Hello and welcome!
Last week, the British Ambassador to the Holy See, Ambassador Sally Axworthy, invited me to join in a virtual afternoon tea by way of Zoom. It was held on the Queen’s birthday and they used the occasion to honor the Church’s response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In her remarks, Ambassador Axworthy noted that Florence Nightingale, who was, of course, British, was the founder of the modern nursing movement and that she worked very closely with the Irish Sisters of Mercy.
We also had greetings from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of the U.K. State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Sister Jolanta Kafka, president of the Union of International Superiors General; and Father Arturo Sosa, president of the Union of Superiors General.
The guest of honor was Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States. He offered remarks on the role the Church has played in responding to the pandemic and tributes to Church leaders throughout the world on the front lines of response to the public health crisis.
The program also included a video retrospective of Queen Elizabeth’s visitations with the popes who have been in office throughout the decades of her reign and ended with the singing of the National Anthems of both the United Kingdom and the Holy See.
It was a very nice celebration, and I think it was thoughtful of the embassy to recognize the work that the Church is doing during the pandemic, particularly since over 25 percent of the hospitals and clinics in the world are run by the Catholic Church. In the developing world, over 65 percent of health care facilities are run by the Church. As I always like to say, Jesus’s priority — at least according to the amount of time devoted to it in the Gospels — is the care of the sick and works of mercy, which certainly manifests itself in the Church’s ongoing commitment to healthcare.
The cathedral was his first priestly assignment, and we are so grateful for all the good work he has done, particularly with the Hispanic community. We wish him all the best in his new assignment!
On Tuesday, we had a meeting of our auxiliary bishops, and we also had the annual meeting of the Board of Trustees of the St. James Society.
During the meeting, we heard reports about the latest happenings in the Society. For example, we heard that some of our priests are stranded in South America because of the ongoing travel restrictions during the pandemic. Thank God, none of them have fallen sick with the virus, even though they are on the frontlines and working in areas where there are a great number of cases.
The Society was founded by Cardinal Cushing, and over the last 60 years, we have sent more than 300 priests to work in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. The numbers there are small now, but we are getting more applications. Our most recent Boston priest to go to the missions was Father Ixon Chateau, who is presently working in Lima.
This has been a very important ministry. Not only has it been a great service to the people Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador but also provided a great benefit to the archdiocese, as those priests came back from the missions and became very involved in Hispanic ministry in the archdiocese. Among them is Bishop Hennessey, who was a missionary in Bolivia and now also serves on the Board of Trustees.
Wednesday was another day of virtual meetings, starting with the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors moderator’s call that we have about once a month. On the call we had people from Australia, the Philippines, Europe and South America.
We are working to improve our website and make it a better instrument of communication and education.
Then, in the afternoon we had the board meeting of St. John’s Seminary. We are so pleased that it now looks like the seminarians will be able to return to the seminary for in-person learning in the fall. Like practically every other educational institution in the state, the seminarians finished their academic year through remote learning. Although it was very successful, we are anxious to have everyone back in the seminary building itself.
Over the last several weeks, I have been able to meet with each of the classes by Zoom, and we are grateful for all of the hard work of our rector, Father Stephen Salocks, the faculty, staff and Board of Trustees during this very unusual time for us. We are now all looking forward to Aug. 1, which is the date of the priesthood ordinations for the archdiocese.
Thursday, we had another of our regular meetings of the Presbyteral Council. Among the topics we discussed was the reopening process for our Catholic schools. Much as with the seminary, we are very hopeful that our schools will be able to welcome students back into their classrooms in the fall. The latest guidance from the governor’s office seems to provide for greater flexibility than before, and we were very happy to hear that.
Father Eric Cadin also gave us a very encouraging report on our priest COVID Response Team, which is going to be reorganized as the need for their ministry continues to decrease. Still, up to this point, they have anointed over 1,000 people through the worst period of the pandemic. We are very grateful for the fact that none of the priests got sick themselves and were able to carry on that ministry so effectively.
So, this year, we are inviting particular groups — such as members of the Presbyteral Council, members of the COVID Response Team, the newly ordained and vicars forane — which should bring the number to about 130. This, I think, will give us a very good representation, but at the same time allow us to maintain the strictures we have for functioning at the cathedral. Then, if any other priests feel that they’d like to come, they can let us know, and we will try to accommodate them. But we want everyone to participate, even if remotely. The Mass will be televised, and all the priests will have the programs sent to them with the text for the renewal of vows and the names of the deceased priests whom we will be praying for during the Mass.
Until next week,