Hello and welcome!
During our recent board meeting of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, Maryann McLaughlin, the co-director of our Worship and Spiritual Life Office, mentioned that they had a Cursillo Ultreya meeting coming up. I said I would love to participate, and so they sent me the Zoom link to join them last Friday.
The Ultreya is a monthly meeting for Cursillistas, those who participate in the Cursillo Movement. The Cursillo Movement was started in Spain about 70 years ago, and it has been a wonderful influence in the life of the Church and a conversion experience for many lay Catholics and others. It is often the first time in their adult lives that they are able to receive catechesis that encompasses the life of grace, the sacraments, the mission to evangelize and the deep sense of unity that are the core of the Church.
I told them how, when I was in the seminary getting ready to go to South America (or so I thought), I made a Cursillo. In those days, there were no Cursillos in English; they were only in Spanish. It was an extraordinary experience where I met all kinds of wonderful people who became a big part of my life and who have gone on to be deeply involved in the life of the Church, giving wonderful witness through their faith and service.
One of the persons whom I met on the first Cursillo that I made was Rafael De Los Reyes. He was then a young man who had been on the Cuban Olympic basketball team. On one of the team’s trips to the Soviet Union, the plane landed in Ireland to refuel, and they allowed the team to get off. In the airport, he met a number of young Irish people who asked him what Cuba was like. He told them, “Oh, it’s a paradise of the workers! It’s a wonderful place, and I’m so happy there!” Then, as soon as the soldiers weren’t looking, he turned to the people and said, “It’s an awful place. I want to escape. Please help me!” So, they took him to the police. The police called Dublin, and the government said, “Lock him in a cell until the plane takes off again.” So that’s what they did.
He ended up in America and made that Cursillo. Today, he is a deacon working in Miami and is very much involved in their Divine Mercy Shrine.
I very much enjoyed our gathering, and I was so happy to see that the Cursillistas are still able to get together, at least virtually. The Cursillo Movement has made such an impact in the life of the Church all over the world, and in the United States, it has been an extraordinary way to promote lay leadership.
Saturday morning, I had the joy of ordaining nine new transitional deacons at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This concluded my trifecta of diaconal ordinations this fall, which began with the ordination of Jesuit deacons, then our permanent deacons and now our transitional deacons. I think I have ordained about 30 deacons in the last month or so!
Sunday, we celebrated our annual White Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Just as the Red Mass is celebrated for members of the legal professions, the White Mass is celebrated for physicians. It is sponsored by the Guild of St. Luke, the organization of Catholic physicians in the Archdiocese of Boston.
We were very pleased to be joined by several members of the Guild, including Guild President Dr. John Barravecchio, and Guild Secretary Dr. Sylvia Mary Yuet Ooi.
With some of the physicians after the Mass
We were very pleased that Father George Salzmann brought a group of medical students from Harvard Medical School to be with us, as well.
Monday through Wednesday, I participated in meetings with the New England Commission for Higher Education for the reaccreditation of St. John’s Seminary. This is a process that the seminary has to go through every few years and involves a comprehensive review of seminary life and instruction.
The staff has worked very hard with the Board of Trustees to prepare for this process. It’s always an important process that helps us to look closely at ourselves and identify our strengths and our weaknesses. With the pandemic, it was very challenging to prepare all the materials required, but I think everyone was very satisfied with the visit.
It was my first opportunity to greet and congratulate Cardinal-elect Wilton Gregory, who was among 13 new members named to the College of Cardinals by the Holy Father. This week, I issued a statement welcoming Cardinal-elect Gregory’s elevation, which I would like to share with you here:
Pope Francis’s elevation of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Washington, D.C., to the College of Cardinals is an historic event, a personal tribute and a blessing for the Church in the United States.
The historic character of the pope’s decision is the appointment of the first African American to the College of Cardinals. For several decades, there have been African American bishops in the Church in the United States, but this appointment is a singular event recognizing the contribution of the African American community to the work of the Church in this country.
The Holy Father’s choice, of course, is not simply about history. It is a recognition of the personal qualities and fruitful pastoral ministry of Cardinal-elect Gregory. Ordained as an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago, then Bishop of Belleville, Illinois, Cardinal-elect Gregory later led the Archdiocese of Atlanta for more than 14 years, before being appointed to the See of Washington, D.C., in 2019. He also served as the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops from 2001-2004.
The long and valiant struggle for racial justice in this country, from the 17th century to the inspiring events of 2020, has been given a powerful acknowledgment by the Holy Father whose voice for social justice, human dignity and equality has been a hallmark of his papacy.
Throughout his ministry, Cardinal-elect Gregory has been a consistent advocate of these same themes, addressing them through faith, reason and his own personal experience as an African American priest and bishop. Based on this personal and pastoral experience, Cardinal-elect Gregory will bring wisdom, insight and a passion for justice to the College of Cardinals, the Holy Father’s uniquely important collaborators. We offer prayerful best wishes to Cardinal-elect Gregory and gratitude to Pope Francis for this appointment.
In addition to Cardinal-elect Gregory, I was also happy to see that two of my fellow Capuchins were among those named to the College of Cardinals: the Archbishop of Santiago, Chile, Cardinal-elect Celestino Aós Braco and the preacher to the papal household, Cardinal-elect Raniero Cantalamessa.
Raniero Cantalamessa has made an incredible contribution to the life of the Church throughout the world, but particularly in Italy, where he has a television and radio program, has been very much involved in the Charismatic Movement, and gives retreats to priests, religious and laypeople. He really is a beloved figure in Rome and, of course, his books have been translated into many different languages.
Cardinal-elect Raniero Cantalamessa
I always have a lot of fun with the fact that whenever I’m in Italy, people often think I am Raniero Cantalamessa and come up to ask if they can take a picture with me. And, now that I think about it, Cardinal-elect Aós Braco also looks a bit like us. So now there will be even more confusion!
Cardinal-elect Aós Braco
Thursday evening was Cathedral High School’s annual Adopt-A-Student celebration. This year, like nearly all other such celebrations, it was held in an online format and featured various stories and testimonials highlighting the work of Cathedral High. I was very happy to offer some remarks of my own.
We are very proud of the extraordinary job that they’re doing at Cathedral High, where for the last 15 years, there has been a 100% graduation rate. In addition, 85% of those graduates go on to finish college. This is a great achievement for a school that serves an inner-city population.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that on Saturday, we will be celebrating the beatification of the founder of the Knights of Columbus and an important figure in the history of the Church in our country, Father Michael J. McGivney.
I’m sorry that this is taking place during the pandemic because, ordinarily, I’m sure that thousands upon thousands of Knights and their families would have liked to make a trip to Hartford for the beatification. However, for many, this will have to be a virtual event. So, I want to encourage everyone to tune into the beatification on CatholicTV on cable or online at CatholicTV.org at 11 a.m. on Saturday to share in this historic event.
I plan to attend the beatification Mass, so I will share my experience of that with you next week.
Until next week,