The Ugandan Martyrs Mass

Hello and welcome!

Saturday, I was visited by the Capuchin Custos of Cape Verde, Father António Fidalgo, who was accompanied by Father Claudino and Father John Curry.IMG_3313

For many decades, Capuchins from Cape Verde have worked in the Archdiocese of Boston, the most famous one being Father Pio from Torino, Italy. They have been an invaluable presence, helping us minister to the Cape Verdean community in Roxbury and Dorchester. Currently, there are two Cape Verdean friars working here, and we are hoping that they’ll be able to send a third friar soon to help us in that mission.


That day, I was also visited at the cathedral by Father Roner Graterol from Venezuela, who belongs to the French order the Sons of Mary Immaculate. They are planning to come to Boston, and he was here to conduct some of the initial meetings.IMG_3305

During our time together, we also spoke a little bit about the situation in Venezuela. He told me that when you are celebrating Mass in Venezuela, it’s very common to have several people faint over the course of the Mass because they haven’t eaten in two or three days. That really brought home the gravity of the situation there and the great difficulty that the people of Venezuela face.


Boston is home to one of the largest Ugandan communities in the United States. So, there has been a long tradition of celebrating a special Mass to mark the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs here in the archdiocese.UM-14

Normally, we invite bishops from Uganda to come and celebrate the Mass with the local Ugandan community at St. Mary’s Parish in Waltham. However, because of the pandemic, we were unable to do that this year. So, they asked me to celebrate the Mass at the cathedral. They also decided to move the celebration to Sunday so that more people could attend, which made it coincide with the celebration of Corpus Christi. So, the Mass, the readings and the sequence were all for Corpus Christi. UM-03UM-04UM-05UM-06UM-07UM-08

Of course, the choir was just superb, and it was wonderful to see them in their traditional dress. UM-01

It was the first time that many of the attendees had visited the cathedral, or at least seen it since the renovation. So that was another nice aspect of the celebration.UM-15

They had 22 men dressed in white tunics to represent the 22 Catholic martyrs. In some years, they have them all bring palm branches (I was very much looking forward to that), but this year they wore stoles, each with the name of a martyr. They also invited Anglican clergy who serve the Anglican Ugandan community to be with us for the Mass. Of course, the Ugandan Martyrs were both Catholic and Anglican — 22 Catholics and 23 Anglicans were martyred together. UM-16UM-19UM-21UM-22

I reflected a bit about that in my homily, noting that Pope St. John Paul II, for the Jubilee Year 2000, established a committee to study the modern martyrs and establish the shrine at St. Bartholomew Church on the Tiber Island in Rome where they commemorated all the martyrs of modern times. When he did this, the Holy Father wanted Protestants and those from the Eastern Churches included because he talked about “the ecumenism of blood” – that through dying for the Christian faith, these people unite us in Christ. As a recent example of this, I pointed to the 21 Coptic Christian men who were martyred in Libya in 2015 by the Islamic State.

I also talked about the pelican as a symbol of Christ. In ancient times they believed that, when food was scarce, a mother pelican would feed her young with her own blood to save them from starvation. So the pelican came to symbolize Christ saving us through his blood. I connected that the witness that the martyrs have given throughout the history of the Church, shedding their blood for Christ.

It was a beautiful celebration, and I was very moved by it. I understand that Ugandans all over the world were watching thanks to Bishop Reed and the team from CatholicTV.UgandanMartyrs

And, of course, the cathedral looked beautiful for the celebration thanks to the landscaping that Msgr. O’Leary has had done.IMG_3303


Monday and Tuesday, I was in Washington to attend the board meeting of the Catholic University of America at their new satellite campus in Alexandria, Virginia.IMG_3307

The meeting was held in an impressive new building that CUA shares with Catholic Charities USA.IMG_3312IMG_3308IMG_3310

They have a beautiful chapel there, and I was very impressed with the icons, which are quite fitting for Catholic Charities’ mission. For example, these two depict St. Vincent de Paul and Jesus curing the sick.IMG_3311IMG_3309


While I was in Washington, I met with Juan Carlos Cruz, the newest member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. IMG_8076

He came to see me at Capuchin College, and it was wonderful to have that opportunity to speak with him.


Finally, yesterday, we had our last Presbyteral Council meeting before the summer. IMG_3315

We’ve met so frequently lately because of the pandemic, I told the priests that I hope they don’t miss our gatherings over the next couple of months!

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

June 2021
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