BY ED FORRY
The Irish Pastoral Centre was founded in 1987 to help the transition to American life for a then-burgeoning wave of young Irish immigrants. A 501(C)(3) non-profit funded in part by grants from the Irish government, the IPC is housed in part of the former convent in St. Brendan parish in Dorchester. The agency is searching for a new permanent home, and last month hired as its executive director Peggy Davis-Mullen. She is a former member of both the Boston School Committee and the Boston City Council. A South Boston native and an attorney, she’s the mother of three sons and one grandchild and now lives in Plymouth. The BIR interviewed her at the pastoral centre offices last month.
Q. You are known for a background in elective politics, but what are some other facets of your life?
A. I am a product of the Boston public schools, and my first year of high school was the first year of desegregation, a very difficult time. I was fortunate enough to go to Newman and finish my high school education. Then I went to BC and took a degree in psychology, and a master’s in counseling psychology from the School of Education there. Then I ran for school committee.
Q. What was your occupation before being elected?
A. I was the director of counseling case work in the West Broadway Multi Service Center (ABCD). Most of the kids that were referred to me were public school kids, children from single parent families like myself, children whose families were struggling with drugs and alcohol. I’ve worked with lots of young kids and have seen the inequities, I saw that there was a lot lacking for them. That’s why I love the opportunity to come here because my roots are in social service, in counseling psych, working with young families.
Q. What are your priorities in your new role?
A. To work to preserve and continue the great work that’s done here, and to grow it. One of the things that drew me to the job is the work of Father Dan Finn. He is just a wonderful, amazing, kind, compassionate, spiritual man. And God has given me a great gift to be able to work with him, to strengthen what he’s really carried on with this mission for many years. My mission is to support him and the work that he does.
He talks about a parish without borders and that’s really important, that we’re here to support the undocumented, those that are sort of in the shadows. That really speaks to what I am committed to. Those are the types of people that need our assistance.
Q. Does the IPC provide services for non-immigrants?
A. It’s a very quiet work that goes on here, whether it’s program director Veronica Keys going out and dealing with the victims of violence, working with Father Dan going into prisons and talking to young men and women who have been picked up because of immigration issues or just bad decisions.
I know that he spent Good Friday visiting two young men that have roots in this area. And I know that that was a really important thing for him. These two were not immigrants, they just were young men who needed guidance on Easter weekend. But a lot of the work is very quiet and I’m just getting my feet wet. But I’m very fortunate to come to work with people like Veronica and program administrator Audrey Larkin who have been part of this organization for so long.
Q. I’m sure one of the big components of your new job is fund raising?
A. Well, it’s sort of the chicken and the egg. You need to have a home first and then once you have some place to call home, you can expand programs. There are so many good things that are going on here now. Like our project prison outreach, like the work that Veronica does on the ground, like the work that Audrey does, making sure that when people come here, they’re connected to other services that would be available them. But whether it’s focusing more on some of the issues of substance abuse, and AA meetings or Gaelic, it’s a place where people can feel safe.
The seniors that come here, the sky’s the limit as far as what we would like to do and what we can do. We need a home and we need to raise the funds to fix the home.
Q. What support comes from the Irish government?
A. Oh, there absolutely is a relationship. The fact that the Irish government cares enough and is committed enough to follow its citizens abroad across the US, across the world really says something.
Q. Is the IPC looking for new office space?
A. That is a number one issue. I’ve been looking. This is a former convent, and we’re in the chapel right now. I mean, you can see this is a pretty humble office. We just need space, so that Veronica can give the people she works with some dignity and privacy, and we want to expand some of the things we do, whether it’s programs for children, mothers, and toddlers. Dan Finn and the Irish Pastoral Cente deserve to have a home. There’s a lot happening between St. Ann’s and St. Brendan’s. Everybody knows that we’re sort of here – but we don’t feel like we really have any roots here. And it’s really important for us.
BY ED FORRY