On Friday, I celebrated the funeral Mass of Sister Manuela Vencelá at St. Anthony’s Church, near Catholic University. Auxiliary Bishop Francisco Gonzalez was there along with many priests, religious and lay people who had known sister during the nearly four decades she had worked with the Hispanic community.
I celebrated the Mass and preached. It was an honor to be able to do that for such a great religious, a real apostle to the people.
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That evening, I was back in Boston for the annual meeting of the St. James Society.
Father Kevin Hayes made his last report to us as director of the society.
We are very grateful to him for the excellent work he did as director and we look forward to the arrival of the new director in the spring, Father David Costello from the Diocese of Limerick.
During the meeting, we were happy to hear reports of the wonderful work that is taking place through the St. James Society and the extraordinary support the Catholics in the archdiocese are giving to that ministry.
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Then, on Saturday morning, we had the ordination of seven transitional deacons, "men of good repute" and “full of the Holy Spirit,” like the original seven deacons of the Gospel.
As I said in my homily, the Apostles were called “the Twelve” and the deacons were called “the Seven.” And we had our own “Magnificent Seven” to be ordained Saturday morning at the Cathedral.
Deacons Michael Sheehan FPO, Adrian A. Milik, John Luong, John Healy, Matthew Guidi, Felipe Gonzales and Eric Cadin
It was a very beautiful celebration and we pray that the Lord bless these men and help them to grow in their vocations as they draw closer to their ordination to the priesthood.
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The following day, we traveled back to Washington for the March for Life, what we call in Boston “The Pilgrimage for Life”.
That evening, I concelebrated the Mass to begin the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
As always, the basilica was packed wall-to-wall with people. Many thousands of people were present, and many thousands of others were able to watch on television.
The procession of seminarians, priests and bishops took over half an hour to enter the church.
Cardinal DiNardo presided at the Mass and delivered a beautiful homily.
This is always a very important event, the beginning of a night of prayer. Seminarians and others have different hours assigned to them for prayer and adoration in the crypt of the Basilica throughout the night leading up to the March.
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The next day, Monday, I had Mass for about 500 pilgrims from Boston, who accompanied us on the pilgrimage.
This Mass was at Sacred Heart on 16th St., the parish where I celebrated the Haitian and Spanish Mass for many years while I was in Washington.
The pastor, Father Moises, and the people of the parish were very accommodating, making sure there was food for the pilgrims before going on to the March for Life.
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From there we went on to the March itself, which was attended by over 400,000 people.
The weather was a cold, light rain but it was not anything too terrible, and I think it only added to the witness: that people are going to come out, regardless of the weather, to affirm our commitment to life.
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On Tuesday morning, we had closing Mass of the Pilgrimage for Life at St. Patrick’s, the oldest church in Washington, built in 1794. My understanding is that it was built by the same Irish laborers who built the White House.
It is a lovely old church where, for many years, the Pan-American Mass was celebrated. In the sanctuary, they have a number of paintings — almost like icons — of saints from all of the Americas, such as Juan Diego, Mother Seton and Mother Cabrini.
We are very grateful to Father Matt Williams, the staff of the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults, and all those who accompanied the young people — the priests, the youth ministers and the parents. The music for the liturgies during the pilgrimage was provided by John Niven, who is always excellent.
This is the largest group of youth we have ever had attend the March for life. Ever since coming to Boston, it has been my desire to have substantial participation in the March. I have gone to each one since the beginning and it is a great consolation to see not only how it has grown — and grown more ecumenical — but also grown younger. The massive presence of so many young people bodes very well for the future, that this is not an issue that is going to go away, that young Americans are committed to the Gospel of Life, and will continue to work for an end to Roe vs. Wade.
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Before leaving Washington, I was able to visit the new Blessed Pope John Paul II Seminary with Father Dan Hennessey, our vocations director, who was with us attending the March for Life.
Father Dan had expressed a desire to visit the new seminary and to greet Msgr. Robert Panke, who had been vocations director in Washington, but is now the rector of the seminary. I was also hoping to see a seminarian Bobby Kilner, who is a CUA graduate and whose grandparents were on my Teams of Our Lady.
As a young friar, I had a wonderful group of couples who were all distinguished by their very large families —they all had nine children or more. There were a number of vocations that came out of that group, and now the grandson of one of those couples (who was also one of nine children) is in the seminary, and we are so pleased.
So we got to visit the seminary which was dedicated last year in honor of Blessed Pope John Paul II. They have a relic there similar to the one we have here in Boston of the late Pope.
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On Wednesday, I was visited by Father Campos who worked as a layman in our tribunal. He went to South America and was ordained a priest for the diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. He came to talk about the seminary there and several projects he is involved in and as well as visiting old friends in Boston.
We were delighted to see him again, particularly now as a priest. He said he was very happy, and I know he is doing great work.
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Finally, yesterday, I visited Our Lady of Providence Seminary, where there are almost 30 seminarians. Father Christopher Mahar is the rector there and Bishop Robert Evans and a number of priests accompanied us.
There are five young men studying for Boston there. It is our college seminary. Usually they take their classes at Providence College and everything else takes place at the seminary.
- Cardinal Seán