News of the human tragedy unfolding in Haiti is heartbreaking, and it calls all of us to action to help the people impacted by the earthquake.
We pray for those who have perished, for the injured, for the displaced and for relief personnel who are courageously working to assist the people of Haiti during this difficult and sad time. We ask God to bless Haiti and to be merciful in their hour of need. The destruction has devastated a poor nation of people who cry out now for the help of the world community. The Archdiocese of Boston will do its part in assisting our brothers and sisters in Haiti.
As I mentioned to the people at a meeting at the Cathedral on Wednesday, it had only been two weeks since we had gathered there with so many members of the Haitian community to mark the January 1 Haitian independence day celebration with the Mass and the “Te Deum”. We had no idea that 12 days later we would be coming together again reacting to one of the most terrible crises in the history of the Haitian people – this terrible earthquake whose epicenter was so close to the capital of Haiti, which is the most densely populated part of the country.
The initial reports are saying there are many, many casualties, many deaths, as well as wholesale destruction of neighborhoods and even historic buildings – the government buildings, the Presidential Palace, and the cathedral have been destroyed.
An aerial view of the destroyed cathedral
Among the thousands of people who have lost their lives was Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot, the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince. He was a friend of mine and his death will be a great loss to the Haitian church.
In the last couple of years, Haiti has been afflicted by very terrible tropical storms that resulted in flooding, much death, and disaster. This, on top of everything that Haiti has been through, is a very devastating blow.
The fact that there is not the kind of infrastructure or resources that would be needed to deal with the necessary rescue or relief efforts compounds the severity of the situation. We hope that, as soon as possible, measures will be taken to improve the country’s ability to adequately respond to these crises.
The meeting at the Cathedral was organized by State Representatives Marie St. Fleur and Linda Dorcena Forry. Over the course of the evening, there were probably about 2,000 people who attended. The governor, the mayor, senators, many public officials, the head of Catholic Charities, the head of the Red Cross, and many representatives of different churches and civic organizations all were part of it.
I was able to announce that we will be taking up a collection in the parishes of the archdiocese to help the Haitian people. The money we collect will be turned over to Catholic Relief Services, which has a very good track record of working with natural disasters in Haiti. In our initial contact with Catholic Relief Services, they told us they have already committed $5 million to relief efforts in Haiti.
Tiziana Dearing, head of Catholic Charities, adressed the people
It was also a time for us to pray for victims and loved ones. At this point in time, one of the most difficult problems is that of communication. So many people are anxiously waiting to hear how their families have fared through the earthquake. Some people have been able to make contact. Others have not. It may be a long time before some of them are able to get any kind of assurances. The uncertainty is a very terrible anxiety for people.
Certainly, the Haitian people have suffered very much in their history and have always done so with great courage and dignity. I know that they will suffer this latest tragedy with the same determination and ability to rebound. We just hope everyone will be able to work together closely and that the international community will be generous in coming to the aid of the Haitian people.
People had a chance to ask questions to the public officials present
We look forward to sending a team down from our Catholic hospitals. We will do whatever we can to bring relief to the people of Haiti and to their families here in Boston.
The meeting was a very moving experience and I think it was an important moment for people to be able to be together and to feel the solidarity of the whole community that was gathered to express a desire to help. People are still looking for ways to be able to do that.
Priests and ministers present joined in prayer at the end of the event
There were reports on the military ships and hospitals that are being sent there. Certainly, the rescue efforts might have to be the first priority, as well as just the basic needs – food and water for the survivors. But, we hope that there will be long term solutions to the problems that Haiti faces that will come out of this.
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This week, I had hoped that this post would focus on vocations to the priesthood as each year at this time we have a very big push to invite people to vocation retreats, which are so important for the recruitment efforts of the archdiocese and to help young men in this discernment process.
Of course, Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake has taken center stage, but I still want you to read Father Dan Hennessey’s guest contribution that showcases our efforts to promote priestly vocations in the archdiocese and encourages participation in the upcoming events.
I thank Cardinal Seán for allowing me to be a guest blogger this week and for the opportunity to do so during this Vocation Awareness Week and the Year for Priests declared by Pope Benedict XVI.
My name is Father Dan Hennessey, Vocation Director for the archdiocese and part of the team that serves in the Vocation Office which includes Fr. Michael Harrington, Fr. Alonso Macias and Ms. Denise Fortin. Under the guidance of our archbishop, Cardinal Seán, and in collaboration with our priests and lay faithful we seek to promote a culture of vocations here in Boston. While the Office of Vocation is located in Braintree, our real office is the many parishes, high schools, colleges, universities, and gathering places of our archdiocese. It is in the midst of our various communities where we can encourage everyone to love and consider the ordained priesthood. I feel personally blessed to be able to serve in the Vocation Office to promote the indispensible and irreplaceable vocation of the ordained priesthood.
Right now we are blessed with 44 seminarians studying for the Archdiocese of Boston and three of those men are scheduled to be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate at the end of this month.
Our seminarians attend six different seminaries around the world:
St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, Mass.,
Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, Mass.,
Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in Brookline, Mass.,
Our Lady of Providence Seminary in Providence, Rhode Island,
Seminario Hispano de Santa María de Guadalupe in Mexico City
and the Pontifical North American College in Rome.
Although there are seemingly innumerable ways that we can encourage everyone, particularly young people, to consider what the Lord desires of their life, I want to share with you just a few of the ways we have been trying to promote a culture of vocations in Boston with a concentration on the ordained priesthood. I list them in no particular order.
First, the Vocation Office sponsors three St. Andrew’s Dinners each year. For these gatherings, a priest, parent, youth minister, religious sister or brother, DRE or campus minister invites high school boys that they know to a great evening of prayer, witness talks, dinner and conversation with Cardinal Seán, seminarians, and the vocation directors. Since our first St Andrew’s dinner at St. Brigid Parish, South Boston, in 2004, these dinners have been a huge success.
St. Brigid Church
Over one thousand high-school boys have heard talks about the priesthood, discernment, prayer, and seminary life. They have had a chance to meet other students like them who are asking similar questions and hear firsthand experiences from seminarians about their own discernment. As we know, we don’t create our vocation, as much as we discover it. We have these dinners so the students will come closer to discovering God’s call for them and we hope (and pray) for some of them to become priests some day.
Our next St. Andrew’s Dinner is just a few weeks away on Wednesday Jan 27, and if you want to attend or know someone who might like to, contact us and we can set it up.
Another way we are helping men to consider and discern the priesthood is the Annual Vocation Discernment Retreat with Cardinal Seán.
What a blessing these retreats have been. They started over 10 years ago at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and in recent years we added one at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.
Both seminaries have been very gracious in hosting us. Last year, we had to start having the retreat for the younger candidates at the Connors Family Retreat Center in Dover instead of St. John’s Seminary because the seminary has had such an increase in enrollment over the last few years.
More seminarians means less empty rooms, which means less space for a retreat. What a great problem to have! This year the retreats are on February 5-7, 2010. Call us if you think it might be a good retreat for you or someone you know.
The discernment retreats are for men who are open to learning more about the priesthood and who are invited by one of their own parish priests or one of the priests of the Vocation Office. Many of our seminarians and relatively newly ordained priests went on this retreat (sometimes more than one year) before they decided to enter the seminary. The retreats are a great idea because it helps the guys who attend to learn about the seminary, the priesthood and a life of prayer. It also gives them an opportunity to speak with seminarians about these things. Sometimes the best part of the retreat is the informal conversations that they have with each other about the joys and struggles of discerning and preparing for the priesthood. A lot of college students, especially from Boston University, MIT, Harvard and Boston College have been invited and attend this retreat. Another thing that makes the discernment retreat a success is that it is low pressure. Figuring out a call to the priesthood is not always the easiest thing to do, so we make sure that those who attend learn a lot and have a lot of time to pray, but we don’t try to get them to join as much as help them discern.
Another way we are seeking to advance a culture of vocations is to get everyone in the archdiocese to pray for vocations to the priesthood.
I have found that the more we love the Great High Priest Jesus Christ and the priesthood that he established, the more we will ask God to send us more priestly vocations. One of the reasons I think this Year for Priests is such a “shot in the arm” for the Vocation Office is that it puts such an emphasis on praying for our current priests and those who will follow in their footsteps. To celebrate this year appropriately, we have renewed in our archdiocese some strong vocational initiatives. We started back up with what was once a thriving group in the archdiocese called Serra International – not to be confused with the organization to preserve wildlife. That’s Sierra! Rather, Serra International is named after Blessed Junipero Serra, a missionary to the US who established the missions on the West Coast.
You could check out the Serra Boston web site for more information at www.serraboston.org, but the group basically exists in order to promote a culture of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. The members are very devoted and have started the Spiritual Adoption of Priests and Seminarians programs as well as a number of other ways to pray for vocations.
To conclude these remarks in which I have made note of just a few of the programs we offer in the Vocation Office, I would like to mention something that Pope Benedict XVI said on the occasion of his “Pilgrimage of Hope” to New York City in April of 2008 .
He was asked by the Bishops of the United States the following question:
“The Holy Father is asked to comment on the decline in vocations despite the growing numbers of the Catholic population…”
The Holy Father responded:
“Let us be quite frank: the ability to cultivate vocations to the priesthood and the religious life is a sure sign of the health of a local Church. There is no room for complacency in this regard. God continues to call young people; it is up to all of us to encourage a generous and free response to that call. On the other hand, none of us can take this grace for granted.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers. He even admits that the workers are few in comparison with the abundance of the harvest (cf. Mt 9:37-38). Strange to say, I often think that prayer – the unum necessarium – is the one aspect of vocations work which we tend to forget or to undervalue!
Nor am I speaking only of prayer for vocations. Prayer itself, born in Catholic families, nurtured by programs of Christian formation, strengthened by the grace of the sacraments, is the first means by which we come to know the Lord’s will for our lives. To the extent that we teach young people to pray, and to pray well, we will be cooperating with God’s call. Programs, plans and projects have their place; but the discernment of a vocation is above all the fruit of an intimate dialogue between the Lord and his disciples. Young people, if they know how to pray, can be trusted to know what to do with God’s call.”
I put the boldiing for emphasis.
This corresponds to what I hear from so many of the young men and women with whom I speak about their calling in life. It is only when we stop and listen to the voice of God in our lives that we come to see what he desires of us. The more we come to know the Master, the better we will know His Master Plan. The closer we come to the Heart of Christ the more clearly we will know His will for us.
When I was trying to figure out if God was calling me to marriage or priesthood (I had narrowed it down that far), I asked a priest I respected what I should do. He, Fr. Murphy at St Florence in Wakefield, answered that if I wanted to know I had to ask God and the way to ask God is to pray. He then gave me a prayer card with a prayer on it. It was very helpful for me at the time so I put it here in order that it might assist others, whatever their call may be.
St. Florence Church
Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
O Holy Spirit Beloved of my Soul I adore Thee. Enlighten me, Guide me, Strengthen me, Console me. Tell me what it is I should do. Give me your holy orders. I promise to submit myself to all that you desire of me and to accept all that you permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will. Amen
Thank you for looking at this entry to Cardinal Seán’s Blog. Please keep our seminarians and those presently being called to the priesthood in your prayers. May the Lord bless us with many good and holy priests to serve you, His holy people.
I leave you with a great quote from St. John Vianney, the Cure of Ars and patron of priests.
“Were we to fully realize what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright, but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods … Leave a parish for twenty years without a priest, and they will end by worshiping the beasts there … The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you. The Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.”
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On Thursday afternoon, I visited Regina Cleri.
It is an annual visit I make in January to have Mass and dinner with the residents. I am very grateful to the staff who work there to make it a vibrant home for so many of our priests.
After the Mass, we enjoyed dinner together
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We are looking forward to this year’s March For Life. Of course, there will be a very good representation from Boston and from Massachusetts.
We understand that so many young people have signed up that the Verizon Center, which seats 20,000, is not big enough, so we may be having a satellite Mass at one of the churches in Washington. But we certainly encourage our young people to come.
And for those of you who cannot be there with us, Catholic Foundation’s Manager of Digital Communications and New Media George Martell will be accompanying the Boston pilgrims throughout the three days in Washington taking photos and uploading them to http://www.flickr.com/bostoncatholic. George tells me that he will be using a mobile Internet connection that will allow his photos to be available online within 30 seconds of them being taken. Please visit that website often to see the photos live as the events in Washington unfold.
As I always say, the March for Life is the second best thing to World Youth Day. There are so many young people there for our young Catholics to feel so affirmed in their faith by the presence of thousands of their peers who are here marching for life, praying and praising God, and receiving the sacraments. It truly is a great grace for the Church in our country and I think a moment when young people really connect with their faith and with the Church community. We are very grateful to all of the parishes and schools who have been promoting trips to Washington for the March for Life. We look forward to seeing a lot of you there at the Basilica and at the march.
Until my next post,