Month: October 2008

The Catechetical Congress

As election day approaches, I am often asked about the right to life issue and the role of Catholics in political life, so I have issued the following statement that I want to share with you:

In defending the cause of life, we are not only fulfilling our vocation as Catholics, but we are also defending the vision of democracy that is embodied in the Declaration of Independence that states “We hold these truths to be self evident,” namely, that we are all created equal and are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the first of which is the right to life.

Today, this most fundamental human right is threatened. As the Bishops of the United States have said in our document Living the Gospel of Life: “As we tinker with the beginning, the end, and even the intimate cell structure of life, we tinker with our own identity as a free nation dedicated to the dignity of the human person.”

If we ask ourselves what is the leading cause of death in the United States, we usually think of heart disease, cancer and other serious illnesses. Actually the leading cause of death in the United States is abortion. The architects of the pro-abortion movement in the United States thought that within a year or so the opposition would go away or die off. More than thirty years later the issue is still alive because people care about life, and an ever increasing number of young people are making it known that they too are committed to upholding respect for life.

The American people are not in favor of abortion on demand, partial birth abortion, or allowing babies who have survived an abortion to die. If we had the opportunity to vote as a nation there would certainly be limitations imposed on the abortion industry that destroys not just the lives of the babies but also the lives of all involved. A dictatorial court has imposed an unethical decision on our country and divided the American people.

We pray for the opportunity to allow the American people to have a voice in such a crucial issue. As people of compassion we must defend the rights of the most vulnerable. The Church’s social teaching is very coherent and extends to all aspects of economic justice, racial equality, war and peace, immigration, education and health care issues. But the centerpiece of our teaching will always be the right to life.

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Saturday, we held our annual Catechetical Congress at The Lantana in Randolph. We had about 600 catechists and religious education directors attend.  The group was almost evenly divided between the English and Spanish-speaking programs.

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It was my privilege to deliver the keynote address this year, which I first gave in English and then separately in Spanish.



The name of the speech was “Passing on the Faith: An Imperative. Not an Option.” For those of you who weren’t in attendance, here is the audio of the my address in english


In Spanish:


I was very happy to present the Sister Marion O’Connor Award for Excellence in Catechetical Leadership to Carmen Guerrios from Holy Family Parish in Dorchester for the Spanish program and to Marge Donaher from St. Francis Parish in Braintree for the English program.


Pilar Latorre with Carmen Guerrios


Susan Kay with Marge Donaher

It was also wonderful to see Sister Clare Bertero receive an award in recognition of her tremendous work over the years in religious education. Sister Clare is now my personal assistant staffing two important committees: one is looking into faith formation for adults and the other is looking at catechetical texts and programs to identify best practices in religious education.


With Msgr. John McDonough, Susan Kay, Susan Abbott and Sister Clare Bertero

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Saturday Evening, I celebrated the Closing Mass of the four-day 32nd annual conference of the American Maritain Association at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

Maritain was a Catholic philosopher. Born in 1882, he was raised Protestant and converted to Catholicism, devoting his life to the study of St. Thomas Aquinas. He contended that natural law is at the foundation of human ethics and human rights. In fact, he was involved in the drafting of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The association is based at Notre Dame University, where Maritain once taught and where many of his writings are kept, and is dedicated to discussing and preserving his ideas. This year’s conference focused on the theme of “Love and Friendship,” based principally on the chapter of the same name in his collection of essays “Notebooks.”

It was an absolutely beautiful Mass. The seminary choir sang some magnificent polyphonic music for us in Latin.

After the Mass there was a reception at St. John’s, and then an awards banquet at the Marriott Courtyard Boston Tremont Hotel.

There were three awards presented during the evening. Father Joseph Koterski of Fordham University received the Maritain Medal for Scholarly Excellence and Stephen Chamberlain of Providence College received the Eve Simon Institute Graduate Student Award. I was very honored to be presented the association’s Humanitarian Award.





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Sunday, we visited St. Joseph Church in Medford as they celebrated their 125th anniversary.


Both Bishop Walter Edyvean and Bishop Francis Irwin are from that parish, so they were both there concelebrating the Mass with me.


With Bishop Irwin, Deacon Bob Breen, Father McLaughlin, Father Diem and Bishop Edyvean




Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn

It was a beautiful Mass and the church is simply stunning. The renovations that have been done to the building over the years have been done beautifully. The altars are beautiful carved wood from Oberammergau, Germany and the stained glass windows are stunning.



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Wednesday, I met with members of the visitation team of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) as well as members of the board of trustees at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston.

Every ten years religious schools must develop and submit a detailed self-study report as part of the process to reaffirm their accreditation from the ATS. The association is a membership organization of roughly 250 Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant theological schools in the United States that reports directly to the U.S. Department of Education.

It was a very positive exchange and the visitation team seemed to be very impressed by the seminary. I know we are very impressed with the work that Father Peter Uglietto and his staff is doing there. We are so blessed as an archdiocese to have two seminaries that are both strong and vibrant as they prepare future priests for ministry.

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Finally I leave you this week with a photo of the view from my office window.  Our Pastoral Center overlooks Blue Hill Cemetery. This time of year the foliage is stunning, particularly at dusk. It is such a beautiful resting place.

Photo by Gregory L. Tracy

And of course, in the coming days, as we will be celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, it is important that we pray for all those who have gone before us into the Kingdom. 

I think the following traditional prayer says it best: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

October 2008