Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán shares his reflections & experiences.

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The USCCB General Assembly

Hello and welcome!

I want to begin this week noting that we are all very concerned with the situation of Syrian refugees, which was already very pressing but now has been further complicated by the reaction to the attacks last week in Paris. So, this week I issued a statement urging a continued compassionate response to the Syrian refugee situation:

Last Friday I promised Archbishop Vingt-Trois of Paris the prayers and support of the Archdiocese of Boston, for the people of Paris and all of France.  The crisis in that nation continues and so must our prayer and solidarity with the citizens of France.

The consequences of the terrorist attacks on innocent civilians have extended throughout Europe and debates about the ramifications have reached our shores.  We live in a dangerous time and it is clear that enhanced security procedures are needed, to make every effort to ensure public safety and good order.  While that need is evident and widely recognized, decisions concerning the specific measures taken require careful deliberation.

One question which has arisen immediately concerns the U.S. immigration policy.  At the state and national level positions have been taken questioning or directly opposing the policy of accepting Syrian refugees, based on the premise that because they are Syrian they might pose a security challenge to communities and our nation.

Public officials face very difficult challenges in an obviously dangerous world today. But proposals to simply exclude Syrian refugees as such lack the balance and humanitarian perspective needed at this time.  For many months now we have watched Syrian individuals and families – Muslim and Christian alike – be driven from their homes and homeland and set adrift in a chaotic world, unprepared to provide for their safety or honor their humanity.  The barbaric attacks in Paris, which demand a strong response and require policies that as best possible prevent recurrence, should not be used to efface the memory of Syrians and others from the Middle East and Africa who are desperately in need of shelter, support and safety.

Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston will continue its efforts to support a national policy on immigration based on humanitarian need regardless of place of origin.  We pledge our cooperation with civic officials at all levels and ask the wider support of our communities as we seek to respond to our brothers and sisters who are indeed yearning to breathe free.

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I spent much of this week at the U.S. bishops annual General Assembly in Baltimore and then in Rome for meetings of the congregation for the clergy.

But, before I left, I was very happy to attend the annual banquet to support St. Mary’s High School in Lynn. The school is celebrating the 20th year of this banquet, which is called the Cardinal Cushing Celebration. SMHBanner4

The banquet was held at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem which was just a wonderful venue. IMG_4213During the evening we heard from a number of students who perform for us and one student offered his reflection on his experience at the school.Amanda Menna'21 singing the duet The Prayer with Jim Buckley'06Kathy Mears, Cardnial and Marlin Scott'18

There was a great turnout for the celebration and we were pleased to learn that the evening raised over $2 million to support the school.

During the evening, they presented me with the school’s Cushing Award and also announced that they would be establishing a scholarship in my honor. I am a very humbled and gratified to know that a student will be receiving a fine Catholic education in my name.Cardinal, Jane Mosakowski, Bill Misakowski and Grace Cotter Regan

We are so grateful to Grace Cotter Regan, who is the Head of School at St. Mary’s High and to Board Chair William Mosakowski and all those who do so much to continue the excellent tradition of Catholic education at St. Mary’s.

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Friday, I left for Baltimore to attend the USCCB General Assembly and the administrative sessions leading up to it. Of course, our meeting took place in the shadow of the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday. So, while many of the bishops who were already in Baltimore released their own individual statements, the administrative committee released a joint statement that I would like to share with you here:

Terror always seeks to separate us from those we most love. Through their suffering, courage and compassion, Parisians are reminding us that the common bond of humanity is strongest when the need is greatest. We pledge our prayers for everyone who suffers from this horrific violence and our advocacy to support all those working to build just and peaceful societies.

To the people of France, we mourn with you and honor the lives lost from several nations, including our own. To our brothers and sisters in the Church in France, your family in the United States holds you close to our hearts. May the tender and merciful love of Jesus Christ give you comfort during this great trial and lead you on a path toward healing and peace.

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On Saturday and Sunday, before the plenary session began, I attended meetings of the US Bishops’ Pro-Life committee and the subcommittees on the Church in Latin America and in Africa.

One of our main tasks at these subcommittee meetings on Latin America and Africa is to distribute the funds raised in the special collections taken throughout the country to benefit the people in those areas.

We are very proud of how generous the Catholics of Boston have been in supporting the Church’s works of mercy and evangelization in these countries. Every year, Catholics from Boston are the top donors to the collection for Latin America and among the top in the collection for Africa. I was very pleased that among the many different types of programs we were able to help fund were three programs in Africa to promote child protection.

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As we always do, we began our gathering with an opening Mass at the Basilica in Baltimore, which is a very beautiful and historic church. IMG_5179IMG_5180

IMG_5182IMG_5183IMG_5185IMG_5187IMG_5188This was of course the first cathedral in the States and is where Bishop John Carroll is buried. It is also where the first Bishop of Boston, Bishop Cheverus, was ordained to the episcopate.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz was our concelebrant and homilist.BISHOPS-

Among significant issues that the bishops dealt with during this meeting were pastoral statement on the problem of pornography in our society and a document on faithful citizenship.BISHOPS-BISHOPS-

We voted and approved a statement that addresses the problem on pornography, called “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” The statement was prepared by the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. As chairman of the committee, Bishop Malone presented the document to the assembly. The statement is the first on this subject from the conference. I think it is well written and will be very helpful for our priests and those involved in religious education and pastoral work.

We also approved some additions to the Bishops’ political responsibility document, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” to update it to reflect some of the teachings of Pope Francis and the later encyclicals of Pope Benedict XVI.

I was involved in two presentations at the conference. One addressed the subject of Project Rachel. P_rachel_logo

Project Rachel is a program that helps people heal in the aftermath of an abortion and we urged the bishops to promote it as an activity of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The need for this program is easy to see when one considers the number of people affected by abortion in the last 43 years. It is estimated that 45 million women in this country have had abortions since 1973. Since Catholics make up about a quarter of the U.S. population, as many as 10 million Catholic women may be included in that number. Add to that the fathers and grandparents of those unborn children, as well as the medical professionals involved in abortion, and the enormity of the problem becomes evident. We are very proud of the work that Project Rachel does to heal to wounds of abortion and are very pleased with the work they do in Boston.

I made the presentation with Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Wuerl and we particularly urged our brother bishops to help promote the website of Project Rachel, which is being visited by thousands of people every week.

The other presentation I made with Archbishop Blair and Archbishop Malone to promote the convocation for Catholic leadership to be held in 2017 in Orlando.

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On Wednesday, I travelled to Rome to attend a two-day conference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy, “One Vocation, One Formation, One Mission.” It marked the 50th anniversary of the proclamation of the Vatican II decrees on the Ministry and Life of Priests and on Priestly Training. We gathered at the Urbaniana.1447943441695

I was asked to give one of the keynote addresses of the conference, and the theme of my talk was “Taken from among men for the things of God. The joys and challenges of the ministry of the diocesan priest.” In my remarks, I drew on many of the themes that came out of our last meeting of recently ordained priests in the archdiocese.IMG_7958IMG_7956

The conference was held yesterday and today. And, this morning, we were very pleased to have a meeting with the Holy Father.OSSROM88092_LancioGrande

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We happened to arrive in Rome on the feast day of the dedication of St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Basilicas, which is November 18. IMG_7938

You will notice that all the consecration candles on the walls around the Basilica are lit.


You see, when a new church is anointed, there are special candles all along the wall that are lit for the occasion as you can see in these photos from the dedication of new Sacred Heart Church in Weymouth a few years ago. SH-Weymouth-REBUILT16

Normally these candles are not used, except on the anniversary of the dedication.

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While we were there, we also took this photo of the spot on the floor marking the length of our own Holy Cross Cathedral. Some may not know that within St. Peters Basilica, which is the largest church in the world, markers on the floor indicate the size of other significant world churches to give people a sense of its size.FullSizeRender

Our cathedral is larger than St. Patrick’s Cathedral New York and just slightly smaller than the great Hagia Sophia of Constantinople.

Here’s a photo taken from the spot of the marker looking towards the altar.IMG_7943

And here’s a photo looking back, indicating how much larger St. Peter’s Basilica is than our own cathedral.IMG_7944

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We also took special note of the Holy Door in the Basilica, which is opened to mark special jubilee years. IMG_7950IMG_7949

At the end of our Cheverus awards ceremony on November 29, I will be blessing the holy door at the Cathedral the Holy Cross that we will open on December 13 during our celebration in the archdiocese for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

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On Thursday, during a break in the conference, I had an opportunity to meet with a delegation from Serra International, including their president Timothy O’Neill. IMG_5197

They gave me a gift to present to the Holy Father, which is a pin with a replica of the U.S. postage stamp commemorating the canonization of St. Junipero Serra.IMG_5198

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That day I had lunch with our Boston seminarians and others at the Pontifical North American College. We sat at the “Portuguese table,” where once a week during lunch they speak only Portuguese.IMG_5199

During my visit I also had a chance to see some of the renovations that have been done to the seminary over the last year, including the new tower building that was dedicated about a year ago, though was my first opportunity to tour it. The new facilities are just stunning.IMG_5201IMG_5206IMG_5207

The North American college is such a valuable resource to the Church. Priests formed there bring back an important sense of the universality of the Church and of the ministry of the Holy Father. Also, the kinds of professional training in post graduate studies that are available are wonderful. Usually, our men who study there spend an extra year to earn a master’s degree in some aspect of theology. This helps us to enrich our clergy and give us more resources for the pastoral work of the archdiocese.

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That evening, I had an opportunity to have dinner with some of the staff at the pontifical commission on child protection. One of our new additions the staff is Teresa Kettelkamp, who previously headed the U.S. Bishops’ Child Protection Office. Before her work with the USCCB, Teresa had a long career in law enforcement and retired as a colonel of the Illinois State police. She is a very dedicated laywoman and we are so grateful that she is willing to use her considerable skills and expertise to assist us in the work of the Child Protection Commission.


After dinner, we took her to see my favorite fountain in Rome – and they are many to choose from – the Fountain of the Galleon in Vatican City near the Vatican Museums.IMG_5208

IMG_5209I find it remarkable how out of the way, and almost hidden this fountain is. As I always like to say, I had been visiting the Vatican for almost 30 years before I even knew it was there!

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Finally, I’d like to remind everyone that the second collection at parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston this weekend with benefit our retired women religious. I would like to share with you this video, in which Sister Marian Batho, our Delegate for Religious, explains the importance of supporting our Retired Sisters.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán