Hello and welcome,
This week all of Boston is mourning the loss of firefighters Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, who were tragically killed fighting a fire in Boston’s Back Bay. Yesterday, I visited the firehouse these men were stationed at and had a chance to speak with some of the firefighters.
The death of these two men brings home to all of us how courageous those work in the fire department are, they who are always willing to put their lives at risk to keep us safe. This is such a human tragedy — these men were so young, one of them with small children— and the whole community is moved at what has happened. In moments like this, we tend to come together as community and have a sense of our solidarity with each other. I know that will be a source of strength to the families of these two courageous men as well as their companions in the fire department. We hold them up in prayer and we urge all of the members of the community to keep them in prayer especially in these days as they prepare for the funerals next week.
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Last December, the Holy Father announced that he would establish a commission for child protection and this week the Holy Father has named eight people, including myself, from various countries to form the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. We will be meeting for the first time next month to try to finalize the commission’s statutes and to suggest different members from other parts of the world to continue internationalizing the group that will then advise the Holy Father on issues of child protection.
Among the other members of the commission is abuse survivor Marie Collins, whom I met in Dublin when I was the apostolic visitator there. I am sure that her own personal experience and commitment will be a very valuable contribution to this commission and our work.
The establishment of this commission and its independence is a clear indication of the importance that the Holy Father is giving to the area of child protection in the Church. In the United States, since the adoption of the Charter (For the Protection of Children and Young People), American dioceses have been very focused on child protection programs and an adequate response to instances of sexual abuse, as well as screening and training to help people become aware of the seriousness of and damage caused by abuse of minors.
We are very grateful for this opportunity to be able to serve the Church in this very important area and to work with people from various countries – all of whom have a great wealth of experience to contribute to this effort.
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Last Thursday I went to St. Rita Parish in Lowell for a Vespers service to welcome the Merrimack Region’s new regional bishop, Bishop Robert Hennessey.
There were over 50 priests in attendance for the service and the dinner that followed. I saw a great spirit of camaraderie and joy among them in receiving Bishop Hennessey to the region. The Merrimack region is blessed with many religious communities that are helping the archdiocese in our ministries there, particularly the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Augustinians, and we were pleased that so many of them were present at the Vespers service.
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Saturday, I visited St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Medfield to celebrate confirmations.
About 150 young people were confirmed at two different Masses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, because church would not have held all those who wanted to attend.
It is always a great joy for me to be with the young people as they make this very important step.
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Sunday I went to St. Rose of Lima in Topsfield for a parish visit. It was a lovely Mass that was standing room only.
Father Michael Medas is the pastor there and, at the end of the Mass, we presented the former pastor, Father Arthur Driscoll, with a rosary. Father Driscoll is 89 years old and is still helping out at the parish.
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That day, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Archdiocese of Boston held its 65th Annual Mass of Thanksgiving and Breakfast. The Society is in 159 parishes of the archdiocese and there are over 2,300 Vincentians in the archdiocese who give so much to help the poor and needy.
Over 750 people attended the Mass, which was celebrated by Bishop Uglietto at Our Lady of Victories, and the breakfast at the Park Plaza. The guest speaker there was National President Sheila Gilbert. Sheila, who is the first woman to hold the office of president, spoke about ending poverty through systemic change.
Later in the day, I had the opportunity to meet with Sheila and the archdiocesan president Robert Travers, Jr. to hear more about what the society is doing and the programs they are offering in the archdiocese and throughout the United States.
We also talked about collaborating with Catholic Charities and other organizations that assist the poor in Boston and United States. Sheila also invited me to be the keynote speaker at its 2015 Annual Meeting in Providence.
I am grateful to the many volunteers who give their time to minster to the poor and needy of the archdiocese.
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Then, in the afternoon, I joined the Anti-Defamation League’s Nation of Immigrants Community Seder that was held at UMass Boston.
In the Passover Seder, the Jewish people celebrate their exodus from slavery in Egypt and their passage to freedom. The Nation of Immigrants Seder makes a connection to that history, commemorating the struggles of all those who have left their homelands in search of freedom and better life.
There was a very large and diverse crowd this year including clergy and representatives of the Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Muslim communities, as well as city leaders and leaders of numerous civic and community organizations.
Rabbi Elaine Zecher and Cantor Roy Einhorn of Temple Israel in Boston guided us through the Seder meal, explaining the significance of each element.
As part of the Seder, different people shared their experience of leaving the homelands and making their way to this country. Many of the stories were very compelling.
There were also performances by groups representing various immigrant communities.
In my remarks, I spoke about the contribution that immigrants have made to our country, the challenges we face, and the need for immigration reform.
I also mentioned that I will be going to Arizona next week to celebrate a Mass on the U.S.-Mexican border with other bishops to remember those who have died trying to make their way to this country. They find hundreds of bodies of people who died in the desert trying to get across the border every year and about 30,000 children come unaccompanied to this country. This is a dramatic human problem that needs to be resolved, and yet there does not seem to be the political willpower to do it. However, the bishops want to be present there as a sign of the Church’s advocacy on behalf of immigration reform.
We hope that the Mass will draw attention to the plight of immigrants and the brokenness of our immigration system.
Until next week,