Happy New Year to all!
In the Church calendar, we are still in the Christmas season. One week after celebrating the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. This is when the whole Church gathers to congratulate the new mother and celebrate the great mystery of Mary, Theotokos.
For many years in the Church, it has been a day when we offer prayers for peace. This year, we especially pray for peace in our world, for the end of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the safe return of our troops.
We also pray for peace in the Holy Land, where we see armed conflict has flared up again on the hallowed land of Jesus’ birth and where he spent his life on earth.
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Christmas Eve, I went to Pine Street Inn, where we visited with the residents, staff and volunteers. The director, Lyndia Downie, has done and extraordinary job there. Msgr. Frank Kelley, one of the shelter’s founders, accompanied me. Msgr. Frank is still very involved at the shelter and a member of their board of directors. He is also one of those special priests who has a deep passion for social justice and service to the poor. This is just another manifestation of his priestly service and commitment.
One of the volunteers I met was David Gergen, who was President Clinton’s Chief of Staff and also worked on the White House staff of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. David teaches at the Kennedy School of Government and told me he was there with his wife and grandchildren to teach them the lesson of service to the poor at Christmas.
This year, as the economy worsens, we see more people are losing their jobs and homes. Those people are turning to social service agencies, like Pine Street Inn and Catholic Charities, who are doing their best to provide a safety net.
The Pine Street Inn does a great job of providing a safe haven for people who have lost their home during Christmas time.
Before the Nativity, the Holy Family was told there was no room at the inn. Well, there is room at the Pine Street Inn. The people at Pine Street have opened their hearts to those in need and they deserve everyone’s support.
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We had a wonderful turnout for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
The church was beautifully decorated and the choir did an amazing job both before the service with a chorale prelude and during the Mass. It was a very worthy celebration of Christ’s birth.
Christmas morning, we went to Channel 7 for my customary Christmas television Mass. The Mass was also broadcast on CatholicTV and on Channel 56, so it was seen throughout New England.
The Daughters of St. Paul provided the music and the singing for the Mass. They are always so generous to contribute to this Mass every year.
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After the Mass, we visited the St. Francis House day shelter, which grew out of the ministry at St. Anthony’s Shrine. The shelter is a place for the homeless to go during the day. The staff there also helps the guest find work and job training. The shelter also allows more than 1,000 guests to use the mailroom as their mailing address.
Although it is a day shelter, there are 56 residents upstairs. These individuals were given their own keys to their own rooms after they demonstrated their commitment to a sober lifestyle and have made progress towards living on their own.
The director, Karen DeFrazio, told me that she is so proud of the community of residents and the way they help themselves and each other.
Karen also told me that because of the economic stresses we are facing, she is seeing more and more families coming to St. Francis House for help.
St. Francis House has so many wonderful volunteers, who support the staff. My visit was an opportunity to thank the volunteers and staff and meet with the guests for Christmas.
With all of the media attention, I hope I was able to draw attention to the good work they are doing there and encourage people to help them.
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The Monday after Christmas, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Barry Knestout.
For the past few years, Bishop Knestout has been working in the Washington chancery as moderator of the curia and vicar for administration. Before that, he was Cardinal Hickey’s secretary and was very good taking care of Cardinal Hickey during his illness.
It was a wonderful appointment for Washington. It is the first time in a long time that they have a Washington priest become an auxiliary bishop. He is a native of the Washington Archdiocese, and his brother is also a priest in the archdiocese. His father was a permanent deacon until his death in 1997. He went to Catholic schools and is a part of a very large family of Italian extraction.
His appointment has been welcomed with great joy by the people. I was extremely happy to be a part of the celebration. Retired Washington Cardinals Baum and McCarrick were there as well Cardinal Keeler, and many bishops who, like me, have worked in Washington over the years.
The ordination took place at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, a place that has sentimental significance to me.
I celebrated my first public Mass there in 1970. I celebrated the Mass in Spanish to a group of mostly Cubans on the Feast of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad del Cobre. Until I was ordained a bishop, I celebrated Mass there every Sunday and heard confessions every Saturday.
It was a very happy occasion for Archbishop Wuerl and for the Catholics of Washington.
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New Years Eve, I celebrated Mass at St. Mary’s in Waltham. This Mass has traditionally been dedicated to the Pro-Life Ministry, but this year we were joined by other communities, including the Hispanic Ministry, the Indian community, members of Communion and Liberation and people active in our young adult programs.
We had a Holy Hour that began 10:30 p.m. with adoration and we said the rosary together.
After the Holy Hour, Marianne Luthin, the director of the Pro-Life Office, addressed the congregation. Marianne talked about the upcoming holy hours that will be held in more than 125 parishes across the archdiocese on the night before the Jan. 22 March for Life. At least 62 of them will be presided over and preached at by deacons, who are members of Deacons for Life, a new group of deacons advocating the culture of life in their parishes.
At midnight, I celebrated the Mass with several priests and deacons, including the pastor, Father Mike Nolan, and Deacon Sean Carey. Deacon Sean is a deaf seminarian studying at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, California, to be a priest in Boston. He is home for the holidays and it was his first time assisting me at Mass as a deacon. It was such a joy to see him there.
The cantor at the Mass was a member of St. Mary’s Parish, Kateri Thekaekara, whose rendering of “Ave Maria” was very moving. Kateri is 16 years old and she has been singing at St. Mary’s since she was in the first grade. She did not start soloing until she was in second grade. We were blessed to have such a talented singer at our service.
Despite the snowstorm and the howling wind there were many people there from all over the archdiocese who were seeking an alternative to the more common way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It was a good way to end the old year in God’s presence and begin the New Year celebrating the Eucharist.
The year we have just finished has certainly had its challenges. But, it also had its blessings. It was the archdiocese’s Bicentennial Year and the year of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit.
We are still in the Pauline Year, which commemorates the 2000th anniversary of St. Paul’s birth and ends on June 29, the Feast of the Sts. Peter and Paul. In my homily, I encouraged the people to consider the great themes of Paul’s life: his conversion to the Lord, his love for the Word of God and the missionary nature of the Church, which is the idea that we must share the faith we have received courageously and generously.
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When I arrived in Boston, I began the custom of celebrating Jan. 1 at the cathedral with the Haitian community to mark Haitian Independence Day, as I did in Florida. The response has been wonderful. In addition to members of that community joining us from all over the archdiocese, we were joined by many priests and deacons.
The Mass was in both Creole and French and the choir was magnificent.
At the end of the Mass they have the tradition of chanting the “Te Deum” in Latin in thanksgiving for their independence.
They also presented me with a beautiful rendering of Negre Marron, who was the first slave to call for independence from the French. Negre Marron is shown playing the conch shell he used to rally the people from the mountainside.
I should also note that the collection at the Mass will be used to help the victims of the hurricanes and other natural disasters visited upon that nation in the passed year. It has been a very difficult year for the Haitian people.
I am looking forward to the blessings of the New Year and I wish you all success and contentment for you and your families.