Recognizing our Altar Servers


Wednesday night at sunset, the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur began. It is celebrated a few days after Rosh Hashanah, so I want to wish “L’shanah tovah” —happy new year — to all our Jewish friends and to assure them of my thoughts and prayers during this time.

We have a warm and long standing relationship with the Jewish community in Boston. We are blessed to have enjoyed this closeness and mutual respect and I confidently look forward to it growing stronger in the years ahead.

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is one of the most important holidays for the Jewish people and certainly it is a day that would have been observed by Jesus in his lifetime.

Also these days the Muslim world is celebrating the End of Ramadan, “ld al-Fitr.” I am also happy to send them the greetings of the Archdiocese of Boston.

– – –

I think it is also important to mention the great fear and anxiety many have experienced these past few days.

Recent weeks have demonstrated that the greed and ambition of some in the financial world has led to a great debacle. Everyone is concerned for those affected and those who will be affected in the future.

We pray for all those who have been adversely impacted by this situation, particularly those who have lost their jobs or their homes.

– – –

On Friday we met with our seminarians for a Holy Hour, dinner and a conversation afterwards. We meet several times during the school year and this time we decided to have the meeting at the Pastoral Center, giving them an opportunity to see it and to show them the new chapel.


Because it was Oct. 3, I thought it would be nice to have the seminarians join me in celebrating the Transitus of St. Francis of Assisi. Most of them had never experienced it before. We incorporated it into the Holy Hour, including the singing of the Canticle of Brother Sun, which St. Francis had asked to be sung when he was dying. This beautiful hymn that St. Francis wrote was the first piece of literature written in Italian — everything had previously been written in Latin; that was Francis’ contribution to the Italian language.



In the hymn he calls on Brother Sun, Sister Moon and all of creation to praise God. At the end, he even talks about Sister Death, whom St. Francis saw, not as something horrible, but as a sister who leads us to our Heavenly Father.

In addition to singing the hymn, we read from the Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure, describing Francis’ last hours, the account from the Gospel of the Last Supper that St. Francis read when he was dying and then we prayed Psalm 142, which he quoted when he was dying.  We concluded with Eucharistic Adoration and Vespers.

After that all of the seminarians were invited up to the new cafeteria where we all had dinner.



Following dinner, we all took a tour of the Pastoral Center and its facilities. The seminarians seemed very enthused and some of them were picking out offices for themselves. I didn’t hear anyone say they were interested in my office, but if any of them really want it, they can have it!

Of course, these gatherings are a great chance for me to get to know our seminarians a bit better.

One of the new seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Felipe Gonzalez, has a very interesting story.


That’s Felipe, on the right

He is from California, but he has just come back to America after spending five years doing missionary work in India and Pakistan. I was very impressed with him.

– – –

Saturday, on the Feast of St. Francis, we had a Mass of Appreciation for our altar servers at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

More than 700 altar servers attended and were joined by parents and chaperones from their parishes.

At the Mass, we announced this year’s winners of the Pope John Paul II Award for the boys and the Mother Theresa Award for the girls.

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

The choir from Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Dorchester,
led by Michelle McCourt

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

The winners of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta Service Award for girls who have shown exemplary service to their parish and their community by their imitation of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta were: Jessica Barbosa, St. Edith Stein Church in Brockton; Helena Suarez, St. Patrick Church in Roxbury; Melissa Bolen, Immaculate Conception Church in Revere and Teresa Goggin, Immaculate Conception Church in Stoughton.

The winners of the John Paul II Service Award for boys who have shown exemplary service to their parish and their community by their imitation of Pope John Paul II were: Michael Kemp, St. Benedict Church in Somerville; Matthew Hanafin, St. Margaret Church in Burlington; Aaron Swenson, Sacred Heart Church in Waltham and Tyler Molisse, Our Lady of the Assumption in Marshfield.

 Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

The turnout from so many parishes was gratifying. With all the servers, their parents and other family members and their priests, the cathedral was nearly filled. In all, there were about 1,500 people.


In my homily, I told them that I started serving on the altar when I was six years old. Back then, the Mass was so difficult to learn in Latin — particularly the Suscipiat that we had to say during the Offertory — that my older brother told me, “You just mumble and I’ll say it extra loud.”

In case you are wondering how the Suscipiat prayer goes, here it is:

“Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis, ad laudem et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque ecclesiae suae sanctae.”

(I’m sure the English translation will sound familiar to all of you: “May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands, to the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of His Holy Church.”)

Altar server appreciation Mass, Oct. 4, 2008 at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.<br /> Pilot photo/courtesy Andres Enrique

As part of expressing our appreciation for being altar servers, I made the point of telling them how important serving was. I also told them that among the cathedral altar servers we have people serving who are in grade school, high school and some in college. Some men, now out of school and working, continue to serve on the altar, maintaining that connection to that special service to the Church.

Following the Mass there was a “make your own sundae” party across the street in the gym of Cathedral High.




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On Saturday afternoon I went up to Beverly to celebrate Mass at St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish. They are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Church building. In 1896, the original Church was destroyed by a fire. The parishioners raised the money, and they worked for 12 years to complete the structure in 1908.

The Church has recently been restored to its original beauty. The artwork in the sanctuary is particularly striking: a series of beautiful paintings of Old Testament figures which pre-figured the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ surrounds the Altar, and in the middle of these paintings is the Last Supper, where Jesus celebrates the first Mass with His disciples.


I told the parishioners that these images remind us that every Sunday we participate in the one sacrifice of Christ, and that their beautiful altar is really another leaf in the table which was the Lord’s first altar at the Last Supper.


The church also has some very striking stained glass windows.


StMary_Beverly_Star of the Sea

StMary_Beverly_Presentation Lord

I’m so grateful to Father David Barnes, the Pastor of St. Mary’s, and to Father Ed Geary, one of our senior priests who used to minister in Beverly. Their warm welcome and fine work are a testament to the great priests of this Archdiocese.




I’m so glad that I had the chance to celebrate Mass in such a beautiful church, dedicated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea. I’ve always liked that Marian title, Star of the Sea. It recalls the beautiful Latin hymn, Ave Maris Stella:

HAIL, O Star of the ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
ever sinless Virgin,
gate of heav’nly rest.

– – –

In the evening, Fr. Amanuel Mesgun, OFM Cap, of the Capuchin Province of St. Augustine in Eritrea, came to visit me.  His sister, Olga, is active in the Cathedral Parish, and couldn’t wait to introduce me to her brother.  They gave me a traditional, hand made stole and a blessing cross, which they use in their rites for worship.


– – –

Sunday we had a special program for Respect Life Sunday. Traditionally, Massachusetts Citizens for Life has their rally and march around the Boston Common.

That morning, because we have been trying to get more young people involved in the Pro-Life movement, Father Matt Williams and his office put together a unique morning.


The Spellman High choir



Father Stan Fortuna



Father Stan and Dan Flatley

We invited Dan Flatley to speak to the young people and Father Stan Fortuna spoke and performed. The choir from Spellman High School was there as well.

Afterwards, they all went to Mass with the seminarians, and following the Mass, they had pizza together before walking up from the cathedral to the Boston Common for the rally.

This year Don Feder was the master of ceremonies. The keynote address was delivered by Joe Fitzgerald, the Boston Herald columnist and author.







Following the rally we all marched to raise money for some very worthy causes that help to defend life and support mothers in their pregnancies so they don’t feel compelled to seek an abortion because of hardship.

– – –

Wednesday, the Campaign for Catholic Schools hosted a reception for the supporters of Brockton’s Trinity Catholic Academy at Stonehill College which has been very supportive of the efforts to revitalize the Catholic schools in Brockton.


The trustees of the school presented their first Founders Award to Tom and Mary Shields for all their support of Trinity. It was great to see so many members of the Shields family there. Amazingly, everyone was able to keep the secret that the award would be named for Tom and Mary, who were truly surprised.


Tom, as he heard the award was named for him and his wife


Congratulating Mary


Tom handing the award to Mary

The entertainment for the evening was the school’s band and chorus, who were superb. The band is 45-members strong.



When I heard that none of musicians had played an instrument one year ago, I was afraid they were going to use the “think method” from “The Music Man.” Instead, they played wonderfully.

Shields receiving TCA award_large group

Here I am with Matt George, Tom Shields, Jack Connors, Mary Grassa O’Neill and Mary Shields

Until next week, blessings to you all!

+ Cardinal Seán

9 thoughts on “Recognizing our Altar Servers”

  1. It was great that some of the Deaf Catholic Community wanted to attend the Pro-Life March. It was a great honor to interpret at this great event for them.

    Those who pity the poor are no help to the poor. Some people would try to kill the poor or sick people before they are born and call it mercy. The sick and the poor are a gift to us. Without Christ this is only silly talk however.

    Some in the Deaf community have told me that they know the difference between someone trying to help out of pity versus love.

    In my opinion it is this false pity that leads to the attitude of Abortion.

    It tries to solve the poverty by killing the poor.

    It only leaves us all utterly poor in the worst most hellish way imaginable.

    Thank you for your public witness. Thank you for trying to be a voice for the most vulnerable among us.

    In Christ,


  2. The Boston Boys Choir was awesome. I was unable to attend Magnificat but perhaps next year. Thanks for putting a sample of it here.


  3. It is great to see the support you are giving to the young people in our church, recognizing seminarians and alter servers, marching with high school kids, I think it is great that you tapped Fr Matt to create his unique office. Thank you, please continue to lead the Church in this positive, human direction.

    I wanted to invite you to watch a quick video I put together. The video is set to Jon Niven’s version of “Hail Mary,Gentle Woman” and features pictures of the Nativity art my wife, and former Catholic School Board member, Sonia Guerrios-Doherty has collected from around the World.

    The video can be seen on youtube at

    You will continue to be in my prayers, please keep my family in yours.

  4. May God bless you Seán Card. O’Malley…

    I would like you to share with us the missionary experience of Felipe Gonzalez in Pakistan and India… It’s always inspiring to read about how a catholic can live his faith out of our “comfort zone”

  5. Dear Cardinal Sean:
    I’ve just visited your website for the first time. Forgive me for being a little out of touch with archdiocesan happenings over the last few years, but it seems to me the face of Boston Catholicism is being reborn with your guidance. I am a friend of Fr. Mike Duffy, ofm of the St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia and believe that the future of our Church is visible in the Volunteers drawn into the work of the Church through the lived example of examples like Mike. You are in my prayer, thank you.

  6. Your Eminence,

    Thank you for your strong words at the Pro-Life Rally. When The Sunday Boston Globe OP-ED page attacks you with both barrells blazing, you know you’ve done well!

  7. Dear Cardinal Sean,

    I take care of the altar servers in our parish, and I’ve found it a great way to encourage devotion and recollection among our younger people, helping them to build up good Catholic habits for a faithful life. I consider this ministry an intense privilege and a grave duty.

    Good job introducing the seminarians to one of our particular Franciscan celebrations, the Transitus of our holy father Francis! A touch of seraphic piety is good for any soul. 🙂

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October 2008