This weekend we celebrate Palm Sunday, which marks the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem. Throughout this Holy Week, we will relive the Last Supper and his Passion, Death and Resurrection through liturgical celebrations. I encourage you to participate in your parish’s liturgies or to join me at the Cathedral as we celebrate this most important moment of our liturgical year.
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Last Thursday, I celebrated Mass and the confirmations of 48 youth at St. Mary’s in Billerica.
It was a very attentive group and the pastor, Father Francis Sullivan, was very pleased with them.
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Our religious education office gathered over 100 of the leaders of religious education in the parishes for workshops on Friday. I gave an address and led them in Midday Prayer. This event is just one more example of how different groups within the archdiocese are making good use of the Pastoral Center, which is very encouraging.
One of the great priorities of the archdiocese is the faith formation of our young people and we are so delighted that Janet Benestad is coming on board to be our new Cabinet Secretary for Faith Formation and Evangelization. She brings great experience and dedication to this very important aspect in the life of our Church.
At the same time, Father Brian Kiely’s Religious Education Committee, which has been working so diligently on an evaluation of our services and programs, is poised to make a presentation of their preliminary report. Of course, Janet will be very much involved in implementing those recommendations once we have had a chance to discuss them with the Presbyteral Council and other leaders of the diocese.
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Also on Friday, we were very happy to visit the Franciscan Hospital for Children, founded by the Allegany Franciscan Sisters. They do wonderful work there. It was originally a polio hospital but after the polio vaccine was introduced, it turned into a rehabilitation center for children.
I was there visiting one of their patients, Olivia Quigley, who is a first grader at East Boston Central Catholic School. When she had a very serious heart episode during her gym class, the teachers and the staff intervened by performing CPR and saved her life. This can be attributed to the training that the teachers have been given and their preparedness.
Olivia now has an implantable pacemaker like this one to make sure her heart keeps beating as it should
The amazing thing is that you might expect them to use those skills on the teachers — not on the children — but Olivia’s story goes to show that preparedness can avoid a great tragedy.
I met with Olivia and her family in Olivia’s hospital room before going downstairs to reception to celebrate the fact that Olivia was about ready to be discharged after about six weeks in the hospital.
I heard she loves to read, so I brought Olivia and her brother, Alex, books as a gift
I signed Alex’s book for him
She certainly got a lot of attention from the media who were invited to the reception
The teachers who saved Olivia’s life, Kathy Carabine and Robert Casaletto, and the school’s principal, Maryann Manfredonia.
Olivia is such a wonderful little girl, filled with life and she could have slipped away had there not been the care that was available to her in that moment of crisis.
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As in recent weeks, on Friday evening we met with a group of seminarians at the Cathedral. We are trying to have small groups come from our seminaries on a regular basis as a way to know them better through shared prayer and conversation.
These two photos are from a recent gathering
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A number of the parishes in Westwood and Norwood brought their youth together for a youth rally at Xaverian Brothers High School on Saturday.
The theme for the rally was “Catch the Spirit.” I spoke to them about being Catholic in today’s world and how important it is for them to have the courage to live our faith, even in the face of obstacles, difficulties and persecution. It was a spirit-filled group and, as always, it was wonderful to see out youth gathered together to celebrate our Catholic faith.
Father Matt Williams, from our Office of New Evangelization, was also involved in the afternoon, celebrating Mass with them in the evening.
Professional soccer player Luke Vercollone inspired teens at the rally
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That same night, I celebrated the confirmations of a large group of college students who have become involved in campus ministry programs at the various colleges in the area. There were about 60 students confirmed at the cathedral and, as always, it was a very beautiful event that brought together a lot of the chaplains from the colleges and universities, as well as the students and their families.
Not all of the students who were confirmed are from the archdiocese — many of them were from different states and countries. In Boston we have over a quarter of a million students from all over the world. There are over 80 colleges and universities in the metropolitan Boston area and our campus ministry is a very important part of what we do as the local Church.
Father Richard Clancy, the director of campus ministry, was there and introduced the students.
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The Little Sisters of the Poor, for the past couple of years, have had what they call their Black Tie Gala fundraiser. This year it was at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston.
Greeting Sister Marguerite, who is the new Director of Nursing at the their house in Somerville.
As you might imagine, I very seldom get to the Four Seasons, but I was happy to see the doorman whom I knew as he was one of my deacons from the Fall River Diocese.
Craig and Nancy Gibson. They both serve on the Advisory Board at Little Sisters of the Poor and have been involved with this annual dinner for the last six years.
The sisters do such extraordinary works of mercy caring for the elderly poor at their house in Somerville where they have been present for over 130 years.
The event chairperson was Bill Raftery whose aunt is a Little Sister of the Poor. She is a missionary in the Philippines who just recently (at 75-years-old!) started a new home for the elderly there.
With Bill Raftery
He started this dinner six years ago and has chaired the event each year with outstanding success. He has raised almost $1 million dollars to support the Little Sisters and their important work of caring for the elderly poor. Bill is a senior executive at EMC Corp. Each year he reaches out to fellow EMC employees and other friends with encouragement to be part of the dinner.
We congratulated the Sisters on the wonderful news that their foundress, Jeanne Jugan, will be canonized in the fall. There will be representatives from each of their houses to participate in that wonderful event.
Sister Marguerite, Sister Rose, Earl and Flora Thompson, Sister Mary Vincent and Sister Gertrude Mary. Earl is a General Contractor and has been a friend and benefactor to the Little Sisters for over 20 years.
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Bishop Timothy McDonnell, from the Diocese of Springfield, and Father Douglas McGonagle, the chaplain at UMass Amherst, have been inviting me for some time to come and visit the Newman Center on campus and celebrate Mass for the students. After all, half of the students are from the archdiocese!
I was so inspired by the wonderful facilities that Bishop Weldon built there, which has become one of the largest Catholic missions found on a secular college campus.
They have a huge cafeteria and many meeting rooms. Apparently, it is a favorite place for students to gather to eat and partake in all kinds of activities. They have a beautiful, large chapel there, as well. The Mass was also attended by Gottfried Leich and his wife. Gottfried is a Lutheran minister who is a scripture scholar.
After Mass they presented me with a bound copy of Cardinal Cushing’s inaugural sermon when they dedicated the student center around 60 years ago. I said I was relieved when they gave it to me because I was feeling guilty that I preached so long, but I’m sure my sermon wasn’t a fraction of how long Cardinal Cushing’s was at the inaugural talk!
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We had the St. Andrew’s Dinner on Monday at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and there were 55 young men who came from a variety of parishes. They were there for Holy Hour and a program where four seminarians gave witness talks about their vocations including one in Spanish by Carlos Suarez. Afterwards they had the opportunity for a question and answer session with me and then I concluded the evening with remarks and blessings.
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The vicar general of the Sister Disciples in Rome, Sister Gemma Victorino, visited me at the Pastoral Center on Tuesday with Sister Agar, the treasurer of the Sister Disciples, on her visit to the houses across the United States. The Sister Disciples have a very important presence in the diocese, not only for the Liturgical Art Center but also through their work at Regina Cleri, our residence for retired priests, and now at the new Pastoral Center.
Theirs is a life of service and contemplation and, in a particular way, they have been so supportive of our priests in the archdiocese and we are very, very grateful for their presence. Because of them we have a lovely gift shop at the Pastoral Center and the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration, which they organize each day here at the chapel.
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Tuesday evening, we had the Catholic Schools Foundation’s Annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Dinner and fundraiser.
With Carolyn Lynch, John Silber and Peter Lynch
Talking with Mary Richardson and her husband, Stan Leven. Mary was the host of our dinner program
Carolyn and our Superintendent of Schools, Mary Grassa O’Neill
It was an incredible event. The student speaker for the evening was Poline Chhor from Cambodia, a scholarship fund recipient who is a junior at Lowell Catholic High School. He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand.
I met his parents who came to the United States 16 years ago and resettled in the Lowell area through the Catholic Church.
His parents have always worked and sacrificed to get him into Catholic schools — he was in the Franco-American School, a Catholic primary school in Lowell, and now is at Lowell Catholic and has done a fantastic job.
Students from St. Peter School in Cambridge gave a wonderful musical performance
He gave a wonderful talk about the suffering of his family under the Khmer Rouge persecution and how the Church has given him so many great opportunities and a hope for the future — it was so moving. His aspiration in life is to pursue a medical doctorate degree and be a physician. He was just an extraordinary speaker. He thanked his parents and it was very, very moving.
And then, John Silber spoke. Of course, the reason that he was asked to give the keynote is that over 20 years ago he founded Boston University’s Cardinal Humberto Medeiros Scholarship Program which has provided over $30 million in four-year, full-tuition scholarships to over 400 students from local archdiocesan high schools to study at Boston University.
He talked passionately about the important contribution of the Catholic school system in Boston and throughout the country, and how superior it is to any other school system in preparing children for life.
He said the 98% graduation rate, in itself, could be challenged on the assumption of having low-standards. But, having 98% of the graduates admitted to college, he said, is a validation of the excellent education that these students are getting at our Catholic schools.
Then Dr. Silber talked about the discipline and values instilled in kids during their Catholic education and what an important contribution it is to their lives. He called everyone to double their contributions, which I thought was great.
He gave a very learned talk about the public school system, having been chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Education. He has very strong opinions backed up by airtight research. He was very critical of many of the government policies in the United States that he feels contribute to the breakdown of family life.
He spoke of the importance of early education and his visit to the John Paul II School, which he said was one of the finest schools he had ever visited in his life. He says everything with such passion — it was a wonderful talk. He is just so extraordinary. What a tragedy that he was not elected governor of Massachusetts in 1990!
When you take into account his dealing with a handicap his entire life, it is extraordinary what he did at Boston University; as they say, he took it from a good university and made it a great university.
At the dinner, ICSF honored Roger Joseph and his law firm, Bingham McCutchen, with The Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award for their work that has contributed very, very generously to the scholarship fund, also sponsoring interns from North Cambridge Catholic.
Students from several of our inner Catholic schools were present that evening as greeters alongside other scholarship fund recipients who displayed some of their science projects.
There was a wonderful video presentation put together by Alison Birmingham, the specials producer over at WCVB-TV, on Catholic schools and their formula for success. The video was very well done.