Hello and welcome,
This past Thursday, the Catholic Church lost one of its greatest priests and intellectual giants. Father Richard John Neuhaus was a theologian who strove for holiness, and who brought the truth of the Gospel to the arena of public life. With Catholics everywhere, I am profoundly grateful for the brilliant work that Father Neuhaus achieved for the intellectual life of the Church.
As a convert from the Lutheran faith to Catholicism, he continued to maintain healthy ties with Evangelical Christianity, a relationship that enabled him to become a leading voice for the Church in the area of ecumenical dialogue. As we prepare to say “goodbye” to one of God’s holy and faithful priests, we pray that the Lord will look with kindness on this holy servant.
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Saturday, I was glad to confer consecration upon a new consecrated virgin, Joan McCann, at the chapel of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. We currently have 14 consecrated virgins in the archdiocese and there are more than 150 in the United States.
This ancient practice allows women to follow their special calling of complete consecration to God in the state of virginity, and to serve God’s people, the Church.
As the Church grew, and the number of religious orders expanded and third order groups were established, the practice died out because of the number of other options available.
Today, we are seeing the practice is now being revived, since it was formally restored in 1970. It is a great gift to us.
These women remain in the world living amongst us and yet, they are not of this world because of their special devotion to Christ. One of the gifts they bring to us is that these women make special time in their lives for the entire community.
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Sunday morning, we celebrated a Mass in honor of the 125th anniversary of St. Michael’s Parish in Lowell. It is a large and vibrant parish.
Many priests and deacons were there, as well as many of the Dominican sisters who for many years taught and administered the parish’s school.
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On Sunday night, the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master hosted me and a number of priests for an Epiphany gathering at their convent on West Street in Downtown Boston. After praying together we went upstairs for a great meal, lots of laughter, and a Christmas Carol Sing-Along. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas!
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Monday, I made my annual visit to MCI-Framingham, the oldest active women’s prison in the country. Although the buildings are very old, the programs and services there are quite up-to-date.
With Sgt. Crystal Johnson, the Chaplain Sister Maureen Clark and Officer Marisa Filice
I was very impressed with the wonderful training programs available. There is even a program through which the women can earn a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, which was started by Dr. John Silber many years ago.During my visit, I met one of the students in the program who will be graduating with her degree soon.
There are also training programs that make it possible for the women to enter a number of occupations, including the fields of cosmetology and food service. All the trainees receive a certificate upon completion of the program.
The women training to work in the food service industry prepared a lovely luncheon for us.
We had Mass at the prison’s old chapel, which has a beautiful stained glass window depicting “The Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon,” by St. Francis.
Afterwards, I met with the women living in solitary confinement, and then with women on work release and those preparing to be released.
Together, we had a nice dialogue and shared a prayer.
It was a wonderful day. The prison guards and officials are always so accommodating, especially Superintendent Lynn Bissonnette and Deputy Superintendent Joseph Murphy.
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Later that day I met the chairwoman of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional board, Esta Gordon Epstein, and the new regional director, Derek Shulman.
During our meeting, they gave me copy of a new book, “My Jewish Friend,” which the ADL is now using in various outreach and educational programs.
It was also good to see Dianne Rosenbaum again. Dianne is the senior associate director of ADL New England and last St. Patrick’s Day she brought a group of Jewish students to meet me.
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Tuesday, we hosted a reception at the Pastoral Center in appreciation of the success of the two high schools in the archdiocese that have adopted the Cristo Rey educational model: North Cambridge Catholic High School and Notre Dame High School in Lawrence.
The Jesuit priest who founded the Cristo Rey movement, Father John Foley, spoke to us about how he conceived of this unique approach which places inner-city high school students in professional and corporate internships. The money they earn through the internships offsets a good portion of their tuition.
Recently, President Bush honored Father Foley with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, for the movement he founded 13 years ago.
I made remarks, but the real purpose of the speaking program, which was hosted by Mary Grassa O’Neill, our Superintendent of Catholic schools, was to spread the message of the concrete results of Cristo Rey’s success here.
In addition to remarks from Robert McCarthy, the president of North Cambridge Catholic and Sister Mary Murphy, the president of Notre Dame, we heard from students who are in the schools.
Joseph Lewis from North Cambridge and Lourdes Ramos from Notre Dame are both seniors and they shared what Cristo Rey has meant to them, their families and the other students.
The principals of both schools, Father Jose Media at NCC and Thomas Ryan at NDHS were both introduced and met with people afterwards. It was great to see both of them.
Thomas O’Neill III also made remarks.
Tom has been a great leader on the board of North Cambridge Catholic and has helped raised money for the program and signed up an incredible number of businesses who have given jobs to these students. He is a great ambassador for Cristo Rey.
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Wednesday afternoon, we met at the Brighton motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Joseph with the provincials of women’s religious orders here in the archdiocese. The purpose of the meeting was to follow up on the symposium hosted by Stonehill College last fall on consecrated life in the Church.
It was also an opportunity to present them with a new book prepared as part of our Bicentennial Year on the history of religious orders in the archdiocese over the last two centuries.
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That evening I visited with senior priests living at the Regina Cleri residence in Boston’s West End. This was our annual Christmas visit and we were joined by a number of auxiliary bishops and active priests.
Before the dinner, the priests concelebrated the Mass with me. It was moving to see the pews filled with my brother priests vested and participating with me.
I was surprised and thrilled to meet a number of priests leaving for new assignments with the St. James Society for missions in Latin America.
Msgr. Finbar O’Leary, who is the society’s outgoing president, brought them around to meet me and made the introductions.
I would like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of Msgr. Finbar. He has done such a amazing job during his tenure, which included the celebration of the St. James Society’s 50th anniversary.
Monsignor told me that he is looking forward to returning to Ecuador, where he will be assigned and where he hopes to establish a L’Arche program.
The L’Arche communities are group homes where people with and without disabilities live together and enrich each other’s lives. The movement was founded in France by Jean Vanier in 1964.
I have every confidence that he will be successful and we wish him well.
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It was very moving to celebrate one of the most ancient rites of the Church Wednesday night with the Ethiopian and Eritrean communities at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. They are part of the cathedral’s parish family and together we marked their Feast of the Epiphany. In their countries, this is their actual celebration of Christmas.
I was joined for the more than three-hour Mass by Father Abina, who was accompanied by a Capuchian friar who is visiting from Eritrea, whose sister lives in the parish. One of our seminarians, an Ethiopian, Mammas Habtegiorgis, was there, too. It was a treat for members of this community to meet one of their own on his way to becoming a priest. It is always a beautiful celebration.
After the Mass, they had a great meal, which started around Midnight. I spoke to them and gave them my blessing. It was wonderful to hear them sing Christmas carols to me in their native language accompanied by the drums!
Until next week, blessings to you all!