Hello and welcome,
Of course, we are very focused this week on the situation of our immigrants who are, of course, greatly concerned by recent events.
So, yesterday I organized the meeting at the Cathedral rectory of many of our local Muslim leaders with myself, Metropolitan Methodios, Gov. Baker, Mayor Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.
It was an occasion to express our support for them and to let them know that, as religious and community leaders, we are committed to working together to build a community where people have a sense of solidarity and of working for the common good.
For too long, we have failed to pass federal legislation that would fix our broken immigration system, which has led to a climate of fear and insecurity among all immigrants. This concerns me because, in great part, this has been due to partisan politics in Washington. It is important that those from both parties set aside their differences to work for what is best for the country, families and for all the people.
In an effort to address this climate of uncertainty, this week I also issued the following letter to be read at all the ethnic community Masses in the archdiocese, and at least mentioned in all the English Masses, as well:
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
In light of the present uncertainties and challenges that immigrants throughout the archdiocese are experiencing, I wish to address a few words of support and solidarity to the Catholics of our immigrant communities in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Boston. Having spent my entire priesthood working with people newly arrived from other countries, many of whom were undocumented workers fleeing the wars and violence of Central America, I have seen up close the pain and suffering visited upon families who are forced by circumstances to live in the shadows, always fearful of discovery, and economic ruin.
Although many Americans are frustrated by a broken immigration system and others are fearful of the threat of terrorism, I believe that most people in this country recognize that we are a nation of immigrants and that we have an established history of assimilating people of different languages, religions, ethnicities into the magnificent mosaic that is America. The ideals of our country are so well expressed in the beautiful poem of Emma Lazarus that is engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, which is described as, “a mighty woman with a torch… Her name, Mother of Exiles. From her beacon hand glows worldwide welcome….and she proclaims: ‘keep ancient lands, your storied pomp, give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… . I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'”
Just as we are a country of immigrants, so too we are a Church of immigrants. The Catholic Church in the United States has always stood with people who have come to this country from other lands and found in the Church a community and spiritual home. The arrival of so many from all over the globe has greatly enriched our country and our Church.
Here in Massachusetts, we have about 1 million immigrants living among and alongside of us, representing about 14 percent of the population of the state. Half of these people are now U.S. citizens. Studies have indicated that immigrants are large contributors to Social Security because they are largely of prime working age, and they pay into the system over a long period of time. This includes undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom are paying Social Security taxes but will never receive any benefits. Indeed, immigrants in Massachusetts pay $1.36 billion in state income taxes and $1.28 billion in local property taxes. Immigrants often do the hardest work for the least pay as they come to this country to work, to support their families and are law-abiding people.
The Bishops of the United States, the leadership of the Catholic Church, is committed to working for comprehensive immigration reform and for a welcoming policy towards those who are fleeing persecution and violence. It is our fervent prayer that people of goodwill from both political parties will be able to come together and forge a comprehensive immigration policy and laws that will reflect the idealism of this country.
I am anxious to assure all of you, especially families in the most precarious situations, that your Church stands with you and will work hard to promote solutions to the challenges that you face. Indeed, many of the programs of Catholic Charities are geared towards the immediate needs of immigrant families.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on his first journey as pope, went to the island of Lampedusa to express his support for the many refugees who arrived there and to warn the world against the globalization of indifference. We call on the whole community to heed his words. Know that you are constantly in our thoughts and prayers. You are not alone. You are an important part of our family and your Church will not cease to advocate on your behalf.
Calling on the powerful intercession of Mary the Mother of the Divine Shepherd for you and your loved ones, I remain
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Boston
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Now, on to the other events of my week:
On Saturday, I went to St. Augustine Parish in Andover to participate in the celebration of their 150th anniversary.
The parish has been in the care of the Augustinian Friars since its founding in 1852, though the present church is actually the parish’s third church building. The first was actually a chapel established as mission of St. Mary’s in Lawrence. Once the Andover Catholic community outgrew the chapel, a new wooden church was constructed in 1873, which, tragically, burned down about 10 years later. With the sacrificial support of parishioners, funds were raised to build the current brick church within a couple years.
We began the day of celebration with the 4 p.m. Mass, which was concelebrated by the pastor, Father Peter Gori; the Augustinian Provincial Father Michael Di Gregorio; and a number of the Augustinian Friars.
At the end of Mass, we blessed a statue of St. Augustine which was a gift to the parish by the Knights of Columbus.
Afterwards, there was a reception in the parish hall and I understand they concluded the evening with a dinner dance, though I was unable to stay for that.
Their work at St. Augustine’s is just another example of the wonderful ministry of the Augustinians, who have served in the archdiocese since its early years. They have sponsored a number of parishes and have made a great contribution to Catholic education here through their founding of Austin Prep and Merrimack College. We are very grateful for their charism and the faithful pastoral service that they have given the archdiocese over these many years.
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On Sunday, I went to Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline to celebrate Mass and the Rite of Candidacy for two seminarians, Eric Velazquez and Benito Moreno.
During the time of seminary formation, there are different moments that the Church marks with sacramentals as important milestones in formation process.
Candidacy is what used to be the minor order of tonsure, which would mark the beginning of the clerical state. Though that is no longer the case – the clerical state now begins with ordination to the diaconate – the admission to candidacy is still a significant moment to mark progress towards ordination to the priesthood. It is a moment in which the seminarians publicly declare their intention to continue their spiritual, academic, and personal formation for ordination.
Afterwards, I joined the seminary community for a lovely dinner and the seminarians sang some songs for us.
It was a wonderful evening and I was very happy to have joined them for this happy occasion.
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Every year, around the time of the New Year, I like to have a gathering at Regina Cleri with the residents there. It’s always a nice opportunity to be together with our senior priests for Mass followed by a lunch together.
As I usually do, I also took the opportunity to visit some of the men who are ill or in recovery, including Bishop Frank Irwin. I was so happy to see that he is doing so well after his recent surgery and we continue to pray for his continued improvement.
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On Tuesday, I was visited at the Pastoral Center by Hoffsman Ospino to discuss preparation for the upcoming V Encuentro Nacional.
The Encuentro has been, for many years, a tool to develop better ways to serve the growing Hispanic community in the United States. The first Encuentro in 1972 was an opportunity for the Hispanic Apostolate leaders to start coordinating their efforts and, since then, it has produced many initiatives to provide faith and human formation to the Hispanic community.
The V Encuentro builds on that tradition, and it is an ongoing four-year program that will culminate with a national gathering in September 2018 in Texas. During this process, leaders from all the dioceses in the United States are working to develop and adopt pastoral priorities that will best serve to the new evangelization of Hispanics and the whole Church at this time.
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Then, in the afternoon we had a farewell reception for four women who are retiring from the archdiocese after many years of service: Mary Finnigan, our Natural Family Planning coordinator; Susan Abbott of our Pastoral Planning Office; Susan Kay of our Religious Education Office; and Kathy Stebbins, who worked in youth ministry.
It was an opportunity for us to express our profound gratitude for the exceptional service they have rendered to the Church, the mission of the archdiocese, and the teaching of the faith.
We wish them many blessings as they begin this new stage of their life!
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Finally, as you know, last week I was very happy to join a group of our young people from Boston in attending the march for Life in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this week, I received a link to this video produced by one of those students who were with us, Olivia Colombo from Sacred Heart High School in Kingston, sharing her experience of the March and witnessing to the Gospel of Life. I thought it was so inspiring that I wanted to share it with all the readers of my blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Until next week,