Last Thursday, there was a meeting here at the Pastoral Center of Catholic school principals and pastors with Mary Grassa O’Neill, our new superintendent of schools.
The meeting was well attended, positive and hope-filled. For many of the pastors and principals, it was the first time they had visited the Pastoral Center, and they seemed thrilled with the new facilities.
The meeting, followed by a reception, was an opportunity for school leaders to speak with the superintendent and her entire staff who work in service of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston and to hear their vision for our schools. We also had the chance to solicit suggestions and reactions from attendees.
- – -
On Friday, I traveled to Cardinal Spellman High School in Brockton for the celebration of their 50th anniversary. It was an exhilarating experience with about 1,200 people in attendance. There were a number of priests there who are graduates of the school including Fathers Walter Keymont, Michael Drea and Paul Ring.
The weather was terrible, and the Mass was held under a big tent. I told everyone that I felt very much at home in that tent.
When I was bishop in the West Indies, the hurricanes destroyed entire schools. The public schools were closed for over a year, but we reopened Catholic schools within two weeks because we held classes inside tents.
I told the people of Cardinal Spellman, “Tents are wonderful when it’s raining and terrible when the sun is shinning because it’s so hot. So we’re lucky that it’s raining.”
The anniversary Mass featured a choir with 100 student voices. The participation of all of the students was so wonderful that everyone was moved by the enthusiasm, the joy and the strong, obvious Catholic identity of this institution. It was very encouraging to see. The campus ministry there is exceptional.
At the end of Mass, they awarded the St. Joseph Sisters’ Award to a number of people who have been very involved at the school. Recipients included the choir director Dorrie Delano Bessette, former chaplain Father Arthur Coyle and Deacon Joseph Nickley, the current chaplain and co-director of campus ministry.
- – -
From there, we went to the Neponset campus of Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy where we had a press conference to announce the $15 million donation of the Yawkey Foundation to aid in the revitalization of the Catholic schools in the Dorchester and Mattapan neighborhoods.
The president of the foundation, James Healey, was there to make the announcement along with several of the foundation’s trustees.
Jack Connors with Maureen Bleday, William Gutfarb and James Healey of the Yawkey Foundation
Peter Lynch was also there representing the Catholic Schools Foundation. I addressed the group, and both Jack Connors and Mary Grassa O’Neill spoke as well.
- – -
Saturday, I went to Stonehill College in Easton for a symposium on religious life, which was part of the Archdiocese of Boston’s bicentennial celebration.
The Catholic universities in the area have all planned different events to mark the bicentennial. The Stonehill event was organized by Father Mark Cregan and his staff, including Sister Jeanne Gribaudo. There were about 600 religious participating, which was a wonderful turnout. We were very encouraged by it.
I invited Cardinal Franc Rodé, the prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, to be part of the symposium.
He is also a religious himself, one of the Vincentians from the Congregation of the Mission. He traveled to Stonehill with Father David O’Connell, also a Vincentian and president of Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The cardinal gave a wonderful keynote address. His English is not strong, so he read the beginning of it and then had Father O’Connell read the rest.
Then, he had a question and answer period during which I translated for him.
The cardinal’s story is a very interesting one. His family is from Slovenia, but they were refugees under the Communist regime. When he was a child, they moved to Argentina and lived there for many years. That is actually where he entered seminary.
The symposium attracted a number of interesting speakers. Some of the topics were very challenging and looked closely at the mistakes that have been made in religious life in the last 40 years. They also discussed some of the causes for the present crisis.
I celebrated the closing Mass, and in my homily I pointed out that, in the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in religious life. I called on the religious to say “yes” to a new generation of Catholics who are more open to religious life, and I also called upon them to say “yes” to the immigrant Catholics who are coming in such great numbers. Over half of the immigrants who come to the United States are Catholic.
I think there are great signs of hope, and it is obvious that the people who were at this conference are convinced of the paramount importance of the health of religious life for the Church. So, looking at some of the difficulties and the problems was part of the process, but certainly all of us are confident that religious life is a permanent fixture in the life of the Church.
Today there are many signs of hope and more interest in the part of our young Catholics in religious life.
You can read my homily at the symposium here.
- – -
The following day I traveled to St. Angela Merici Parish in Mattapan to celebrate the parish centennial Mass. Before the Mass, we visited with Karen Mallory, a long time parishioner who is dying of cancer. She served as a catechist for many years and was a public school teacher and administrator. She is part of a lovely family that is very active at the parish.
The Mass was bilingual, in Creole and English. They had two choirs, one sang in Haitian and the other English. Both were fabulous. At the end of the Mass, they sang Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in French. It was just magnificent.
St. Angela’s pastor, Father William Joy, has done a great job and his predecessor Father Timothy Murphy was also able to attend the Mass. Father Murphy first recognized the need to reach out to the immigrant community, built up the parish as well.
It was good for him to be able to see the fruits of his labor. We are also so grateful to Father Gabriel Michel, the Haitian priest in charge of ministry to that community.
- – -
Then, on Monday night I went to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the board of directors of Catholic University. One of the board members, Ray J. Hillenbrand, arranged for a dinner for the board at the Hay-Adams Hotel.
The dinner was held on the roof of the hotel, and it was a lovely night to eat outside. The view was exceptional. We were able to look down at the White House, the Executive Building, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial — it was all right there. I lived in Washington for 20 years, and I never had that view of the city!
I took a photo with my telephone because, as I said, I had never seen this view. Unfortunately, my cell phone is not a very good camera, but it will give you an idea.
The next day we spent in meetings about the university and the board’s effectiveness. We are all very enthused about the very fine work of Father David O’Connell who has brought about what I call the “Golden Age of Catholic University.”
We were interviewed by the student newspaper, and I told them that in the past 10 years there has been much growth in enrollment, the number of buildings and the Catholic identity of the university. There have also been many vocations coming out of CUA. It is just a joy to see how that university has blossomed in the last decade. I am very proud to be an alumnus and a member of the board of directors.
- – -
On Wednesday we were reminded of the Lord Jesus’ abiding presence in our Archdiocesan Pastoral Center as we dedicated a beautiful altar and celebrated the opening of the Bethany Chapel, located on the first floor of our building. The celebration of this milestone during our bicentennial year brings me great joy as I marvel at all the wonderful things God has done and continues to do in our midst.
The Eucharist gives life to the Church and fills us with hope. It is my hope that in this new chapel we will continue to discover the Lord’s boundless love for us. Strengthened by that love, we will grow as his disciples and see our own ministry and outreach as an extension of the Lord’s loving service to us, his friends.
“I no longer call you servants, I call you friends.” Jesus’ words in the Gospel are an invitation for us to enter into the Lord’s friendship. For this reason I chose to name this chapel after Bethany, a village less than two miles from Jerusalem. It was in Bethany that the Lord chose to spend time with his closest friends, most notably Martha and Mary, and their brother, Lazarus. Martha invites her sister, Mary, to sit and listen to the Lord, saying, “The teacher is here, and He is calling you.” This phrase, in Latin, is inscribed over the sanctuary of our new chapel, inviting us all to sit and listen to the words of the Teacher.
We hear Him speak through the Scriptures, and we are strengthened by the Eucharist to live His commands, obedient to His teaching.
One of the most prominent features of our new chapel is the Tabernacle, or Eucharistic Pyx. It has come to us from Spain and is a replica of an ancient tabernacle used in the East. It takes its shape from the dove, a sign of the Holy Spirit, and is suspended over the Altar.
This custom began in the East during the earliest centuries of the Church, and it is mentioned in the 6th century writings of St. Gregory of Tours. This tabernacle is a visible reminder of our Lord’s presence in the Church and in our midst here at the Pastoral Center.
Allow me to extend my profound gratitude to the Flatley family, and in particular to Mr. Thomas Flatley, who was called home to the Lord this past spring. Tom made family and Church his top priorities and he inspired us to live out his vision for this new Pastoral Center.
To begin the dedication Mass, I accepted the key to the chapel from Tom Flatley’s son, Dan
I would also like to thank Reverend Robert O’Grady, Kevin Kiley, Jim McDonough and all those who assisted him in preparing Bethany Chapel for the dedication celebration. I am most grateful for all the hard work and planning that contributed to our beautiful new worship space.
Sprinkling Holy Water throughout the chapel and on the altar
The relics which were placed in the altar
And it is a special joy that we have the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master at the Pastoral Center to be a presence in that chapel.
As part of the dedication, the chapel is also incensed
Anointing the altar
Until next week, blessings to you all!
- Cardinal Seán