Hello and welcome!
We are grateful to our Holy Father, Pope Francis for the gift of his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia, On Love in the Family.” He has given us a lengthy and significant teaching on the Joy of Love. This is a document that demands a careful reading and reflection from Catholics everywhere, and it is sure to bear great fruit. Pope Francis shows himself to be the gentle, merciful pastor who urges us all to take the time to meditate on the importance of families, for as he says, “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church.” (AL 31)
Amoris Laetitia brings together the deliberations of the two Synods on the family convoked by Pope Francis in 2014 and 2015, and draws on a long history of Church teaching. This Apostolic Exhortation numbers over three hundred twenty five paragraphs, and it is not intended to be read and implemented too hastily. In the introduction to the document, Pope Francis notes that no one should rush through reading the text, but that the greatest benefit will come if each part is read “patiently and carefully”, paying particular attention to those parts dealing with the specific needs of the reader. (AL 7) Rather than try to draw immediate conclusions from the text, we are urged to reflect upon it and to ponder, patiently and carefully, what the teachings will mean for the Church and for her ministry to families.
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Church celebrates the love and unending mercy of God, Amoris Laetitia is a joyful invitation for families to live the works of mercy and to receive the gift of God’s healing where there is sin and brokenness. As he has done time and again, Pope Francis challenges us to approach the weak with compassion, to “enter into the reality of other people’s lives and to know the power of tenderness.” (AL 308) It is my fervent desire that we will read Amoris Laetitia patiently and carefully, so as to benefit from the richness of its teaching.
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On Thursday evening, Father Michael Nolan held a dinner at his parish, St. Mary’s in Waltham, for the 30 or so FOCUS volunteers working in campus ministry in the archdiocese.
They are now working with us at three universities here in the Archdiocese of Boston — Harvard, MIT, and Boston University — and their work has been a very important part of our campus outreach.
Given the huge number of university students in the Archdiocese of Boston, campus ministry is a vital part of our mission. We are so grateful for the help that FOCUS missionaries lend and the hope and enthusiasm they bring. Peer ministry is a very powerful witness, and they have been very effective in the archdiocese and we are very grateful for their presence.
As their website explains:
“Trained in Church teaching, sacred Scripture, evangelization and discipleship, FOCUS missionaries go out to campuses to meet students where they are, inviting them into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and encouraging them to pursue lives of virtue and excellence. Through Bible studies, outreach events, mission trips and one-on-one discipleship, missionaries inspire and build up students in the faith, sending them out to spread the good news and to live out the Great Commission: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.”
During the course of the dinner, Father Nolan showed us the “lamb” they blessed on Holy Saturday at the parish.
It looks like a pretty big lamb to me. In fact I’d call it a sheep. But then again, the Holy Father says that we should take on the smell of the sheep — and we certainly got to smell the sheep!
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Friday morning, I celebrated the opening Mass of our annual Co-Workers in the Vineyard Conference held at St. Patrick Parish in Watertown. Father Bob Connors was our very gracious host for the day.
We are very grateful to Dr. Aldona Lingertat for organizing this opportunity to bring our clergy, religious and lay ministers together for this day of enrichment and pastoral development.
The theme of the day was communications and, in my homily, I noted that it was the very day of the funeral of Mother Angelica, who was certainly a great figure in the world of Catholic communications.
In addition to the talks there were a number of other activities such as panel discussions, breakout talks and tours of the CatholicTV studios, which are located just next door to St. Patrick’s.We have a very proud history in Boston of being leaders in the use of both traditional and online communications media to spread the Gospel message, so I thought it was a very fitting topic. I was very pleased to see the wonderful turnout and I am so happy that many took advantage of this important opportunity for formation. I am also grateful to all the speakers and panelists who came from near and far to make it a success.
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That evening, I had one of my periodic gatherings with a particular class of seminarians. This time I met with those in their first year of pre-theology studies.
As always, we began with Vespers followed by dinner and a wide ranging conversation on such topics as vocations, the priesthood, challenges in our modern world and liturgy.
Of course, Friday was April Fools’ Day and we found out that we had our own “April Fool” among us, as one of the seminarians was celebrating his birthday. We also discovered that it was the birthday of Father Romanus Cessario, so we made sure to call him and sing happy birthday to him, as well!
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Saturday, we held our “Walking with Mary” Year of Mercy pilgrimage for ethnic communities at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
We were just elated at the tremendous turnout because that day it was raining heavily, and I began to become concerned that many people would be discouraged and not come. However, there were about 2,500 people in attendance who packed the Cathedral the Holy Cross, standing in the aisles and in the back. Many of us speculate that is the largest crowd we’ve ever had at the Cathedral.Of course, there was a Marian theme to the day, but it was also the weekend of Divine Mercy Sunday, so we began by praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet followed by songs and prayers before we began the main procession. And we were so blessed because, before the procession was about to begin, the rain stopped.
It was a very impressive sight as we walked through the streets around the Cathedral, with each group carrying images of the Blessed Mother representing their particular ethnic community. It was a beautiful manifestation of people’s faith and there was great enthusiasm among them.
Returning back into the Cathedral, all 2,500 people passed back in through the Holy Door of Mercy. We then had a Liturgy of the Word, at which I preached on the Gospel of Mercy, and we concluded with benediction.
We are so grateful to Father Michael Harrington and all those in the different ethnic communities who worked so hard to make this pilgrimage a reality. We are also very grateful to Father Kevin O’Leary who, through all his hard work, has made the Cathedral more user-friendly and able to receive large groups such as this.
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The next day was, of course, Divine Mercy Sunday and I always like to join the Marians of the Immaculate Conception for their celebrations on that day. They organize two “national” Masses, if you will, on Divine Mercy Sunday.
One, certainly, is at their shrine in Stockbridge and the other is at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Well, this year they asked me to celebrate the Mass for them at the National Basilica, so I went down to Washington for the day. Though we enjoyed the beautiful spring weather in Washington, I had to rush back to beat the snow that was set to hit Boston overnight and Monday morning.
The Basilica was filled and I was very happy to be a part of this beautiful celebration.
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Monday morning we drove in the snow down to Providence to visit the seminary community there and our four men who are studying for Boston at Our Lady of Providence Seminary.
Bishop Evans was there to very graciously receive us when we arrived, and I was able to thank Bishop Tobin, Father Mahar and all those involved in formation at the seminary, which serves all of New England for undergraduate seminary studies.
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Tuesday evening, I went to Merrimack College for their “Feast of Faiths” awards dinner, at which they honored four people including Father David Michael of our Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and Rev. Diane Kessler, the former longtime director of the Mass. Council of Churches. The other two honorees of the evening were associated with the college, Eileen Jennings of the class of 1964 and Maria Haseeb of the class of 2016.
The celebration was geared towards the 50th anniversary of the doctrine of the Second Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate which, of course, not only deals with the Church’s relationship with the Jewish people, but also Muslims and those of other faiths.
We heard remarks by Merrimack president Christopher Hopey and Joseph Kelley, the director of Merrimack’s the Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. I also offered some thoughts and participated in the bestowing of the awards.
I was happy to be invited to be part of that very important event.
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Wednesday morning, we had a meeting of those involved in young adult ministry, in which we received reports from Father Gerry Souza, Father Eric Bennett and Deacon Thom Olsen. We also had something of a planning committee and brainstorming session around ways to improve outreach to our young adults in the archdiocese. Father Matt Williams, of course, was one of those involved in that effort.
We took a look at the activities of the 15 different young adult groups in the archdiocese and we are in the midst of surveying what some other dioceses are doing. We also talked of the need to balance events that bring people together — which for the young adults is very important, to have a critical mass of peers — but also to equip and train people in the parishes for young adult ministry.
It was a very interesting conversation on a very real pastoral challenge for the Archdiocese of Boston, where we have one of the youngest populations of any city in the United States — over 40% of the population is under 35 years of age.
We had a very good exchange, and a lot of good ideas came forward.
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That afternoon, we had our annual meeting of Superiors of Women Religious here the archdiocese.
We had Mass together at noon and then afterwards we gathered for lunch.
Father Jonathan Gaspar gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on some of the activities of the Year of Mercy, after which our Delegate for Religious, Sister Marian Batho, gave remarks. As part of Sister’s talk, she read a list of the different charisms represented by the communities of religious women in the archdiocese and said that we really should be making people more aware of these charisms.
It was very striking to hear this long list of beautiful and varied charisms, and it really underscored how our religious women are so integrally involved in the works of mercy here in the archdiocese.
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Then in the evening, I joined one of our St. Andrew’s Dinners for young men discerning a vocation to the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary.
I don’t know exactly how many young men were with us, but we met in the Cardinal Medeiros classroom, which was completely full. I would say there were probably about 100 young men in all. I was very impressed with the positive turnout.
We had Vespers together, followed by dinner, a tour of the seminary and the speaking program. As always, Father Eric Cadin ran the program and introduced two of our seminarians, Will Sexton and Joe Hubbard, who gave witness talks about their own vocations. Then I gave a brief talk on vocations followed by a questions-and-answers session.
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Finally this week, I want to mention that this past weekend we were visited by Father Richard Gibbons, the Director of the Ireland’s National Marian Shrine at Knock.
Earlier this year Father Gibbons kindly invited me to celebrate Mass at the Basilica at Knock on Saturday, July 16, for the 40th anniversary of the Shrine and to dedicate the soon to be completed renovation of the Basilica. I was very pleased to be able to accept the invitation.
In concert with this special Mass at Knock, the Archdiocese is planning a six night pilgrimage and prayerful sightseeing tour of the west of Ireland. A special feature of this pilgrimage is that Aer Lingus is providing a direct charter flight from Boston to Knock for those who wish to join the Archdiocese for this journey. I have been advised that as initial registration for the pilgrimage tour have come in, the remaining places on the flight and tour are limited. If you would like to join us on this trip being organized for the Archdiocese by Crystal Travel & Cara Group Travel I would encourage you to visit the pilgrimage website, www.bostonknock.com, or call the tour organizers at 617-327-4242 or 617-639-0273. Reservations received by April 30th, as available, will be credited an early registration discount.
I look forward to seeing many parishioners and friends from the Archdiocese in Knock this summer.
Until next week,