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Members of our community, including the priests, brothers and seminarians, take part in these daily liturgies.
Against the back-wall of the Sanctuary are reredos, which include the exposition throne. The reredos is in the form of a tryptych. An adoring angel in high relief flanks each side of the throne. The angels, copied from those of Fra Angelico, hold censers and below them are the inscriptions:
HIC EST PANIS QUI
DE CAELO DESCENDIT
ECCE PANIS ANGELORUM
FACTUS CIBUS VIATORUM
This is the Bread which
came down from Heaven;
Behold the Bread of Angels
made the food of pilgrims
COR EUCHARISTICUM JESU, MISERERE NOBIS
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, Have Mercy on Us
On the sides of the inscription are found the carved coat-of-arms of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII and Most Reverend Richard J. Cushing, former Archbishop of Boston.
This church has a very rich history of prayer and adoration before our Eucharistic Lord. The history begins on December 8, 1935 with the dedication of the church as Saint Clement Church shortly after Cardinal O’Connell purchased the former Universalist Church. Saint Clement’s was needed as an auxiliary church to assist Saint Cecilia Parish in a time of immense growth of the Back Bay and Fenway districts. On September 25, 1944, Archbishop Richard Cushing succeeded Cardinal O’Connell and within a few months, a new page in the history of Saint Clement’s would begin.
Early in 1945, Archbishop Cushing paid a visit to Saint Cecilia Church. At dinner the cardinal was inquired as to what extent Saint Clement’s was needed at the time. When the pastor commented that the need was not as great as ten years earlier, the Archbishop suggested the church become a Eucharistic shrine, “a spiritual powerhouse,” as they both phrased it, for the whole diocese. It is impossible to express adequately the role Saint Clement Shrine played in the lives of countless people in the Boston Archdiocese. The syndicated Catholic journalist, Father Daniel Lord, SAJ wrote in 1953 that the Archdiocese of Boston seems toil most center on the Eucharistic Shrine.
Cardinal Cushing asked the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, a congregation newly dedicated to the Eucharist, to staff the church. From the moment the Sisters occupied the church, two sisters knelt daily in front of the Blessed Sacrament in silent adoration. A large grille separated the semi-cloistered Sisters from the rest of the people in the church. Saint Clement’s began a Nocturnal Adoration Society. Catholics were recruited to spend an hour each month before the Blessed Sacrament. By December 1945, there were 575 enrolled in the society. In the late sixties, the Fenway churches saw a decline of numbers as a result of the construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike through the Back Bay, and the shrine was transformed into a ministerial center for college students. The Newman Center changed its name to Saint Clement Student Parish.
In 1976, the Oblates of the Virgin Mary purchased Saint Clement’s and began restoration. Oblate priests that live here staff the Saint Francis Chapel at the Prudential Center. Today, the shrine is the home of Our Lady of Grace Seminary of the Oblates. At the turn of the millennium, there was a re-awakening at the shrine. Cardinal Cushing expressed, “Over the years the attendance at the shrine has declined, despite its being so well located. I hope that there will be a renewal of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist and that the students and residence in the area will find at the shrine, both in the liturgy and in the direction of the priests, the strength to give a Christian witness.” This has become our dream, to fulfill the late Cardinal’s words. We have made numerous repairs and embellishments. The roof was fixed, the walls cleaned, statues were re-painted, and the tabernacle was restored. All of this was to help you, our guests, to have a wonderful place to meet our God.
Not long after finishing this restoration, we received a mystery call from a person we had never met. He told us that he heard we were looking for a pipe organ and found one that would be perfect for the shrine. A Catholic church had been closed in Hull and its pipe organ had to be sold. The Cole and Woodberry Organ originally built in 1890 was indeed historic and made by a reputable builder. Needless to say, we bought the organ for a very good price, and with the aid of many donations and a pipe organ repair specialist, it was restored and made ready to sing God’s praises.
We thank you for reading this history of Saint Clement’s. We hope that you will come inside and enjoy the prayerful atmosphere and join the many people who have honored the Lord with their presence at this Shrine.
May God bless you!