A busy start to Advent, visiting Katharine Drexel Parish, Emmanuel College and looking forward to the episcopal ordination

Good afternoon everyone. I hope my post finds you well. It comes a bit early this week since tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, a holy day of obligation.

This week I had the privilege of celebrating Mass marking World AIDS Day in the Archdiocese of Boston on Dec. 1. It was held at Peterson Hall in St. Johns Seminary in Brighton and was celebrated for all of those who are living with HIV, their families, caretakers who are involved in ministry to AIDS patients and others who were affected by this terrible disease. As you know, worldwide the Church does an awful lot to care for AIDS victims.

Last weekend I also celebrated a Mass at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury. Father Oscar Pratt has done a wonderful job establishing this new parish which of course has been named for Mother Katharine Drexel who was a wealthy socialite in Philadelphia from a very prominent banking family. She became a nun and founded an order to work particularly among the African Americans. She also founded Xavier University in Louisiana, which is the only black Catholic college in the United States. She was just an extraordinary individual whose sisters still are ministering in the communities she founded. It was very fitting that shortly after her canonization, we could name a new parish that ministers primarily to African-American Catholics in her honor. It was very meaningful to the parishioners there.

Children from the parish present the gifts during the Mass

St. Katharine Drexel Parish has a strong Nigerian community, which is very involved. The Mass was a wonderful moment to bid farewell to Msgr. Felix Ojimba, a Nigerian priest who has been active with the community there. He has also worked for many years as a chaplain at Mass. General Hospital and ministered to the sick, their families, doctors and staff with great generosity. Now he is being called back to Nigeria, and the Mass, which he concelebrated, was an opportunity to recognize the wonderful work that hes done and to thank him. It was obvious that the Nigerian community is very proud of his accomplishments and his dedication.

Msgr. Ojimba posed for a photo with me

Here are some other folks I met at St. Katharine Drexel



I also traveled to Emmanuel College to celebrate Mass for the first Sunday of Advent. Sister Janet Eisner, president of the school, thought it would be appropriate since the college is named Emmanuel, like the Advent song O Come, O Come Emmanuel. lol.

Sister Janet Eisner, a great supporter of Catholic education

But seriously, Sister Janet has been very supportive of Catholic education, and its been a very, very big help that Emmanuel College has reached out to our Catholic schools. The school is currently involved in the search committee for a new head of Catholic education for the archdiocese, and Sister Janet sits on the 2010 Initiative committee board.The chapel at Emmanuel was so full for the Mass that there was standing room only. The ministry there, run by Fr. Steve Boyle and Sr. Peggy Cummins, SND, reaches out to the other colleges in the area as well, so its not just their own students but other students from Simmons, Northeastern and some of the other colleges around there. They have a wonderful youth group, a wonderful choir that sang for us, and at the end of Mass two of the young people involved in campus ministry witnessed a little bit what campus ministry has meant for them at Emmanuel College.

These are the two students who witnessed to their experience

Its always a joy to see young people participating in their faith. Of course in Boston where we have so many institutions of higher learning, theres a lot of wonderful campus ministry that takes place. I was very gratified that quite a number of the students there came up to me and said, Cardinal, you confirmed me when I was at my parish in Fall River. I was quite happy to see that even when theyre away from home, theyre still practicing their faith.

Members of the Emmanuel College community

It was a joy to see so many young people practicing their faith

On another note, I am very excited for the upcoming episcopal ordination of Bishops-elect John Dooher and Robert Hennessey on Dec. 12. It is wonderful to have two such distinguished priests from our archdiocese become bishops here. They will be able to help us minister to our priests and our people in order to help to strengthen the Church and the regions.

Only days away from their ordination, I thought it would be nice if Bishops-elect Dooher and Hennessey could share their feelings directly with you.

Bishop-elect Dooher offered these remarks:

bpdooher.jpgI am often asked: “Were you surprised at your appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Boston?”
Shocked and a bit speechless is probably the best description. Some weeks earlier I did a private retreat on the shores of Cape Cod. It was a wonderful experience and I clearly recall leaving the ocean feeling that God and I agreed that there would be no changes in my life and ministry for the foreseeable future.
On Tuesday evening I received a call saying that Cardinal Sean wanted to see me on Wednesday morning. As I was scheduled for two funerals in the morning, I said that I wasn’t free. But we did schedule a 7:00 a.m. meeting. I figured, one more committee or meeting.
Then I received a call from Cardinal Sean asking if I could come to the Cathedral a.s.a.p. that evening. Now this is different, it’s more than another committee. I drove to the Cathedral praying the rosary out loud all the way. At 10:00 pm Cardinal Sean said in that calm baritone voice that we’ve become accustomed to: “The Holy Father has named you auxiliary bishop of Boston.” There was no sleep that night and the days that have followed have been filled with many feelings of being overwhelmed, excited, humbled, grateful, and wondering what happened to my convincing God about my plans for the future. It’s all in God’s hands!
Through all of these days there has been a great outpouring of support and promise of prayers from parishioners, family and in a special way from the priests of the Archdiocese. Their support has been a grace for me. I look forward to visiting parishes for Confirmations and other important occasions and to working with priests and laity of the south region of the Archdiocese. I am grateful for the trust that Cardinal Sean has placed in me in sharing his apostolic ministry for the good of God’s people.

and Bishop-elect Hennessey wanted to share this with you:

bphennessey.jpgI knew that something was amiss when I received a call at 9:00 p.m. from the cardinals secretary, Father Bob Kickham, informing me that the Cardinal O’Malley wanted to see me at 9:30 a.m. the following morning. My first thought was that I was going to be transferred to another parish. By the time I met with Cardinal Sean I had my strategy all planned about how I could convince him that I should not leave Most Holy Redeemer Parish. I was shocked when the cardinal informed me that the Holy Father had appointed me auxiliary bishop of Boston. So much for the strategy.
It was difficult the next few days before the public announcement of the appointment not to share the news with my family and friends. I would have loved to be able to seek their advice. I knew I could count on reactions — before or after!
As soon as the announcement was made I got the advice, plenty of it and I’m still getting it!
Next Tuesday, December 12th the ordination will take place at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I am both nervous and excited. To be honest, I do not like to be the center of attention and there are times when I find myself wishing it was December 13th so I can get to work as a bishop. Speaking of work, I am looking forward to being with the priests of the Central Region of the Archdiocese. There are many good and holy priests in the Region. Please pray for me that I can assist them in fulfilling our mission in this great archdiocese.

As their ordination approaches, I would like to tell the new bishops that it is important to have trust in God. After all, if Hes calling you to ordination, Hes going to lead you to where He wants you to go, and the best thing is to just to trust in His great providence and love for us.

Without a doubt, my favorite part of the ordination is the imposition of hands because that is the heart of the ceremony. At that moment, you realize that you are an instrument of Gods grace. The apostolic succession, which begins with the apostles, has been passed on from generation to generation for 2,000 years to your hands! Its a very awesome thing, and you are always praying for the person that you are ordaining. I always consecrate them to the Blessed Mother to help them to be faithful and to be effective in their ministry.

At the announcement of their appointments, I presented
Bishops-elect Dooher and Hennessey with
their pectoral crosses and zucchettos

A closer view

I also want to mention that Im very grateful to Interim Regional Vicar Msgr. Edwin D. Condon who was appointed episcopal vicar for the south region in 2004. He worked with such dedication. Were also very grateful to Bishop John Boles who will be stepping down in the Central Region. He has done such wonderful work, and were glad that he will still be a presence in the archdiocese. We can count on him to be active and be a part of whats happening in the archdiocese.

There are about 40 bishops from throughout the region who will be attending the ordination next week. Bishops try to be present, and one reason we have the ordination during the week is to make it more possible for priests and bishops to be there. Because on the weekends, of course, they need to be in the parishes. The bishops of our region have a wonderful relationship within our province and the neighboring province of Hartford. These two regions try to attend each others functions, and we do come together periodically to talk about common problems and plans.

Some wonder who it is who picks the men who are to become bishops. It is the Holy Father. So, in this case, it is of course our present Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed Bishop-elects Dooher and Hennessey. Its part of the popes prerogative to appoint bishops, and its one way of guaranteeing the unity of the Church. The Holy Father is confirming our faith, and hes the guarantor of the unity of the Church. Thats a very important role. The bishops are the successors of the apostles. The pope is the successor of one particular apostle with special prerogatives as the successor of Peter.

In my case, I was named a bishop in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. It was quite a shock!

In those days, members of religious communities werent named bishops. Although I was being ordained in a diocese which could be considered a missionary diocese, and thats where most religious do end up being bishops, it was quite a surprise to me. I had never worked in the West Indies. On the island where I was appointed, I was 30 years junior to the next youngest priest. They were all Redemptorists and Columban fathers in those days. We had only one diocesan priest on St. Croix.

Here in the United States, the formal way you address a bishop is Your Excellency, but bishop is quite sufficient. In the West Indies it was Your Lordship. That was as hard to get used to as driving on the left side of the roadlol.

That was an assignment that involved many adjustments. In my prior assignment, in Washington D.C., I was involved with many immigrant communities. I was also very much inserted into the large Capuchin community there. In D.C. we have a parish that is next to the center where I was the director. Its a place where I lived for 20 years, so I was very much a part of the diocese, the religious community and Catholic University of America where I taught literature, Spanish and Portuguese.

Suddenly in the West Indies I was catapulted into another culture. For the first time, I was saying Mass in English because in Washington I had Mass in Spanish, Portuguese and French every Sunday. To go away on the weekend was very difficult. There was no one to take my place. I said Mass whether I was sick or whatever.

So the West Indies was an entirely different culture. Also, I had the responsibility of forming the structure of the diocese because I was just the second bishop. It was a new diocese and, though the parishes had been established, I established a newspaper, a television station, shelters for the homeless and insurance programs for our retirement. These things were not yet in place because the diocese was so new and so small. When I arrived there, the diocesan budget was $30,000!

I was very happy in my assignment there as well as my assignment in Washington. Its always very hard to change, particularly when youre in a place for a long time. Id been 20 years in Washington, and that was home for me. Then I was 10 years in the West Indies, and went through a lot with its people. We lived through a lot of changes, a lot of growth and a terrible hurricane. We had to rebuild the whole diocese, and through those experiences we really bonded.

The photo of the week: Lighting the candle for the first
week of Advent at St. Katharine Drexel Parish

I would like to wish everyone a blessed Feast of the Immaculate Conception and a restful weekend. Thank you for visiting my blog and your continued interest in my posts here. I look forward to next week when I will post more about the episcopal ordination on Dec. 12.Yours in Christ,
Cardinal Sen

25 thoughts on “A busy start to Advent, visiting Katharine Drexel Parish, Emmanuel College and looking forward to the episcopal ordination”

  1. Carddinal Sean, I look forward to your commentary each week. Some weeks it is difficult to capture. This is 12/16 and for two days I have been unable to locate the 12/15 posting.
    Was there a breakdown in communications? Or are you resting up for Christmas Masses?

  2. Thank you Bishop Sean for this blog. I am a Catholic speaker who has visited your Diocese to speak twice and will return in January. I am reading this because I am familiar with Bishop Dooher and his work at St. Mary’s. I must say I am very moved by your blog and your sharing about your episcopacy. What a blessing the Archdiocese has in you. I have seen in my two visits that the Spirit is truly moving among the people of the Church there, and new life is budding. On my last trip, Isaiah 61 really spoke to my heart about the Church of Boston. Truly “the Spirit of the Lord is upon you.” I pray for you and for Bishop’s Dooher and Hennessey that you may continue the great work of healing and renewal in Boston.

    Thank you again for your words, and for sharing Dooher and Hennessey’s remarks as well. It blesses me so much to hear our Shepherd’s speak of their call.

    In Christ,
    Chris Faddis

  3. Cardinal Sean,

    You certainly get around…I am looking forward to your visit to my parish this Sunday.Congratulations Bishop Dooher and Bishop Hennessey!

    Yesterday, I came across this lovely prayer that I’d like to share with you and all of your blog viewers:


    My most pure Mother, my soul so poor, all stained with wretchedness and sin cries out to your maternal heart. In your goodness deign, I beseech you, to pour out on me at least a little of the grace that flowed into you with such infinite profusion from the Heart of God….

    Have pity on me! May one compassionate look of yours revive me, purify me and lift me up to God; raising me from the filth of this world that I may go to him who created me, who regenerated me in holy Baptism, giving me back my white stole of innocence that original sin had so defiled.

    Dear mother, make me love him! Pour into my heart that love that burned in yours for him. Even though I be clothed in misery, I revere the mystery of your Immaculate Conception, and I ardently wish that through it you may purify my heart so that I may love your God and my God.

    Cleanse my mind that it may reach up to him and contemplate him and adore him in spirit and in truth. Purify my body that I, too, may be a tabernacle for him and be less unworthy of possessing him when he deigns to come to me in Holy Communion. Amen.

    Excerpted from: Meditation on the Immaculate Conception,

    by Padre Pio, O.F.M. Cap.

  4. Cardnial Sean,
    We read in the Florida Catholic of your recent efforts to put out a “blog” on the web in order to bring about an increased awarness of what you are doing.We are happy to refer our local Secular Franciscans to this great idea.

    You may not remember but we’ve met you on several occasions when we lived in Providence, Rhode. At the suggestion of Sister Mary St. John and Amata Rose, PCC at the Poor Clare Monestary on Rocky River Drive in Cleveland-Lakewood Ohio we were encouraged to make that contact shortly after your installation as Bishop of Fall River. We shared time with you at a SFO meeting at St. Mary’s church in New Bedfore, at a meeting of Catholic educators on the Cape, and at Bryant College during another educational meeting. Pat was an Catholic elementary school principal (was one of 10 awarded national “Principal of the Year” awards ) and I worked at Providence College. We pray for you and your intentions daily from down here in Sun City Center, Florida. Merry Christmas!

    Ken & Pat Wolfert

  5. God bless you, Cardinal Sean!! Your blog is so interesting!

    I was wondering…how do you make time for personal prayer with your busy schedule? As a layperson I have a hard time, but it must be even harder as a cardinal.

    Another quick question: why is a bishop annointed with oil on his head at the episcobal ordination?

    Blessed Advent!

  6. Quote Bishop Dooher: “I clearly recall leaving the ocean feeling that God and I agreed that there would be no changes in my life and ministry for the foreseeable future.”

    I think God kept his promise. Your ministry isn’t changing Father, it’s just going to be on a larger scale…..{{smile}}

  7. Cardinal Sean,

    First of all, I think it’s really awesome to see leaders of the Church using blogs and Cardinal Arinze with podcasting to reach people on a more personal level. I’ve seen my own archbishop on several occassions and shook his hand a couple of times, but never had the opportunity to ask a question (even at the archdiocese’s vocations dinner). Teens and young adults today are starving for a sense of personal connection, which I think plays itself out in the widespread promiscuity we see. Unfortunately, Catholic pastors haven’t stressed nearly enough the need for a personal encounter with Christ which leads us to all Truth, but I hope that is beginning to change.

    During Mass for the Feast for the Immaculate Conception, I was somewhat in awe over Mary’s humility given her role in God’s plan for our salvation. I’ve been praying about my vocation and possibly studying for the priesthood (the Conventuals are tryin’ to rope me in… pun intended 🙂 ) and sometimes I think it must be difficult for a priest (and especially a bishop or cardinal) to defend against the sin of pride when so many people look up to them for spiritual leadership. But Mary’s simple response, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word,” makes me think it’s hard to justify any sense of pride lest I should consider myself greater than Mary.

    So I was curious if there’s anything you do, like certain prayers or Eucharistic Adoration, that you find helpful?


  8. Wow! I’m sorry I can’t visit the diocese of Boston for the ordination.

    Just wanted to say I always enjoy reading this cheerful blog.

  9. How refreshing and uplifting to see a blog such as yours, Eminence. My prayers from Managua for your continued strength as the pastor of the great Church of Boston. “Ad multos” for your new auxiliaries!

  10. Cardinal, At the beginning of this post you mention all the work that the Church does worldwide for AIDS victims. I’m sure that’s correct so I’m perplexed by all the bad press the Church gets on this issue. It seems to be because the Church won’t support condom use but I’m just guessing. Do the Church sponsored HIV/AIDS programs in your diocese support this teaching by the Church? The reason I ask is because it seems like these ministries in other dioceses don’t always. It gets very confusing!

  11. I have still not forgotten then Bp. Sean’s kindness during an overnight visit to him in St. Thomas on Dec. 31, 1990. A pain in my adomen made it impossible for me to stand for long & prevented my concelebrating at the midnight Mass in the cathedral. When I got home to St. Louis I learned it was a hernia, which was repaired a few days later. I have always regretted what must have seemed like a discourtesy to a kind and generous host — a man I recognized then as an outstanding priest & bishop. Si sic omnes!

  12. Dear Cardinal O’Malley,

    Allow me to introduce myself. I am Msgr. Michael Palud, the Delegate of the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mandeville in Jamaica, West-Indies. I was Bishop Boyle’s Vicar General and then Bishop Bennett’s Vicar General. We really miss him. His departure in early August for reasons of health was a real shock for our Diocese. Now we await for a new Bishop. Bishop Bennett is in L.A. at the Colombiere Retreat Centre. If ever you see him, please give him my greetings.

    I thought I would drop you a note as I now you were a Bishop in our region. The Antilles is a very special place. I’ve been here since 1992…

    Many blessings in your ministry ! Please remember our missionary diocese in your prayers. I know you appreciate that being a missionary Diocese is tough and being a missionary diocese without any Bishop is all the more difficult !

    Pace e Bene !

    Msgr. Michael Palud
    Permanent Delegate of the Apostolic Administrator
    Diocese of Mandeville
    Catholic Pastoral Centre
    P.O. Box 8, Mandeville
    Manchester, JAMAICA W.I.

  13. Thank you, Cardinal Sean for sharing both what you do on a daily basis and a bit of your background. I think this blog is an invaluable tool for evangelization. It extends your teaching mission to a worldwide audience and helps demistify doctrine and church procedure.

    I am especially grateful when you speak to your vocation and what led to your current role. Hopefully, it will help those considering vocations to see this as a calling they can follow. Your joy in your vocation is evident in your writings.

    Please continue to share with your electronic flock your faith and hope in Christ. It helps build our faith!

  14. Today is December 12th, 2006. May I express my sincere expression of joy and best wishes for the episcopal ordination of Bishops-elect John Dooher and Robert Hennessey.
    My greetings come to you from London, Ontario, Canada.

  15. Congratulations on your new blog. this is a great way to keep you close to the people of the archdiocese and everyone around the world.
    Please send my regards to the two Bishop’s elect, I will pray on Tuesday for them.

  16. Your Eminence
    It is such a honor for me to write to you. I read your website and I was very please with it. I need your help. I have a disease called Crohns and I have been very sick. I would love it if you were to keep me in your prayers. I have read on you many times and I know you are a Very Holy Man. Please keep me in your prayers. You will be in mine.
    My name is David Arceneaux, I am a Roman Catholic and 36 years old. I found out I have Crohns when I was 33. I pray the Holy Rosary everyday for Gods help. I know I was given Crohns from God for a reason. I just need prayers. If I may also ask can I have a picture of you that you have singned. I have a prayer wall in my room and I would love to have your picture on it. Your Eminence it is a high honor for me to be able to send you this e-mail…May God Bless you, and Our Holy Catholic Church..

    Your fellow Catholic,
    David Arceneaux

  17. Rocco Palmo of “Whispers in the Loggia” recommended your blog and I enjoy it. I wish every bishop had the courage and stamina to do what you are doing.

    “Whispers in the Loggia” makes bishops more human and appealing than do some other Catholic sources and certainly does better than the secular media. Even Rocco Palmo couldn’t salvage the Baltimore gathering though. Pretty much a disaster, wouldn’t you say?

  18. Dear Cardinal Sean: what a lovely website. Loved the pictures, especially your comments, and was delighted with the space you gave to the two bishops-elect. We have a Capuchin in the family, stationed at St. Bonvaventure in Detroit. Have attended
    many services in behalf of the late Father Solanus. Met him, only once, the year before he died. Knew very little about him. A friend of mine was visiting him. When they were through w/the meeting, he came out and was introduced to me. He asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I still recall with much chagrain…my response: “Not a thing, Father, not a thing.” Well, thank you for your time. You are indeed a blessing to the Boston Archdiocese. I found your blog site in the Oct. 20, 2006 issue of the Michigan Catholic. A blessed Christmas to you, Cardianal Sean, and to your flock, and much good wishes to your soon to be installed auxilliary bishops. Cheers, Q

  19. I enjoy your comments even though I live in West Texas and have only been in Boston a few times.The pictures add a lot. Could you convince your artistic webmaster to change the text to black on white? White on black is hard to read, especially for older folks. Thank you. Stefan Sarre

  20. Your Eminence,

    I was so touched to read about your time in St. Croix! I am an “accidental missionary” in the West Indies myself. Our second bishop was ordained and installed about a year ago. I understand completely about the need to prepare and construct an infrastructure. Our first bishop lived in his office for a while, but we now have a seminary, a diocesan center and a pastoral center. We still have priests with two parishes, but God willing, as our seminarians graduate and are ordained priests, that will become a less common occurence.

  21. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Your blog is wonderful and hopefully other bishops will follow your example. I am from the Diocese of Trenton but I still read your blog regularly. I am also a catechist and in charge of altar servers in my parish.

    God Bless You,

  22. Cardinal Sean,
    Thank you so much for starting your blog. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to see you select such a trendy from of communication to get your message to the people. I have just recently taken the position as Director of Development at the National Pastoral Life Center and have been emphasizing how important it is for our organization to create a more interactive web site with much more information available to anyone who might visit.

    Thank you very much for your past support of the Center. I plan to check out your blog weekly. I am an old friend of Jack Rathschmidt’s from the College of New Rochelle where he was a colleague and my “pastor”. He continues to nourish many of us through the messages and reflections he shares through email.

    God Bless you and your work,
    Eileen Niedzwiecki

  23. This is the first time that I have reviewed your blog. It is interesting indeed. It must keep the folks of Boston very informed. I also was happy to see a Cardinal Archbishop of the Church wearing such a simple vestment on the opening of Advent. We have the same one here at St. Philomena. God’s continued blessings. Msgr. Benz

Comments are closed.

December 2006