Hello and welcome!
This week has been an occasion to celebrate many important anniversaries in our local Catholic community.
The first of these was on Friday, when I went to the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester for a Mass to commemorate their 175th anniversary.
The College of the Holy Cross was founded by the second bishop of Boston, Bishop Benedict Fenwick, who was himself a Jesuit. His desire was to have a Catholic institution of higher learning in New England, originally to be connected with the Cathedral the Holy Cross in Boston. (Bishop Fenwick had previously been the president of Georgetown University and, in fact, for the college’s first several years, before they received their charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, all the degrees were granted by Georgetown University.)
Bishop Fenwick’s tomb at Holy Cross
However, because of the persecution of the Church and the violence of the Know-Nothings against Church property, it was decided that it would be better to locate the college farther from the city. So, it was established in Worcester.
It was wonderful to be present to celebrate this important milestone of New England’s oldest Catholic college.
On Saturday, I had the joy of ordaining 11 Jesuit transitional deacons at St. Ignatius Church in Brighton. As I mentioned in a previous post, these men are from various Jesuit provinces throughout the United States and the world who are studying together in Boston.
Many of them assist in our parishes as seminarians, deacons, and eventually as priests, during their time here. Their service is a great blessing for us, and so it was my great pleasure to be able to celebrate their ordinations.
That afternoon, I went to South Boston to take part in the bicentennial celebration of St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery.
The chapel, which is the oldest extant church building in Boston, and the cemetery, were initiated to create a burial place for Father Francis Matignon by his friend and collaborator, Bishop Cheverus.
Father Matignon, whose tomb is in the chapel itself, was practically the founder of the Church in New England. He came to this country after fleeing persecution in France and was sent to Boston by Bishop John Carroll. Shortly thereafter, he invited then-Father Cheverus to come join him in his mission. At that time, there were only about 2,000 Catholics in all of New England, and for a good while Father Matignon and Father Cheverus were the only priests ministering to that flock, which was widely dispersed and included communities as far away as northern Maine.
St. Augustine’s was the first Catholic cemetery in Massachusetts, and there are about a thousand people buried there, mostly Irish immigrants and their families.
We began with a ceremony outside, during which we heard remarks from Congressman Stephen Lynch, Ambassador Raymond Flynn and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, all of whom are from South Boston and have relatives buried in that cemetery. They all gave very eloquent talks.
We were all particularly struck by Deputy Secretary of State Sullivan’s observation that in St. Augustine Chapel there are many graves of priests who died at a very young age – in their 30s and in their 40s – because many of them died caring for the sick with contagious diseases. The priests were the ones who were most exposed because of their care for the sick and the dying.
Also with us was police Commissioner William Gross, who accompanied me to the gravesite of the very first Irish Catholic police officer Boston, who is buried in St. Augustine Cemetery.
Following the ceremony, we concluded the day with a Mass inside the chapel and a reception.
Sunday morning, I went to St. Paul’s Church in Cambridge to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit to mark the opening of the academic year at Harvard University and at St. Paul’s Choir School.
Many members of the Harvard Catholic community, including several Catholic faculty members in their academic regalia, were present with us for the Mass and, of course, the choir provided magnificent music for us.It was a very beautiful celebration.
That afternoon, I went to St. Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury for our annual Mass and reception to honor the religious women in our archdiocese who are marking significant anniversaries of religious life.
This is always a very important moment to honor our religious sisters who have made such an extraordinary contribution to the life of our archdiocese and our Church. This year, we were honoring 122 sisters from 26 religious communities who have given a combined total of over 7,500 years of service to the Church.
75 year Jubilarians
65 and 70 year Jubilarians
60 year Jubilarians
50 year Jubilarians
25 year Jubilarians
After the Mass, there was a lovely reception for the sisters in the parish school.
We are grateful to Msgr. William Helmick for hosting us again this year. In fact, this was the weekend that he announced his retirement after almost 30 years as pastor of St. Theresa’s. He has always been so gracious in hosting this Mass and reception for the sisters.
It was a wonderful occasion to thank and congratulate the sisters who are celebrating their jubilees.
Monday, I was visited by Bishop Angelo Pagano and Father Christopher Hartley, both of whom serve in Ethiopia.
During their visit, they presented me with a gift of an Ethiopian hand cross that a priest would use to bless the people. It is mounted on a frame with a very intricate filigree of flowers, meant to symbolize that the cross is the Tree of Life.
Bishop Pagano is a Capuchin of the Milan Province who has spent many years in Africa as a missionary in various countries. Two years ago, he was made Bishop of Harar, Ethiopia, which is a significant site for the Muslim faith.
Father Hartley is actually a priest of the Diocese of Toledo, Spain, but since his ordination, he has worked in the missions. First, he worked with Mother Teresa’s sisters in India and then with Haitian migrant workers in the Dominican Republic. In fact, the film, “The Price of Sugar” tells the story of his ministry and his expulsion from the Dominican Republic for his courageous defense of Haitian workers. After leaving Santo Domingo, his bishop gave him permission to go to a very remote part of Ethiopia (he is several hundred miles from the nearest priest) to work with the Missionaries of Charity there.
Bishop Pagano told us that, two weeks before his visit, his parish was attacked by radical jihadists who kept them holed up in their church for many hours. They also attacked the nearby Coptic church and killed the Coptic priest there. Many of the people fled to the Catholic Church and fortunately were spared. This was just another example of the great challenges they face in this very violent part of the world.
It was very nice to get together with Bishop Pagano and Father Hartley, who has been a friend of mine for many, many years.
Tuesday afternoon, I met with our recently ordained priests for one of our regular afternoons of prayer and reflection. Of course, in these days in which we are experiencing so many challenges, it was important for us to be together, have a dialogue and pray together.
I am very proud of our young priests for their generosity and courage in the face of the difficulties that we are all experiencing. It was a great opportunity to be together with them and I found it, as always, very life-giving.
That evening, we had our 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner at the Seaport World Trade Center in South Boston. It was a wonderful evening, in which a record crowd of 1,700 came out to affirm our priests. We were uplifted by the support and love that people expressed for our clergy.
The highlight of the evening for many was the keynote talk by our special guest, Mark Wahlberg, who gave a beautiful witness talk.
It was a very touching personal witness about his life and faith. He spoke of his troubled youth and about being in prison where the only people who would visit him where his mother and his parish priest. He talked about how the ministry of the priest helped him to turn his life around. He said he has a friend from those days who is serving life in prison and that his life easily could have gone the same way, but for his faith, which helped him to put his life on a different path.
He is a very devout Catholic, who clearly has a great love for his Church and the priesthood. The people were very glad to have him.
During the evening, we also saw a video presentation featuring people talking about how different priests of Boston have been a blessing for them and their families in very difficult circumstances.
We are so grateful John and Cathy White who, for the second year in a row, provided leadership as the chairs for the evening. They broke the record for the amount of money raised to support our active and retired priests.
We’re also very grateful to Kathleen Driscoll and her whole team, who were very instrumental in bring the dinner together. And, as we are marking the 10th anniversary of the Celebration of the Priesthood, I want to be sure to thank Joe D’Arrigo, who heads up our clergy health and retirement efforts and was the original architect of this dinner. He has done so much to get our priest pension fund in a good place.
Finally, as I prepare this post, I am on my way to Texas to take part in the V Encuentro, a national gathering to look at the future of Hispanic ministry in the United States. Father Paco Anzoategui, Father Alejandro Lopez Cardinale, Father Carlos Suarez and myself are accompanying our group of about 30 lay leaders representing Boston at this event.
In the past, these national meetings have been very important in strengthening the Church’s ministry among our Hispanic Catholics, and we look forward to the many fruits and benefits that will come from this gathering. One of the very important emphases is going to be on the younger generation of Hispanic Catholics. As we know, Hispanics are the majority of Catholic youth in the country, so they will certainly be a focus of our attention, and I know there will be many young people represented at the Encuentro.
I look forward to sharing my reflections on the gathering with you next week.