This week, we were delighted to receive the news that Allan Gross had been released from prison and that the United States and Cuba are on a path towards normalization of diplomatic relations after so many decades of isolationist policy. This is going to have profound changes in the lives of millions of people. We are very pleased that our Holy Father had an important role in these negotiations. It certainly is part of the mission of the Church to promote reconciliation and peace between peoples. We understand that some people are very much in favor of maintaining the embargo, but so many people were suffering because of that. After 54 years, it obviously was not an effective way of forcing a change in government in Cuba. So, now on a new path, hopefully more will be able to be achieved.
Also this week, we got news of the conclusion of the apostolic visit to women religious in the United States. On Tuesday there was a press conference in the Vatican with Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the congregation’s secretary, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, Mother Mary Clare Millea, superior general of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Sister Sharon Holland, IHM, of the LCWR, Sister Agnes Mary Donovan, SV, of the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, and Father Thomas Rosica.
Everyone, I think, was pleased with the report that began with a very clear recognition of the incredible contribution of religious women in the history of our country. It struck a hopeful note for the Year of Consecrated Life. It mentioned some of the challenges, but I think it was a positive document that has been well accepted in the Church. I think a special note should be made how wonderful a job Mother Clare did as the visitator, working under very difficult circumstances. During the actual time of the visitation there was a lot of misunderstanding, and she was a very thoughtful, articulate, and gracious visitator. One of the reasons that things have been able to come to a peaceful conclusion is because of her commitment and capabilities that she brought to the job.
Also this week, the Holy Father appointed more members to the Commission for the Protection of Children. We were very pleased that the Holy Father named the rest of the commission, because it’s very important that the commission reflects the universality of the Church. We will be looking forward to our first meeting of the full commission in February. I am very pleased also that we have offices, and Msgr. Bob Oliver, a Boston priest who is the secretary of the commission, has done great work in setting up those offices.
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As you know from my last post, I spent time in Rome last week and want to share with you some more pictures from that trip.
Setting the Christmas tree outside St. Peter’s
The crèche at Casa Santa Marta
I visited with the Capuchins while in Rome. I found out that our monastery there was declared a House of Life by the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, because they hid Jews during the Second World War.
This is a picture of St. Conrad, who is the only saint from the Capuchin German province, which is my province.
This is myself with Father Rainiero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, so that people can see that we really are two different people. We took the picture in the refectory, and there’s the Pater Noster in Latin on the wall.
With Father Charles and Father Cantalamessa. Father Charles is from Boston, but he is working in Rome now
Then I went to the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
It must be the most historic Church that the Capuchins have. It’s just amazing. There are catacombs there, and five popes are buried inside that church, the last one being Pius IX.
This priest who showed us around was in the seminary with Padre Pio. He was one year behind him. He’s been a priest for 64 years.
They have mosaics from the second century. It’s just an extraordinary place.
The church is named after St. Lawrence Martyr. He is buried there, as well as St. Stephen Martyr. His relics were brought from Constantinople by Justinian’s daughter.
This is the tomb of Pius IX, known in Rome as Pio Nono
This is the cloister
This is the grill where St. Lawrence was grilled on
This is the papal chair
The pillars of the church were brought from pagan temples
This is a Roman sarcophagus depicting an old Roman wedding and there is some cardinal buried in it, so I told Father Kevin O’Leary that he has to get one of those for me in the basement of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross!
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Sunday we had the Leadership Circle Advent Mass at the Cathedral. Bishop Uglietto celebrated for me, because I was just arriving back from Rome, but I greeted people after Mass and addressed them at a gathering.
We had a reception where Father Bryan Hehir gave a short talk and we took questions and answers. It was an opportunity for us to thank people in the Leadership Circle for all of their support for the ministries and the works of mercy of the Archdiocese of Boston.
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That night, Bishop Sam Jacobs, retired bishop of the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese in Louisiana, visited me. Bishop Jacobs was here to give a retreat to the daughters of Mary of Nazareth. He has been very active in the Charismatic Movement and in giving retreats to priests, religious, and laypeople throughout the United States. We were very happy to have him come and join us for dinner at the cathedral.
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The next day I was visited by Father Antonio Fidalgo, whose mother and 10 of his brothers live here. He is a Capuchin in Cape Verde. He has one sister who belongs to the Irmãs Franciscanas Imaculada Conceição, which is an order that Padre Pio founded.
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Tuesday, I had the north region advent retreat in Reading hosted by Father Colarusso and organized by the Episcopal Vicar Jerry Petringa. It was a very good turnout of priests. Father Bill Murphy from the seminary led the reflection. We also had a Holy Hour. It was a lovely gathering. I was happy to be with them.
St. Athanasius church with a beautiful crèche
That evening, Father John Worhley visited me. Father Worhley is a diocesan priest from Rockville Center who is a missionary in China and has had teaching positions there. His original involvement in China was because of his ministry with Mother Teresa. It was very interesting to get a report from him about the experience of the Church in China.
Wednesday morning, I had a board meeting with Catholic Charities. They were explaining about the immigration situation. The immigration department of our Catholic Charities is working on educating people on changes related to President Obama’s executive order on immigration.
The displayed a Powerpoint presentation about their immigration serrvices
Later on that day we visited the women’s prison in Framingham.
I had an Advent Mass and a confirmation of a young woman. We visited the other prison as well, the section that is for minimum security. We had a prayer service there and then visited the women in solitary confinement as well as the women that are in the prison hospital. Sister Maureen Clark, who has been there for many years, has done an extraordinary job. It was also wonderful to see the faithful volunteers who do so much in our prisons supporting the prison ministry there. Deacon Jim Greer accompanied me, and there are also two seminarians who were assigned there for this semester.
With Sister Clark and Deacon Greer
Then I went to the Women@Work graduation for St. Mary’s Center in Dorchester. They had their graduation in the auditorium at Carney Hospital, so we were there to congratulate the women. These are women that have just gotten their GED or graduated other training programs. Deirdre Houtmeyers, the president, and members of the board of directors were there. They are doing extraordinary work to help single mothers who are experiencing challenges like homelessness, such as giving people job training and educational opportunities.
Thursday we had a Presbyteral Council meeting and afterwards we had our annual advent gathering here with the archdiocesan staff at the Pastoral Center.
The Sister Disciples arranged our crèche at the Pastoral Center. It’s a beautiful crèche.
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I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and share with you an image of the Christmas card we will be sending out this year. The card depicts Luc Olivier Merson’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt.
This painting is at the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston, and it’s a painting that I like. The theme portrays the Holy Family as immigrants into a strange land, caused to flee from their home country because of oppression. During this particular time where we are focused on the millions of immigrants in our own country, I wanted to relate it to the Christmas event.
At the cathedral we have another painting also of the flight into Egypt, which I brought from Peru and put it in the lower church.