Hello and welcome!
Last Friday, we had a farewell Mass and reception at the Pastoral Center for Kathy Mears, who recently concluded her service as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Boston after serving in that post since 2014. She is returning to her hometown of Indianapolis because her husband has been called back there for work.
With us for the Mass and reception were members of the archdiocesan cabinet and, of course, the staff of the Catholic Schools Office.
We are so grateful for the energy and the dedication to Catholic identity and academic excellence that Kathy brought to her position. We thank her for all her hard work and for the accomplishments that she was able to achieve during her tenure, and we wish her all the best.
Saturday morning, I went to Deer Island for the dedication of a memorial marking the gravesite of hundreds of Irish immigrants who died there in quarantine in the 1840s waiting to be allowed into the country.
Though Deer Island is today connected to the town of Winthrop by a strip of land, in those days it was a true island and was the place where many of the so-called “coffin ships” bearing refugees from the Irish famine landed. Those who were thought too ill to be let into the country were held there in quarantine, and many of them died in the hospital on the island. It wasn’t until the 1990s they discovered an unmarked gravesite of many of those people. The site is now marked by a beautiful stone Celtic cross.
I was impressed by the huge crowd of people who came to mark the occasion. The ceremony included an opening prayer by Msgr. Kevin O’Leary and remarks by MWRA executive director Fred Laskey, Mayor Walsh, myself, and Boston City Historian John McColgan, who gave a synopsis of what had taken place on Deer Island.
There was also a wonderful Irish singer, Mairin Ui Cheide Keady, who sang both the American and Irish national anthems.
In my remarks, I spoke about how, in many of the coffin ships, the parents would give all the food to their children. Consequently, many of the parents died and were buried at sea and the ships would arrive in the U.S. full of orphans. I reflected on the fact that today we have a similar situation on our borders, with parents making untold sacrifices to save the lives of their children.
I also spoke about how hyper-individualistic our culture is, and that being there on Deer Island was a call, not just to memorialize the people who died there, but to feel a connectedness to them and their suffering. It was also a call to feel a connectedness to all those throughout the world who are fleeing hunger and oppression.
That afternoon, I celebrated the wedding of Connor and Carmen Hinebaugh at Our Lady of the Assumption Church in East Boston. Carmen is the daughter of Greg and Donis Tracy. Greg is the managing editor of our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot, and Donis is an administrator at Immaculate Conception School in Revere.
I am always happy when I am invited to celebrate a wedding because it is such a beautiful moment in the life of the Church. As I mentioned in my homily, a wedding is always a sign of hope, a sign of joy and a sign of community. So, I was very happy to be a part of that special day.
Sunday, I went to St. Leonard Church in the North End to dedicate some of the final restorations that have taken place at the parish. During my visit, I blessed the statues of St. Francis and St. Clare, the organ, and the newly renovated parish hall.
We are so grateful for the leadership that Father Antonio Nardoianni has given to the parish. We are also very grateful to the many benefactors who made these renovations possible, particularly the St. Joseph Society. Through their generosity, the church has been transformed and is just stunning. I know the parish is very proud of all that has been accomplished, as they should be.
That afternoon, I went to St. Thomas Parish in Jamaica Plain at the invitation of Father Andrea Povero, the vicar there. He wanted to introduce me to a young man named Brian Cormier, whom Father Povero came to know at nearby Shattuck Hospital. Brian said he wanted to meet the archbishop, so I was happy to oblige.
Brian was born with a severe spinal deformity but, because both his parents suffered from substance abuse, he was removed from his home at age 6 and was welcomed at Franciscans Children’s Hospital. Later on, he moved to a rehabilitation hospital and now, as a young adult, he lives in a group home. Within the last couple of months, he even lost the use of his voice, and now communicates through writing or typing on an iPad with his feet.
He wanted to share his story with me, and he gave a very beautiful witness about his life and the importance of defending the rights and dignity of people who suffer physical challenges such as his.
While I was at St. Thomas, I had a chance to visit their chapel in the rectory.
They have many beautiful statues and relics there, including a statue of Our Lady of Montserrat, which is the virgin of the Cataluña region of Spain, near the homeland of the pastor, Father Carlos Flor. They also have relics of Dominic Savio and Don Bosco.
Tuesday, I was very happy to join in the ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Union affordable housing development on Boylston Street in downtown Boston. This development was brought about through a partnership between St. Francis House and the archdiocese’s Planning Office for Urban Affairs.
We were joined for the ceremony by a number of government officials including both Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker and, of course, the president of St. Francis House, Karen LaFrazia, and Lisa Alberghini, the president of the Planning Office, who were instrumental in bringing about this very important project.
In addition to creating 20 units of housing for working-class families in the heart of the downtown, this development will also provide 26 units of housing for people transitioning from homelessness.
Of course, this will be the last of the many groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting ceremonies I have attended with Lisa Alberghini as the president of our Planning Office.
Lisa is moving on to a position with a national affordable housing organization and, though we are sorry to see her go, we are confident that the Planning Office will continue to build on the wonderful work that Lisa has done. The archdiocese is committed to working to promote housing for low-income families and homeless people.
That afternoon, I was visited by the Vicar General of the Diocese of Abaetetuba, Brazil, who was accompanied by one of the local Xaverian Fathers from the Fatima Shrine in Holliston. He was in Boston and came to greet me on behalf of his bishop, Bishop Jose Maria Chaves Dos Reis. He brought me this gift of a toy parrot, which was crafted by local artisans in his region.
Wednesday, I traveled to the St. Methodios Center in New Hampshire for our annual meeting of the Joint Committee of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops.
The commission is composed of Catholic and Orthodox bishops and theologians who come together to discuss theological and pastoral issues that affect our churches. Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios is the chairperson for the Orthodox delegation and I am the chairperson of the Catholic delegation.
The Catholic delegation also included Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit, Cardinal Tobin of Newark, Archbishop Samra of the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix.
At this gathering, we spoke about marriage practices of our churches and about the pastoral care of marriages between Catholics and Orthodox.
Our meetings in New Hampshire went on until Thursday, and on Thursday evening I returned to Boston to attend an event at Emmanuel College to celebrate two wonderful milestones – the centennial of the college and the 40th anniversary of the presidency of Sister Janet Eisner.
Emmanuel College was the first Catholic women’s college in New England. It was established by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur before women even had the right to vote — and Sister Janet has been there for a large part of its history.
In my introductory remarks, I commented on the fact that, in Europe, people are very conscious of the fact that so much of European culture has come out of the monasteries. It was the monastic communities that promoted higher education, culture and civilization throughout Europe. I said that, in the United States, it was the communities of religious of women in the active orders who have really shaped the institutional footprint of the Catholic Church, having created the largest private school system, the largest hospital systems and largest social service systems in the country. I said that Emmanuel College is just another example of that wonderful mission.
We also acknowledged the extraordinary contribution of Sister Janet to that process. She is gifted with an exceptional personality to relate with young people. She has been so successful at Emmanuel that they sometimes refer to her as the second founder of the college, and I was so pleased when, during the evening, they announced that the administration building will be named in her honor.
I always like to tell the story that, when Sister Janet arrived at Emmanuel, despite the fact that they were facing great difficulties and challenges, the first thing that she did was to renovate the chapel, because that is the heart and the reason for Emmanuel College. The message that “God is with us,” which is the meaning of the name Emmanuel, is the theme of life and ministry there.
Finally, this morning, I presided, and Father Jack Ahern was the homilist, for the funeral Mass of Arthur DeVasto at St. Theresa Church in West Roxbury. Arthur is the brother of Damien DeVasto, whom many will know from his many years of service to the archdiocese.
We express our deepest condolences to his family and pray the Lord will be a consolation to them in this time.
Until next week,