Seniors in motion at Boston’s Irish Pastoral Centre. PHOTOS BY MOLLY SMITH
By Jim Smith
BOSTON – The Irish Pastoral Centre of Boston, which was founded in 1987 in response to a huge increase in young Irish immigrants coming to the city, continues to offer a wide range of spiritual, social, recreational, therapeutic, legal and educational services to immigrants, their families, Irish-Americans and people of all backgrounds in need of support.
Guided by the Christian principle of offering help to “the stranger among us,” the I.P.C. is moving next month to a new site in Adams Village in Dorchester, where its new executive director Peggy Davis-Mullen plans to expand services, increase funding, and build upon the outreach programs of such stalwarts as the Rev. Dan Finn, one of the founding members and prime movers behind the Centre.
“I feel blessed to have this opportunity to carry on the mission of Father Dan and so many other wonderful people who have provided so much to our community over these past three decades,” Davis-Mullen told the Echo last week prior to a senior exercise class run by the I.P.C. at St. John’s Parish in West Roxbury.
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The class, run by fitness instructor and consultant Eileen Smith, is called “Nurturing Your Body and Spirit” and blends prayer, Irish songs and gentle exercises geared toward increasing balance, strength and flexibility.
After warming up the class with “Riverdance,” Smith had the seniors stretching and swaying to a mix of ballads and jaunty tunes such as “The Black Velvet Band,” “The Wild Rover,” “The Whistling Gypsy Rover,” and Paddy Reilly’s version of “The Craic was Ninety in the Isle of Man,” the latter of which seemed to capture the fun and camaraderie of the participants. After cooling down with Phil Coulter’s “Sea of Tranquility,” the seniors joined in a final prayerful meditation.
Mary Walsh, who has roots in Roscommon, said after the class that the I.P.C. is a valuable resource in the community, with its emphasis on bringing people together. Having experienced two recent losses, she finds the classes and Masses offered through the Centre to be a source of enjoyment and comfort.
Davis-Mullen, whose relatives are from Inis Mor, Aran Islands, comes to the I.P.C. with a background in Boston politics and human service work in the South Boston community. Besides having served on the Boston City Council and the Boston School Committee, she earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology at Boston College and has provided counseling to families at a multi-service community center in South Boston, making her well qualified to carry on and expand the caring mission of the I.P.C.
Smith, whose mother, Mary Kate Feeney, immigrated from Dromahair, Co. Leitrim, also teaches fitness classes to adults of all ages at several Catholic parishes in the Boston area.
“The Irish Pastoral Centre does a tremendous amount of good in the Boston area, and I’m happy to be doing what I can to spread a little joy and help the seniors stay fit and healthy,” she said.
Maryannn Casavant, service coordinator at the I.P.C., shares Davis-Mullen’s excitement about moving next month into the new site.
“We’ll be having a grand opening soon, and we are looking forward to expanding our programs and bringing people into our new community center,” she said. “This is an exciting time for us and for our community.”