Hello and welcome back!
I want to begin this week calling your attention to the desperate situation facing the people of the Horn of Africa.
As USCCB president Archbishop Dolan, and Bishop Kicanas, the chairman of Catholic Relief Services, recently wrote in a letter urging dioceses to aid in the relief efforts: “Every day we are seeing more and more heartbreaking news about the drought and famine in Somalia and the eastern parts of Africa. We see millions of people being forced from their homes, leaving behind what meager possessions they had, and walking for days over rough terrain.”
In response to that request, I have authorized our parishes to take up a voluntary second collection at Masses, either this weekend or next weekend, to support Catholic Relief Services in their work to bring help to the people of the region. As an act of Christian solidarity and love, we must share our financial resources with those families and individuals who are in such desperate need.
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On Monday, at Regina Cleri we had a Eucharist with many of the priests and people from the diocese to honor Theresa McCallion, who has been working at Regina Cleri for 45 years!
There was also a reception and lunch afterwards with many wonderful testimonials about her service, her generosity and her devotion to the priests and the community at Regina Cleri.
I know I join everyone in congratulating Theresa and thanking her for her remarkable service to the Church.
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Later that day, back at the cathedral, we received a visit from Bishop Antony Pappusamy from Dindigul, India who is in the United States for mission appeals.
He brought me an orange shawl that is an Indian custom.
His is a rather new diocese, having only been established in 2003, but it is growing very quickly. He was anxious to tell me about the Church in India and the wonderful things that are happening there. He was also kind enough to invite me to visit him some day.
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That evening I was happy to be visited by some Capuchin friends.
Father Moises and Father Emilio were parishioners of mine in Washington D.C. who eventually entered the Capuchins and whom I ordained.
Father Moises is originally from El Salvador, and he is now the pastor of Sacred Heart Shrine in Washington, on 16th Street. Many from Boston will know that church because we’ve had Mass there for the Boston groups going to the March for Life.
With Father Moises before the March for Life in 2010
It’s a wonderful parish that has three Masses in Spanish, one in Haitian Creole, one in Vietnamese, and one in English.
Father Emilio – whose father was with me in the Agrupación Catolica and who used to help in the dental clinic in the Centro Catolico – was a missionary for ten years in Papua New Guinea and is now in Cuba in the town of Manzanillo, near Santiago de Cuba. He’s been in Cuba now for five years and is very happy to be working there. He was home visiting the friars and his family.
Also visiting were Brother Richard and Brother Matthew who were in the area to attend a retreat at Enders Island in Connecticut.
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On Wednesday, we had lunch with the El Salvadoran Consul, José Edgardo Alemán Molina, who is from the same town in El Salvador as Father Moises: Santa Ana. In fact, they were neighbors there and even played on the same baseball team.
We have a very large population of Salvadorans here in the archdiocese. The Consul said there are about 80,000 Salvadorans here in New England.
The Consul gave me a very lovely card — sort of like a Holy Card — commemorating Archbishop Oscar Romero.
On the back there’s a quote from a celebration that was held on January 16th of last year, at which the president of the Republic of El Salvador, Mauricio Funes, made the following statement (I will translate the Spanish for you):
“In the name of the Salvadoran state, I ask forgiveness for the abhorrent crimes and violations of human rights during the armed conflict. May this forgiveness help to bring dignity to the victims, help to alleviate their pain and heal their wounds. May this gesture contribute to strengthen the peace, and further national unity can build a future of hope.”
It was a very dramatic admission of the participation of the Salvadoran government in the martyrdom of Archbishop Romero. I told the Consul that I was privileged to have known Monsignor Romero very well and spent a month with him in Puebla, Mexico and at other times had been in contact and visited him when he was in his diocese of San Salvador.
This was a very sad chapter in the history of the Church in El Salvador. It was during this same terrible time of conflict that Sisters Dorothy Kazel, Maura Clarke and Ita Ford and a lay missionary, Jean Donovan, were murdered.
Obviously the fact that the government would be able to ask for forgiveness and to look back at those terrible war years says a great deal about the progress of this towards reconciliation.
One of the great heroes of the peace process was El Salvadoran president José Napoleón Duarte, who was actually a classmate of my uncle’s at Notre Dame. Thanks to him and many others, the peace process came to fruition and democracy has been restored to El Salvador.
In fact, last Saturday’s Feast of the Transfiguration was the patronal feast of El Salvador: Cristo Divino Salvador del Mundo. It’s the only country in the world that’s named after Christ.
Salvadoran communities traditionally hold a huge celebration on that day and I used to organize one when I was in Washington. Of course, the largest one is in El Salvador.
Part of the celebration was carrying a statue of Christ standing on the top of a globe. He would be dressed as what they call “the Nazareno” in purple or red, with a crown of thorns. At one point the world opens up, the statue descends, and then it comes out again and Christ is transformed in white and radiant garments of the Transfiguration. It is a very dramatic and beautiful celebration for their patronal feast.
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Each year to mark the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests, we have a gathering for priests at St. John’s Seminary with vespers and a cook-out.
This year there was a reflection given by Monsignor Peter Conley on the priesthood. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be present to hear the remarks by Monsignor Conley, but I understand they were very well-received.
He spoke on his 47 years of priesthood and the changes that have occurred in rectory life, in the liturgy, and other areas. He had some funny stories of course, but also spoke on the sorrows that he faced. And apparently, he had some interesting Cardinal Cushing anecdotes as well! But he concluded with the constants of a priestly life that are still true today: discipleship to the Lord, faithfulness to prayer, and the different dimensions of love.
The event is always very well attended and this year, because they’re working on the murals in the chapel, we actually celebrated the vespers in the refectory and then went out in the courtyard for the evening meal.
We are very grateful to the seminary for hosting us. It’s always a grand event and we had beautiful weather (despite the threat of a storm that passed just south of us)!
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I also want to note that yesterday was the feast of St. Clare of Assisi. Of course, St. Clare was a friend of St. Francis of Assisi who was inspired by his preaching and by his radical way of following Jesus and the foundress of the Poor Clares.
We are blessed to have two Poor Clare communities in the archdiocese in Jamaica Plain and Andover.
St. Clare is also the patroness of television and so we pray through her intercession that our ministry over the air waves will help bring more people to know the Lord and rejoice in his love!
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Finally, I want to let you know that tonight I will be leaving for World Youth Day in Madrid, the theme of which is: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”
All told, we have around 500 pilgrims from the archdiocese who will be participating in this year’s World Youth Day. Many of them will also be leaving for Spain in these days.
Please pray for us as we begin this important pilgrimage to be together with the Holy Father.
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return!