Spacious Chancery Cramps Archbishop-Elect's Style

By Eric Convey
Boston Herald
July 2, 2003

The stately stone mansion known in Catholic Boston as the "archbishop's residence" may need a new name.

Archbishop-elect Sean P. O'Malley said he has not decided whether to live in the Commonwealth Avenue building that has symbolized the worldly success of Boston Catholics since its construction in 1926.

"As a Franciscan brother, I prefer to have the simplest of quarters," O'Malley told reporters yesterday during his first news conference as archbishop-elect. "It will take time to learn the lay of the land."

In previous assignments as bishop, O'Malley said, he lived in different settings - sometimes an official residence, other times a small house.

Should he shun the Commonwealth Avenue residence, O'Malley would have plenty of options among the archdiocese's extensive Boston property holdings.

Several priests interviewed by the Herald speculated that he might choose a location in Boston's South End near the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The neighborhood is convenient to many of the immigrants to whom O'Malley has pledged to reach out. And it was the seat of Catholic Boston before a booming population in Allston and Brighton led church leaders to relocate there in the early 20th century.

And the building?

The archbishop's residence along with the chancery offices and St. John's Seminary occupy a 1.9 million-square-foot plot on Lake Street and Commonwealth Avenue valued by Boston assessors at $28.3 million.

David Smith, chancellor of the archdiocese, has said the archdiocese would consider selling the property, which could fetch $100 million on the open market, if there was "suitable property" to replace it.

One potential buyer: Boston College.

Officials there have said they would be eager to acquire the parcel, which lies across Commonwealth Avenue from the school's main campus.


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