Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

Archive for 2008/05/02


Hosting the American Cardinals Dinner

Hello and welcome once again,

Each year the Catholic University of America (CUA) sponsors what is called the American Cardinals Dinner. On April 25, the 19th annual dinner took place at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel in Boston with Cardinals Daniel DiNardo, Francis George, William Keeler, Roger Mahony and Adam Maida in attendance.

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The purpose of the dinner is to showcase the ministries of CUA and to raise money for scholarships. This year $1.5 million was raised. One of the reasons that the banquet was so successful was because of the local support of volunteers like Craig and Nancy Gibson and the committee that worked with them.

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Craig and Nancy Gibson

The 2008 dinner was a bicentenary event for Boston. We wanted to sponsor the dinner as well as host the cardinals and CUA supporters from all over the country during the 200th anniversary celebration for the archdiocese. Over the years, this banquet has been held three times in Boston — 1993, 1999 and 2008. It travels around the country, held in Las Vegas last year, and next year it will be held in Houston. The new cardinal, Cardinal DiNardo, will be hosting it there.

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A very, very beautiful Mass preceded at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. It was also well attended, and the music was spectacular.

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There were 750 people at the dinner, including several of CUA’s graduating seniors who had the opportunity to speak about their time at CUA. It really was inspiring to hear the students speak about their faith and how much studying at CUA has meant to them.

The undergraduate enrollment has increased dramatically in these last 10 years and is now larger than even the graduate school, which is quite a change.

Father David O’Connell, the president of the Catholic University for the past 10 years, has done an outstanding job in every way.

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CUA’s president, Father David O’Connell delivered the homily at the Mass

Certainly, the way that he has deepened the Catholic identity of the school is admirable. In the past, Catholic University was not without its problems, but in the past decade, he has instituted a wonderful campus ministry and has strengthened the Catholic identity across the board. This focus on the Catholic faith has led to many vocations with young men discerning a call to the priesthood and young women entering religious life. With its renewed Catholic identity, the school models for other Catholic colleges what can be done and shows that one good president makes a huge difference.

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The last couple of years CUA has hosted the Renew program, like we are currently doing in the Archdiocese of Boston. Hundreds of students have been involved in the faith-formation groups. There have also been so many wonderful service projects that the young people are involved in.

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Apostolic Nunicio Archbishop Pietro Sambi spoke at the dinner
on the importance of Catholic education

As the bishop’s university, CUA has trained so many of the Catholic leaders in the United States and continues to do so. It is, therefore, of great importance to our nation. Many students from the archdiocese and New England go to CUA. It is one of the schools of choice for young Catholics in this part of the country and a huge percentage of the bishops graduated from there, as I did.

Also at the CUA dinner, the American Cardinal’s Encouragement Award was given to Grandparents as Parents, a program of our local Catholic Charities. The organization assists Massachusetts grandparents who are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. The award came with a $10,000 grant for the non-profit organization, which will greatly help them in their mission.

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Applauding the work of Grandparents as Parents

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Cardinal Maida delivered the final blessing

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The previous Thursday, I attended the celebration of several classes of permanent deacons. We had a beautiful vespers ceremony at St. Julia Parish in Weston, and I presented the jubilarians with the deacon’s pin that had the number 25 on it. After, there was a dinner for the deacons and their wives.

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At the service of Evening Prayer

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The class of 1980

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The classes of 1982 and 1983

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The jubilee pins

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On Saturday, I confirmed many college students at the cathedral. The confirmation was organized by campus ministry, and a number of the chaplains and campus ministers were present. Each year, I look forward to this wonderful event.

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That evening, I went to celebrate Easter with the Greek Orthodox Church in Boston. Just as we always invite Metropolitan Methodios to our Chrism Mass and give him the opportunity to bring a greeting from the Greek Orthodox community, they invite me to their Easter vigil celebration at which I always read the Gospel in English and bring a greeting to the Orthodox community. I was very happy to be a part of the celebration.

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As you may know, the Orthodox and the Eastern Rite Catholics follow a different calendar from ours. Their Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox that is after the Jewish Passover.

We, on the other hand, celebrate Easter on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the spring equinox. Their celebration has a tie to the Jewish calendar in a way that ours does not.

Last year, our celebrations coincided. This year our Easter was very, very early — almost as early as it can be.

It is my hope that we might, through dialogue, come up with a common date for Easter. I think that would be an excellent sign of Christian unity. In the past, there was so much animosity over this and other customs which are very long-standing. Today, people realize that the date itself is rather arbitrary, and that the important thing is the mystery we are celebrating. It is the most important article of our faith — that Jesus has conquered sin and death. He lives and touches our lives through the sacraments. He is there in the Church, teaching us in the living Word.

As I said in another recent blog posting, the Eastern Churches in general have always put a great emphasis on an “Easter spirituality.” In the Latin rite, we have tended to stress Good Friday as our day and then, after Lent was over, everything sort of ended. Whereas for the Greeks and Eastern Rite Catholics, the 50 days of Easter and the time to Pentecost are very important. They have the beautiful custom during the Easter season of using the greeting “Christos anesti! Alithos anesti!” or “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” And after the Easter vigil, many people leave the church with their lit candles, take the Easter flame to their home and light an oil lamp in front of an icon. They keep the flame burning all year, which is a very beautiful symbol.

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From there, I came back to my own cathedral where our Ethiopian and Eritrean Catholics who belong to an Eastern Rite of the Church called the Ge’ez Rite and who also follow the same calendar as the Orthodox. I was able to come back and bring Easter greetings to them.

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On Monday, I participated at a Cursillo Mass. For a long time I have wanted to have a Mass with the cursillistas, and I thought that it would be good to do it during the bicentennial year. Then, when Eduardo Bonnín Aguiló, who led the first Cursillo in 1944, died on Ash Wednesday this year, I asked the leadership of the cusillistas to organize this Mass.

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We decided to have it at Immaculate Conception Parish in Malden, a large church which held the 800 people who participated. There were English, Spanish, Portuguese and Vietnamese speakers there. Bishop John Elya, concelebrated with me as well as a number of priests, including Father Martin Hyatt, who is very active at the Salvatorian Center in Methuen.

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Marianne McLaughlin and Neil Finnegan were very much involved in organizing the Mass

The Mass was both a memorial for Eduardo Bonnín and a way for us to bring cursillistas together during the archdiocese’s 200th anniversary year. Since 1944, over 40 million people have made their Cursillo throughout the world. It is now in 1,500 diocese, and I believe it is one of the most effective formation programs that we have had for leaders in the Church.

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The Cursillo, that very intense weekend, presents the Church’s faith — the sacraments, the life of grace, the apostolate, the Church and Christology — so that people see all at once and how everything fits together. For many people, it sparks a very deep conversion. If you go to any diocese in the country, many of the permanent deacons today began their journey with the Cursillo. When you go to visit the prisons throughout the archdiocese and see all these people working in prison ministry, they are almost invariably cursillistas. In many parts of the country the Hispanic cursillistas have been the backbone of the Hispanic apostolate. And with the scarcity of priests, they have given valuable leadership that has helped to keep people Catholic.

When I made the Cursillo in 1967, I was a capuchin brother, a seminarian in Washington, D.C. I was very active in the Spanish and Portuguese Cursillo movements for years.

These are two of the early Cursillos I participated in. My beard was a bit more red in those days!

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On Tuesday we held or graduation for the Spanish-language lay formation program of the archdiocese, the Instituto de Formacion de Laicos which is headed by Pilar Latorre.

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It was wonderful to see there were a number of husbands and wives in the program (and I believe there was even one mother-daughter set of graduates). Many of the priests from the different parishes where the graduates came from were present for the celebration and reception, which we had in the chapel at Bishop Peterson Hall in Brighton.

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It is very important that we have this lay ministry training, and actually I am just establishing a committee to look at all of our programs to see how training lay people for the different tasks, ministries and apostolates in the archdiocese.

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On Wednesday, I had a meeting with the New England vocations directors for lunch and shared with them some of my thoughts on vocations. Some very interesting ideas came up about ways to energize our youth and help them heed God’s call to the priesthood and religious life. Hopefully, we ll share with you more details in he near future.

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In the evening, I went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a wonderful talk by Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete.

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At MIT, they have an interreligious program and the Buddhist monk who organizes the program invited Msgr. Albacete to speak on “Faith, Reason and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Msgr. Albacete reflected on many of the themes that the Holy Father spoke about at the United Nations and in his interfaith meeting in Washington. He stressed that our dialogue is not just to reach friendship and promote tolerance but also to try to discover through reason, reflection and our experience what the common values are. Those values are important for the human family. The talk was very interesting and very well received.

Until next week, blessings to you all,

Cardinal Seán