Aleteia

The Chapel-in-the-Mall: Finding God in the unlikeliest of places

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This Carmelite chapel provides peace and spiritual nourishment amidst the mall's mayhem.

On the lower level of the Northshore Mall in Peabody, Massachusetts, a Catholic chapel has been offering a refuge from the hustle and bustle of modern commerce for the past 57 years.

Located a floor below the Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant and bar, and around the corner from the mall’s busy retail shops, the St. Therese Carmelite Chapel-in-the Mall offers shoppers a convenient way to attend Mass, go to confession, or just sit and pray.

Carmelite Chapel in the Mall | Facebook
The entrance to the Chapel from the Mall corridor in the lower level.

Founded in 1960, as part of Cardinal Richard Cushing’s initiative to “bring God into the marketplace,” the chapel serves mallgoers looking for spiritual sustenance, but it is also an attraction in its own right.

Father Jilson George, the director of the chapel, told Aleteia, “My experience in this chapel has been a very beautiful one. So many people come to me every day to tell me how the chapel is a very special place in the midst of all the busy-ness of the mall.”

“It’s a place where they find peace and prayer, and a source of nourishment and thanks,” he said.

Attendance is up in recent years after a period of decline, according to Fr. George. About 100 people come to Mass each week day, and 500 attend on Saturdays. Of these, Fr. George estimates that about 90 percentage make a special trip to the mall just to go to the chapel.

With Mass offered twice a day, three times on Saturdays, and as many as six times on Holy Days of Obligation, the Chapel-in-the-Mall offers daily communicants what might not be available at their home parishes.

Carmelite Chapel in the Mall | Facebook

Fr. George estimates that every day about 30-40 people come to confession, which is offered for two hours daily, something that most churches are not able to offer. Eucharistic Adoration is also offered for three hours each day.

Cath Fonzo, a regular chapel attendee, finds that the chapel brings her comfort as soon as she enters the mall.

“The Chapel is a place of peace, comfort and sanctuary for me. I visit and leave the world behind. Just walking into the mall, I find peace knowing Jesus and the celebration of Mass is so close,” she said.

Carmelite Chapel in the Mall | Facebook

For Fonzo,“There’s no place else like the chapel on the North Shore, we are all so blessed.”

The chapel has managed to survived shifts in the mall’s ownership and a 1993 redevelopment. At that time, the new owner considered terminating the chapel’s lease, but a petition drive helped saved St. Therese’s from closure. The chapel is able to pay its rent from the collection plate and money earned from the gift shop.

Earlier this year, a Carmelite chapel in the Bergen Town Center mall in Paramus, New Jersey, had to close its doors after 50 years, as the shopping center sought new tenants for a redevelopment project.

In addition to the St. Therese Carmelite Chapel-in-the-Mall, Cardinal Cushing’s initiative opened three other chapels in Boston to help people find God in the midst of the daily lives. The St. Francis Chapel was founded in 1969 in the Prudential Center, joining Our Lady of the Airways at Boston Logan Airport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage in the Seaport district.

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