Awaiting Peter

Well, this is certainly an exciting time. Next week, we will receive the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, here in the United States, an historic and joyful occasion for all Catholics.


I have written a letter to be read this weekend in all of the parishes, calling on our people to reflect on the importance of this moment and to realize the great gift that the ministry of the pope means in our Church, the ministry of unity and of our catholicity.

We are over one billion Catholics in the world. As I always say, we come in every size, shape and color, speaking every language, and we need this ministry of Peter to keep us united in Christ’s body and in fidelity to the teachings of the Gospel.

We have a great gift in the incredible intelligence and clarity of this pope who is a true teacher, and I am sure he will come to our country with many messages that will be of great importance for us in living our Christian life. So, the purpose of my letter was to encourage people to look beyond just the event of the visit and to focus on the message and the meaning of the visit.

Dearly Beloved in Christ,

Throughout the history of salvation, God has raised up individuals to lead his people. Christ assigned a special role of leadership to St. Peter. After Christ’s name, it is Peter’s name that appears with the greatest frequency in the New Testament.

The testimony of Early Christian writers and the witness of the martyrs demonstrate that the pope’s role has always been a crucial part of God’s plan for the Church. Jesus said the words to Peter: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” It was Jesus who gave Simon the new name, Peter, meaning “the rock.” Jesus also bestows on Peter the power to forgive sin and to loose and bind on heaven and on earth.

To me one of the most moving experiences of my life has been to visit the tomb of St. Peter under the Basilica of St. Peter on the Vatican Hill. St. Jerome says that Peter was Bishop of Rome for 25 years until his martyrdom by Nero. Peter was nailed to the cross upside down because he insisted that he was not worthy to die as Christ did.

The New Testament does not hide Peter’s human weakness, but the Acts of the Apostles describes Peter as he boldly proclaims Christ’s resurrection, announces the Gospel message and leads the young Church in the face of so many challenges. Guided by the Spirit, Peter chooses a replacement for Judas and carries on the mission that Christ entrusted to him. That mission has continued in the apostolic succession handed on from generation to generation by the laying on of hands and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ has not left us orphans. The Holy Spirit still guides the Church, and makes the ministry of Peter present in every generation. The pope’s ministry is a gift from Christ that promotes the unity and the catholicity of our Church with over 1 billion members in every part of the world.

In the New Testament, St. Luke describes how the early Christians laid their sick by the side of the road so that Peter’s shadow might touch them. Catholics throng to where the pope is for the same reason, to be near the vicar of Christ. It is the way we express our love for the Lord Jesus, who has given to his Church this ministry of Peter to guide us and to confirm us in the faith.

I write this letter to ask you to pray for the spiritual success of the Holy Father’s visit. At the same time, I urge all my fellow Catholics to listen attentively to the message that the pope will address to us. The Holy Father is not a celebrity or a rock star. He is a shepherd and represents Christ, the Good Shepherd, who commanded Peter: “Feed my sheep.” Pope Benedict is coming to feed us in our hunger for God and for truth.

Let us receive our Holy Father with loyalty and affection. May his presence among us help us to grow in our love for Christ and for one another. May his words renew us in our commitment to be faithful disciples in Christ’s Church.

– – –

During Pope Benedict’s visit, I will be going down to Washington, D.C. There will be a welcoming ceremony at the White House on Wednesday. Phil Moran, a member of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Pastoral Council, will be attending the event, joining many lay people from around the country who will be a part of the welcoming ceremony.

Also on Wednesday, the Holy Father will address the bishops in the afternoon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Thursday there will be the Mass in the new Nationals Park in Washington. In the afternoon, the Holy Father will meet with Catholic college presidents and the superintendents of Catholic schools from throughout the United States. Our people from Boston will be there — from our Catholic colleges and schools. There will also be an ecumenical meeting that day and Father Kennedy, rector of St. John’s Seminary, will attend.

On Friday, the Holy Father will address the United Nations, a very important part of his trip, and there will be a number of other events in New York — an ecumenical service and a Mass which will be attended by several Boston bishops, priests and religious, including Father Art Coyle, Sister Marian Batho and Father Richard Erikson.

Then, there will be a youth rally at St. Joseph’s Seminary. Our seminarians will be attending that event along with some of our youth groups from our parishes and colleges. Finally, the closing Mass will be on Sunday and 3,000 people from Boston will be attending that Mass.

All the events will be carried live by CatholicTV. They will also broadcast the events live at their website.

The Friday and Saturday prior to the pope’s closing Mass, we will be celebrating the Boston Men’s and Women’s Conferences. One of the themes of the conference will be to ask those participating to be in prayer for the spiritual success of the pope’s visit — which is something we encourage all Catholics to do, particularly this week as we prepare for the visit and experience the visit.

– – –

Last Friday I attended a conference entitled “Co-Workers in the Vineyard: Laity and Clergy Journeying Together in Christ,” at St. John’s seminary.



Aldona Lingertat, the associate Director of our Master of Arts in Ministry Program

The conference focused on the role of the laity in the Church and the future of lay ministry in the archdiocese. I am please to say there was an excellent turnout — I believe about 200 people attended. The room was practically standing-room only.


The discussion at the conference was based on the USCCB document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord” in light of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Committee’s Report on future needs of the archdiocese.



In the morning, Aurelie Hagstrom, a theology professor at Providence College, delivered her keynote address on the USCCB’s “Co-Workers” document and later Father George Evans, chair of the archdiocese’s Pastoral Planning Committee spoke on his committee’s report.


Aurelie Hagstrom

In the afternoon, there were group discussions and a panel discussion. At the conclusion of the gathering, I made some brief remarks and delivered the final blessing.


– – –

Last Saturday I traveled to St. Lucy Parish in Methuen for the 50th anniversary of the parish. We had a very good time with the parishioners and their pastor, Father Thomas Keyes. They have sent us some photos of the event that I want to share with you.




– – –

On Sunday, I had a Mass with the Nigerian community. It was a very colorful experience.



The people were all wearing their beautiful Nigerian attire for festive occasions — the women wore head dresses and the men in their robes. It was a very joyful celebration. Of course, the music was magnificent. They sang many songs in their native language.






The community is part of St. Katherine Drexel Parish in Roxbury. The pastor, Father Oscar Pratt, was with me as well as Father Anselm Nwagbrara, a Nigerian priest who is their chaplain. And we had the great joy of having Msgr. Felix Ojimba visiting. He used to live with us at the cathedral and had done such wonderful ministry among the sick years ago in Boston. He was later called back to his home diocese but visits regularly because he has relatives and many friends here.


At the end of Mass, they have the custom of calling children and young people up to give them a blessing and of course there were many children there. It was very moving to see them come forward and to see the enthusiasm and joy that characterizes the community’s celebration of the Mass.




It reminded me of the time when I was in the West Indies. The people come to church dressed up, they sing and the Mass is an event. It is a celebration in every sense of the word. The Mass lasted about two-and-a-half hours, and I am always happy to be in a place where people won’t be checking their wrist watches during my homily. I can talk as long as I want!

Afterwards there was a meal with plenty of Nigerian food. At the beginning of the celebration they offered to me, as a sign of hospitality, a plate of some very fancy nuts, so I took one and said to Father Oscar, “Am I supposed to eat it?” and he replied, “If you eat it, you won’t sleep for two weeks.” So, after a little consideration, I gracefully declined the offer!


– – –

Tuesday was officially the 200th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston, which was formed on April 8, 1808. We marked the day by celebrating a Mass at CatholicTV.


We were joined by Father Thomas Kopp, who is our director of the Propagation of the Faith and also pastor at St. James the Greater Parish in Boston. He brought a number of his parishioners from St. James, many of them from the Chinese Catholic community, as well as his parish’s deacon, a young Jesuit, Deacon Joseph. We were also accompanied by Msgr. Finbarr O’Leary, director of the Saint James Society.


At the Mass we reflected on the fact that our diocese was started 200 years ago by two missionary priests from France. Over the past 200 years, the archdiocese has made quite a substantial commitment to the mission of the Church, sending 300 priests to South America through the St. James Society as well as the work of the Propagation of the Faith.


CatholicTV also aired a special edition of “This is the Day” where a number of people discussed the bicentennial, for which I was interviewed.

– – –

Until my next blog posting, in which I hope to share with you the first part of the pope’s visit to the United States. I want to reiterate my request for prayers for the spiritual success of his visit.

God Bless you all.

Cardinal Seán

19 thoughts on “Awaiting Peter”

  1. Good Day Cardinal O’Malley:

    As a 1991 graduate of Sts. Peter and Paul School of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, I am proud of you and the work that you are doing, as well as the Priests, Decons and the Churches here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. May God Continue to Bless and Guide You and us in the Faith.

  2. Cardinal Sean,
    I just read in the New York Times that you lobbied hard to get the Holy Father to meet with some of the victims of sexual abuse in the Church. Thank you! Perhaps the healing can now begin for all those affected.
    I knew we could count on a Franciscan to bring about healing when you were appointed to the Boston Archdiocese.
    I attend a Franciscan parish in New Jersey, ministered to by the friars minor. Unfortunately, our parish will soon be turned over to the diocese, as there are not enough friars to staff our entire province.
    You have reminded me, in your courageous advocacy on behalf the abuse victims, all of the things that I am going to miss about our friars.

  3. Nice blog.

    Do you know John T. Noonan, Jr., for whom I clerked as a young lawyer? I know that he knew your predecessor, Cardinal Law.

    Again, I happened upon this by chance, and wanted to compliment you on the layout and the idea. I think the parts where you speak in your own voice, rather than a more formal voice (the letter), are particularly effective at reaching people.

  4. I am writing this response to last weeks posting, after becoming aware of the meeting between Pope Bendict XVI, yourself and a few of the abuse victims of our Crisis.

    Thank you for arranging the meeting and helping in very real ways to heal our Church. It is a such a wonderful thing to hear about and truly moving to hear the words of the survivors after their meeting with the Holy Father. There are no words that I can offer towards it other than a deep and sincere thank you, for putting a face on our Hurt. You spend so much time in the Archdiocese as our Shepherd and are truly helping to heal the wounds and I am very pleased that you are making strides for the victims. And by victims I don’t just mean those who were directly abused, but also those of us, who were shaken to the bottom of our faith, that some men could so defile the sanctity of our Parishes.

    These wounds will take time to heal, but with Jesus Christ as our Saviour and with Pope Benedict XVI and you as our Shepherds we will heal and be whole again.

    Thank You.

  5. I’m wondering if there will be any discussion of Phil Lawler’s book, The Faithful Departed about the decline of Catholicism in Boston by the Holy Father or Cardinal Sean?

  6. Dear Cardinal Sean, Thank you for continuing to respond to Christ’s call to rebuild His church. Your work to bring Pope Benedict together with members of the Body of Christ who have been abused by clergy; and the book of names provided to the Pope was from the living heart and hand of Jesus. Your leadership reflects the hope of healing that Jesus continues to offer to all. You will be in my prayers at the St. Fidelis alumni Mass and breakfast in Lawrenceville on April 24th. I’ll be in Pittsburgh for a visit
    with familly. Peace and good from Doylestown, Pa , Deacon Jim

  7. Cardinal Sean, just a quick note of thanks – I appreciate the job you’re doing, and I think your blog is a terrific idea. Thanks for keeping us informed. Be encouraged!

  8. Querido Padre Sean:
    Gracias por su “blog.” Las historias de sus visitas y las fotos nos muestran su vida en Boston. God bless you always! We remember as if it was yesterday all the preparations for the Pope’s visit back in 1979, those were the days….
    I hope and pray that the faithful in the United States appreciate such a visit from our Holy Father, and that these days be filled with the Holy Spirit.

  9. Querido Cardeal Sean
    este Domingo festejámos o Bom Pastor e não pudemos deixar de dar redobradas graças a Deus:

    pelo Cardeal Sean porque tem sido incansável, porque tem seguido as pisadas de Jesus, porque tem calcoreado montes e vales à procura das ovelhas tresmalhadas, porque tem cuidado com carinho, verdade e segurança das
    ovelhas do seu redil;

    pelo Santo Padre que agora começa a sua primeira visita pastoral à nossa querida America.

    Pode ter a certeza que pedimos a Deus pelo sucesso espiritual dessa tão grande benção que é receber o vigário de Cristo: possam os Americanos, Católicos e não só, deixar-se tocar pela inteligência e sabedoria de Bento XVI, acolher a Luz e a Paz que ele traz em nome de Deus. A nossa Igreja Católica é um manancial de graças, local
    privilegiado do encontro com Deus, ‘our home away from home’: que a maravilha desta pertença comova todos e lhes faça apreciar com que ternura e abundância Jesus está na nossa vida!

    Deus abençoe o Santo Padre, Deus o abençoe a si Cardeal Sean, Deus abençoe a América…

    Com a nossa amizade e oração, daqui de Portugal, as suas ovelhas com nome de Lobão

    P.S. Muitos parabéns à Diocese de Boston pelos seus 200 anos!

  10. It is surely an exciting time for those of our faith in this country. Pope Benedict XVI is, of course, only the second pope in history to visit the U.S. I will be seeing his Yankee Stadium Mass on the 20th, the day after my birthday. By the way, this is an interesting fact; he was elected on my birthday and my name is Ben (Ben, Benidict, get it?). May His Holiness be safe as he travels our country.

  11. Cardinal Sean, great blog, it’s a pleasure to read about your travels. Regarding Pope Benedict’s visit to the U.S., a blogger named Hugh McNichol has a wonderful suggestion:

    “When Shepherd 1 touches down next week, Catholics all over the United States will joyfully welcome Benedict XVI our Church’s spiritual leader. To mark this momentous event I have a modest proposition to put forward: The simultaneous ringing of all Catholic Church bells across the entire country.”

    Wouldn’t that be magnificent? What do you think? I hope you love the idea as much as I do, and thayt you’ll encourage all MA churches to ring the bells at 4 PM this Tuesday. Many thanks!

  12. I just wanted to thank Cardinal Seán for your continued support of CatholicTV and remind all readers you can see Pope Benedict XVI in America, live and on-demand via (an interactive page on our web site). Click on “schedule” to see the day’s coverage and “Watch Live” to see what is on CatholicTV. Jay Fadden, Kevin Nelson and Steve Sasso will provide our coverage live from Washington and New York. Father Reed will be at the CatholicTV News Center for live updates April 15-20. You can also watch on select cable systems in the Archdiocese including Comcast digital channel 268 (analog 56), Verizon FiOS channel 271, RCN digital channel 85 (analog 68).

  13. Dear Cardinal Sean,
    Thank You for your sharing your letter and especially for the Gospel reflections. They are spiritually inspiring and uplifting. As you already know, your intentions are always in my daily prayers when I lift up my heart to our God. Yes, we will pray for our Holy Father as he comes to share the message God has for us in the USA and for the world. Peace and Joy be to you as you continue in the path of life which God has ordained for you, Cardinal Sean.
    Love, Through the Hearts of Jesus and Mary,
    Rose Marie

  14. Hi I am from St. Paul School in Hingham and your blog is fantastic. I really liked your letter you wrote. I cannot believe how much you travel, if I traveled that much I don’t know what I would do. You are really amazing because you travel so much and have a blog that you update every week.
    Keep up the good work!

  15. Although we are in Canada, we have been praying for the success of the pope’s visit, and for his health and safety. We look forward very much to experiencing his fatherly care and hearing his remarks.

    Thanks for your blog–I am always interested to read it.

  16. Hello,
    I was hoping you are coming down to DC for the Popes visit and maybe I can see you while you were down here? I was just informed that I received a ticket and I am so excited. I hope to meet you in person if you’re done here. Thanks again for all you do!
    Peace, Caitlin

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April 2008