This week, I sent a letter to our priests offering some of my thoughts and prayers about my trip to the Holy Land. You may recall from last week’s post that I visited many landmarks significant to Christ’s ministry and therefore our own history as his Church.
Being in the Holy Land, at the Mount of Beatitudes — particularly celebrating Mass at the Cenacle and praying at Nazareth — I saw my presence there as representing the people of the archdiocese, and in a very special way our priests.
I composed this message while on the Mount of Beatitudes and sent it out to the priests upon returning.
I also want to share it with you here.
January 31, 2011
Feast of Saint Don Bosco
My dear Brother Priests,
This letter is coming to you postmarked from the Mount of the Beatitudes, the place Jesus gave us the Sermon on the Mount. Yesterday I celebrated Mass at the Cenacle where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, where the Risen Lord appeared to the Apostles on Easter and where Mary and the disciples prayed awaiting the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost.
It was a most moving experience to be in the place where Christ gave us the New Commandment of fraternal love, the Eucharist, the priesthood, as well as the gift of the Spirit and the power to forgive sins.
In this holy place, I tried to represent all of you, beginning with the youngest to all of our senior priests and our seminarians. I prayed that we might all grow in holiness and joy so that our ministry might make the presence of the Good Shepherd real to our people because they will see that we love them and try with all our limitations to serve them.
Here in the Cenacle, I prayed especially for our sick and for all of our priests who are burdened with a vocational crisis, fighting addictions, struggling with celibacy and those whose spiritual life is weak. I prayed also for our brothers who have been removed from ministry and for those who have been falsely accused of misdeeds.
From the Cenacle, Peter and the Apostles went out to evangelize, to announce the Good News. Some people thought they were drunk, yet their words touched the hearts of many. Here I pray for the success of our ‘Catholics Come Home’ initiative; first of all that it will help our Catholic people to feel empowered to reach out and witness to their own faith. The Church exists to evangelize. Moving from maintenance to being an evangelizing church is our challenge. I thank you for all your efforts. All of our endeavors of Pastoral Planning will be successful only to the degree that we are able to inspire our Catholic people to become evangelizers, witnesses of the Faith with a deep sense of mission. As at Pentecost, the gifts of the Spirit and God’s love can help us to overcome the barriers of language, suspicion and inertia to allow everyone to hear about the wonderful things of God.
The Apostles soon discovered that there is so much to do and so little time. With the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they ordained deacons to share the burden so that they would have more time for prayer and for preaching. We also need to share the burdens with our deacons and lay leaders so that we will have more time for prayer and proclaiming the Word of God. As priests, we must be men of prayer in a world that exalts activism. Nothing prepares us as well to announce the Good News, as a life of prayer and friendship with Christ. A prayer life survives best when there is a plan, a rule of life and the support and good example of our brothers. Then we can share the fruits of our contemplation with our people. That is the greatest service we can give them.
In the Cenacle, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples to teach us to stop fighting over the first places at table and start fighting over the towel. As priests we must wash each other’s feet so that we can put on “the shoes of eagerness to announce the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15) This is the real Nike footwear that leads to Victory, eagerness to announce the Good News.
Too often we are like Jonah, a reluctant prophet, or Simon of Cyrene, shouldering the cross under duress. We must learn to bear one another’s burdens. When we share the burden, it is lessened, when we share the joy, it is doubled. Our priestly fraternity is Christ’s plan to make the Good Shepherd present to God’s people. Tabor is shared so that Gethsemane can be shared.
This month, we will have our annual retreat for prospective vocations. I ask for your prayers and support. Bishop Sheen used to say that the priest should not be a barren fig tree. We must all work for vocations to provide God’s people with ministers for the future.
Thank you for your prayers and fraternal support and your patience with my failings. Know that I am very proud to be bishop of such an extraordinary presbyterate. Trusting in Christ’s presence in the Church and the Father’s loving mercy and the power of the Holy Spirit, let us move forward together in the beautiful mission that our God has entrusted to us, I remain,
Prayerfully and fraternally,
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley
Archbishop of Boston
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After my trip concluded, I went down to Florida to be with a number of our priests who are making a retreat there.
For the last couple of years, Bishop Hennessey has organized a retreat at the Bethany Center for Boston priests. This year, 40 men went down.
Father Jim Moroney, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester who also teaches at St. John’s Seminary, gave most of the conferences.
I went for two days to give some conferences and to be with the priests.
The St. Petersburg Diocese has recently built this wonderful retreat center near Tampa. It’s a wonderful facility consisting of several buildings on two small lakes.
The priests who have gone down for the retreats have been very, very pleased.
The director of the retreat house, Father John Lipscomb, is a former Episcopalian bishop who is now a Catholic priest. The Diocese of St. Petersburg and his entire staff have always been very gracious to us.
These pictures are of the Holy Hour they have every afternoon.
The priests come together for Mass, lauds, vespers, night prayer and Eucharistic adoration. Opportunities for confessions are also offered.
Many of Father Jim Moroney’s conferences centered around the priest’s role presiding at the liturgy.
Father Moroney has been such a blessing for us. We are very grateful to Bishop McManus for allowing him to give so much time to the seminary, because liturgical formation is such an important part of their overall formation.
Father Moroney has been just extraordinary. Even while he was giving the retreat, he Skyped a class to the seminary! With Skype, he gave a class at the same time while he was in Florida.
There was this sign on the retreat center’s campus about alligators.
It was a typical “Florida moment.” Of course, they kept talking about this big alligator sunning himself. I went out with my phone hoping to get a portrait of this alligator, but it didn’t materialize. But, I wanted to share this sign.
We may not have beautiful weather in Boston right now, but you don’t have to worry about tripping over alligators!
I would have loved to have spent the whole week, but I had to come back for the Presbyteral Council meeting.
I told Bishop Hennessey that he should have discount prices for the Presbyteral Council members so that next year we can have the meeting down there in February.
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Each month, I meet with the Presbyteral Council which is comprised of the auxiliary bishops and priests representing the different vicariates and ministries of the archdiocese.
A very important part of the central administration of the archdiocese and the ministry of the archbishop is having this opportunity to hear directly from the priests on a whole range of issues. We have set up the Presbyteral Council so that the priest members who represent the different vicariates have an opportunity to go back and discuss with the priests of the vicariates the different issues that are discussed at the meeting. It’s also a way of bringing new issues before us.
I find the priests are very serious about their participation. We have wonderful discussion. People are not afraid to disagree, but they do so respectfully.
It’s quite obvious everyone’s greatest concern is the good of the Church and the ministry Christ has entrusted to us. It’s always a wonderful experience, and we’re grateful for the very important role Msgr. Dennis Sheehan exerts as the moderator.
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Yesterday, I had a meeting with our new Hispanic apostolate director Father Francisco Anzoategui, more commonly known as Father Paco, Secretary of Faith Formation and Evangelization Janet Benestad, Secretary for Catholic Media Scot Landry and Father Michael Harrington, who heads our ethnic and cultural outreach efforts. We met to discuss Hispanic ministry, evangelization and the Hispanic presence in the media.
With Janet, Scot, Father Michael and Father Paco
Father Paco was born in Mexico, and came to our archdiocese in 1997. He has served in various parishes. In addition to his role on our staff here at the Pastoral Center, he is the pastor of St. Stephen Parish in Framingham.
He has been with us a few months now, and has been doing a wonderful job coordinating our ministry to the local Hispanic community.
Our ministry to the Hispanic community is a very important one, given the fact that our already large Hispanic population continues to grow.
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This weekend, I will be giving a vocations discernment retreat to almost 60 men. I give this retreat each year for those who are considering a possible call to the priesthood.
Many of the candidates who have come to the seminary have come out of this retreat.
I ask you to pray for these men, that the Lord will inspire them and help them to know what God’s will is in their life, and if they are called to priesthood that they will make a generous response.
Until next week,