William M. Bulger Jr. is the new executive director of the Dorchester-based Irish Pastoral Centre, which helps immigrants make their way in a new country. (Daniel Sheehan photo)
by Daniel Sheehan
The Irish Pastoral Centre has a new director in William M. Bulger Jr., who last week joined the Dorchester-based organization that focuses on helping immigrants make their way in their new settings.
A South Boston native, Bulger is the namesake son of William M. Bulger, the former president of both the state Senate and the University of Massachusetts. He brings to his new job years of experience in the law and banking fields, backgrounds that he says will help him further develop the organization and streamline internal operations.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said, “because I’ve run some law practices, I know a little bit about business, and I have an Irish background.”
After starting out at the DA’s office and later running his own law practice, Bulger spent 17 years combined at Fleet Bank, Bank of America, and Citizens Bank. But now, seeing what he called an “increasing need” for community-focused work, particularly where it concerns undocumented immigrants, he decided he was ready for a new challenge.
“Here at the IPC they have a large immigration service,” he said. “They conduct citizen classes, they help undocumented immigrants who need advice on what to do or have questions. For example, if there’s a death in the family, can I leave and come back? With all the things that these people face nowadays, it’s really, really hard with this current administration.”
Recent months have seen a spike in Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity in the Boston area, which has affected the region’s undocumented immigrants, including a large contingent that hails from Ireland. With family roots in Ireland, Bulger sympathizes with immigrants, many of whom face the threat of deportation despite having lived in the country for decades and established roots with their families.
“They’re in these tough positions where if they do get picked up [by an ICE agent], their child is an American citizen and can’t be deported, but they certainly could,” he said.
While the IPC’s clientele is predominantly made up of Irish or Irish-American individuals from Dorchester and South Shore communities, Bulger said that the organization’s services extend to immigrants, documented or otherwise, from other backgrounds as well.
“We have an open door policy,” he said, “Anyone who comes through the door is welcome here.”
The pastoral side of the organization also resonates with Bulger. Rev. Daniel J. Finn, who had juggled duties as both chaplain and executive director in recent years, will remain active on the community front while Bulger will take on the bulk of administrative duties.
“The IPC is, as Father Dan would say, always looking to help the stranger among us, the people who are on the margins. I like that sort of Christian thrust of the mission.”
The centre offers a wide variety of services through several different ministries – for seniors, for mothers and toddlers, for victims of drug, alcohol, and domestic abuse – and a prison outreach program run by Father Finn. The IPC also collaborates with pro-bono immigration lawyers who provide aid and representation to the undocumented as they negotiate the muddy waters of immigration law.
“They [US Immigration offices] have all of these different rules that are hard for people to navigate when they’re undocumented, and that’s where Kieran O’Sullivan and some of our pro-bono lawyers step in. They’ll go down there and explain it to them,” Bulger said.
Regarding his vision for the organization’s future, Bulger hinted at eventually moving the centre to a space more conducive to their operations (the centre currently shares a space in St. Brendan’s rectory on Rita Road). “One of the things it would be nice to have is more of a stand-alone, independent presence,” he said.
Bulger conceded that the organization’s small staff and corps of volunteers are at times “stretched a little thin,” an issue that he plans to address through a rework of internal systems. “Administratively, there’s a lot that can be done with things like fundraising and software,” he said. “We have pretty good systems in place, it’s just that they haven’t been, I think, used to their full capacity.”
Ultimately, Bulger said, the main focus will be on maintaining the centre’s services and the sizable impact they have on the community.“Our primary grant benefactor is the Irish government, and they have specific goals for us, so we’re focused on exceeding their goals and exceeding the expectations they have for us. What’s important is that this is a safe space for people to come.”
More information on the IPC and the services they offer can be found at ipcboston.org.