Of course, this past Tuesday was Election Day. I voted in the gymnasium of the Cathedral High School and the line was around the block. It is very comforting to see so many people participate in the democratic process and many people — who in the past would not have voted—this year felt compelled to exercise their rights and duties as citizens.
The election of an African-American as president certainly is a historic moment in our history. Hopefully, it indicates that the worst legacies of slavery and racism are behind us. It is also a sign to the world that the majority of Americans do believe in equality and want to promote racial equality in our country and in the world. Our prayer is that the new administration and the new Congress will work for a just and lasting peace and to protect the dignity of human life in all its stages, from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death.
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Sunday, I attended the 2008 Humanitarian Award Dinner in New York City for the group Hope for a Healthier Humanity. The organization was founded by Dr. Mary Healey-Sedutto, who was the CEO of Catholic hospitals in New York under Cardinal O’Connor, and her husband, to provide support for the Latin American missions.
The dinner is sponsored by the law firm Ropes and Gray every year and is a major fundraiser for the organization. The dinner was held at the firm’s office on the Avenue of the Americas in Mid-town Manhattan.
This year, they honored Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Madariaga, the president of Caritas Internationalis and the archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Cardinal Rodriguez has been a supporter of Hope for a Healthier Humanity since the beginning.
There were many priests from the Archdiocese of New York there, as well as many Franciscans from the Immaculate Conception Province. These are the friars that are here at the St. Francis Center and St. Leonard’s in the North End, and have missions in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. These missions have been the beneficiaries of the medical services and supplies Hope for a Healthier Humanity provides.
Here in the archdiocese, we sponsor a similar organization, Caritas Por Cristo, which operates a health care mission with a focus on Ecuador. Our Por Cristo Health and Nutrition Center was started in Guayaquil 10 years ago and since then has provided care to thousands of the residents there, especially the women and children under five. The Community Health and Tuberculosis Project in Barrio Jaime Roldos was inspired by a missionary from the Society of St. James. The project offers free TB screenings and other services to combat infectious diseases.
In addition to its facilities and its modern medical equipment, Por Cristo brings our world-class doctors, nurses and technicians from the Caritas Christi system to some of the most underserved and underprivileged people in Latin America.
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On Halloween evening, the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults organized a Mass for young adults at St. Leonard’s Church in the North End.
Although it was Halloween, there was nothing really Halloween-ish about the night. The theme was all about the Feast of All Saints and the fraternity of bringing people together for socializing afterwards. Still, I didn’t really know what to expect. I thought some might show up in costumes.
In fact, some of the younger priests who attended told me that, as they walked through the North End, people kept asking them, “Are you a real priest? Is that a Halloween costume?”
The Mass started at 9 p.m. and afterwards there was a reception with coffee and pastries provided by the local merchants. The church was full for the event and it was quite an eclectic group. There were young adults form some of the ethnic ministries, the campus ministries of the various colleges and universities and from youth groups at some of the parishes.
This was the second event we had there. Last spring we had the Eucharistic Congress at St. Stephen’s, the Eucharistic Procession through the North End and the closing Mass at St. Leonard’s, which was a great success. It is a great venue to bring people together.
Our hope is to have an event in the North End every month. It is an area where young people tend to congregate. The inspiration came from what they have done in Rome at the Piazza Navona, at the Church of Santa Agnese. There they have Mass for young adults and Holy Hours and other activities, right in the heart of the night life for young people in Rome.
I want to thank Father Matt Williams, the vocations office and, of course, Father Antonio Nardoianni, the pastor of St. Leonard’s, who is always so gracious.
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Saturday, we visited with the Carmelite Sisters in Danvers to help them celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of their Monastery of Discalced Carmelite Nuns. The sisters invited more than 1,200 people. I think all of them came and the weather was simply spectacular. Needless to say, the church was packed, and there was a large group of people outside.
Bishop Frank Irwin, who is very close to the community, concelebrated the Mass with me, as did many other priests. After the Mass, we all went through the cloister to the cemetery, where we prayed the litany at the graves of the founding sisters there.
The reception was held in the monastery garden with the sisters.
The community is obviously very much loved and many of their benefactors, friends and relatives accompanied them on this very important day.
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Saturday evening, I attended the Centennial Dinner of the cathedral parish of The Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton. It was a weekend long celebration and I was glad to be able to attend the banquet.
Archbishop Cyril Bustros of the Newton Eparchy was there and so was the Melkite Patriarch His Beatitude Gregory III. At the dinner, the Melkites presented me with this wonderful icon of the Annunciation.
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Later on that day, I attended a banquet in honor of His Beatitude Ignatius IV, Patriarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church who is visiting the United States. I was very happy to be able to offer greetings on behalf of the archdiocese. The majority of their faithful in Syria and Lebanon and they have a very close affinity for the Catholic Church.
So, Saturday night, I was with two patriarchs, who both live in Damascus, very close to each other, one is Catholic and the other is Orthodox, and both happened to be in Boston on the same night.
Both men told me how involved they were in the Pauline Year and how significant it is in Damascus, which of course was the place of St. Paul’s conversion.
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Sunday was All Souls Day, and on this day, priests are allowed to celebrate three Masses. I celebrated my first Mass at the cathedral at 8 a.m. Afterwards, I went to celebrate Mass at St. Clare’s in Braintree with Father Paul Sughrue, the pastor, and join them for the 50th anniversary of their parish community. Then I celebrated a Mass for the Society of Saint James at Boston College High.
The Mass at St. Clare’s was a wonderful service, with great participation and enthusiastic singing. I told them I really felt particularly at home, especially now that our Pastoral Center is in their town. It is also nice that their 50th anniversary coincides with the 200th anniversary of the archdiocese.
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Later in the day, I celebrated Mass at Boston College High School for the St. James Society with retired Bishop John Boles, and then attended their annual banquet. The Cushing Dinner and the Cushing Awards are named for the society’s founder, Cardinal Richard Cushing. The current leader of the society is Msgr. Finbarr O’Leary.
The society gave the Cushing Award to three outstanding individuals Kathleen Driscoll, Patty Brett and Thomas Martin.
Cardinal Cushing died on All Souls Day, Nov. 2, 1970, and is buried in a simple grave at the Portiuncula Chapel at the St. Coletta Home for Special Needs Children.
Fifty years ago, he had the wonderful idea of sending regular diocesan priests to the missions of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Since its founding, the St. James Society has sent more than 300 priests to those countries, including Bishop Robert Hennessey. Many of those priests returned to serve in the Hispanic ministries of the archdiocese.
In recognition of their service I presented special lapel pins to the alumni priests who were present.
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Tuesday night, I joined 50 or 60 young men discerning their vocation to the priesthood at a vocational dinner, called St. Andrews Dinner, organized by the Vocations Office.
The highlight of the evening was the speaking program when three of our seminarians shared their experiences with those attending. I encourage all those young men to continue to discern if God is calling them.
Until next week, blessings!
+ Cardinal Seán