Hello and welcome back!
On Thursday, for the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, I was at Bridgewater State Hospital, which is part of the corrections system in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We were accompanied by Deacon Jim Greer, who oversees the hospital and prison ministry, and a chaplain there, Peg Newman.
We had the Mass in the auditorium and were able to greet several of the inmates. Then we visited those that were confined to a section of the hospital, because they were not in good enough health to attend.
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That evening, I went to the Harvard Club in Boston to attend an event marking the release of a new book by local businessman and former Swiss Guard, Andreas Widmer, called “The Pope and the CEO.”
It was a very pleasant time and during the evening they had a Q&A with Andreas about his book. One of the more amusing things we learned was that the original cover showed Andreas being much taller than the Holy Father — so they shortened him in the photo! I told him that Giotto had learned how to do that, he sized everyone in his paintings according to how important they were!
The interesting thing about Andreas’ book is that so often, particularly today, we identify lay ministry and people’s participation in the Church with their liturgical functions such as lectors, ushers or greeters. Of course, the liturgy is the high point of our life; it’s there where we find our strength and live our Christian vocations.
But the vocation of the laity is really to carry the ideals of the Gospel to the workplace, to the family, to society and this is what Andreas Widmer is doing. Having lived in the shadow of the pope and observed the Holy Father and absorbed his spirit, he has translated that experience into the life of a Catholic businessman, a Catholic professional. This is a great service to the Church.
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On Friday, I attended the Catholic Near East Welfare Association plenary meeting in New York.
This organization was started in 1926 by Pope Pius XI and its call is one of support to the Eastern Catholic Churches, to give humanitarian aid to those in need, to educate us Westerners about the history, culture, people, and churches of the East, and to foster Christian unity and understanding as well as collaboration between religions.
They have a new director now, Msgr. John Kozar, who was the head of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States until recently.
Touring the new office with Msgr. Kozar
He left that job to replace Msgr. Robert Stern, who had been the CNEWA president for many, many years and had done a wonderful job.
Msgr. Kozar has vast experience with the Mission Societies, which puts him in good stead for this new role heading this very important Catholic institution supporting Christians in countries where they are a small minority and the Church’s presence is very important.
They publish a beautiful and colorful magazine, ONE, that provides information about their work and insight about the lives of Christians in the Near East.
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On Saturday, I was in Wilmington, Delaware for the 25th anniversary of Poor Clare Sister Maria Elena Romero. These cloistered Poor Clare sisters are part of the Capuchin order.
They have three or four houses in the United States and this was their second house. When it first opened, I gave a retreat when I was bishop in the Virgin Islands. Now, they invited me back to be part of the Golden Jubilee of one of the sisters.
A number of the Capuchin and other Franciscan friars, who have their formation programs nearby, were at the celebration as well as many of the Hispanics from the Third Order Franciscan group that I had founded in Washington some 40 years ago.
The sisters are Mexican; in Mexico the Capuchin sisters are a very large community with many vocations. It was very wonderful to be a part of the celebration and to see that they have two young sisters in formation: one from El Salvador and one from Mexico.
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On Sunday, I was at St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Andover to celebrate Mass for their 50th anniversary. Father Arthur Driscoll, the former pastor, joined us along with a number of priests who had been connected with the parish. They had an extraordinarily wonderful choir, both a children’s choir and an adult choir.
I was very impressed by the fact that there was great congregational singing. Often times in parishes with a good choir, people just listen!
Another thing that the parish does is they have nametags for the people, which I thought was a very interesting idea — it helps to build community and let’s people get to know each other.
Father Richard Conway is doing an extraordinary job and there’s a wonderful parish spirit.
The liturgy was beautifully executed, and people had many different activities to mark the 50th anniversary of their parish life.
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After we left Andover, we went straight to join the Respect Life Walk to Aid Mothers and Children, which begins at the Boston Common. The walk is sponsored by Massachusetts Citizens for Life and raises funds for a number of pro-life programs such as crisis pregnancy centers, counseling services, women’s homes and educational programs.
I was pleased that we had a wonderful turnout and the weather held out. We were fearful it was going to be rainy, although we would have walked—rain or shine— as always.
I was very pleased to see a good number of seminarians there as well as quite a large group from the Fall River Diocese.
I was invited to address the group and give them a final prayer before the walk. Of course, I reminded them of the importance of working for life and to be very aggressive in our opposition to physician assisted suicide, which is now the latest threat to life in the Commonwealth.
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On Monday, I had lunch with Father Andrew Small and Father Rodney Copp of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
Father Small gave me a photograph of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. Fulton Sheen, of course, was the former national director of the Propagation of the Faith in New York.
That is now Father Small’s role, as director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, which includes the Propagation.
We had a very nice conversation with Father Small. He shared with us that the canonization cause for Fulton Sheen was moving ahead and he asked me if I had ever met Bishop Sheen.
So I told him that as a child I used to serve Mass for him. He would come to our parish almost every year and spend a week there. It was quite a sensation, because we had several Masses every day at the parish. It was not a large parish, territorially, but a very large percentage of the people went to Mass every day. I think there were three or four Masses each day and they all had good crowds.
But when the rumor would be out there that Bishop Sheen was coming, then the telephone would start ringing off the hook in the rectory, asking “Which Mass is Bishop Sheen going to have?” The pastor would always say, “I may as well cancel all the other Masses!”
At his Mass the church would be packed and he would preach every day, which in those days was never done. It was like a retreat for the parish, such a wonderful gift.
After that time I didn’t see him for many years, until 1975 when, as a young priest, I was asked by Cardinal Baum to head up the social justice committee for the Holy Year. One of the activities that I organized was a seminar on preaching social justice, and I invited then-Father Avery Dulles and Archbishop Sheen.
And I called him up and said “I don’t know if you remember me, I used to be your altar boy, would you come and give a talk?” He kindly agreed to do it.
When he arrived I went to pick him up at the airport, and I was so shocked to see he was so short! As a child, of course, I thought of him as a giant, but he was like Zacchaeus — vertically challenged!
Later in Fall River, Father Travassos told me that he had also once been assigned to pick up Archbishop Sheen at the airport. (Father Travassos is also short.) When Father met Bishop Sheen, he told him “Ah, you’re one of us” at which the bishop laughed and said “Yes, on the television program I used to have the blackboards and everything lowered.”
But in 1975, Archbishop Sheen looked the same as ever, with his piercing blue eyes and striking figure.
Of course, as a young priest, organizing the conference I was worried about the attendance beforehand. As any of you who have done this sort of thing will understand, if you invite someone important to speak at an event, you always wonder in the back of your head if they will end up talking to an empty room.
In the end, we had probably over 500 priests at the conference. It was held at Catholic University’s Harke Theater which was filled, every seat was filled with priests.
Archbishop Sheen got up on the stage; he pushed the microphone aside and gave an absolutely stunning presentation. Afterwards, the priests gave him about a ten minute standing ovation. This was the last time I saw him, but it was a very moving event.
Of course, Cardinal Dulles, who at the time was Father Dulles, also did a fantastic job. I remember when I introduced Father Dulles, I said, “A lot of people say that the Americans don’t appreciate our theologians, but there’s no Rahner International Airport in Germany!”
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That evening, I went to celebrate the Transitus of St. Francis – a nighttime commemoration of the death of St. Francis of Assisi – with the Poor Clares in Andover.
We had the Mass and the Transitus there, and the sisters have the custom of blessing the bread and distributing it to the people as part of the service. There were a number of Tertiaries, secular Franciscans, at the Mass. It was a very lovely celebration.
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On Tuesday, I met with Reverend Jack Johnson, a Methodist minister who is the head of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. He joined me at the Pastoral Center for lunch.
Rev. Johnson is finishing his tenure as executive director and wanted to talk to me about future collaboration.
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That afternoon, I met with our recently ordained priests. I meet with them regularly for a Holy Hour, a discussion and dinner.
This time, they came with a number of questions on topics such as the New Evangelization, preaching, the interior life of the priest, and conflict resolution among priests.
I find these meetings are always a very life-giving experience and I think the young priests enjoy being with each other and with their bishop.
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On Wednesday, I attended the inauguration of the new president of Regis College, Dr. Antoinette “Toni” Hays. Dr. Hays is replacing Dr. Mary Jane England, who stepped down after a long tenure at Regis.
I celebrated Mass as part of the inauguration
With Toni Hays
She has been on the faculty there since 1985 and most recently was the first academic dean of their new school of nursing, science, and health professions. She obviously has the advantage of knowing the school well and will be able hit the ground running, as they say.
Chair of the Board of Trustees, Donna M. Norris, MD,
with President Hays at the investiture
We are very grateful to the Sisters of St. Joseph who founded and sponsor the school. Like all of our Catholic colleges, Regis is a gift to the community. We also want to thank Dr. England for her service to the school and the archdiocese.
Regis students cheering the academic procession
As Regis inaugurates a new president, we pray for the mission of the school; that the good Lord will bless them, that they will be a source of evangelization and transferring the faith, and inspire people to lives of faithful, generous service to God and to the whole community.
Until next week,