Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2006/12


A busy start to Advent, visiting Katharine Drexel Parish, Emmanuel College and looking forward to the episcopal ordination

Good afternoon everyone. I hope my post finds you well. It comes a bit early this week since tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a holy day of obligation.

This week I had the privilege of celebrating Mass marking World AIDS Day in the Archdiocese of Boston on Dec. 1. It was held at Peterson Hall in St. Johns Seminary in Brighton and was celebrated for all of those who are living with HIV, their families, caretakers who are involved in ministry to AIDS patients and others who were affected by this terrible disease. As you know, worldwide the Church does an awful lot to care for AIDS victims.

Last weekend I also celebrated a Mass at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury. Father Oscar Pratt has done a wonderful job establishing this new parish which of course has been named for Mother Katharine Drexel who was a wealthy socialite in Philadelphia from a very prominent banking family. She became a nun and founded an order to work particularly among the African Americans. She also founded Xavier University in Louisiana, which is the only black Catholic college in the United States. She was just an extraordinary individual whose sisters still are ministering in the communities she founded. It was very fitting that shortly after her canonization, we could name a new parish that ministers primarily to African-American Catholics in her honor. It was very meaningful to the parishioners there.

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Children from the parish present the gifts during the Mass

St. Katharine Drexel Parish has a strong Nigerian community, which is very involved. The Mass was a wonderful moment to bid farewell to Msgr. Felix Ojimba, a Nigerian priest who has been active with the community there. He has also worked for many years as a chaplain at Mass. General Hospital and ministered to the sick, their families, doctors and staff with great generosity. Now he is being called back to Nigeria, and the Mass, which he concelebrated, was an opportunity to recognize the wonderful work that hes done and to thank him. It was obvious that the Nigerian community is very proud of his accomplishments and his dedication.

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Msgr. Ojimba posed for a photo with me

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Here are some other folks I met at St. Katharine Drexel

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I also traveled to Emmanuel College to celebrate Mass for the first Sunday of Advent. Sister Janet Eisner, president of the school, thought it would be appropriate since the college is named Emmanuel, like the Advent song O Come, O Come Emmanuel. lol.

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Sister Janet Eisner, a great supporter of Catholic education

But seriously, Sister Janet has been very supportive of Catholic education, and its been a very, very big help that Emmanuel College has reached out to our Catholic schools. The school is currently involved in the search committee for a new head of Catholic education for the archdiocese, and Sister Janet sits on the 2010 Initiative committee board.The chapel at Emmanuel was so full for the Mass that there was standing room only. The ministry there, run by Fr. Steve Boyle and Sr. Peggy Cummins, SND, reaches out to the other colleges in the area as well, so its not just their own students but other students from Simmons, Northeastern and some of the other colleges around there. They have a wonderful youth group, a wonderful choir that sang for us, and at the end of Mass two of the young people involved in campus ministry witnessed a little bit what campus ministry has meant for them at Emmanuel College.

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These are the two students who witnessed to their experience

Its always a joy to see young people participating in their faith. Of course in Boston where we have so many institutions of higher learning, theres a lot of wonderful campus ministry that takes place. I was very gratified that quite a number of the students there came up to me and said, Cardinal, you confirmed me when I was at my parish in Fall River. I was quite happy to see that even when theyre away from home, theyre still practicing their faith.

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Members of the Emmanuel College community

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It was a joy to see so many young people practicing their faith

On another note, I am very excited for the upcoming episcopal ordination of Bishops-elect John Dooher and Robert Hennessey on Dec. 12. It is wonderful to have two such distinguished priests from our archdiocese become bishops here. They will be able to help us minister to our priests and our people in order to help to strengthen the Church and the regions.

Only days away from their ordination, I thought it would be nice if Bishops-elect Dooher and Hennessey could share their feelings directly with you.

Bishop-elect Dooher offered these remarks:

bpdooher.jpgI am often asked: “Were you surprised at your appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston?”
Shocked and a bit speechless is probably the best description. Some weeks earlier I did a private retreat on the shores of Cape Cod. It was a wonderful experience and I clearly recall leaving the ocean feeling that God and I agreed that there would be no changes in my life and ministry for the foreseeable future.
On Tuesday evening I received a call saying that Cardinal Sean wanted to see me on Wednesday morning. As I was scheduled for two funerals in the morning, I said that I wasn’t free. But we did schedule a 7:00 a.m. meeting. I figured, one more committee or meeting.
Then I received a call from Cardinal Sean asking if I could come to the Cathedral a.s.a.p. that evening. Now this is different, it’s more than another committee. I drove to the Cathedral praying the rosary out loud all the way. At 10:00 pm Cardinal Sean said in that calm baritone voice that we’ve become accustomed to: “The Holy Father has named you auxiliary bishop of Boston.” There was no sleep that night and the days that have followed have been filled with many feelings of being overwhelmed, excited, humbled, grateful, and wondering what happened to my convincing God about my plans for the future. It’s all in God’s hands!
Through all of these days there has been a great outpouring of support and promise of prayers from parishioners, family and in a special way from the priests of the Archdiocese. Their support has been a grace for me. I look forward to visiting parishes for Confirmations and other important occasions and to working with priests and laity of the south region of the Archdiocese. I am grateful for the trust that Cardinal Sean has placed in me in sharing his apostolic ministry for the good of God’s people.

and Bishop-elect Hennessey wanted to share this with you:

bphennessey.jpgI knew that something was amiss when I received a call at 9:00 p.m. from the cardinals secretary, Father Bob Kickham, informing me that the Cardinal O’Malley wanted to see me at 9:30 a.m. the following morning. My first thought was that I was going to be transferred to another parish. By the time I met with Cardinal Sean I had my strategy all planned about how I could convince him that I should not leave Most Holy Redeemer Parish. I was shocked when the cardinal informed me that the Holy Father had appointed me auxiliary bishop of Boston. So much for the strategy.
It was difficult the next few days before the public announcement of the appointment not to share the news with my family and friends. I would have loved to be able to seek their advice. I knew I could count on reactions — before or after!
As soon as the announcement was made I got the advice, plenty of it and I’m still getting it!
Next Tuesday, December 12th the ordination will take place at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I am both nervous and excited. To be honest, I do not like to be the center of attention and there are times when I find myself wishing it was December 13th so I can get to work as a bishop. Speaking of work, I am looking forward to being with the priests of the Central Region of the Archdiocese. There are many good and holy priests in the Region. Please pray for me that I can assist them in fulfilling our mission in this great archdiocese.

As their ordination approaches, I would like to tell the new bishops that it is important to have trust in God. After all, if Hes calling you to ordination, Hes going to lead you to where He wants you to go, and the best thing is to just to trust in His great providence and love for us.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the ordination is the imposition of hands because that is the heart of the ceremony. At that moment, you realize that you are an instrument of Gods grace. The apostolic succession, which begins with the apostles, has been passed on from generation to generation for 2,000 years to your hands! Its a very awesome thing, and you are always praying for the person that you are ordaining. I always consecrate them to the Blessed Mother to help them to be faithful and to be effective in their ministry.

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At the announcement of their appointments, I presented
Bishops-elect Dooher and Hennessey with
their pectoral crosses and zucchettos

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A closer view

I also want to mention that Im very grateful to Interim Regional Vicar Msgr. Edwin D. Condon who was appointed episcopal vicar for the south region in 2004. He worked with such dedication. Were also very grateful to Bishop John Boles who will be stepping down in the Central Region. He has done such wonderful work, and were glad that he will still be a presence in the archdiocese. We can count on him to be active and be a part of whats happening in the archdiocese.

There are about 40 bishops from throughout the region who will be attending the ordination next week. Bishops try to be present, and one reason we have the ordination during the week is to make it more possible for priests and bishops to be there. Because on the weekends, of course, they need to be in the parishes. The bishops of our region have a wonderful relationship within our province and the neighboring province of Hartford. These two regions try to attend each others functions, and we do come together periodically to talk about common problems and plans.

Some wonder who it is who picks the men who are to become bishops. It is the Holy Father. So, in this case, it is of course our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Bishop-elects Dooher and Hennessey. Its part of the popes prerogative to appoint bishops, and its one way of guaranteeing the unity of the Church. The Holy Father is confirming our faith, and hes the guarantor of the unity of the Church. Thats a very important role. The bishops are the successors of the apostles. The pope is the successor of one particular apostle with special prerogatives as the successor of Peter.

In my case, I was named a bishop in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. It was quite a shock!

In those days, members of religious communities werent named bishops. Although I was being ordained in a diocese which could be considered a missionary diocese, and thats where most religious do end up being bishops, it was quite a surprise to me. I had never worked in the West Indies. On the island where I was appointed, I was 30 years junior to the next youngest priest. They were all Redemptorists and Columban fathers in those days. We had only one diocesan priest on St. Croix.

Here in the United States, the formal way you address a bishop is Your Excellency, but bishop is quite sufficient. In the West Indies it was Your Lordship. That was as hard to get used to as driving on the left side of the roadlol.

That was an assignment that involved many adjustments. In my prior assignment, in Washington D.C., I was involved with many immigrant communities. I was also very much inserted into the large Capuchin community there. In D.C. we have a parish that is next to the center where I was the director. Its a place where I lived for 20 years, so I was very much a part of the diocese, the religious community and Catholic University of America where I taught literature, Spanish and Portuguese.

Suddenly in the West Indies I was catapulted into another culture. For the first time, I was saying Mass in English because in Washington I had Mass in Spanish, Portuguese and French every Sunday. To go away on the weekend was very difficult. There was no one to take my place. I said Mass whether I was sick or whatever.

So the West Indies was an entirely different culture. Also, I had the responsibility of forming the structure of the diocese because I was just the second bishop. It was a new diocese and, though the parishes had been established, I established a newspaper, a television station, shelters for the homeless and insurance programs for our retirement. These things were not yet in place because the diocese was so new and so small. When I arrived there, the diocesan budget was $30,000!

I was very happy in my assignment there as well as my assignment in Washington. Its always very hard to change, particularly when youre in a place for a long time. Id been 20 years in Washington, and that was home for me. Then I was 10 years in the West Indies, and went through a lot with its people. We lived through a lot of changes, a lot of growth and a terrible hurricane. We had to rebuild the whole diocese, and through those experiences we really bonded.

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The photo of the week: Lighting the candle for the first
week of Advent at St. Katharine Drexel Parish

I would like to wish everyone a blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a restful weekend. Thank you for visiting my blog and your continued interest in my posts here. I look forward to next week when I will post more about the episcopal ordination on Dec. 12.Yours in Christ,
Cardinal Sen