Erin Go Bragh

Before I move on to more serious matters, I would like to wish everyone a happy and blessed St. Patrick’s day!

As I mentioned in my post last week, there was recently a raid on a factory in New Bedford where the owner had a government contract and employed many undocumented workers and where they were working under very poor conditions. Immigration officials apprehended the undocumented workers, many of whom were young parents, and many were sent off to detention centers in other states. The raid and detentions have caused quite a bit of havoc for those families and quite a bit of upset in the local community.

I was able to have very good conversations with the head of immigration services as well as with Senator Edward Kennedy, who has been a champion in immigration reform. President Bush has also, for a long time, been trying to convince the Congress of the need for immigration reform. Certainly this incident here in Massachusetts underscores for us how important a comprehensive and just immigration policy is needed to protect all concerned. In response to this situation, I wrote the following opinion piece that appeared in Boston Globe March 15 and that I would like to share with you here:

Whenever there is a human tragedy resulting from deeply flawed public policy, as we saw in the immigration raid last week in New Bedford, the immediate response is to seek out the villains. There surely were multiple layers of illegality, failed policy and lack of humane vision in the events of last week. The company involved has been accused of violation of federal law; the response of the federal government was problematical at best; and the coordination with state government appears to the outsider to have been inadequate.

Acknowledging all of this, I hope our first priority is the families who were impacted, not a search for the villains of the episode. It is the case that most of the these families are �illegals�, that is people who do not have the proper legal documents to be in the United States. But before they are �illegal�, they are human, women and men with families, hopes and dreams, a determination to find a better life for their children. Their humanity, human dignity and � most of all � their children have the first claim on our conscience as Americans.

Our attention should be directed to two issues at this moment. First of all, these recent events provide another concrete example of why some form of comprehensive immigration reform is urgently needed. President Bush has called for it, Senator Kennedy and Senator McCain have worked for it, but the objective has been mired in political rhetoric and obstructive tactics at several levels of the political process. This country has dealt fairly and effectively with immigration policy in the past. The Archdiocese of Boston is populated with the descendants of immigrants. This shared past � a country shaped from the beginning by those fleeing persecution and poverty � should give us the foundation to build a future that includes an immigration policy adequate to the needs of our time. It is true that in a globalized economy and an interdependent world, the demands upon policymakers are greater. But, as last week demonstrated, failure to create new immigration policy that recognizes the realities of interdependence will multiply human tragedies.

The other issue that demands our attention is the fact that, while immigration reform is urgent, the needs of the women and children in New Bedford are desperate. Their condition is partly the result of a �broken system�, but the concrete, crying needs of the most vulnerable people impacted by this raid must be addressed before we set out to fix the system.

It is good that steps have been taken by federal and state agencies to respond to the needs of the families that were impacted and that the courts are reviewing this matter. But I am concerned about some of the principles guiding the response. For example, in order to be released from custody those arrested in New Bedford had to assert that they were �the sole caretaker� of their children. The question is intended to guarantee one parent or caretaker for each child, but reports indicate that this goal has not been met. More importantly, the question fails to produce an acceptable humanitarian policy. Mothers can be separated from their children, and perhaps deported, as long as there would be a caretaker for the children remaining in Massachusetts. Immigration law and policy are complex, but a test of �sole caretaker or parent� as the determinant of being able to remain united with one�s children fails the test of humane response. That failure is all too well known by the families impacted by the events of last week.

A policy that meets the immediate needs of those who were caught up in last week�s raid is not yet in place. There are many concerns that must be given consideration in the process of developing an adequate policy and this will take time. But we must not lose sight of the human reality. Those who have been detained and those left behind are mothers, fathers, children, wives, husbands and others responsible for holding families together. At another time in history those people could have been us. Our shared respect for humanity and one faith in the promise of better future calls us to do better.

– – –

On Friday March 9 I led a Eucharistic Holy Hour in the chapel of the cathedral on the first day of a Novena to St. Patrick for vocations.


If you would like to hear an audio recording of my homily, click the microphone icon below:


The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II blessed six monstrances, one for each of the inhabited continents, for prayer for vocations. The monstrance for North America is in the diocese now as we make this novena for vocations anticipating our patronal feast � the feast of St. Patrick.



In Ireland, St. Patrick�s Day has always been a very religious holiday. I remember as a child I was always amazed that the president of Ireland and the Taoiseach, the prime minister, and so many lord mayors of Dublin and other cities would be in the United States for St. Patrick�s day. I always wondered to myself, Why they weren�t home having their own parades?

It was only later on that I came to realize that our celebrations here have always been of a more civic, social nature � with parades and parties and the like � whereas in Ireland it was a day where everyone went to Mass. It was a holy day, really.




As so often happens, the secular culture can co-op our religious traditions and figures. For example, St. Valentine has been completely lost to the greeting card, florist and chocolate industries. They have completely usurped any memory of the martyr-saint who was St. Valentine. Also take the case of St. Nicholas who is a very important saint in the history of the Church. He participated in the Nicene Council. He is one of the fathers of the council who wrote the creed that we pray at Mass every Sunday. Yet he has been transformed into a fat man in a red suit who wriggles down people�s chimneys to give them Christmas gifts that they don�t need.


Delivering my homily

St. Patrick has, in some ways, been eclipsed by the green beer and the parties and the silly hats. For this reason, I am enthusiastic about the fact that we are working to make it more of a religious holiday here. St. Patrick is our patron saint. He was a great bishop, a great missionary and a great evangelizer. He faced incredible opposition and difficulties in his ministry but he was on fire with the love for Christ and his desire to share that love and faith with the Irish people, in fact the very people that had enslaved him. He wanted to bring them the Christian faith. So all of us who are of Irish descent have a great debt of gratitude to this apostle who evangelized our ancestors.


The holy cards which were distributed with the novena prayer

Indeed, St. Patrick had a special knack for turning people into evangelizers and making the country that he converted to Catholicism the center of missionary activity. So many of the countries of Europe were evangelized in the Middle Ages by Irish missionaries, and in modern times our foreign missions, in great part, have been staffed by priests, sisters and lay people from Ireland. The Legion of Mary, in particular in missionary countries, was one of the most effective instruments of evangelization. And all of these things are rooted in the faith and the ministry of St. Patrick.



So I am very pleased that here in Boston which is in some ways a very Irish place, (though we rejoice in the great diversity we have and if you read this blog regularly you see just how diverse we have become) we are able to look at the Gospel message of the life of this saint and to use it as t time to pray for vocations. We pray that all Catholics will have a sense of their vocation, and discipleship and to be transformed by the love of Christ in the grace of their baptism and feel the Holy compulsion to share with others the faith and the joy they find in knowing Christ and following him.



This year our Men�s Conference will be on St. Patrick�s day itself and the Women�s conference the following day. I hope that many of the readers of this blog will be joining us for these wonderful events that are coming up this weekend.

Boston is the only place in the United States, I think, where St. Patrick�s Day is a civil holiday � it�s Evacuation Day. We also anticipate St. Patrick�s Day with many celebrations and St. Peter Parish in Cambridge always has theirs a week ahead of time to be one of the first. Father Kevin O�Leary has celebrated a Mass to memorialize the Irish Potato Famine that caused so many Irish to come to Boston and to the United States. And his parish was founded by people fleeing hunger and religious persecution in Ireland. So each year he has that Mass and afterwards a lovely Irish meal and Irish music, and this year he actually had the very famous and outstanding Irish Tenors. When my secretary Father Bob Kickham and I heard the Irish Tenors were going to be performing, we thought it must be some group from Dorchester! We didn�t know it was going to be the real McCoy. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Father Kevin had actually landed such a famous singing group and the parishioners enjoyed it thoroughly. Bishop Boles and his sister were there, and a number of priests from the archdiocese. And of course, it was a sellout crowd with St. Peter�s parishioners.


Father O’Leary and myself with the
Irish Tenors, Anthony Kearns, Karl Scully and Finbar Wright

They sang traditional Irish songs as well as some hymns. The beautiful Irish hymn from the 8th century, which I love very much, �Be Thou My Vision.� They also sang the �Panis Angelicus� as well as some of the traditional songs that the Irish-Americans love like �Danny Boy� and �I�ll Take You Home Again Kathleen� � those very schmaltzy tunes that we like so very much.

Last year, Father Kevin O�Leary got up and sang and he has a great voice and he�s quite a showman, so it was a lot of fun. But when the singers are this professional I think it discourages us amateurs from putting in an appearance!

– – –

Over the weekend I was pleased to take part in a retreat for women considering a vocation to the religious life. There were 20 young women who joined with a number of sisters representing both contemplative and active religious communities who are present in the archdiocese. It was a wonderful day of prayer and reflection. I gave them a short talk and was able to dialogue with them. I was very encouraged by the deep interest of these women in the consecrated life and I am grateful to Sister Marion Batho for organizing it.

It�s a great concern to me that many of our young people have never met a religious sister and don�t have a clear grasp of what consecrated life is about. A day like this is a wonderful opportunity for Catholic women to become more acquainted with religious life and have the opportunity to actually experience life with the sisters and to pray and reflect with them.

– – –

Also, earlier this week I traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in a board of trustees meeting at the Catholic University of America. I am one of a number of bishops on the board.


I have a great affection for Catholic University. I studied there, received my doctorate there and even taught there for a couple of years. It�s always a joy to go back to see the progress that they have made. The university�s president Father David O�Connell has done an extraordinary job of advancing the campus life and the Catholic identity at the university.


The CUA campus with the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate
Conception in the background

It was wonderful to hear the report from the campus ministers. The campus ministry office is doing an extraordinary job there and they are using the RENEW program for the students and a great many are participating. Since we are planning to bring the RENEW program here to Boston, that gave me an idea to try to involve campus ministry in the program as well. It�s a way of doing adult faith formation with our university students as well.

Also that day there was a groundbreaking ceremony for a new seven-story residence hall that will be known as Opus Hall.


The ground breaking ceremony


An architect’s rendering of the planned Opus Hall.

While I was at CU, I had the pleasure of meeting a student from our archdiocese named Greg Athanas. His home parish is St. Jerome�s in Weymouth and he is a graduate of Archbishop Williams in Braintree. He�s studying and is very involved in the campus ministry there and last year went and worked in their mission in Belize.


Greg Athanas poses for a photo with me

– – –

On Wednesday, March 14 I was the featured speaker at the first talk of a new lecture series that will be held at St Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown. It is named for the late Father Henry Gallagher who died in 1991 and was especially noted for his love and service of the poor and concern for the young and their education.


There was quite a good crowd



It was a very nice turnout. I was surprised to see a big cross-section of the parish. Father Jim Ronan who was a missionary in the St. James Society and who worked in the Bishop�s Conference in the Latin American office is doing extraordinary job, bringing the Catholics of Charlestown together and serving the Hispanic community at St Mary-St. Catherine�s.


Father Ronan

– – –

Finally, on Thursday afternoon, I attended a meeting of the St John�s Seminary Board of Trustees. We have a number of priests, bishops and lay people on the board who are very dedicated. It was a very productive meeting. It was announced at yesterday�s meeting that, in addition to the other bishops who are already part of the board, Bishop Tobin from Providence will join St. John�s Board of Trustees.


The board meeting in the seminary library


This was also Father John Farren�s last board meeting as our rector and the board thanked him for all of his work during this very challenging period of the history of the seminary.


Father Farren and I speak before the board meeting

– – –

For my photo of the week I have chosen the image which was used for the holy cards used for novena prayer to St. Patrick.

Through the intercession of St. Patrick, may God grant us the courage to announce His Gospel with our words and deeds — even when it seems beyond our strength!


21 thoughts on “Erin Go Bragh”

  1. Cardinal Sean,

    As more viewers sign onto you blog we are blessed with not only your thoughtful words, but comments – most sincere if sometimes not always positive from your flock and beyond.

    The church must let us know where it stands on the political issues such as immigration, school teachings, etc because it is an institution addressing other institutions involved with legal and social matters. As a church leader it is important that we continue to hear your thoughts in this regard and in the context of our faith. It would be remiss not to.

    Regardless of any differences dialogue must remain open. However, as individuals we need to remember to follow Christ (an apolitical life though He was confronted by many political leaders and issues also) and His message to love God and because of this love each other – regardless of national status or sex or preference. God is Love and if we truly believe God and not just “in God” we will embrace love as the cornerstone of our time here.

    We need your leadership to point towards a centering love for our actions. Thankfully we can count on it. May you lead us for many years to come – congratulations on your first year as Cardinal !

  2. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Thanks be to God, for through your Blog, we will now be able to see the wonderful fruit God is producing through your ministry. We spoke following the Pro-Life Vigil Mass in D.C. and the invitation was extended to visit The Rotundini of St. Padre Pio in Monongahela, PA. We pray that in Divine Providence that visit will one day become a reality. St. Patrick is a wonderful role model for all and we too celebrated with a blessed Lenten day retreat at The Rotundini and it did not include “green beer” but the “Best of the Best”; Holy Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Reconciliation, Rosary, Divine Mercy, Stations of the Cross, Reflections, and the Blue Army procession bringing Our Lady of Fatima to share in the blessings of the day! Looking forward to visiting your Blog weekly and also anticipating your visit to The Rotundini. PAX ET BONUM.

  3. First let me address the immigration debate. As a former Police Chief and a man of Irish decent I must say my forefamily did not break the law to come here from Ireland. These illegal aliens are not misplaced. They have broken into our Country and have violated numerous laws. This is an insult to any hardworking citizen that has followed the proper channels to gain citizenship. Now I may insult the Good Cardinal and his follower’s however he should be doing more of Gods work and leave the politics alone. Start policing the priesthood and what they are teaching. Reinstitute the true Mass and faith codified by Pope St Pius V. Bring back devotion to the Sacred Heart and work toward the Kingdom of Jesus here on earth –

  4. I applaud your entry into the immigration debate, with one exception. When you speak of my/our forebears, please decribe them as “legal” immigrants, not to be equated with the “illegals” of current concern. A country that doesn’t protect its borders will not exist in another generation.
    R. J. Cotter

  5. Cardinal Sean,

    So good to see your blog. You probably don’t remember me. My father (Jose Carlos Genschow) assisted Mass at the Brazilian Mass in the little chapel on Ellicott Terrace in Washington, D.C. I used to stay upstairs playing the church music on the tape recorder. I’ve wanted to say hello for a long time and am delighted to see your blog and have this opportunity. I’ll keep you in my prayers. Cecilia

  6. I agree with Marie Menke’s comments above, and hope Catholics will rally for the Parkers and Worthlins in their struggle with the Lexington school system over parental rights. This involves us all, and our children’s future.
    I was glad to see The Pilot has an article this week on it. This issue that is so tied to the battle over “redefining” marriage:

  7. God Bless You Cardinal Sean! I attended for the first time, the womens conference on Sunday. What a wonderful event! Life changing! To make it all even better there was that wonderful Mass with so many people. I have never been with so many Catholic Women in one place before! The Mass was especially meaningful being with so many beautiful people. Thank you for all you do for the Church and Thanks to all the people that put that beautiful weekend together.

  8. Dear Cardinal Sean:
    I applaud your statement on the need for immigration reform that appeared in The Boston Globe, and your longstanding and determined support for immigrants, no matter what their legal status. Everywhere I go I see hardworking immigrants filling low paid, low skill jobs, working for a better life for their families. I am appalled that, as a nation of immigrants, we do not recognize and honor the same courage and hope and desperation that brought our own forbears to the United States. (My family tree is filled with Irish and German “illegals” fleeing poverty and discrimination.) When I read about the immigration debates throughout the country I am struck by the anger of so many, and I pray that the call of the US Bishops’ “Justice for Immigrants” campaign will be heard. Please continue to be an outspoken leader in the cause of justice for immigrants.

  9. The blog must take up a lot of your time. Please do not give it up. Reading it is the first thing thatI do on Monday when I sign on. It is inspirational of course, but mostly I like the reinforcement of my feelings as part of our community. I’m a grandpa in Brantford Ontario. We have 13 Grandchildren so there is always a bunch around, but these days when our Catholicism is scorned and treated as an outdated fring and actually attacked as a threat to the secular society I need the contact that you provide. Thank you. God will surely bless you.

  10. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    I very much enjoyed the Women’s Conference yesterday. Thank you so much for that…all who put it together must have been truly inspired by God. How smart to have moved it this year to Lent. And how nice on the same weekend we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day to have had Dana from Ireland in to talk with us and sing. All four of the women were awesome and they were diverse enough in their journeys to have reached every woman there in some way. Each so different from one another yet we all share the common denominators of joys and sorrows in our own lives. When we were upstairs at lunchtime to pray the rosary together it was so powerful to have had so many hundreds of voices in one place praying together …wow! ………………………………..God Bless! …..Laura

  11. Hi Cardinal Sean

    Greetings from Ireland.. I wandered onto your blog through links from some friends sites.. Thank you for your posting on Saint Patricks day… it was very interesting.

    May God Bless you

    Slan agus Beannacht


  12. Continuing my last thought, there is a good article on the CRISIS magazine website, on young peoples beliefs after 6 years of religious education, which should astound you.
    Help us teach our young ones the gospel truth, please?

  13. Cardinal Sean,
    The RENEW program, as I have experienced it, is not suitable for learning or teaching our Catholic faith. I hope you will carefully study the pagan content before it’s visited upon the unsuspecting.
    That it is taught at CUA is truly bad news! Why not teach the Catechism?
    It is so sad that our young ones know nothing of their faith and take on secular values because of their ignorance.

  14. This week the NC Register has articles regarding the fed. court rulings involving same-sex themes in the Lexington public schools. I have to wonder where were Catholic parents in all this? There surely are Catholic students in these classes. So, as Shepherd of the diocese, do you expect pastors to speak up and encourage parents to protest and be heard? It will affect schools nationwide and what is going to happen to our religious freedom in a few years if Catholics don’t speak up now? I live a long way from Mass. but this situation worries me. God Bless you and your ministry.

  15. Cardinal Sean

    We are very blessed to have Fr. O’Leary as our pastor at St. Peter Parish in Cambridge. His devotion to the children and parish school is over whelming. He is such a wonderful priest.

    Thanks for coming to St. Peter Parish Irish Night.

  16. Feliz Dia de San Patricio, para Usted y los irlandeses
    de Boston- su interes sobre la reforma migratoria es laudable – la voz de la Jerarquia es importante para nosotros los inmigrantes a todo nivel…. que san Patricio
    quien emigro a Irlanda y trajo la fe catolica a es nacion, quien quiza se sintio inmigrante tambien interceda por la lucha social de aceptacion y derechos de todos los hombres i mujeres extranjeros de esta Nacion. juan

  17. Thank you for always giving such an inspiring blog each week. I have been following since September. I remember you from when you were here in the Palm Beach Diocese, you confirmed my niece (also my god-daughter), along with the rest of her Confirmation class at St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Fort Pierce.
    I loved your comments on St. Patrick’s Day, as I always take off from work that day, if I’m scheduled. I work retail. On my request form, I always put the reason wanting off that day as, “…a high holy day for Irish Catholics!” I have never been turned down yet in three years!
    I also was very familiar with the holy card you shown for St. Patrick. I had one for years.
    May God bless you always in your ministry. Amen.

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March 2007