Day: June 26, 2009

Spring session of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops

I am happy to share with you the following statement issued this evening by Caritas Christi concerning its decision to withdraw its membership in the CeltiCare Health Plan while continuing its commitment to serve the needs of the poor among us:

New Agreement Allows Caritas To Serve the Poor As a Provider in the Connector Program

Braintree, MA – Based on the decision of the Caritas Christi Executive Committee of the Board of Governor’s to relinquish its membership and equity interest in the previously established joint venture, CeltiCare Health Plan Holdings, LLC (formerly known as Commonwealth Family Health Plan Holdings, LLC) but maintain its important role as a provider of health care to many enrolled in the state’s Connector Program, the Archdiocese of Boston today expressed support for the new arrangement.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said, “I am pleased that Caritas Christi was able to achieve this outcome. Throughout this process, our singular goal has been to provide for the needs of the poor and underserved in a manner that is fully and completely in accord with Catholic moral teaching. By withdrawing from the joint venture and serving the poor as a provider in the Connector, upholding Catholic moral teaching at all times, they are able to carry forward the critical mission of Catholic health care.”

Caritas Christi CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre said, “The opportunity for Caritas Christi to participate in the Connector program will allow Caritas to serve the low income and underserved population’s desperate need for quality health care. We are committed to fulfilling our mission, as we always have, rooted in the principles established by Catholic teaching, of providing the highest quality healthcare to patients across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

Expansion of Caritas’ care for the poor and the uninsured was the original motivating force in entering the agreement with Celtic Group, Inc. (a subsidiary of Centene Corporation). Catholic health care in the United States has two principal goals: providing health care for all, a basic requirement of social justice; and protecting the sacredness of human life from conception until natural death. The protection of human life and dignity demands that Catholic institutions never contribute to procedures which are inconsistent with Catholic moral teaching, such as abortion and sterilization. These procedures and others are prohibited by the Ethical and Religious Directives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Having withdrawn from the original joint venture, the provider agreement will allow Caritas Christi to fulfill its mission of serving the poor without participation or cooperation in procedures forbidden by the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.

The decision to withdraw from the joint venture follows several weeks of discussions between Caritas and Centene and an extensive analysis by the National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) which was undertaken at the request of the Cardinal. Over that time, subsequent discussions involving Caritas Christi, the NCBC and the Archdiocese were held and the Cardinal made his final determination. The Cardinal’s role in reviewing and seeking additional guidance on this proposal is rooted in his responsibility to ensure the Catholic identity and moral character of institutions affiliated with the Archdiocese of Boston, including Caritas Christi.

“The goal of this review was to ensure that Caritas Christi could serve the poor through a plan for participation in the Connector that is in complete accordance with Catholic moral teaching,” said Cardinal O’Malley. “I want to thank Dr. Ralph de la Torre and his team at Caritas Christi and the NCBC for their thoughtful collaboration. I also want to extend my sincere gratitude to Dr. John Haas and the staff at the National Catholic Bioethics Center for their diligent and comprehensive review of the proposal. I am pleased that they were able to provide a recommendation whereby Caritas can go forward in fulfilling its mission of Catholic healthcare.”

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I spent most of last week in San Antonio, Texas, at the Spring Meeting of the Conference of Catholic Bishops.




The meeting officially started on Wednesday, but I arrived earlier in the week to participate at committee meetings.  I was involved in meetings on Latin America, Africa, pro-life and immigration.

The general meeting began with a Mass at the Cathedral of San Antonio.



This one I took with my cell phone as we were processing in




At the plenary sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, there were presentations on a variety of subjects that were being voted on, for instance a new Mass in Thanksgiving for the Gift of Human Life and a Spanish Language Lectionary. Also, there were a number of votes taken on the different translations for the liturgy. We are still working on translations for the Mass.


During the executive session, there was a discussion on the situation that erupted at Notre Dame this year. It was a show of support for Bishop John D’Arcy. After the session we published the following statement that I want to share with you:

“The bishops of the United States express our appreciation and support for our brother bishop, the Most Reverend John D’Arcy. We affirm his pastoral concern for Notre Dame University, his solicitude for its Catholic identity, and his loving care for all those the Lord has given him to sanctify, to teach and to shepherd.”

You can read more on the meetings in this article published in this week’s Pilot.

– – –

When I first arrived in San Antonio, I had dinner with Father Jim Fischler, a Missionhurst priest, who as a seminarian many years ago used to work for me at the Centro Catolico in Washington, D.C. Now he is pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Del Rio, a border town 150 miles west of San Antonio.

When he heard I was going to the bishops’ conference, he called me and invited me to dinner. He asked me if there was anything I would like to see, and I told him I would like to see the cathedral. So he called the rector who graciously invited us to tour the cathedral that evening, which allowed me to take some photos with my cell phone for you to see.


Father Fischler (right) with Fr. Steven Anthony Gamez, parochial vicar of the cathedral, pose under a statue of San Fernando, who is the patron of the cathedral


The Church of San Fernando was founded in 1738 by the first Spanish settlers, a group of 15 families who came from the Canary Islands and who founded “La Villa de San Fernando.”

In the late 19th century, the current cathedral was built over the older Church of San Fernando as the city became the See of the new Diocese of San Antonio. Some of the walls of the original church are still there as part of the Sanctuary.

The Canarian settlers planned the layout of the town around the church which was to be at the center. On the floor, in the center of the church, there is a marker which was placed right below the dome of the original church. This marker is the point used to determine mileage from San Antonio, so it is officially the center of the city.


Retablo The “retablo” behind the main altar was recently completed in Mexico. I was impressed by the spectacular gold leafing.

There are two side altars honoring the patronesses of the church, Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of Candlemas) — a patroness of the Canary Islands — and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (Our Lady of Guadalupe.)


Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria


Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe


The baptistery


Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James,
and Salome at the empty tomb.


This is the tomb of the first bishop of San Antonio, Bishop Pellicer

Below is a close-up of one of the altars that shows the early Franciscan missionaries.


Texas was first evangelized by the Franciscans from Mexico. There are several mission churches that are still run by the Franciscans in the area of San Antonio. The famous Alamo Mission, which is just a few blocks away from the cathedral, was turned into a museum a long time ago.


The Alamo

As you may know, the Battle of the Alamo took place here after the Texans had declared independence from Mexico. Mexican President Santa Anna arrived to San Fernando and placed his headquarters around the Church of San Fernando, attacking and defeating the Texan forces stationed at the Alamo Mission.

The Texans then defeated President Santa Anna at the battle of San Jacinto, with the battle cry of “Remember the Alamo!” which obtained them formal independence from Mexico.

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That weekend I gave a retreat to a group of Hispanic leaders gathered from all over the country who are part of CALL, The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. CALL was established three years ago by Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio to provide a forum for Hispanic professionals and entrepreneurs.


With Archbishop Gomez and a group of seminarians

At the retreat, 30 professionals from all over the United States actively participated in a series of reflections and attended lectures on Catholic life.

The organization is expanding its presence around the country and currently has established organizations in Denver, Miami and San Antonio. In the not too distant future Chapters of Catholic Latino professionals are expected to be created in Boston, New York, Chicago and Washington D.C. 


The retreat took place at the seminary, which is part of the chancery compound in San Antonio. Next to this is the old MAC, which used to be the Mexican American Cultural Institute, which is now a bilingual Catholic College.

If the 104 degree weather did not convince me I was in Texas, when I saw this sign telling me I could not take a gun into the chancery, I knew that I was in the Lone Star State.


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Tuesday, on my way back to Boston, I stopped in New Jersey where I gave talks at the International Institute for Clergy Formation at Seton Hall University.

Each year, Seton Hall has a number of seminars  for ongoing priestly formation. During the summer they are held in New Jersey and during the winter they are held in Florida.

There were a couple of Boston priests there — Fathers Bill Dunn and John O’Donnell.

The sessions are held at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, a beautiful retreat facility that belongs to the Redemptorist Fathers.

I was there during the day and that night I came back to Boston in time for the Holy Hour and to give a conference to our Boston seminarians who are on retreat in Dover.





Fathers Harrington and Hennessey of our Vocation Office
organized the retreat

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Vigilant blog readers have noticed that the dove tabernacle that was at the Pastoral Center Chapel suddenly disappeared from the photos of the events there, until it showed up again a few weeks ago.


It did not fly off! What happened was that one of the wings fell off last summer. We welded it back together, but were afraid it was not going to hold. So, we sent it back to the manufacturers in Spain to be repaired.



Our beautiful dove tabernacle has recently been restored to its place of honor, and we are very pleased that it is back.

Until my next post.

In Christ

Cardinal Seán

June 2009