Month: September 2020

Celebrating Jesuit ordinations

Hello and welcome,

I want to begin this week sharing with a statement I issued earlier today on efforts to advance the proposed ROE Act here in the Commonwealth:

Our country and our Commonwealth are faced these days with multiple issues that are both empirically complex and profoundly moral in their content and consequences.  These issues include the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice, climate change, poverty and inequality.  The Catholic Church, in its teaching and social ministries, is engaged with many other organizations in addressing these questions, and we will continue to do so.

In this statement, however, I wish once again, as I have done in the past year, to raise up for attention a uniquely significant moral question: the issue of abortion.  It is uniquely significant because it always involves the right to life, the fundamental human right, which is the foundation of the other spiritual and material rights that comprise the common good of our society. Abortion always terminates a human life.

The right to life of the unborn is deeply threatened by legislation presently being considered in the Massachusetts legislature. The ROE Act is now being debated in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. Advocates for this bill describe its purpose as protecting the status and legacy of the Roe v. Wade decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. As a matter of law, Massachusetts already has among the most extreme abortion laws in the county, and if Roe v. Wade were overturned, abortion rights in Massachusetts would be unaffected. Here in Massachusetts, the proponents of the ROE Act describe its objective as increasing access to abortion. Tragically, the bill would do this but in a very extreme manner.

Specifically, the ROE Act would do the following; it would:

· Allow abortion in Massachusetts during all nine months of pregnancy;

· Eliminate any requirement that even late-term abortions be performed in hospitals;

  • Eliminate the requirement to make efforts to care for a child who survives an attempted abortion;
  • Eliminate any requirement that a pregnant minor (under 18) have any adult consent (parental or through the courts) before undergoing an abortion.

The proposed legislation can reasonably be described as radical in its nature and destructive in its consequences. It is being pressed forward as if it were necessary in a state with some of the most expansive abortion laws in the country. By any rational measure, the specifics of the Act cited above are extreme measures in a state already known as widely pro-choice.  I regret that fact, but it is a fact.

For almost 50 years, abortion has divided this nation morally, legally and politically. Again, I regret these divisions, but it is not possible to remain silent as this legislation is being pressed upon this Commonwealth. Opposition to the Act is required on moral grounds, indeed on basic human rights grounds.

Our opposition to the ROE Act is not designed to condemn, shame or single out individuals. The complex conditions which often bring women to undergo an abortion should be acknowledged and recognized. In the face of these situations, the appropriate attitude should be compassion and care. In the Archdiocese, we attempt to offer both through Pregnancy Help and the Project Rachel program. Our deepest concern is to provide help and support to women.

The Church must oppose the ROE Act, and I invite others to consider why we do so. We will publicize our objections in the parishes of the Archdiocese, seeking the support of members of our community. We will continue to explain our views to legislators and urge citizens to express their opposition to their representatives and senators. We will dialogue with our neighbors who may differ with the Church’s position and will do so with care and civility. In the end, we are simply committed to protecting human life in its most vulnerable condition.


Last week, I was very happy to participate in two important fundraisers. The Massachusetts Citizens for Life Virtual Banquet was held last Thursday, and I was pleased to send them a greeting. I encouraged them to keep up their important work, which is all the more vital in these times when we face efforts to diminish the dignity of life at its beginning, through measures like the ROE Act, and at its end, with efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide.Banquet_Banner-6

The evening featured a keynote address by Melissa Ohden, who is the founder of The Abortion Survivors Network. She herself survived an attempted abortion and has gone on to advocate for babies who survive abortions.


Friday was the annual CatholicTV Telethon, which I understand raised over $430,000 — a record amount. CatholicTV-2CTV-01

I think this betokens increased viewership because of the pandemic and is an indication of the gratitude people have for the service they have provided in these challenging times. Throughout the spring, when our churches were closed, CatholicTV helped bring the archdiocese together through their televising Masses and other special events. Still today, that important mission continues as they bring televised Masses to the elderly and vulnerable populations who do not yet feel comfortable returning to church in person.CTV-02


Saturday morning, I had the joy of ordaining 10 Jesuit seminarians at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill.Ordination

Two of them were ordained priests, Father Patrick and Father Reginald, and the others were ordained transitional deacons. Father Patrick is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Father Reginald is from Nigeria. Unfortunately, neither was able to return home for their ordination because of the pandemic. So, their ordinations were diaconal ordinations that we have each year.Ordination3

I would like to share the homily that I delivered at the Mass with you here:

Many years ago, as a young priest working in the Centro Católico, I received a call from the principal of Lincoln Junior High, which was across the street. The principal told me that a food fight had broken out in the cafeteria during their lunch hour, pitting the Hispanic community against the black students, and he was asking me to come and see if I could bring peace to the situation. In those days, there were no policemen in the schools, and administrators hesitated to call the police unless there were very serious reasons. Filled with fear and trepidation, I entered the school cafeteria with the principal, as food was flying hither and thither. Suddenly a hush came over the students. Many of the Hispanic students were my parishioners, I baptized some and gave first communion to others, so I can understand that they were a little intimidated, fearing that I would report their behavior to their parents. But most of the black students had never seen a friar, and I found out later that many of them thought I was a ninja monk and that the Franciscan cord was a white belt indicating proficiency in the martial arts. Uniforms can be helpful.

I often recall this scene when I read about the founding of the diaconate in the Acts of the Apostles. We have a tendency to romanticize the early Christian community where everyone was of one mind and one heart and where no one wanted for anything because they all shared their belongings. However, it was not all wine and roses. Saint Luke reports that a food fight broke out. There was tension between the different ethnic groups within the Church. The Hebrew speaking and the Greek speaking were not being treated in the same way.

The Holy Spirit inspired the Church at this point to ordain seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom. And of course, speaking Greek would be a plus. I usually use this illustration to encourage the deacons I’m ordaining to learn Spanish so as to be bridge builders in our Church, which is blessed with so many Hispanic Catholics in the United States, who oftentimes do not feel welcomed in our parishes and schools.

The deacons were ordained, first of all, to bring about reconciliation in the Church, and they were to have a special responsibility for the widows, the orphans and the poor. Today, we are ordaining men who will share in this ministry, and a ministry held up as a priority in your last General Congregation.

I volunteered to go to the General Congregation of the Jesuits since I have so many Jesuits here in Boston and because my father wanted me to be a Jesuit. I’m practically the only one in my family who managed to avoid having a Jesuit education. However, like secondhand smoke, I have been infected by love and admiration for the Jesuits by my father and countless members of our clan who studied in Jesuit high schools and universities. However, I was passed over. It was a very historic General Congregation, the first at which the black pope and the white Pope were present, and they were both Jesuits.

I was very pleased to see that the General Congregation embraced many of Pope Francis’ priorities, a beautiful indication of the special bond that Ignatius wanted between the Society of Jesus and the Holy Father.

One of the four priorities put forward is: to walk with the poor, the outcast, those whose dignity has been violated, in the mission of reconciliation and justice. I think that is what the Holy Spirit had in mind when inspiring the Apostles to ordain the first deacons.

Today, the need for ministry of reconciliation carried out with a profound love for the poor and the suffering is an urgent need in the Church. As Father Arturo Sosa told the General Congregation: “The discernment process of the Society gathered as General Congregation confronts us with the challenges of becoming ministers of reconciliation, in a world that did not stop turning during our deliberations. The wounds of war continue to deepen, the flow of refugees increases, the suffering of migrants crush us evermore, the Mediterranean has swallowed up dozens of people in the two months we have spent together. Inequalities between peoples and within nations are the sign of a world that scorns humanity.”

We might add to Father Sosa’s list, the many divisions and social injustices unmasked by the pandemic, as well as the deep-seated racism that still causes so much pain in our country. The world needs the companions of Jesus to take up the towel of the diaconate to be the merciful face of God in our world, to heal the downtrodden, to bring reconciliation to our world and our Church.

By a quirk of fate, I was asked to go to the Puebla Conference in 1979 to serve as an assistant and translator to the president of the USCCB, Archbishop John Quinn. While I was there, I had the joy of meeting Father Pedro Arrupe. He was most impressive. I can see why some have called him the second founder.

Father Arrupe asked me to organize a press conference for him. I never organized a press conference in my life and was sure it would be an unmitigated disaster. Many of the journalists were very antagonistic, but Father Arrupe was such a class act that even an amateurish press conference put together by a young friar was a success.

When they asked Father Arrupe what he intended to do in the light of the death threats against Jesuits in Central America, he said: “As soon as I heard of the death threats, I knew immediately what I had to do, send more Jesuits.” Pope Francis, in his address to the Jesuits’ General Congregation quotes from Father Arrupe: “Wherever there is pain, the Society has to be there.”

What the Jesuits must bring to that place of pain, poverty and injustice, are the spiritual resources born of friendship with Jesus. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the Lord’s words: “I have called you friends. I have told you everything. I have chosen you.” Jesus urges you to ask the Father anything in the name of Jesus. Being a companion of Jesus is an invitation to remain in His love and to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Mother Teresa once said: “Without God we are too poor to help the poor.” Pope Francis has said, the service of joy and spiritual consolation the Jesuit is called to give is rooted in prayer.

In addition to the imposition of hands, today’s ordination of Deacons and Priests has in common a serious commitment to the interior life and a life of intercessory prayer.

Someone once told me that there are three lies of the priest. The first lie is of the priest who says: “I will pray for you.” The second lie is of the priest who says: “I have no money.” The third lie is of the priest who says: “She’s my sister.”

The first lie is the one that worries me the most because we all have the tendency to promise to pray for people but then tend to forget, or say these words as some polite formula, like the complimentary close of a letter.

But praying for our people is a sacred obligation of all the ordained, and that commitment manifests itself in our ordination promises where we promise to be men of prayer and to pray for others. Whenever I go to visit someone in the hospital, invariably, I will end up being dragged into several other rooms to say a prayer and give a blessing. Actually, I never see this as an imposition but rather a stark reminder that one of the most important services I can render to God’s people is to accompany them in their pain and pray for them.

Today our deacon candidates will be asked: “Do you resolve to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer (maintain and deepen, indicated the Magis) that is proper to your way of life and in keeping with the spirit and what is required of you to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours with and for the people of God and indeed for the whole world.” We trust that none of you will need to invest in the breviary ribbon adjustment service, by which for a modest fee when you die, someone will come and place the ribbons in the correct pages of your breviary.

Our two priesthood candidates, Patrick and Reginald, will be asked: “Do you resolve to implore with us God’s mercy upon the people entrusted to your care by observing the command to pray without ceasing?” and, “Do you resolve to be united more closely every day to Christ the High Priest?” (once more the Magis).

Spending time in God’s presence in prayer is a real pastoral priority. It is not an add-on, not an addition to pastoral work. Being with the Lord is a pastoral priority, and in the final analysis, the most important, for without prayer, there is no ministry.

When I was a seminarian, the Superior would always censor the mail, outgoing and incoming. One day I received a very large box that had been opened, and it was empty. I went to the guardian’s room to ask what the contents of the box had been so that I could get to acknowledge the gift that I almost received. Father Wilfred informed me that the box had contained the complete works of “that Jesuit whose books are forbidden in seminaries by the Holy Office.” He was referring, of course, to Teilhard de Chardin. The Holy Office’s prohibition had a profound effect on me, sparking an insatiable interest to find out more about this Jesuit. I was happy to see that Father de Chardin has been rehabilitated by Pope Francis in Laudato Si, and even got an honorable mention at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

Bishop Michael Curry quoted the famous Jesuit in saying: “If humanity ever captures the energy of love, it will be a second time in history that we have discovered fire.” de Chardin knew the meaning of the behest of Ignatius: “Go set the world on fire.” We have to help the world rediscover the power of love.

Cardinal Avery Dulles, the only Jesuit to have an airport named after him, said of Father de Chardin that “he liked to meditate on the Eucharist as the first fruits of the new creation. In an essay called ‘The Monstrance,’ de Chardin describes how kneeling in prayer, he had a sensation that the host was beginning to grow until at last through its mysterious expansion, ‘the whole world had become incandescent, had itself become like a single giant host.”’ Dulles saw in de Chardin’s poetic style, the connection between the Eucharist and the final glorification of the cosmos.

I imagine that de Chardin was also influenced by the Jesuit Christogram that has come to be the emblem of the Society of Jesus, which itself resembles a monstrance with the IHS surrounded by the rays of the sun.

Today, you men are being ordained Jesuit priests and deacons, to be men who serve at the table, the altar. The Eucharist is the center of our lives as Christ’s disciples in the Church. In the beautiful Jesuit tradition, your vows ceremony takes place before the raised host at Mass when the celebrant says: Ecce Angus Dei… Behold the Lamb of God. I believe you are the only religious who make your vows before the host. It is a beautiful reminder of the unity of your consecration and the Eucharistic Lord.

I’ve never understood the evolution of the nomenclature from Compañía de Jesús, to Society of Jesus. I have always favored Compañia de Jesus, which captures some of the martial flavor of Ignatius’ vocation. St. Ignatius was a soldier by training and demeanor. He wanted his men, as God’s soldiers, to have courage in the face of adversity, to embrace an enthusiastic obedience that would make them available for the most challenging tasks. Ignatius also wanted his men to live a Spartan lifestyle with that simplicity and personal discipline exemplified by our beloved Pope Francis. The term Campañia also communicates a sense of the camaraderie and friendship that must be the hallmark of the sons of St. Ignatius. In addition, the etymology of Compañia is “cum pane,” “with bread,” hence a Eucharistic connotation.

It is in the Eucharist that your friendship with Christ and with your brothers is nurtured. Be Eucharistic men, spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. At the first Eucharist, Jesus calls His disciples friends and commands them to be friends, to love one another. Then He invites His friends to watch and pray, only then does he commission them to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

In the Eucharist, Christ is making a gift of Himself. It is there at Mass that we will find the strength to make a gift of ourselves and truly be Jesus’ companions.

As a young bishop in 1985, I was asked to preach at the episcopal ordination of a Jesuit friend. Of course, I could not help myself. I spoke on St. Ignatius’s seven reasons no Jesuit should ever be ordained a bishop. My friend had chosen as his episcopal motto the beautiful phrase in the Gospel of the Transfiguration: “neminem nisi Jesus.” “Nobody but Jesus.” They saw no one but Jesus.

The core of your vocation and your ministry must be your friendship with Jesus Christ. The power of his love and friendship will transform you and enable you to carry that fire of love to the ends of the earth.

The ordination gift that Jesus bestows on the beloved disciple the day after his ordination is the gift of His mother. May the mother of the Divine Shepherd, Nuestra Señora de Montserrat, Madonna della Strada, help you to become living icons of the Good Shepherd, friends of Jesus and of one another, bringing the fire of God’s love and the light of His mercy to a world sorely in need of both.


Saturday was also the first day of Rosh Hashanah. We want to wish all our Jewish brothers and sisters a very happy new year and assure them of our prayers and best wishes as they celebrate Rosh Hashanah and their high holy days!


Sunday, I celebrated the English Mass at the cathedral.

We are very pleased that the number of people attending Mass at the cathedral continues to increase. If the trend continues, we may even have to add an additional Mass on Sunday in order to accommodate all those who want to join us.


The Boston Preservation Alliance has named the Cathedral of the Holy Cross among the recipients of the organization’s 2020 Preservation Achievement Award winners, recognizing the spectacular renovation work that has been done. BPA

So, on Monday, Msgr. Kevin O’Leary and I recorded video interviews that will be used for the award ceremony that will take place on October 15. It was an opportunity to talk about the role of the cathedral in the life of the archdiocese and how our cathedral is an anchor in the community. It is an important presence, carrying out the works of mercy, education and care for the poor that are all part of the mission of the Church, in addition to the liturgical and cultural events that take place here.

I also spoke a little bit about the history of the cathedral and about how it has always been a home for immigrant communities. Of course, in the beginning, it was primarily the Irish, but today the cathedral is the spiritual home of vibrant Hispanic and Ethiopian communities and welcomes immigrants from all over the world. As I always like to point out, we received this wonderful treasure because of the faith and sacrifices of those immigrants 150 years ago, and now it is our responsibility to make sure that this cathedral is preserved, cared for and passed on to future generations.

Also, in addition to the Preservation Awards, the BPA also presents an annual “Fan Favorite” Award, as determined by online votes. We encourage everyone to show their support for our cathedral by casting their votes here. They tell me you can vote once a day, every day, up until October 15. So, as the old joke goes, vote early and vote often!


On Tuesday, we had one of our regular meetings of the auxiliary bishops and episcopal vicars of the archdiocese. Among the topics we discussed were the new protocols for holding parish gatherings and liturgies. These are the result of the hard work of the committee headed by Father Paul Soper made up of representatives of the archdiocese’s priests, deacons and laypeople. We are so grateful to the members of the committee for their diligent work putting together this report.Protocols-1


Wednesday, we had a meeting of the board of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference, the public-policy arm of the Church in the state. In addition to the ROE Act, we also discussed the efforts to advance physician-assisted suicide in the Commonwealth.MCC

I brought to the attention of the group that, just the day before, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a letter approved by the Holy Father, “Samaritanus Bonus” — on the care of persons in the critical and terminal phases of life.

While the letter, of course, strongly condemns the practices of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide, it also offers guidance as to how we can best care for and accompany those facing the end of their lives.

As the document says in its conclusion:

Christian witness demonstrates that hope is always possible, even within a “throwaway culture.” “The eloquence of the parable of the Good Samaritan and of the whole Gospel is especially this: every individual must feel as if called personally to bear witness to love in suffering.”

The Church learns from the Good Samaritan how to care for the terminally ill, and likewise obeys the commandment linked to the gift of life: “respect, defend, love and serve life, every human life!”. The gospel of life is a gospel of compassion and mercy directed to actual persons, weak and sinful, to relieve their suffering, to support them in the life of grace, and if possible to heal them from their wounds.

It is not enough, however, to share their pain; one needs to immerse oneself in the fruits of the Paschal Mystery of Christ who conquers sin and death, with the will “to dispel the misery of another, as if it were his own.” The greatest misery consists in the loss of hope in the face of death. This hope is proclaimed by the Christian witness, which, to be effective, must be lived in faith and encompass everyone—families, nurses, and physicians. It must engage the pastoral resources of the diocese and of Catholic healthcare centers, which are called to live with faith the duty to accompany the sick in all of the stages of illness, and in particular in the critical and terminal stages of life as defined in this letter.

The Good Samaritan, who puts the face of his brother in difficulty at the center of his heart, and sees his need, offers him whatever is required to repair his wound of desolation and to open his heart to the luminous beams of hope.


Wednesday evening, we had the annual Lawn Party to support Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, which, like most similar events, was held in a virtual format this year.Lawnparty-2

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The seminarians had sort of a “watch party”119988865_3672589322760638_5963178074926622682_n

We are so grateful for the wonderful ministry Pope St. John Seminary provides training second career priests. This event has always been a very important source of revenue for the seminary. So, at a time when we are unable to gather, we are very grateful to the rector Father Brian Kiely, the faculty and staff to all those who worked hard to make this virtual Lawn Party a success.


Thursday, we had a meeting of our Presbyteral Council. Among the many items we discussed was a proposal that Christmas Vigil Masses be allowed to begin one hour earlier than usual – at 3 p.m. rather than at 4 p.m. This would give parishes an opportunity to schedule the additional Masses that are likely to be needed because of reduced occupancy requirements. That idea was supported by the priests, so I was happy to approve it.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

September 2020
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