Primarily concerned about Catholic staff working long shifts at the airport without the opportunity to attend mass, Boston Archbishop Richard J. Cushing aimed to bring the celebration of mass to the workers.
Air travel for large segments of the population was new in the early 1950s when Cushing decided to build a Catholic chapel at Logan airport. He brought priests to the airport and to other venues as he built workmen’s chapels in the port, train station, and other venues across Boston.
These chapels also helped Cushing solve the problem of surplus priests created as soldiers and military chaplains returned to Boston from World War II. The airport chaplaincy and others provided postings for these priests while expanding services to Boston Catholics as well as Catholic airline staff and others who traveled through Logan International Airport.
At Logan, a small circular “Our Lady of the Airways” chapel opened in 1951 and was renovated and expanded in 1965 to seat 250. According to public accounts, airport personnel in heavily Catholic Boston allowed the Archdiocese to create this space at the airport with no talk of purchasing or renting the municipally owned land.
The 1965 Catholic chapel remains today with an altar and crucifix, stations of the cross, and holy water at the doors. The Eucharist is available in the chapel and mass is led regularly by the airport’s Catholic chaplain-priest who is assigned by and accountable to the Boston Archdiocese.
Travelers as well as airport staff and local residents of East Boston regularly attend mass. At some point, a prayer rug was added to the back corner of the chapel with a small hand written sign pointing towards Mecca in recognition of Muslim staff and travelers in need of a place to pray.
Plaques memorializing state police, airline workers, concession workers, members of the port authority and others cover the walls of the chapel which is also home to many 9/11 memorials. Annual memorial gatherings for 9/11 take place in the chapel and Logan Airport’s 9/11 memorial is a short walk away, across from the Hilton Hotel at the airport.