Cardinal Seán’s Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

A very full last week of July

News that casino gambling may be soon legalized in Massachusetts is troubling. A Native American tribe is negotiating with the town of Middleborough the construction of a casino there.

Like most Americans, I am very sympathetic to our Native Americans who in so many cases have been unjustly deprived of ancestral lands and resources. I realize that the government has attempted to compensate them by giving them privileges with regard to gambling. But I am opposed to that project and hope that Middleborough will not approve the proposal the town has received.

The Church’s stance on gambling is a nuanced one. We believe that gambling can be a legitimate form of recreation, like drinking alcohol. But, like alcohol, there are also dangers involved in gambling. Casino gambling, I believe, is fraught with many dangers for a community. First, it drains the resources away from other businesses and activities in the community. Second, it promotes gambling addiction, which is one of the worst addictions and one that is becoming more common. It is an addiction that destroys families and destroys people’s lives. The Church in Massachusetts has always opposed casino gambling for that reason.

If public works and projects in the Commonwealth need to be funded, there should be other ways to do that, perhaps by raising taxes. But relying on casinos makes us gambling junkies, and we become dependent on that money, which will result in many ruined lives, ruined businesses and ruined neighborhoods. So we unequivocally oppose casino gambling in the state.

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Every summer I celebrate a Mass with the Sisters of Charity and the children in their summer program, held at their facilities in Dorchester. It is always a joy. This year the Mass was on July 25, and there were about 80 children in attendance. It is wonderful to see how the children participate at Mass, singing hymns with such enthusiasm.


After the Mass, the sisters had pizza and cake for the kids. The children also sang a number of songs. One was about the “angels watching over me,” and many of the little girls were dressed as angels. It was cute.





The children really enjoy the summer program and get so much out of it. These are children who otherwise would not have the opportunity for these kinds of activities. They also gain by their exposure to religious training and participation in Mass.

The missionary sisters are always such a wonderful presence in the neighborhoods where they are. Their outreach to people who are economically deprived is beautiful, and they have such a wonderful way of involving many volunteers in their ministry. The volunteers associated with the summer program are quite a cross section. There are some high school students from the suburbs, police officers, musicians, local mothers from the neighborhood. All are working together to ensure the children have a good experience during the program.



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On Wednesday evening, we had the admission to candidacy of Israel Rodriguez which was celebrated at Our Lady of the Assumption parish in East Boston.

Israel is the first candidate to come out of the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation.

We are very pleased. He is a talented and zealous seminarian, and we look forward to the day when he will be ordained a priest for Boston.




There were a number of priests who came to concelebrate. Some of the seminarians from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton and Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston joined us. Parishioners from Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in East Boston and many representatives of the various communities of the Neocatechumenal Way in the archdiocese also attended.


We were also pleased that four of Israel’s eight sisters came from his native Spain to accompany him.


Speaking with Israel and his sisters following the Mass


Candidacy is one of the sacramentals that we have before ordination. Formerly, this would have been what we called tonsure. When I was a seminarian, the bishop cut our hair, and that was the beginning of our mission into the clerical state, and for diocesan priests it was their incardination into the diocese. Now, it has been replaced by the ceremony of candidacy, which is a public declaration of the candidate’s commitment to pursue his priestly vocation and prepare himself for ordination in the archdiocese.


During the rite the candidate, who seated in the front pew, is called forward
to be questioned by the bishop



When he returned to his seat, Israel received
a hearty round of applause from the entire assembly



After the rite, the Mass continued with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. On the left is the rector of the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Father Tony Medeiros and on the right is Father Jose Manuel de La Peña, the pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish




It was fitting that Israel’s candidacy was on the Feast of St. James the Apostle, and, as I said at the Mass, the beautiful Gospel was almost like St. James’ candidacy ceremony. The reading was taken from when St. James’ mother asked for thrones for her sons at Jesus’ right and left. Then, Jesus puts the question to St. James and his brother, asking, “Can you drink of this chalice of which I am going to drink?” They said, “Yes we can.” That was the beginning, and Jesus said to them, “Yes and you will.” And of course they did!


The evening concluded with a reception in the parish hall

The parishioners had this cake made for Israel

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On Thursday, I visited the Department of Youth Services’ Metro Youth Service Center in Dorchester. It was sad to see so many young people in a correctional institution. Most of the children there are between the ages of 12 and 20. Although I worked as a prison chaplain for a few years and have visited many prisons where so much of the population is of young people, this visit was particularly touching.

The chaplain, Father Joe Baggetta, has been there for over 20 years and has done a wonderful job. He has a fantastic presence and works so well with the other ministers and with the Knights of Columbus who have provided his ministry with a chapel, which is an air-conditioned trailer.


A tour of the chapel with Father Bagetta

During the visit, we had a prayer service and Father Oscar Pratt, pastor at St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Dorchester, sang with a couple of other ministers. They had beautiful singing voices. There was also a group of young bagpipers who played. They were quite good.


After the music, Isaura Mendes gave a powerful witness talk about her work for peace. Isaura has lost two sons and two nephews to the violence on the streets of Boston. She is a devout Catholic woman from Cape Verde. She came to this country when she was 14 and married when she was 17. Since her sons were killed, she has worked hard to bring about peace and to encourage young people in the Dorchester/Mattapan community where so many have been killed, particularly Cape Verdeans.


Isaura Mendes and the banner with the photos of the young victims of violence

As a visual aide, they had a banner there with pictures of the young people who have been killed. It was sad to see how many have died. One is too many, but so many scores of youngsters have perished. Some of them were so young, and many of them were just victims of a drive by. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had not done anything criminal.


I was able to address the young people myself. I tried to impress on them how much God loves them, and that when we discover God’s love in our lives, it helps us to understand who we are, why we are here and what we need to do with our lives. After the service, we gave out copies of St. Francis’ prayer for peace to all the participants.


Then, I had a dialogue with about half a dozen of the young men, who were between 14 and 17 years of age. They talked about their experience on the streets of Boston and the violence they have encountered as well as their own hopes to turn their lives around.

They gave me many birthday presents, even though it is a long time after my birthday, but I did not turn them down! I put one of the gifts in my pocket, a little rosary in a red case. I suppose it is a cardinal’s red rosary case. They also gave me many chocolates and other things, and I was impressed.



I was also impressed by the staff at the facility. Many staff members have worked there a long time and do so with a sense of mission. I was touched by the fact that the kids gave a great round of applause to the janitor who is retiring. It shows that even the auxiliary staff there is trying to have a positive impact on the lives of these young people.


Metro Area Director John Hughes and Deputy Commissioner Ed Dolon
and I outside the trailer donated by the Knights of Columbus

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On Thursday evening, I was invited to the Assumptionist House in Brighton. The Assumptionist friars are living in what was the former convent at St. Columbkille Parish. Once there were 46 St. Joseph’s sisters there, and now the friars have moved in. They have some of their seminarians studying at St. John’s with our men. They invited me to be with them for vespers and dinner. It was an opportunity to get to know their community better. We are very grateful for their presence in the archdiocese.


Meeting young lay members of their Christian Residential Program


Posing with the whole group in front of the house

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This morning I met with the Crossroads group that is passing through Boston. There are four groups of young Catholics who are walking across the continent to witness to the pro-life movement, three in the United States –they will all converge in Washington for a march on August 11 — and one in Canada. Each year they sort of swing north to be able to visit Boston and to visit some of our parishes. They have been walking for a couple of months, witnessing to the Gospel of Life. They are very faith-filled young men and women who are committed to Church teaching and to the unborn. I was happy to greet them and to encourage them in their journey.

The group of Crossroads walkers


We chatted for quite a while about their walk and about pro-life and pro-family issues
here in the archdiocese







Before they left I gave them my blessing


The walkers wanted to attend a Mass after our meeting. Maryann Luthin of our Pro-life Office suggested St. Clement’s Shrine in Boston


Several of the young people wore small iron chains such as this one. It is a sign that they have consecrated themselves to Jesus through Mary according to the way of St. Louis de Montfort.


Along the way, they stopped to pray the rosary across the street
from the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue




When they finished their prayer, they continued on with their walking to St. Clement’s

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Finally, for my photo of the week I have chosen this photo with the children from my visit to the Sisters of Charity. Their work has many fruits, as the joy of the children they help shows.