Hello and welcome!
As I’m sure you have noticed, I have prepared this week’s post a bit earlier than usual because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Each year we, as a country, dedicate this day to a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for our freedom, our prosperity, our families, and the many blessings that we so often take for granted.
This Thanksgiving, I will raise up a prayer of thanksgiving for all of you, my friends who read this blog, and pray that the Lord will bless you and your loved ones abundantly as we turn to him with grateful hearts.
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At the conclusion of the bishops’ annual meeting last Thursday, we were invited to participate in a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mark the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the church.
The lower church, the crypt, was built in the early 1900’s but it wasn’t until Cardinal O’Boyle became the Archbishop of Washington that there was really impetus to finish the shrine. The upper church was built by a Boston architectural firm, Maginnis & Walsh.
Archbishop Wuerl, who is the chairman of the board of directors, was the principal celebrant
Bishop Michael Bransfield, who is Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia, was the homilist
Bishop Bransfield had been the director of the shrine for over 20 years. His homily shared many of the different aspects of the history of this wonderful church.
One of the things that he pointed was that the most visited chapel in this shrine is the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I wasn’t aware of it, but he said the chapel had been put there by Cardinal Cushing.
The Mass was very well attended. Many of us have great sentimental attachment to the shrine. It was there that I received tonsure, minor orders and was ordained a deacon.
It was a place where, during the 20 years that I worked in Washington, we would have many Marian celebrations to celebrate the patronal feasts of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Our Lady of Fatima, Mexico, and El Salvador.
It is a great monument to the faith of the United States and reflects the fact that we are an immigrant Church. It contains so many chapels that betoken devotions and piety of various immigrants who came from all parts of the world – Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America – and have made their home in this country.
Our Lady of Altotting, from Germany
Our Lady of Camarin, from Guam
Our Lady of China
This certainly is a very special place and it was wonderful to be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary with so many bishops, priests, and people in the parish.
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That evening, I had dinner in the home of Manela and Tony Diaz with three of our Cuban bishops in the United States – Bishop Octavio Cisneros, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, Bishop Felipe Estévez, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Miami, and Bishop Fernando Isern, the new Bishop of Pueblo, Colorado.
We had a wonderful evening during which we were able to talk about the situation of the Church in Cuba. Manela is also very active in supporting Caritas in Cuba.
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The following day, I returned to Boston and met with the Joint International Methodist-Catholic Dialogue Commission which had been meeting for several days at the Connors Family Retreat Center in Dover. They came for a courtesy visit and to share with me the progress that they had made.
The commission is the official international Methodist-Catholic dialogue that was established by the Vatican to have theological conversations with the Methodists. It is headed by an Australian Catholic bishop.
We had a very interesting meeting. They pointed out that, while there is great awareness of Orthodox-Catholic dialogue and the Anglican-Catholic dialogue, people are largely unaware that this dialogue has been going on for many years.
I was familiar with the Methodist-Catholic dialogue because my friend, Cardinal Peter Turkson, was a part of this dialogue years ago.
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On Friday night, I attended the alumni event at St. John’s Seminary, which included vespers and a dinner.
There were about 150 alumni, quite a spectrum of young and old. The oldest priest there was Father McManus, who was ordained in 1942, which was before I was born!
Father Kennedy and the seminarians did a wonderful job of organizing a beautiful vespers service and the program. Greg Vozzo, one of the seminarians, spoke very beautifully.
They gave me a rocking chair for my silver anniversary.
I’ve certainly gotten many nice things for my 25th anniversary, lots of gifts and cards for which I am very grateful, but I think it has to come to an end soon!
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On Saturday, I returned to St. John’s for a St. Andrew’s gathering. There was an 11 a.m. Mass with the New England vocation directors and the young men that they were bringing to visit the seminary.
Then there was a lunch and conversation, and after that they took a tour of the seminary.
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That evening, we had the Healy Award Dinner at the Lantana. There were about 400 people there. It was a lovely event.
Lorna DesRoses, along with Linda Russo, did a wonderful job of organizing the event.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Camille Brown, from Providence, who has a master’s degree from St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia and a doctorate in education from Boston College.
She gave a beautiful talk on catechesis and passing on the faith.
There were two awards given that night. The Bishop Healy Award was given to Father Russell Best, and the Ruffin Award was given to Sister Mary Hart.
Presenting the Healy Award to Father Best
At the event I said they both lived up to their names. Sister Mary has a great “heart” and Father Russell is the “best”!
They both gave wonderful talks. Sister Mary, who is elderly, was very funny and feisty. People enjoyed her very much.
With Sister Mary
At the head table was the new mayor of Newton, who is African-American and a Catholic. He and his wife have a two year old daughter and are long-time members of Sacred Heart Parish. He had previously served in Iraq with the military.
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On Sunday morning, I went to St. Cecilia Parish in Ashland to celebrate the parish’s 125th anniversary with the community there. It was the feast of Christ the King and the feast of St. Cecilia.
I complimented them on their choir. The children led a “Pie Jesu” and other very difficult pieces. They did them to perfection. It was very moving. I told them St. Cecilia would have been proud. They have a magnificent adult and children’s choir.
It’s a wonderful active parish. Father Paul Cornell has done a fine job there.
At the offertory, they brought up different symbols of the faith life of that community for 125 years.
The former pastor, Father Mulligan, was there. He received a great standing ovation. He was very encouraged by that.
The people are very warm and enthusiastic. It was a lovely celebration.
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Following the Mass, I came back to Boston to meet with Bishop Nicanor Peña, the bishop of Higüey, in the Dominican Republic.
He is an old friend of mine who was in Boston visiting people in the Dominican community here.
The Dominican national shrine, Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, is in his diocese.
The shrine is a very modern structure. There was some sort of competition to build it. I think it was a French architect whose plan was chosen. I love the image of Our Lady of la Altagracia. It’s a very “Christmassy” image because St. Joseph is with the Holy Family.
I told the bishop that once, when I was bishop in the West Indies, I was decorated by the president of Santo Domingo. They put a helicopter at our disposal to take me to the shrine. Cardinal Baum was with me as well as Father Lorenzo Albacete. We got there without problem but on our way home, Father Lorenzo — who in a former incarnation had his doctorate in aerospace science — pointed out to the pilot that we were running out of fuel. Of course, we had to make an emergency landing and we set down in a field.
The campesinos were so nice to us. They brought us coffee and things like that. So, I complimented the bishop on the hospitality of his people!
I very much enjoyed sharing my adventures with Bishop Nicanor and recounting them to him. I’ve tried to stay off of helicopters ever since then.
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On Sunday afternoon, we had the second annual Cheverus Awards presentation at the Cathedral. This award was initiated as part of our bicentennial program to recognize the longstanding volunteers and workers in the life of the Church. Each year we ask one-third of the parishes for nominations.
The awards were presented in the context of a vesper service.
Some parishes brought busloads of parishioners to accompany their awardee. There were many, many priests and religious in the diocese there. It was very impressive to see the Cathedral almost completely filled.
I envisioned this as being a very beautiful tradition — a way of saying thank you.
Holding it on Christ the King Sunday each year puts it near the Thanksgiving holiday. We’re certainly thankful to God for all of the wonderful people whose quiet and unassuming but faithful service to the community of faith make it possible for us to carry on the mission of the Church here in our archdiocese.
Afterward, there was a light reception across the way at Cathedral High School.
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On Monday, I met with Father Red Raux, one of the many Boston priests who currently serve as chaplains in our military. He was home and I was more than happy to talk with him. He shared with me some of his experiences as a military chaplain.
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Following my meeting with Father Raux, I met the family of one of our staff members who works at the Pastoral Center — Sister Mary Corripio. She has done an outstanding job for the archdiocese working with the various ethnic groups. Sister Mary made her final profession on Saturday as a Sister of Notre Dame in Ipswich. For the occasion, some of her family were here visiting, so they stopped by the Pastoral Center.
Her family is from Cuba and they live in Louisiana. In fact, her father was a classmate of Tony Diaz, in whose house I had been with the Cuban bishops the week before. Small world!
Of course, Sister Mary’s family is very proud of her and strongly supported her vocation. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to congratulate them personally.
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On Tuesday, I enjoyed a visit with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, accompanied by the consul general for New England, Nancy Kauffman, Father O’Flaherty, Father David Michael, and Vito Nicastro, who works in the Ecumenical Affairs office.
It was just a social visit but we did have a chance to discuss the situation in Israel with the Palestinians. The ambassador was very interested in letting us know what progress has been made and what some of the obstacles are to the peace process. He also expressed some of the great concerns the Israeli government has in regard to Iran and nuclear weapons.
He also talked about the Christians in the Holy Land, and how they’ve been a very important bridge to the hopes that the Church will be able to encourage people not to leave.
He told a very interesting personal story. He grew up in New Jersey in a very Catholic neighborhood. The next door neighbors were very close to him and the woman came down with esophageal cancer.
For some reason, they called him up because he was in Jerusalem. He went and consulted with a rabbi who often went to different monasteries to pray. The rabbi sent him to a Melkite Catholic monastery that was built in the desert in the 4th century named St. John the Baptist.
The monks offered the Mass for the woman, and gave him some oil they had burned in the sanctuary and instructed him to tell the woman to put it on her throat. She went to the doctor the next week and she was cured.
He told me he has great faith in the power of prayer.
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Then, I met with the Mexican consul general to New England, Dr. Fernando Estrada.
Among his many assignments over his career, he had been the ambassador to the Holy See from Mexico between 2001 and 2003 and he would like to have some connection with the Church here.
During our visit we spoke about immigration problems and the situation in Mexico.
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Once again, let me wish you a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. May all of you who are travelling have safe journeys!