Hello and welcome back!
Last Saturday, Archbishop Thomas Kwaku Mensah from Kumasi, Ghana visited us at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He and a number of his priests and people were visiting our immigrant community from Ghana.
He is a neighbor to Cardinal Peter Turkson, also from Ghana, who is a very good friend of mine and used to help me when I was in the Virgin Islands.
We are very blessed by the African Catholics who have moved to the Bay State. Africa is the continent where the Church is growing the fastest, and the immigration to our country reflects that extraordinary growth in the life of the Catholic Church.
Within the archdiocese, we have communities of Catholics from Ghana, Nigeria, Congo and Uganda as well as the Ethiopian-Eritrean community at the cathedral itself.
There are so many whose arrival on our shores these last years have enriched the Church. So, we are very pleased we occasionally have the opportunity to greet their bishops. We are also very pleased that the bishops from their home countries feel a responsibility and a link to the immigrant communities that are forming here.
During his visit, Archbishop Mensah thanked me for the support his diocese has received through the mission appeals that are done in our parishes. He has had his priests preach at our parishes, and the Catholics of Boston have been very generous to him.
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Sunday Aug. 2 is the Feast of the Portiuncula in Assisi, Italy, and it is also the anniversary of my ordination as a bishop.
This church is considered, in many ways, the mother church of the Franciscan order. It is where St. Francis held the chapters, the meetings of the friars; it is where St. Clare took her vows; it is where St. Francis chose to die.
The Portiuncula is a very tiny chapel and, in order to preserve it, the large Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels has been built on top of it. So it looks a bit funny when you go into the basilica and find another church inside.
In this photo you can see how the Portiuncula looks almost like a playhouse inside the basilica
The Franciscan friars still pay the rent on the Portiuncula, which actually belongs to the Benedictines. For nearly 800 years, we have been paying one basket of fish a year. I always say that it is the greatest example of rent control in the history of the world!
Those in the Boston area who have never seen the original may be interested to know that Cardinal Richard Cushing built a magnificent replica of the Portiuncula in Hanover at the Cardinal Cushing Centers. In fact, he chose the chapel as his final resting place.
Cardinal Cushing at the chapel’s original dedication
He was so dedicated to detail that even made sure that all the materials that went into building it came from Assisi
The interior and exterior of the replica Portiuncula in Hanover as it exists today
An interesting fact related to the Portiuncula is the story of the Portiuncula Indulgence.
St. Francis was anxious for people to be able to receive the same indulgences and blessings that they would receive had they been able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. So he went to the pope and requested that those indulgences and blessings be attached to a visit to the Portiuncula. This was called the Portiuncula Indulgence and the feast became known as the “Perdono d’ Assisi”, the Pardon of Assisi.
That privilege was later extended to all Franciscan chapels and churches. After the Second Vatican Council, it was extended even further to include a visit to any parish church on that day, as long as the usual requirements for a plenary indulgence are fulfilled: going to Confession, receiving Communion, and praying for the intentions of the Holy Father.
The Holy Father made reference to this in his Sunday Angelus address:
… today is the feast of the "Pardon of Assisi," which St. Francis obtained from Pope Honorious III in the year 1216, after having a vision while he was praying in the little church of the Portiuncula. Jesus appeared to him in his glory, with the Virgin Mary on his right and surrounded by many Angels. They asked him to express a wish and Francis implored a "full and generous pardon" for all those who would visit that church who "repented and confessed their sins". Having received papal approval, the Saint did not wait for any written document but hastened to Assisi and when he reached the Portiuncula announced the good news: "Friends, the Lord wants to have us all in Heaven!". Since then, from noon on 1 August to midnight on the second, it has been possible to obtain, on the usual conditions, a Plenary Indulgence, also for the dead, on visiting a parish church or a Franciscan one.
I want to mention something about indulgences, which are often misunderstood. Indulgences are not forgiveness for sin but forgiveness for temporal punishment due to sin.
I like to explain it to people with the following story:
As a child, once I came home very late for dinner. My mother was very upset, and seeing how upset she was, I felt very repentant and I told her that it would never happen again. She told me she forgave me, but as my punishment I would have to do the dishes.
So there was repentance and forgiveness, but there was still punishment.
But, as I started doing the dishes, my nana came in and said, “I will help you.”
That is an indulgence.
God loves us and he forgives us, but in His justice there is still some punishment for sin. The indulgence is when the merits and the sufferings of Jesus and the saints are applied to that punishment. The Portiuncula Indulgence is a wonderful symbol of that.
Because of the great importance of this feast, I chose August 2 for my ordination when I was appointed a bishop 25 years ago.
I was ordained at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. It was the first time anyone had been ordained a bishop there. The custom in the past had been that bishops would be ordained in their hometown, and then sent off and installed, particularly in missionary places and places that were farther away. For example Bishop Edward Harper, who ordained me, was a Redemptorist who had been ordained at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Brooklyn and then installed in St. Thomas.
However, Cardinal James Hickey, who was our metropolitan, suggested that it would be a good introduction to have the ordination in the Virgin Islands and I was very pleased that I did.
My co-consecrators were Cardinal Hickey and Bishop Eugene Marino, who at that time was the auxiliary bishop of Washington.
Many of my family, friends and parishioners from Washington joined us with the people of the Virgin Islands. It was a wonderful celebration — a bit warm in the tropical heat of August — but a very happy celebration.
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I marked the 25th anniversary of my episcopal ordination on Sunday with a public Mass at St. Patrick Parish in Natick. The pastor there, Father Brian Kiely, had been the rector of our cathedral in the Virgin Islands.
I was very happy to go to his parish and celebrate on my anniversary. The parishioners were very gracious, the musical program was outstanding and we had an opportunity to greet the parishioners at the parish hall afterwards.
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Then in the evening of this very important Franciscan feast, I went for vespers and dinner with the Franciscan friars at Arch Street.
They had a lovely cake for me and gave me a nice gift.
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On Monday, we headed off to Phoenix for the Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus. I try to attend that every year.
From Boston, Bishops Allue and Hennessey attended along with many of our knights, their families and some of our priests, including Father Tom Rafferty who is now Associate State Chaplain.
All the Massachusetts bishops with the state officers
With the Boston priests before opening Mass
Bishop Hennessey, Father Bob O’Grady and Father Charles Connolly at Clergy Luncheon following opening Mass
Receiving an anniversary gift from the Mass State Council
CatholicTV provided full coverage of the convention
The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world, founded by the Venerable Father Michael McGivney, whose cause has been presented for canonization.
He was a priest in Hartford, Connecticut and founded the Knights to help, particularly immigrant, Catholics by providing aid to the widows and orphans of workers who had difficult and dangerous occupations and often were injured or lost their lives. In those days, there weren’t the kinds of insurance or social safety nets that we have today.
Father McGivney, in a very creative and compassionate plan, came up with an organization to deal with those very real material needs of the immigrants and, at the same time, to deepen their Catholic formation and commitment to the life of the Church.
As Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in his address, men become Knights of Columbus to become better Catholics, better husbands, better fathers and better citizens.
That is certainly the effect that it has on the membership. We are very, very grateful for all that the Knights of Columbus do supporting their parishes, supporting family life, promoting vocations and defending the gospel of life and the institution of marriage.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the men of the archdiocese to become involved in the Knights of Columbus and to promote it in their parishes. I would also like to ask our priests to promote the parish councils, which are such a wonderful source of vitality for the Church.
Carl Anderson gave a magnificent address in his report.
He talked about health care and insisted that the health care plan needs to be abortion free. He invited the knights to be vigilant and support health plans that help the poor and clearly communicate to our government that any health care reform must respect the most very basic right of all — the right to life. He also documented many of the achievements of the Knights of Columbus, particularly the tremendous support they have given to seminarians, novices and postulants, particularly in this Year for Priests, the theme of the convention was standing with the Holy Father in support of our priests and bishops.
At the opening banquet, Bishop Thomas Olmsted, the bishop of Phoenix, read from the letters of Father Eusebio Kino, the great missionary whose statue is in the rotunda of the U.S. Capital.
Quoting about what he found in Arizona when he arrived there — the insects, the reptiles and the animals as well as the plants with their thorns — were very hostile, but he said there is no where he would rather have been. He commented on the dry heat — and it certainly was hot at 114 degrees — but the people in Arizona love it and the city has grown considerably in the last few years.
As always, there was a wonderful opportunity for the knights and their families to gather and see the tremendous growth in the order, not only in the United States but in the Philippines, Canada, Poland, Cuba and Mexico.
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After nearly seven years of service, the Office of Child Advocacy’s Implementation and Oversight Advisory Committee had its last business meeting in February and I hosted a luncheon meeting on Thursday at the Pastoral Center to convey my gratitude for all their support and hard work.
The advisory committee is a group of volunteer lay professionals who have generously given of their time and talent by meeting monthly since 2003 to assist the archdiocese’s child abuse prevention efforts.
Members of the committee represent a great diversity of professional, clinical, educational, and research backgrounds on the tremendously complex issues of child abuse and its prevention in our society.
Among its many important works, the committee assisted with writing and the review of the archdiocese’s “Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Children” and the “Code of Ministerial Behavior”. They also helped to develop Child Abuse Prevention Teams in every parish and cluster; oversaw an alignment of the children’s safety curricula with the archdiocese’s Religious Education Curriculum Guidelines; assisted in the conversations with the major publishers of religious education texts to produce alignment documents between the child safety program and their curricula; completed and delivered “Children First,” the first two-year assessment of the archdiocese’s policies and procedures; and successfully developed a pilot program for assessing effectiveness of the archdiocese’s programs for child protection and abuse prevention.
These accomplishments have helped the archdiocese to create model education and abuse prevention programs, and served to make the schools and parishes safer environments for our children than ever before.
The members of committee include the chair, Dr. Mary Jane Doherty, special assistant to the President of Regis College; Dr. Craig Latham, a certified forensic psychologist, juvenile court clinician and founder of the Latham Consulting Group, LLC; Rev. Dr. Cynthia Crossen-Tower, an educator, psychotherapist, consultant, and noted author; Robert Gittens, Esq., Vice President for Public Affairs at Northeastern University; Ginny Lucey, RN, family outreach coordinator for the Office of Pastoral Support and Outreach; and Father Arthur Coyle, Episcopal Vicar for the Merrimack Region.
Several others served on the committee over its long tenure including Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children’s Trust Fund and Member of the Commission for the Protection of Children; Jack Miller, the director of programs at Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund; and Susan Getman, the former deputy commissioner of the Mass. Department of Social Services and former regional administrator of the Mass. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Our staff liaisons to the committee were Deacon Anthony Rizzuto, the director of the Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight; and Robert Kelley the special assistant to the director and former regional director of the Mass. Department of Social Services.
I thank them all for their dedication to this very important work.
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Finally, I want to invite everyone join us on Aug. 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption, for the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine to mark the start of perpetual adoration in Boston for the first time in 40 years.
We are very grateful to the Oblates of the Virgin Mary for sponsoring this and to all the young adults and others who have been involved in promoting the effort.
While there are other places in the archdiocese that have perpetual adoration, such as St. Patrick’s in Natick where we had Mass this past week, this will actually be the only site within the city of Boston.
This is a wonderful service and witness to the entire faith community, and we urge everyone to be conscious of it, promote it and when they are in the area, visit the shrine.
Until next week, blessings to you all!
– Cardinal Seán