This week, our nation experienced a tragedy at the U.S. military base in Fort Hood, Texas. There is a great deal of trauma and suffering at Ft. Hood following the shooting. I spoke with Father Edward McCabe, a priest from the Archdiocese of Boston who serves our troops at Ft. Hood and who is providing pastoral care and solace in the aftermath of the shooting. I promised him our prayers for those who were killed and injured, for their families, and for all who are serving them. The fine men and women of our military are essential to the freedom we hold dear as a nation. We honor them with our prayers, thoughts and support now and always.
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I was relieved that a ballot initiative in Maine on behalf of traditional marriage prevailed, although I was also saddened that such an initiative had to be held, realizing how divisive this issue can be in a community.
The Mainers demonstrated for the thirty-first time that whenever the American people have an opportunity to express their opinion on marriage, they come down in favor of traditional marriage. I believe in my heart that if we had had the same opportunity in Massachusetts, the people of Massachusetts would also have voted in favor of traditional marriage.
Unfortunately, Governor Deval Patrick and our legislators did not allow us to exercise that right. I think that was a great injustice to the people of the Commonwealth.
By the same token, I think it’s very unfortunate that it has been impossible to carry on a serious dialogue about the importance of traditional marriage for family life and for the raising of children in our country. This has always been cast in the light of the great emotional debate over prejudice and discrimination against homosexual persons.
I am positive that the people in Maine who voted for traditional marriage were not doing so out of any rancor or disdain for homosexual persons. While there are a small number who hold extreme views in almost any cause, I am convinced the vast majority of people were looking at what is good for society.
We, of course, live in a culture where individual rights are supreme and sometimes the common good and the rights of the community are trampled because of an exaggerated stress on individualism in our country. It is my hope that someday we will be able to have a serious conversation and public debate on the wider subject of marriage. Perhaps the bishops’ upcoming pastoral letter on marriage will allow this conversation to begin.
To say that gay marriage doesn’t affect other people’s marriages is disingenuous, at best. Changing ideas impacts the culture and society, even though the consequences may not be visible immediately. To help illustrate this, I like to compare it to a nation’s change from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Perhaps the external trappings look the same but the difference in the end results and what transpires historically is going to be very dramatic.
We see that there have already been so many assaults on marriage and family life, and we are convinced that a redefinition of marriage is also detrimental to marriage. What is bad for marriage is bad for American society.
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As we have seen in Maine, the power of the people can make a positive difference. I also hope the American people, especially Catholics, participate in the democratic process in the current health care debate in our nation.
I am pleased that a number of congressmen have come forward voicing their objection to the present form of the legislation which does not have sufficient conscience protections and would propose the government funding of abortions, something that the vast majority of American people are against and that historically we have not done.
I am once again urging you, if you have not yet approached your legislators, to click on the link provided below. This will take you to a web page that will allow you to e-mail your comments to your legislators.
I think it is particularly important that those legislators who are standing up for the unborn and conscience protections know that they are supported by the public.
This is a very important moment for us in our country. If the legislation is passed in its present form, it will do irreparable harm.
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Now, onto the events of my week…
On Friday, I attended a Holy Hour and dinner with all of our seminarians — those studying at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary, the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, and St. John’s Seminary, as well as those studying at Our Lady of Providence Seminary in R.I. In fact, only those studying outside the United States could not be with us.
During our meeting, I gave a short address on perseverance. We had a dialogue on the priestly life. I talked to them about the celibacy conference and the Holy Father’s document on the Anglicans.
It’s always a wonderful opportunity for the seminarians to get to know each other, particularly those who study at different seminaries.
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After gathering with the seminarians at the Pastoral Center, I went to the Friends of Don Orione 43 Annual Banchetto. At this year’s dinner, held in recognition of the 60th anniversary of the Don Orione Home in East Boston, Mr. Joseph Milano was presented the Don Orione Man of the Year Award. Joseph and his family are dedicated parishioners at St. Maria Goretti parish in Lynnfield and the proprietors of the historic Union Oyster House in Boston.
On a number of occasions Joseph has been recognized for his contributions to the work of the Church, including his having received the Cardinal Cushing Medal from the Society of St. James the Apostle, being named a Knight of Don Orione, and Knight of the American Association of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem and Malta. It was a pleasure to be able to join the hundreds people gathered for the dinner in congratulating Joseph on this well-deserved honor .
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Bishop Seamus Hegarty, the bishop of the Diocese of Derry, Ireland, and Father John McCarthy, of the Irish Pastoral Centre in Quincy visited me Saturday morning.
Bishop Hegarty is in charge of the Irish bishops’ ministry to migrants. He has a special responsibility within the Irish Bishops’ Conference to deal with the questions of immigration.
He is here visiting Irish immigrants in the United States and those who serve them pastorally, so one of his stops was our Irish Pastoral Centre. The Bishop was also meeting with the Irish ambassador, and the Irish consul during his visit to the area.
Of course, we have always had a large number of Irish immigrants in Boston. In fact, when he told me that Boston was a twin city with Derry, I told him some people would say Boston is more like a colony of Ireland!
He discussed immigration legislation that could be proposed in the next year here in the United States and the impact that would have on immigrants.
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Later that morning, I presided at the annual Altar Server Appreciation Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. There were about 700 altar servers present.
This year, members of the Boston Boy Choir at St. Paul Church in Cambridge who are also altar servers sang. It was a beautiful Mass. It was also very good for the other youngsters to see the choir and to realize that young people have such a love for the liturgy, and the proficiency for singing the Latin Mass and beautiful hymns.
Afterwards, there were awards given out — the Pope John Paul II Awards and Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta Awards — to servers who exemplify reverence, piety, a love of the liturgy, and a strong record of parish and community service. To conclude the day, the servers and their families were treated to ice cream sundaes in the Cathedral High School gymnasium.
Please join me in congratulating the award winners.
The winners of the Pope John Paul II Award were:
- Ryan Wallace of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Braintree,
- Noel Reed of St. Michael Parish in Avon,
- William Haughey of St. Columbkille Parish in Brighton, and
- Eddie Newton of St. Andrew Parish in Billerica
Winners of the Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta Award were
- Michelle Beazley of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta Parish in Dorchester,
- Alejandra Tejeda of Holy Family Parish in Dorchester,
- Sarah Hennessey of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Acton, and
- Catherine Campagna of Sacred Heart Parish in Waltham.
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That afternoon, I gave a lecture at St. Francis Chapel, located in the Prudential Center in downtown Boston, as part of a lecture series there. Given that this is the Year for Priests, I spoke on the topic of the priesthood.
We also marked the 40th anniversary of the chapel. It was originally run by the Friars of the Holy Name Province, but for many years now, it has been staffed by the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, who are doing an extraordinary job there.
After the lecture, I celebrated the Vigil Mass for the Feast of All Saints.
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After that, I went to the North End for our monthly gathering with young adults — our “Piazza Navona project,” as I call it, because of a similar initiative in Rome that inspired our gatherings.
There was a holy hour and opportunities for confession. I had Mass there at 8 p.m. There were many priests concelebrating. Afterwards, there were pizzas.
The seminarians were standing out in front of the church inviting people in. Because it was Halloween, some people would see the seminarians in the collar and say, “Is that real?”
I recounted to them that once I was visiting a nursing home and one of the residents said, “Oh, I have a statue of him on my patio.” I said, “I hope it wasn’t a bird bath.”
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On Sunday, I celebrated the centennial Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Waltham. It is a very beautiful church. They have a wonderful choir. Father Rodney Copp has done an extraordinary job in building up the parish.
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Later, I attended a Mass and a reception for the leadership of the Knights of Columbus throughout the state — the state board and the state district deputies.
I told them we are very anxious for the Knights to grow in the diocese — in the universities and the parishes.
The Knights of Columbus has shown itself to be so supportive of the Church and all of our ministries — particularly with promoting vocations, a defense of the Gospel of Life, and standing firmly with our priests. The Knights have been so faithful in enduring these difficult years. Wherever they have councils at the parishes, it has been an invaluable aid to the pastors and a great source of volunteers. We are encouraging all the pastors to consider initiating a council at their parishes if they don’t already have one.
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Monday, as you know, was All Souls’ Day. That morning, I presided at the funeral Mass for Father James O’Donohoe, Father O’D as he was affectionately known, who died on Oct. 27 at St. Patrick Manor in Framingham at the age of 88.
For priests, All Souls’ Day is very special because it is one of only two days on which priests are authorized to celebrate Mass three times. The other is Christmas.
My first celebration was privately at the cathedral rectory, but my second celebration was the funeral Mass of Father O’Donohoe.
During his life, he taught at numerous Catholic colleges and seminaries across the country, including Boston College and our own St. John’s Seminary. He also served at many parishes in the archdiocese, including St. Joseph Parish in Medway and St. Joseph Parish in Somerville. He was also a chaplain to the Gray Nuns in Lexington.
The Mass was very well attended. I commented that we should all be so lucky to have our funeral on All Souls’ Day when millions of Catholics are praying for our faithful departed!
Father O’Donohoe obviously had made a great impact on the people of Lexington, where he helped out in the parishes. Many people came to the Mass, and many priests whom he had taught in the seminary were a part of it. It was a very beautiful celebration.
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Later that day, I met with presidents of Catholic colleges within the archdiocese. We had an opportunity to thank them for all that they do to support our Catholic schools in the archdiocese, and we talked about ways we can continue to look to them for support of our Catholic school system.
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At 4:30 p.m., I celebrated my third Mass of the day — for the Sisters Disciples at their chapel on West Street in Boston.
Afterwards, I joined them for dinner.
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I then attended evening prayer at St. Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury. We prayed the office of the dead for our deceased priests. It was organized by Bishop Hennessey. Many of our priests were able to be there, and our seminarians were invited as well.
Father Tom Buckley preached the sermon. Afterwards, there was a reception in the atrium of St. Theresa’s.
We’re all looking forward to the mosaics Father Raymond Helmick, S.J., the brother of the pastor who lives at the parish, has been making, and is going to hang in the atrium in the very near future.
Father Helmick is also the one who made the tabernacle for the parish which I have always admired.
Here are some photos which give you a sense of the beautiful tabernacle:
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On Tuesday, I had dinner and attended evening prayer with the archdiocese’s marriage ministry committee. For three years, the marriage committee has been working on designing a new marriage preparation program for us.
With the pilot program being launched, this was bringing their work to a conclusion. It was a way of recognizing them and thanking them for their contributions.
We also talked a little bit about the fact that this month, God willing, the new pastoral letter on marriage will be published.
Kari Colella, our Marriage Ministries Coordinator, was very pleased to announce that she feels the new marriage preparation course that we have designed reflects many of the themes that have been developed in the marriage pastoral.
One of the biggest challenges we have in the American church today is to instill in our people a sense of vocation, particularly vocation to married life and to being mothers and fathers.
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On Wednesday, I had a luncheon with the vicars and auxiliary bishops. Father David Couturier, our Director of Pastoral Planning addressed us at the gathering.
I thanked the vicars for their work; their service to the priests is so important. I encouraged them in faithfully conducting the vicariate meetings as an opportunity for shared prayer and fellowship, and to discuss the pastoral themes that are being discussed in the Presbyteral Council, so there can be that communication directly and all the priests can have participation in the conversations that are taking place at the archdiocesan level.
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I closed out the events for this week’s posting with a Mass for deceased members of the diaconate community held at the Bethany Chapel at the Pastoral Center. It was very well attended.
There were seven lamps that were lit representing seven people who died last year. Then, we read the names of the deceased deacons and their immediate family members, whether it was a child or a spouse.
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Finally, as I close my post for this week, I ask you once again to pray for all those affected by the violence at Ft. Hood.
I leave you with my prayers,