This past weekend, we launched our annual 2011 Catholic Appeal in the archdiocese. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Offering Hope by Sharing God’s Gifts.”
I opened the appeal by celebrating Masses last weekend at three parishes in the area — Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta in Dorchester on Saturday afternoon, as well as St. Michael’s in North Andover and St. Bridget’s in Framingham on Sunday morning.
With Fathers Huy Nguyen and Jack Ahern. Father Huy is parochial vicar and Father Ahern is pastor at Blessed Mother Teresa
With John Carney and his father, Barney, parishioners and the nephew and brother-in-law of my priest secretary, Father Kickham. John played the piano during the Mass, adding to the wonderful music provided by the students in the choir
The choir from Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy
This annual appeal is for the diocese what the Sunday collection is for the parish. It’s very important for the works of mercy and evangelization the diocese does.
Preaching at St. Bridget’s in Framingham
Greeting parishioners with Msgr. Strahan after Mass. Msgr. Strahan has chaired the Catholic Appeal Pastor Advisory Committee since it’s inception. That important group assists me in shaping and advancing the campaign every year
We’re very grateful for the support of the pastors and the people throughout the archdiocese.
At St. Michael’s it was also Girl Scout Sunday. It was a great joy to see so many of the children and their families
Fathers Delaney, Hogan and Keyes were gracious hosts at St. Michael’s
I was able to go take the message personally to three of the parishes, and in the other parishes I spoke to the people by means of the video or a recording.
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On Saturday night, I went to St. Anthony’s in Allston for an Archdiocesan gathering of Brazilian young adults.
It’s a very popular Catholic tradition in Brazil that in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, when the country is celebrating “Carnaval”, for the Church to sponsor events for the youth that feature Christian music and good entertainment. It’s sort of a Christian Mardi Gras for young adults of the Brazilian community.
There was music, praise and Eucharistic Adoration. Rudney Novaes, one of our seminarians who is a native of Brazil, gave a moving testimony about vocations and answering God’s call. It was a beautiful celebration with hundreds of young adults.
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Monday we hosted a reception for pastors and members of the finance councils whose parishes are participating in our Improved Financial Relationship Model (IFRM), the means by which parishes support our central ministries.
It’s an attempt to initiate a system of resource sharing and collections that will benefit the parishes and the archdiocese and will be a more equitable distribution of responsibility throughout the parishes.
We recently completed the first phase of implementation, and we are heading into Phase II. We’re grateful to all the pastors who took part in Phase I.
The reports are very, very positive. You can read more in this story in The Pilot.
We were very happy to begin the second phase.
We are grateful to Scot Landry, our former institutional advancement secretary who now heads our Catholic Media Secretariat, for having initiated this promising project.
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Tuesday afternoon I was in Brighton for a dedication and blessing of a new ultrasound machine at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and to bless Pregnancy Help’s new offices at the nearby Brighton Marine Health Center.
We were very happy to do that and to also thank the Mahoney family that gave part of the money for the ultrasound along with a matching grant from the Knights of Columbus.
With members of the Mahoney family and State Deputy Michael Baldner
We are always very happy with these initiatives, particularly this one that reinforces the Catholic identity of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. It is important to realize these are still Catholic hospitals.
We are very pleased that so many of the doctors, nurses and midwives and others who are involved in the care of pregnant women and newborn babies were a part of the celebration. Dr. Helen Jackson, the president of the St. Luke’s Guild, was there and, of course, our pro-life director Marianne Luthin and many of her volunteers and supporters were there as well.
After the dedication of the ultrasound machine, we went to bless the new offices of Pregnancy Help.
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As you all know, this past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the solemn and holy season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is such an important day in the life of the Church. It’s a day when Catholics naturally gravitate towards the Church to receive their ashes and it’s an important symbol for the Catholic community.
This year the day was particularly special because we began our Catholics Come Home initiative, which is an effort to welcome back members of our Catholic family who have drifted from the regular practice of faith.
We hope that this year the Catholics Come Home program will help people who are on the periphery of the Church to become more involved in a life of faith and in our community.
We are so grateful for all the help that was given to us as a result of Evangelization Sunday, which we held in January. The second collection that was taken up at Masses that weekend allowed us to be able to present these wonderful commercials about the Church on television and radio in various languages, along with the trainings that have been done with parish leaders to welcome Catholics back to the Church.
These commercials, which I want to share with you here, were produced by Catholics Come Home. Unique to our archdiocese, one of them includes local Boston scenes such as Fenway Park and the Charles River.
We’re encouraging everyone to pray for this initiative and to take advantage of this holy season of Lent to invite people who have stepped away from the Church, who have no faith to be part of God’s family.
We lauched the campaign with a press conference that included Tom Peterson, the president of the national Catholics Come Home organization.
We also had representing the archdiocese Scot Landry, Janet Benestad, Father Richard Erikson and Father Paul Soper, from St. Albert’s in Weymouth.
We screened the commercials for the media and the audience.
I was very pleased that most local media participated and reported on the initiative.
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After the press conference I was privileged to be a part of the inaugural broadcast of The Good Catholic Life, a local Catholic radio program hosted by our very own Scot Landry and produced right here in the Pastoral Center.
The show airs Monday through Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. on the local Catholic radio station WQOM 1060 AM.
I was joined on the first broadcast by Secretary of Faith Formation and Evangelization Janet Benestad, co-host Father Matt Williams and Tom Peterson, the founder and director of the nationwide Catholics Come Home initiative, to talk about Catholics Come Home.
I encourage you to listen to The Good Catholic Life. You can, of course, listen live on the radio at WQOM 1060AM. But you can also listen to the recorded show at www.TheGoodCatholicLife.com and if you have an iPod, iPhone, or iPad you can subscribe to the show as a podcast in iTunes and have it download automatically to your computer each day.
You can listen to the Wednesday inaugural program here.
I am very pleased we have a 24-7 Catholic radio station in Boston and that we have some local programs on that station, including also the broadcasting of the daily Mass and the Rosary produced by CatholicTV.
I often said that a Catholic radio station was something we needed in Boston and I am happy that Scot Landry has very generously stepped up to the plate, not only facilitating the creation of WQOM with Holy Family Communications but also becoming the host of this local radio program.
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After the show, we celebrated Mass at 5 p.m. at our Bethany Chapel, where I was the main celebrant.
During my homily, I made mention of the significance of the Lenten season for us Catholics, and how it is so appropriate to begin this important Catholics Come Home initiative at this time. I want to share my remarks with you here:
Even now says the Lord, “Return to me with your whole heart”. The Good News is our God still wants us back. Like the Father of the Prodigal Son, God is anxious for us to return to Him. It is a homecoming. Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast! Gather the people.
Lent is such a special time in our year. It is a time of new beginnings, of reviewing our lives in the light of the Gospel, to deepen our conversion and to draw closer to God and to one another.
The ashes on our forehead are to remind us that we are pilgrims in this world. One day death will end that pilgrimage and we will have to render an account of our stewardship. How did we use our talents, our treasure, our time? Did we make this a better world by our love and generosity? If we have been living selfish and self-absorbed lives, Lent is an opportunity to clean up our obituary, to change the direction of our life. Change is never easy. We need a lot of help and we need a plan. Lent first of all, must be a renewal in the life of prayer. There can be no growth in faith and holiness without prayer. Each day we need time and space for God.
Hence, our first Lenten resolution should be about our prayer life. Daily reading from the Gospels and the Scriptures can be a very important way to deepen our prayer life, to find direction and encouragement in the Word of God. Jesus wants us to know His voice and to ponder His words in our heart.
Lent is also a time of greater discipline, healthier lifestyles, diet, exercise, giving up tobacco, alcohol, sweets, television. Discipline gives us greater freedom, real freedom, doing what we need to do, not necessarily always doing what we want without reference to God or others.
Jesus enumerates the three Lenten practices; prayer, fasting and almsgiving in the Gospel, but Jesus is just as concerned about the how, as He is about the what. Jesus does not want us to live our Lent with the self-congratulatory attitude of the Pharisees, who performed many works of penance so that people would be impressed. God is the only one we need to impress. Our Lenten practices and sacrifices must be simply out of love of God and a desire to return to Him with all our heart.
Sometimes we are complacent because we don’t seem to have dramatic sins to repent of. Perhaps it is just our mediocrity, our fear of the Cross, that we need to work on. That can be even harder, yet Jesus says if we are luke warm, mediocre, He will vomit us out. Strong words that we need to take to heart as we begin our Lent.
As the Germans say: “Stillstand ist Ruckschritt.” Standing still is going backwards.. That is surely true in the spiritual life. Either we go forward, or we slide back.
This Lent our Archdiocese is in the midst of an initiative to invite people who have stepped away to reconnect with the Life of the Church. We all need to realize that the Church exists to evangelize, to make disciples of all nations. It is our responsibility to reach out and encourage those around us to be members of Christ’s family, the Church.
The second reading for Ash Wednesday is from St. Paul who writes: “We are ambassadors for Christ as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
It is my hope that the Catholics Come Home initiative will encourage all of us to be ambassadors for Christ, inviting our friends, acquaintances and even strangers to be followers of Christ. It is important that an ambassador present well. Often they are housed in magnificent residences and fulfill a special role in making their presidents or rulers present in the new country. Being an ambassador for Christ does not require a fancy residence or clothes, but that we express the Lord’s concern to gather us into God’s family.
In the past, we have often asked our Catholics to practice the corporal works of mercy…to feed the hungry, provide clothes and shelter, visit the sick and prisoners. This is part of who we are as the Catholic Church…why we are involved in Catholic Charities, Saint Vincent de Paul, Catholic Relief Services, Health Care, Orphanages and soup kitchens and shelters and cemeteries. But we sometimes forget that these are also spiritual works of mercy; to instruct the uninformed, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted and to pray for the living and the dead.
I consider the Catholics Come Home initiative as a Spiritual Work of Mercy. It expresses our concern about people’s interior life, their relationship with God, their spiritual hunger. We want people to know Christ and His love, because we believe that in Christ we find the answers to life questions and come to eternal happiness.
Many recent scientific studies, like the one done at the University of California at Berkley School of Public Health, indicate that weekly Church attendance is strongly associated with reduced mortality rates and health risks. Non churchgoers were found to have a 21% greater overall risk of dying sooner than those who attended weekly religious services. So inviting people to be active members of our parishes is both a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy.
The Church exists to evangelize and this Holy Season of Lent is a special time of opportunity. And so as the Prophet tells us, “Sound the trumpet, proclaim a fast, gather the people and invite the Family to come home”.
- Cardinal Seán