Hello and welcome!
This past weekend, I traveled to New York City to take part in a conference sponsored by Communion and Liberation, known as the New York Encounter.
This annual gathering, in many ways, reflects the annual meeting held by Communion and Liberation in Rimini, Italy called “Il Meeting” where over one million people come together for a cultural and religious experience. There were about 15,000 people gathered for this meeting in New York.
The New York Encounter is always a very uplifting experience and I was so pleased to see we had such a large group of people from Boston who were able to attend.
With the Boston contingent
The theme of this year’s gathering was “An ‘Impossible’ Unity”, striving for unity among people in the world that is so divided.
I was able to visit some of the exhibits that they had during the conference.
I was particularly taken by their wonderful exhibit on Dorothy Day, who was an extraordinary person who brought together intellectuals and street people, and rich and poor. She was an extraordinary figure in American Catholicism, so much so that the Holy Father spoke about her in his address to Congress during his 2015 Apostolic Visit.
I was struck by this photo of Dorothy Day meeting Mother Teresa.
Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa became fast friends, and I hadn’t known before that Dorothy Day actually went to Calcutta and visited with Mother Teresa and her sisters there.
I had met Dorothy Day when I was in Washington at the Catholic worker house there, and she has always been a great inspiration to me. So, I was very pleased to see they had organized this exhibit to help young people be exposed to the witness of her life and her writings.
On Sunday morning I celebrated the Mass for them together with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States; Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the former nuncio to the United Nations in Geneva; as well as Bishop Steve Raica of Gaylord, Michigan.
The conference ended on Sunday, and by Monday I was back in Boston to attend our annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day prayer breakfast at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Roxbury. In spite of the cold they had a sold-out crowd. In fact, I understand there were people trying to buy tickets at the last minute and they were not available.
Of course, our Archdiocesan Black Catholic Choir performed for us during the breakfast and they did just a fantastic job. I was also so pleased to see so many young people helping at the breakfast from Cathedral High School and Nativity Prep.
Among those who spoke were our own Lorna DeRoses from the Office of Black Catholics and Meyer Chambers and his wife Beth, who were very much involved in organizing the breakfast. (Beth had just celebrated a significant birthday and so we all sang her Happy Birthday.)
Our keynote speaker for the day was Mrs. Mimi Jones, a veteran civil rights activist.
She is originally from a town in the deep South, Albany Georgia, and she was about 14 years old when she began to get involved with the civil rights movement.
She shared with us her recollections of attending a rally with Dr. Martin Luther King. Afterwards, the people left the church to march through the streets, they were all arrested. So, there she was, 14 years old and thrown in a jail cell with several other youngsters. She told us how moved she was when Martin Luther King came to visit them in jail.
Then, at another point, they were going to integrate a whites-only hotel, and Martin Luther King went to check in and they refused to allow him to go into the hotel. So, when a white couple checked in, they invited a number of black people to join them in the hotel pool (because you were allowed to bring guests to the pool). Mrs. Jones was one of those guests.
She said that she jumped into the pool and then looked up and saw the manager of the hotel pouring acid into the water. She told us that she could feel her skin burning. Then a policeman came and jumped into the pool, pulled her out and arrested her — but nothing was done to the man who was pouring acid into the pool.
Mrs. Jones’s testimony was just a reminder of how much people suffered in those days in the struggle against segregation and racism that was so deeply embedded in our society.
Our very moving celebration ended with a rousing rendition of “We shall overcome.”
After the breakfast, Father Oscar Pratt brought me upstairs to give me a quick tour of the church, which looks beautiful after the renovations.
On Tuesday, I was very pleased to join in the groundbreaking ceremony of The Union housing redevelopment on Boylston Street in Boston, which is a collaboration between St. Francis House and the archdiocese’s Planning Office for Urban Affairs.
I was very touched to see the response of the community to this event. There were over 150 people present including Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh, which certainly underscores the importance of the problem of homelessness in our society.
Because it is a redevelopment rather than the construction of a new building, instead of the traditional groundbreaking shovels, they had us sign a steel beam that will be placed in the walls of the new facility.
St. Francis House provides just a wonderful service to homeless people and now, with this project, they will be able to expand their good works. St. Francis House acquired the old YMCA across the street from their present facility and they will develop 46 units of affordable housing which will include 26 units for people who are homeless or had been homeless. In addition, they have plans to put in a work facility that will provide jobs for homeless people and other facilities.
We are so grateful to Lisa Alberghini, president of the Planning Office and Karen LaFrazia, president of St. Francis House who both worked so hard to make this project a reality. These types of projects are always very difficult because they involve obtaining private and government funding as well as numerous government permits and permissions.
With Lisa Alberghini and Karen Frazer
Wednesday, I traveled to Washington in preparation for attending the annual March for Life. Before the March for Life events began, I had an opportunity to visit several of my former parishioners who are in nursing homes. In fact, it was the perfect day for it, because on Wednesday there was snow in Washington, so the streets were empty. It was wonderful. you could get anywhere in no time at all!
As always, the Mass was a magnificent experience. The shrine was filled both upstairs and down with more than 10,000 people. Of course, in addition to those who were there in person, an even greater number of people were able to view the Mass on CatholicTV and EWTN.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the US Bishop’s Pro-Life Committee, presided and preached at the Mass. There were many bishops and hundreds of priests, religious, seminarians with us, which is also an impressive sight. There were a good number of Orthodox and Eastern bishops who accompanied us at the Mass, as they have been doing for the last few years. And they also attended the March for Life on the National Mall and were part of the program there.
Friday morning, we began our day with a Mass celebrated at Sacred Heart Shrine for all the different pilgrim groups coming to the March for Life from Boston.
This year, we were happy to be joined for the first time by Bishop Robert Deeley and his group from the Diocese of Portland, Maine. Since they were unable to get tickets to attend the rally at the Verizon Center, Bishop Deeley decided to bring them to join with us at Sacred Heart, and we were very happy to have them. So, what was a Boston pilgrim Mass, was this year something of a New England pilgrim Mass!
In addition to the large group of youth traveling with the archdiocese, I was very happy to see delegations from a number of Hispanic parishes including Holy Redeemer, East Boston and St. Joseph’s in Lynn. I also pointed out the presence of the Sisters of Life, who were there in very large numbers at the Mass.
We were so pleased to be joined at the Mass by Marta Lorena Casco and her daughter Beatriz. In my homily I told the people how I came to know her and her husband Leonardo, when they were a young couple in Washington back in the 70s. At that time, they were really unaware of the pro-life movement until they experienced it at the March for Life.
They later went back to their home country of Honduras and several years after that, when a law was passed legalizing abortion in Honduras, they called me. (By that time, I was bishop in the Virgin Islands.) I asked them “When does it go into to effect?” They told me in a couple of months. So I said now is the time to act. I advised them to use the media and begin to raise money for an awareness campaign. I then got Dr. Bernard Nathanson, the former abortion provider who became a staunch pro-life advocate, to come with me to Tegucigalpa to speak to the doctors and legislators in Honduras. He also appeared on television and presented his movie “The Silent Scream” in Spanish. As a result, the laws were reversed, and to this day there is still no abortion in Honduras.
At the Mass, I held Marta up as an example of someone who, through the March for Life, came to understand the urgency of the issue and dedicated herself to becoming an apostle of life. Later, she even ran for congress in her country, so that she could influence the policies they enacted. Like her, I said, we need people to really think about going into public life, bringing the message of the gospel into these situations.
She brought her daughter Beatriz to Washington this year because she wanted her to also experience the March for Life.
I invite you to listen to my full homily here:
As I mentioned earlier, a large number of Eastern bishops joined us on the stage and Metropolitan Tikhon, primate of the Orthodox Church in America, led the opening prayer. I think it’s a very important development that the Orthodox and Eastern Churches are having a growing presence at the March.As every year, there were a number of speakers who addressed us from the stage. Of course, this year we also had the first live video address by a sitting president from the White House. In his remarks, President Trump spoke of the various pro-life initiatives that his administration is supporting.
I was particularly struck by how careful he was to underscore the need to be supportive of people who are facing a difficult pregnancy and that the pro-life movement is about trying to provide people with the kind of services and support that will allow them to bring their children into the world and care for them.
Until next week,