South Boston residents call on Archdiocese of Boston to preserve Sister Mary Veronica Park

Mike DelNegro has lived around the corner from Sister Mary Veronica Park for seven years, and more days than not, he stops by the shady and peaceful space in South Boston to walk his dog and catch up with neighbors.

DelNegro hopes there’s a future where his infant daughter will get to roam around the pocket park, snuggled on West 8th Street, between Grimes and F streets, but whether his aspiration comes to reality is far from certain.

The Archdiocese of Boston put the community gathering spot, featuring a statue of Virgin Mary, benches and five mature trees, on the market earlier this month, and neighbors are crossing their fingers that the property is not turned into housing.

“If they wanted to turn the pavement into grass, I wouldn’t argue,” DelNegro told the Herald, “but otherwise it’s just nice to have a little spot with trees, open space, and there’s not a lot of other options for that in the area. That’s why we love it so much.”

DelNegro joined dozens of his neighbors at the park on a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon, calling on the Archdiocese to preserve it as the urban oasis that it is.

The standout came as more than 2,000 residents have signed a petition urging the Archdiocese to listen to their wishes. An online drive had collected nearly 1,600 signatures by Saturday afternoon, said Vicky Shen, a neighbor spearheading the campaign.

Shen, a resident of 18 years, highlighted how neighbors bring trash barrels out to the street on trash day, while others rake and blow the leaves, and a local contractor often stops at the park to paint its benches.

Students from UP Academy Charter School of Boston, up the road on Dorchester Street, come in the morning before class and pray with the statue of Virgin Mary. People enjoy taking lunch breaks at the park, and children are often seen running around playing games, Shen said.

“Over the years it’s always been the neighborhood that’s tended to it,” Shen said. “It’s very organic. … It’s really a grassroots community park.”

“We are just trying to do whatever we can to prevent it from being purchased by a developer and then turned into condos or something like that,” she said.

The Archdiocese purchased the lot from the city in 1955, spokesman Terry Donilon told the Herald. “There has been some misinformation in the public that it was a gift; it was not a gift,” he said.

“Currently, the Archdiocese pays for tree trimming, landscaping and we have paid for site cleanup of trash, litter, etc.,” Donilon said. “We are marketing the property and welcome requests for proposals from interested parties, including the City.”

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The space was dedicated as Sister Mary Veronica Park in November 1968, named after Sister Mary Veronica, a South Boston woman who grew up next to the park and became a nun in the Sisters of Notre Dame Order in 1939, the online petition states.

Pocket parks across the city are often overlooked by larger recreational spaces which receive frequent funding for accessibility and security improvements, City Councilor At-Large Erin Murphy told the Herald.

But Saturday’s turnout at Sister Mary Veronica, she said, shows how residents view the park as a critical piece to the densely populated neighborhood where open space is hard to come by.

“This is great today that the group is here, but we have to stay strong,” Murphy said. “We can’t think we did enough yet. It’s following through, checking in and making sure that it grows.”

The Sister Mary Veronica Park in South Boston. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)

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