Each year, close to Christmas, I visit some of the prisons. Last Thursday I visited MCI Framingham, a women’s prison, where Sister Maureen Clark, CSJ, has been the chaplain for many years. She does such wonderful work there. I also greeted several seminarians from St. John’s who are working with her as part of their formation program.During the visit we confirmed and gave the Eucharist to one woman. At the Mass we celebrated, there was a group of volunteers who helped with the music. After the Mass we had an encounter with the women at the pre-release center. We sang some Christmas carols, gave them a little reflection on Christmas and had a dialogue.
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The next day I attended the Funeral Mass of Margarete MacNeice at St. Gerard’s in Canton. Margarete and her husband John are very dear friends of mine and of so many people in the community. They have been so generous with so many causes in the Church. Margarete was from Germany and met John there when he was a GI soldier. After the war they got married and came to live in the United States.
One of the daughters gave a beautiful eulogy before the Mass and Oblate Father Bill Brown preached the sermon, and I had the Mass. The former Jesuit provincial Father Bill Barry spoke at the end of Mass. Many friends of the family were there and many of their grandchildren as well. It was sad to say farewell to Margarete, but we were all grateful for the beautiful life that she led, her faith and her family… people were so important to her, which was obvious by the beautiful testimonies people shared on that day.
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Saturday, we visited the Little Sisters of the Poor. They were having a Christmas event.
There was a small creche in his room
We are so blessed to have the Little Sisters of the Poor in the diocese. Many mothers of priests are residents there and the sisters do such a wonderful job making it into a real home for all residents.
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On Christmas eve I went to an event at the Teen Center at St. Peter’s in Dorchester. Angela Menino and her children were there along with a number of the priests, staff and volunteers from the Teen Center.
The teen center serves over 300 young people and prepares them to graduate and head into college. It performs a great function in that community. Most of the youngster are Cape Verdean immigrants and for the last several years, we have held this event sponsored by the Menino family in which we distribute toys to the children in the neighborhood.
He told me that as young lad he went to St. Peter school and lived in Dorchester when he was growing up. He was very anxious to get a tour of the Teen Center and learn more about what was happening there.
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I am always impressed to see all the volunteers who I recognized from previous years and many take their children to volunteer. They see this as a very important event in their family’s lives to show their children the situation of homeless people in the community and make them develop a connection to the Pine Street Inn, which is poised to celebrate 50 years. Monsignor Kelly was one of the founders and they do a wonderful job there. They also have a catering company that is a source of employment for homeless people which provides food for different events.
During my visit I distributed food, visited with the people and thanked the volunteers. There was an article in the Globe that you can read here.
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Of course, that evening we celebrated the Midnight Mass in the Cathedral’s basement as the upstairs is undergoing reconstruction. We had a very full Church at the Midnight Mass.
The church looked beautiful and Father Kevin is doing such wonderful work. The weather was not bad, so that helped with attendance. Many parishes were having earlier Masses so the people who wanted the “real” midnight Mass came to the Cathedral.
The next day we had a televised Christmas day Mass. Here is my Christmas homily:
Father Bob Kickham’s two nephews and niece provide the music every year for us.
There were many people at St. Francis due to complete white-out conditions outside driving more homeless people into the shelters.
While greeting the people beforehand I spoke to two homeless women who gave beautiful testimonies of their faith and desire for God’s peace to come into the world and to overcome divisions and violence. It was very touching to hear their spontaneous testimony.
Then we had the service, which was a scripture service with a sermon and Christmas carols. Also there I met with the volunteers and thanked them for their support.
Homelessness is a very serious and complex problem. It’s not the problem of the people running Pine Street Inn or St. Francis House but instead a problem of society. There are so many different factors that contribute to homelessness including gentrification and income inequality, failure to take care of people with mental problems and addiction, lack of housing… many different factors contribute to this very serious and growing problem in our society.
By visiting the shelters at Christmas I hope to raise consciousness in the community that all of us need to be more involved, looking for solutions for these brothers and sisters of ours who are on the streets.