Hello and welcome!
Of course, here in Boston there is growing excitement that the Super Bowl Sunday matchup featuring the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles is approaching.
In anticipation of the big game, my old friend and classmate Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has challenged me to a friendly wager. He has promised me a Philly cheesesteak if Philadelphia loses. I, in return, offered a New England lobster in the unlikely event that the New England Patriots lose. (Obviously, I offered the better prize because I’m so confident that we will see a Patriots victory on Sunday.)
We have also pledged to help the programs of the Church that help the needy in our archdioceses. If the Eagles win, I will make of a donation of $100 to St. John’s Hospice, which provides services to the homeless in Philadelphia and if the Patriot’s win, Archbishop Chaput will make an equal donation to Catholic Charities Boston.
Now, on to the events of my week…
Catholic healthcare has been a very important part of the Church’s ministry for 2,000 years. Jesus is the Divine Physician and we read in the Gospels the stories of his mercy and care for the sick. In the history of our Church, hospitals, clinics and care for the sick and the injured have always been a major part of the Church’s witness to our discipleship in Jesus. So, it was a joy to be able to celebrate half a century of Catholic healthcare in Brockton.
The hospital has a beautiful Chapel where Cardinal Cushing celebrated the inaugural Mass 50 years ago this month.
I’m always joking about how I could spend my whole life going around celebrating the anniversaries of institutions founded by Cardinal Cushing. Of course, before this, I had just returned from Peru where we celebrated the 60th anniversary of the St. James Society, which was also founded by Cardinal Cushing. And, a couple of years ago, I even traveled to Ireland to celebrate the rededication of Galway Cathedral, which was greatly supported by Cardinal Cushing.
We had a wonderful celebration at Good Samaritan Medical Center and afterwards I was able to visit the babies in the Special Care Nursery.
It was inspiring to see the good work being done at Good Samaritan. The chaplain, Father Richard Visbisky, is very energetic and they have a very dedicated and experienced staff.
On Sunday, I attended the wakes of two very special people who had passed during the previous week.
The first wake I attended was for Roland Driscoll.
Roland and Alice Driscoll are wonderful Catholics who would often attend Mass at the Pastoral Center and have been so supportive and helpful to the Church in so many ways. Roland had a long and extraordinary life and was beloved by so many people. We will miss seeing him at the noon Mass at the Pastoral Center.
With Roland and Alice with two of their grandchildren, Courtney and Hannah, in 2009
Roland died suddenly, so I was happy to be able to attend the wake and to pray with Alice and their beautiful family.
Later that day I went to New Bedford to attend the wake of Aaron McNamee, the son of Arlene and Jim McNamee, who died unexpectedly at the age of 39. Arlene was the head of Catholic Charities in Fall River for many years, and she is also the Fall River representative to the Massachusetts Catholic Conference. I had known Aaron since he was in high school and he had also been a longtime worker at Catholic Charities in Fall River.
It was a very sad moment for his family, but I was happy to be able to be there to personally tender my condolences to Jim and Arlene.
This past week was, of course, Catholic Schools Week. So, on Monday, along with our Superintendent of Schools Kathy Mears, I went to Mount Alvernia High School in Newton for a Mass to kick off the week’s celebrations.
Mount Alvernia was founded by the Franciscan Sisters and the current Head of School is Eileen McLaughlin, the daughter of Mary Ann McLaughlin who worked so many years in the archdiocese and was there with us for the Mass.
At the Mass, Eileen gave a very beautiful talk on the importance of Catholic education.
Following the Mass, I was given a tour of the school and had an opportunity to bless their newly renovated library.
Afterwards, we had a dialogue with a group of students.
There were quite a range of questions – some of which were very philosophical, and some which were more mundane such as “Are you a cat or dog person?” (In case you’re curious, I told them that I’m really a dog person, but I’ve learned to respect cats since we have one at the cathedral that has eliminated our mice!)
It was a lovely day, and I was very happy to kick off Catholic Schools Week at Mount Alvernia.
Later that afternoon, I went to gather with our recently ordained priests who were holding a retreat at the Campion Center in Weston.
I celebrated Mass with them in the newly renovated chapel, which is just beautiful.
After the Mass, we had lunch together, then I gave them a talk and we had a time of dialogue.
On Tuesday, I was visited by Cardinal John Onaiyekan, Archbishop of Abuja in Nigeria and Father Lazarus, one of his priests who is studying at Boston College. The cardinal had some meetings in the States and came to Boston to visit Father Lazarus, so he took the opportunity to visit me.
That evening, I went to St. John’s Seminary to take part in one of our periodic St. Andrew’s Dinners for young men considering a vocation to the priesthood.
As always, we had a Holy Hour, Vespers and dinner together. Afterwards, the young men took a tour of the seminary and then gathered in the Cardinal Medeiros classroom, where they were addressed by Father Eric Cadin and seminarian David Campo. I also addressed them and gave them my blessing.
We had a very good turnout this time, including a good-sized group from Sacred Heart in Kingston. I was very pleased to see that, even though the school had been closed that day because of snow, it did not deter their delegation from coming to the dinner. They were very happy to say that they looked forward to seeing me the next day at their school and were hoping that I would give them a free day. I told them “It all depends on how well you sing at Mass tomorrow!”
As you might have guessed by now, Wednesday I went to Sacred Heart School in Kingston to celebrate Catholic Schools Week as well as the school’s Founder’s Day.
They have just a stunning campus with three sections, one for early education, one for the primary grades and another for the high school and we celebrated Mass together with the entire student body in the school auditorium. I think there were about 650 students in all.
The Sisters of Divine Providence have done an extraordinary job with that school and during the Mass the sisters sang a Hymn of Thanksgiving for us.
Remembering my free day singing challenge, I told the students later, “You brought in ringers to make sure that you get your free day!”
Finally, today, February 2, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, sometimes known as Candlemas Day because of an ancient tradition of lighting candles and blessing them during a procession at Mass. The candles, of course, signify that Christ is the light of the world.
This day marks 40 days since Christmas which was when, according to Mosaic Law, the male newborns were consecrated to the Lord. Because of this association with consecration, in the past Candlemas was a popular day to hold ordinations. Today, the Church marks World Day for Consecrated Life on February 2 and it is celebrated in parishes at Masses the following weekend.
The U.S. Bishops’ Conference has published the following prayer to mark this day:
God our Father,
we thank you for calling
men and women to serve in your Son’s
Kingdom as sisters, brothers, religious priests,
consecrated virgins, and hermits, as well as
members of Secular Institutes.
Renew their knowledge and love of you,
and send your Holy Spirit to help them respond
generously and courageously to your will.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Until next week,