Hello once again!
On Friday, I met with Rev. Diane Kessler who joined me for lunch at the Pastoral Center.
For many years Rev. Kessler was the head of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. She is now a representative of the World Council of Churches to the Joint Working Group. The group was created after the Second Vatican Council and designed to foster relationships between the World Council of Churches and the Catholic Church.
Rev. Kessler is a leader from the ecumenical community and an old friend. She was visiting the Pastoral Center and discussing the state of ecumenical relations between the Catholic Church and the other Christian churches. An important part of our ministry is to work for the unity among Christians that Christ wants in His Church. Diane is someone who has devoted her whole life to that quest. I was happy to be able to receive her for the first time at the Pastoral Center.
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Saturday morning we went to Arnold Hall, a retreat center in Pembroke, for a Mass and visit with the members of Opus Dei.
During my visit, I had a chance speak with Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, as well as Msgr. Thomas Bohlin, who is Vicar of Opus Dei for the U.S., and Father Peter Armenio from Chicago.
After that meeting, I celebrated Mass for a group of young men who are taking their summer courses at Arnold Hall. These are men who are numeraries of Opus Dei, laymen who have made commitments to live in a manner that will help them witness their faith to the people they meet in the course of their daily lives. Most of them are college students, graduate students and young professionals. It was very impressive to see how many vocations Opus Dei has.
In Opus Dei, most of the members do not take the private vows of poverty, chastity and obedience but the numeraries are the ones who do. The priests for Opus Dei are chosen out of the numeraries. They do not have a seminary, but all the numeraries receive the appropriate training and certain men are chosen to be ordained.
We stayed for lunch, and then we met with all of the young men. Many of them talked about their experiences and ministries. I was very taken by the apostolic zeal that was demonstrated in the stories that they told and how they are working to share their faith with their peers in the workplace, their schools, etc.
In today’s world where people talk about a vocations crisis, it is very encouraging to see the wonderful response to this way of life that has been approved by the Church and confirmed in the holiness of their founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá.
I think many people heard about the Opus Dei for the first time when the movie “The Da Vinci Code” came out. Although it was a very negative portrayal, it seems to have put Opus Dei on the map, as the say, at least in the United States. In the end, it does not seem to have hurt the community but rather made them more well known.
John Allen, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter, wrote a very interesting book about Opus Dei, titled “Opus Dei: An Objective Look Behind the Myths and Reality of the Most Controversial Force in the Catholic Church,” which I recommend to people who would like to know more about this way of life.
Of course, the writings of St. Josemaría are also very important, the most important being El Camino, which is a very easy read. It is almost like a book of sayings by the saint, organized according to themes.
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First thing on Sunday morning, I traveled to St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Lawrence where a youth group was returning from a service trip to the Diocese of San Juan de la Maguana in the Dominican Republic. They talked about the missions they visited down there and they sang a song that they had written about it. I asked the parish to send some of the photos of the work they did on the mission trip, and I want share them with you:
A chapel they are helping to build
They made donations of numerous supplies to a local nursing home there including hospital beds and these tables and chairs
Just to give you some sense of the area, this the town where the nursing home is located
All the pilgrims with the bishop of the diocese, Bishop Grullon
At the Mass, I addressed the people, thanking them for their deep faith and congratulating them on being the parish that regularly sends the most catechumens to the Rite of Election every year. I believe that demonstrates their great spirit and wonderful involvement of the laity in the life of the parish, particularly in the area of evangelization.
After the Mass, pastor Father Jorge Reyes, OSA invited me to meet the many different ministerial groups at the parish.
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From there, we went to Corpus Christi Parish at Holy Rosary Church in Lawrence, for Santo Cristo Feast Mass. This is my second Santo Cristo feast this year because we went to St. Anthony Parish in Cambridge earlier in the year. At Holy Rosary, they have a wonderful choir.
With the parents of Father Patrick Armano, Elia and Salvatore Armano, and my priest secretary, Father Jonathan Gaspar
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On Wednesday, I attended the 5th anniversary of the Vianney Priests Gathering. Every year the numbers have increased. This year, the turnout was wonderful. Father George Evans gave a conference on the Cure d’ Ars, which was followed by vespers at which I preached.
Then, we had a cookout and, luckily, the weather cooperated. It was overcast and cool, but very pleasant.
This is the Year for Priests and events like this give us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of our priestly fraternity, renewing our commitment to serve God’s people and being members of his presbyterate. We must also deepen our interior life.
There will be many activities during the course of the year in order to promote priestly identity and spirituality including an international retreat for priests in Ars, France and a seminar here at the seminary on the meaning and importance of celibacy for the Church.
I am very grateful to Father William Kelly for his work on ongoing formation for priests.
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Yesterday I went to Our Lady of Victory Church in Centerville and there presided over the reception of the body of Eunice Kennedy Shriver in an intimate ceremony with the pastor, Father Mark Hession, and the members of the Kennedy and Shriver families.
The parking lot was crowded with media trucks and people. The afternoon viewing afforded the opportunity for thousands of people to file through the church and pay their respects to this great Catholic woman. I was happy to be able to be a part of this simple prayer service in which her family placed the pall and crucifix on her coffin, prayed and reflected on the Scripture.
I was very pleased to be able to see Sargent Shriver after so many years. With his Alzheimer’s, it was difficult to know exactly how much he understood of the day’s events and I did not know if he would recognize me. It had been many years since I had last seen him, but I was very moved when he immediately kissed my ring.
I was touched by how solicitous the family was for him, especially Gov. Schwarzenegger, who is obviously a very devoted son-in-law.
Some of the Shriver children remembered the time I celebrated Mass for the Shrivers, Cesar Chavez and about 100 farm workers in their patio back in the 70s. The Shrivers were living in Maryland at the time and I was at the Centro Católico in Washington. I joked with them, “I think we destroyed your garden!”
That work with the farm workers was just one more indication of the profound commitment of Eunice and Sargent Shriver to the social doctrine of the Church. She was preeminently prolife, against abortion and there to protect and underscore the dignity of every person. This, of course, manifested itself in her love for children with disabilities.
In that regard, she reminds me very much of Jean Vanier who founded the L’Arche movement in Canada. That movement was born out of the Church’s teachings on the dignity of every human person as a treasure made in the image and likeness of God and of our obligation to care for each other and to recognize the gift in each person.
Certainly, what Eunice Shriver did made a positive impact in so many ways and was a very strong witness of her Catholic faith.
Her sister, Rosemary, who was mentally retarded, opened up a whole reality that led Eunice to be such a pioneer and allowed her to make such a mark on history with the Special Olympics. It has been my experience that when a family has a child with a mental disability or Down Syndrome, the siblings often learn more about compassion and understanding than they would have if they did have that exceptional child.
Rosemary was undoubtedly a great blessing in Eunice’s life who allowed her to discover, in faith and in love, the beauty of her sister. It was that relationship with Rosemary that was later extrapolated to all the children who experience similar types of challenges.
While Eunice’s works were remarkable, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that her Catholic faith and education was a very important part of what motivated her and helped her to interpret reality, particularly the reality of disability and retardation. I think this article by her son, Timothy Shriver, speaks volumes about the importance of her faith in her life. It was certainly the soil out of which grew her passion and dedication to the less fortunate and those who are challenged by disabilities and mental retardation.
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Next week I will be heading off to Cuba with a delegation from the U.S. bishops to see how the Church in Cuba is recovering in the wake of Hurricanes Gustav and Ike last year.
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return.
Until then, pray for me and know I will be praying for you.
– Cardinal Seán