Hello and welcome,
I would like to begin this week by sharing a few thoughts on the issues concerning immigration which occupy a central place in our national life at this time. Immigration has been a constant for centuries as people have moved across borders, across cultures and across continents. In our current global environment, the realities of migration and immigration are intensified. We live in a world where the continuous and accelerating movement of ideas, goods, services and finances are the norm. In this kind of world people also will move, sometimes by choice and very often by the coercion of war and persecution.
For the last 40 years the Catholic bishops of the United States have consistently advocated for systematic reform of U.S. immigration policy. Across Democratic and Republican administrations and changing leadership in the U.S. Congress, informed by Catholic teaching on the dignity of every person and by pastoral experience, the bishops have called attention to the fact that a defective immigration policy does not serve the interests of our country or the people from around the world who come to us seeking a new beginning.
The need for systematic review and reform of immigration policy is twofold: first, within the United States today there are approximately 11 million people without legal documentation; second, our standards for admitting refugees and immigrants should be examined. The status of undocumented persons, which always involves families, cannot be ignored. It requires a policy which combines respect for our legal system and a compassionate and creative path toward citizenship. Also, the criteria by which we admit refugees and immigrants requires a realistic plan for security of the nation joined with the commitment to welcome new people to our country, as we have always done.
The Catholic voice in the immigration debate calls for reform based on reason, compassion and mercy for those fleeing violence and persecution. At a pastoral level, in our country and in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Church must be a community which provides pastoral care, legal advice and social services to refugees and immigrants, as we have done in this Archdiocese for more than one hundred years. We will continue this important work through our parishes, Catholic Charities and our Catholic schools.
Our country has the opportunity to respond to the reality of immigration with policies and practices which reflect our deepest religious and social principles. Together let us make the commitment to be a beacon of light and hope for those who look to us in their time of need.
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This week, we observed our traditional Week of Prayer for Unity among Christian churches and denominations, which begins with the January 18 feast of the Chair of Peter and ends January 25 with the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
The keystone commemoration of this week was an ecumenical prayer service that we hosted at Holy Name Church in West Roxbury.
The participation was the largest we have ever had in Boston for the number of people in attendance and the number of communities involved. We were joined by large numbers of clergy from the Orthodox and Eastern Churches, mainline Protestants, as well as a number of evangelical churches, including many ethnic congregations.
It was a very moving experience and it was so inspiring to see the church so completely filled on a Saturday afternoon.
Holy Name Church was such a beautiful venue for the gathering. I provided that pictures of the mosaic over the altar be distributed, which is a replica of the mosaic in the Church of San Clemente in Rome. San Clemente was the titular church of one of my predecessors, Cardinal William O’Connell. The Orthodox participants were struck by the different Byzantine elements of Holy Name Church.
The wonderful music for the service was provided by a number of choirs from the different groups including the Orthodox seminary, the Coptic Orthodox and others.
We are so grateful to Dr. Vito Nicastro, the pastoral staff at Holy Name Parish, the Knights of Columbus and many other who worked who worked so hard with so many different groups to bring this very important celebration together.
Sunday, I went to the Frates home in Beverly to visit Pete Frates and to bestow the Cheverus Award medal to his grandfather Jack Frates, a dedicated life-long parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Parish who was unable to be at our celebration at the cathedral last December.
Pete Frates is well known throughout the world as the inspiration for the ice bucket challenge. Pete was the captain of the baseball team at Boston College and went on to play professional baseball in Europe; but at age 27 he was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. A year later, he married Julie and they welcomed their daughter Lucy to their family, but at this stage of his life he is now completely paralyzed.
It was so inspiring to see how Pete’s family and friends gather around to care of him. Governor Baker, a close friend of Pete and the family, very kindly joined us for the visit and in congratulating Jack on his Cheverus Award.
While I was there, I administered the anointing of the sick to him. The Gospel reading that I chose was the story of the paralytic being taken to Jesus. It was a very moving experience.
I shared some of Pete’s story later in the day when I attended the Assembly for Life sponsored by the Massachusetts Citizens for Life at Faneuil Hall. I told them that this is what the culture of life is about: people facing such health challenges and people coming together to take care of one another. In this family you see how they certainly have. It was so edifying to see the love and the care that he is receiving.
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As I mentioned, later that day I went to the Assembly for Life to offer some final remarks and give the benediction. The keynote speaker for the day was Mother Olga Yaqob of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.
Cindy Dorsey was the day’s emcee and she did just an excellent job. She said she was from a very large Irish family and, at one point, she told us a story about her family going to a restaurant. She said she remembers her father ordering something like 20 or 30 hot dogs and the waitress coming up to her mother and saying “When are you going to stop having children?” And she said her mother jokingly replied, “When I have an ugly one!” Obviously, her mother considered every child to be beautiful.
At one point, there was a group of protesters who tried to disturb the rally. I told the people that, as the pro-life movement makes a kind of progress, the resistance becomes more aggressive and negative.
I know Mother Olga called for prayer as the protesters tried to disrupt the meeting and one young woman even went afterwards to speak to the demonstrators outside. Protests like these are just part and parcel of trying to witness to the Gospel of Life, but we must try to respond in a way that witnesses to the compassionate face of Christ and not the angry and negative attacks that they level against the pro-life movement.
I was so encouraged to see such a great attendance this year and people were very much looking forward to the March for Life. Many of them told me that they were planning to come to Washington to be with us here.
During the evening, they honored Father Jason Albert and Mrs. Ann Larosse.
In addition to being an important day for the seminary, of course it was an important day for all New England with the Patriots facing the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Championship. Many were pleased to note that the dinner did not include any long speeches or frills so as to allow Patriots fans to get home in time to watch the victory celebration.
Tuesday, we had one of our regular meetings of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. At these gatherings, the bishops of the state and other representatives of the dioceses come together to discuss the various social issues that we face together as citizens of the Commonwealth.
Jim Driscoll is the director of the MCC and he led us in a very enriching discussion of the many issues that will be coming up throughout the year that will affect the Church and the citizens of the state.
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That evening I was joined for dinner at the cathedral by Jack and Cynthia Monahan. Jack is finishing his term as lieutenant for the Northeast lieutenancy of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.
He and Cynthia have worked very hard to advance the work of the order and the dinner was an opportunity for me to discuss my personal gratitude to them and my gratitude for all the good that the order does for the Church in the Holy Land.
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Yesterday we had a beautiful celebration of the Opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC.
There were many bishops, priests, seminarians, deacons, religious and literally thousands of faithful present for the Mass, filling both the upper and lower church at the Basilica.
Also, there was a very good contingent of Greek Orthodox and other Orthodox bishops that joined us in the sanctuary as we celebrated the Eucharist.
Cardinal Dolan gave a beautiful homily. He reflected on the reading from the Letter to the Hebrews that talks about the sanctuary. He talked about the different sanctuaries that are important to us; the sanctuary of the mother’s womb being the primal example of a sanctuary and he gave a very lovely reflection on the pro-life cause.
After the Mass, many people stayed for the vigil, especially the seminarians who were present for adoration at different hours of the night and led the prayers for the people.
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This morning I celebrated Mass for the Boston contingent at Sacred Heart Church, where Father Moises, a fellow Capuchin and dear friend, serves as pastor. There were more than 900 people at the Mass and it was standing room only in the church.
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After the Mass, we set out for the March. I was present at the Mall when Vice President Pence and his wife spoke. They both gave very heartfelt and moving testimonies about the sacredness of human life and our obligation to defend life.
I was very edified by the stance of the Vice President, which was obviously one of a person who is very deeply pro-life. It was not an angry rant but a call for compassion and for understanding, a genuine call for the defense of all human life.
It was a very moving event, this being the first time that a vice president has spoken personally at the March. The tens of thousands of people present at that time, for the program before the March, were very gratified by the Vice President’s presence.
The numbers of young people joining in throughout the day’s events was just tremendous. The March provides a chance for young people to experience their faith at a deeper level, to have the experience of being part of the mission of the Church and to identify with the cause of life, and to be surrounded by other young people who share their convictions and their desire to be faithful disciples of the Catholic Church.
Until next week,