Holiday of Hope For One Church

A South Boston neighborhood that was once marked by despair and economic decline is finding signs of hope and revival this holiday season, thanks to Cardinal Bernard Law.

CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that Law has ended the tradition of celebrating Sunday Masses at different parishes within the diocese and is saying Mass exclusively at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

No one could be happier about it than Bob Underhill, a volunteer and long-time parishioner. "It was a shame to see an empty church," Underhill said. "In fact seven or eight years ago, we didn't have any regular parish Masses in the main church at all."

Decades earlier, the 2,000-seat cathedral was the center of archdiocesan life. Then, economic decline and fear of crime in the neighborhood took its toll. Parishioners were lured to churches in suburbia. The cardinal followed, offering Sunday Mass at a different church each week.

Now that the cardinal has come back to the South End, so have the worshippers. In less than a month, attendance has increased from an average of 200 each Sunday to 500. Many come from other parishes in the diocese.

"We had read that at the cathedral the Masses were not well attended," said Griffin Neighbors, who with his wife, Liz, had come to the South End to worship. "We thought it would be a great opportunity to become part of a larger congregation."

The cardinal said he viewed the move as an important sign of unity. "It is the bishop's church, and the bishop is the pastor of the whole diocese," he said. "So I'm hopeful."

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross still faces the same problems of most other Catholic and Protestant congregations, a decline in the number of people who go to church on a regular basis.

"The culture is not as supportive as it once was of family, of religion," Law said. There is so much that is going on that is claiming people's time."

But that may be changing as well, now that the cardinal is back in the South End.