Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Month: March 2007

Holy week is around the corner

Welcome all to my weekly blog post!

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to speak at Temple Emanuel in Andover. Rabbi Robert Goldstein couldnt have been a more gracious host. The Jewish community had invited me sometime ago to speak at one of their regular Sabbath services. As it turned out, it was the day after the Anti-Defamation Leagues Nation of Immigrants Community Seder meal. This was merely by happenstance because these things are planned so far in advance.


Rabbi Goldstein and I

It was the first time that Ive spoken in a synagogue in Boston. I had been invited to speak in synagogues in other dioceses, and I was happy to have my first opportunity to do it here. There was a very large congregation present also many Catholics came to be a part of the celebration, which was nice. It was an opportunity to bring Catholics and Jews together. Many of the priests in the area and the friars from Merrimack College have come to know the rabbi and were a part of the celebration.

One young lady in the congregation, by the name of Morgan, was preparing for her Bat Mitzvah so she did some chanting of the Scripture. She had great poise and Im sure that when that she was originally scheduled she had no idea there were going to be so many visitors in her synagogue! But she did it very well.


Morgan chants the Scripture

The music at the service was beautiful. They had many instruments accompanying a youth choir.

Among the congregants there are Victoria Block and Steve Cooper, reporters from Channel 7. They were at the service and I had an opportunity to speak with them both.

Its important for us as Catholics to cultivate these friendships with the Jewish community and to work to achieve greater understanding and cooperation.

In my remarks to them I spoke of the influence of the Jewish traditions on our Catholic faith.


Delivering my remarks

I began speaking about the holiness of the Sabbath: how in the Catholic tradition we have the Lords Day, which for us is the Sabbath, and that we share the same concept of giving a time to God and to rest. I also spoke about the Ten Commandments, the Psalms, the Scriptures, and of course the fact that Jesus and Mary, the Apostles and the first Christians were all Jews. I went on to explain how the Mass which is the most sacred thing that we have and the center of our lives is very much tied to the Jewish experience. The liturgy of the Word is very much based on the synagogue service, and the liturgy of the Eucharist coming out of Jesuss celebration of the Seder meal which he makes the context of giving us the Eucharist.


I had a chance to meet many members of the congregation

I also mentioned the mezzuzah the Jewish community gave me in Fall River when I left that community, and I spoke about the relationship I had with them.

Of course, I still have that mezzuzah, though I havent put it up in the cathedral rectory yet. I did, however, have it on my door in Palm Beach. There was such a large Jewish population there that many people immediately knew what it was. My guess is that wont be the always case with many of the Irish Catholics here in Boston!

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On Saturday, I joined the permanent deacons of the archdiocese for their annual convocation. Father John Gordon from Steubenbille gave several conferences for them.


I had Mass with deacons and their wives. They had a magnificent choir. Im always blown away by the music the deacons are able to bring together. Its a choir of deacons and their wives, and they are just fantastic! I remembered it from last year. It was the same the choir was just fabulous.

Following the Mass I joined them for lunch and a time of dialogue.


The deacons and their wives join me in prayer before our lunch together

We have a wonderful group of deacons and they are such an important part of the ministry of the archdiocese. We are grateful for their wives and families for making the sacrifice that the deacons ministry implies for the whole family. So many of the wives are very engaged in the apostolate.

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The following day the Congolese community at St. Marys in Lynn invited me to celebrate the Sunday Mass with them. I was with our new deacon Deacon Charles Madi, who was ordained in January to the transitional diaconate.

They have a wonderful, vibrant community there. Some of the young African Jesuit fathers who are studying at Boston College celebrate Mass for them regularly and there is a lay woman, Jacky Kalonji, who serves as coordinator of the community.


Following the Mass Jacky Kalonji made some kind remarks thanking me

I was very impressed with their celebration. I celebrated the Mass and preached in French. The songs were both in French and in their native language, Lingala. The music was beautiful, and the Mass lasted for around two hours. They said it would have been much longer, but in Lent they keep things more austere!

One of the most interesting moments of the Mass came at the time of the offertory. Rather than passing baskets through the assembly, the people come up in line together singing and put their contribution in the basket. It is certainly something interesting.

They have a wonderful choir of young people. The congregation was full ofyoung families withmany young children. Many of them live in Lynn. Msgr. Paul Garrity, the pastor at St. Marys, hosts them there.



Meeting members of the community

After the Mass we had a luncheon. It was typical African food with fufu, cassava and plantains and more.

The community presented me with the gift of beautiful vestments in the African style. It was a wonderful present.


My new stole, part of the vestments they gave me.
To my left is the community’s chaplain Father Donatien Mushi
and on my right is Deacon Charles Madi

– – –

On Monday, the Feast of the Annunciation, I visited our seminarians studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. They all seemed to be doing very well. Four of them will be graduating and coming up to St. Johns seminary next year.


Our seminarians at St. Charles Seminary as well as
Father Mike and Father Dan from our Vocations Office

I celebrated Mass and later had a dinner with the seminarians. The rector told me I could give them a free day so, of course, the were very happy.




– – –

On Wednesday I attended a meeting in Springfield that was sponsored by the New England Conference for Catholic Education. Among those in attendance were all the bishops of New England, with all our superintendent of schools and several pastors.


Our Interim Superintendent of Schools Sister Kathleen Fitz Simons


Bishop Salvatore Matano of Burlington, Vermont speaks at the conference

There was a presentation by Father William Davis, Interim Secretary for Education at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. He spoke of the document that the bishops have written on Catholic education. He also went through a great deal of statistics with us concerning such things as nationwide trends in Catholic education.

It was interesting to learn that 52 percent of Catholic schools in New England have waiting lists, something I wasnt aware of.


Speaking to the media

We also looked at tuition trends. Many of the dioceses are in a situation similar to Bostons: They have conducted recent studies of their school systems and are now trying to reorganize to take some of the burden off individual parishes.

Another of the speakers was Mr. Dan Curtin of the National Catholic Education Association was another of those who spoke at the conference. Ive known him for many years. He was the principal from the school where I had the Spanish Masses in Washington DC when I was first ordained. He went from being principal there to being superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Washington and then on to the NCEA. Hes done a wonderful job.

– – –

It was very interesting that the same day the bishops were coming together and studying the situation of our Catholic schools, we had our major fundraiser for the Catholic Schools Foundations Inner-city Scholarship Fund which raised about $7 million to help inner-city children attend Catholic schools. Since we have a 99 percent graduation rate and a 97 percent of our graduates go on to higher education, it certainly is a priviledged way for children to find a way out of the life of poverty.

So we are very grateful to Peter Lynch, and Carolyn, his wife, and all those who work with the Catholic Schools Foundation to make this possible.


Peter Lynch, ICFS banquet student speaker Sophia Occena,
Carolyn Lynch and Dr. Jerry Doyle


Patriots player Troy Brown speaks at the banquet.
Troy is a trustee of the Catholic Schools Foundation

At the same time, we are working with the 2010 initiative, which is looking beyond just the scholarship money, but trying to improve the schools themselves and to help us to address the implementation of the Meitler study in a way that will be effective.

So many interesting things are happening for Catholic education in our archdiocese. On Thursday, I met with members of a search committee for a new secretary for education and we are beginning to review candidates. We are very committed to our Catholic schools, and we want our priests and people to see this as a very important part of our ministry a way of passing on the faith, a way of providing an excellent education for children. There are many different aspects to Catholic education that make it a very valuable ministry that needs to be supported not just by the parents of the children who are in Catholic schools, but by the entire Catholic community.

– – –

Its hard to believe it is almost Holy Week!

Holy Week is such an important part of our lives and certainly also for a significant group of people in our country who will be receiving the sacraments for the first time. They will be baptized and will be making their professions of faith as new Catholics.

All of us are called upon to renew our baptismal commitment during Holy Week.

On Tuesday we will gather with the priests at the Chrism Mass. On that day all priests renew their own priestly promises. We will also bless the oils for the sacraments, which is a sign of unity. All the oils used for baptisms, anointings of the sick, confirmations and ordinations that take place in the following year will be taken from those oils that are blessed by the bishop and with his priests at the Chrism Mass. Thats always, to me, a very significant moment in our year.

On Wednesday, we will have the celebration of Tenebrae. Its basically the praying of the psalms and the lessons from the breviary.

It takes its name from the fact that as the psalms are prayed we extinguish candles on a very large triangle called a hearse. Once the candles are all extinguished, the church is in darkness. Tenebrae means darkness in Latin.


The Tenebrae hearse. You can see form the photo how large it is.

The liturgical books call for us to publicly celebrate some of the hours of office in Holy Week with the community, so we have chosen the Tenebrae as an opportunity to do that. Its been a popular practice in the Cathedral for the last three years.

Holy Thursday, of course, is so important as the day of Eucharist, the day of the ordination of the apostles, the day of Jesuss arrest. It is one of my favorite days of the week. We have Adoration until midnight in all our churches. It is edifying to see how many people come, particularly university students come from different campus ministries in large numbers to visit the Blessed Sacrament and pray.

Friday well have the afternoon services in English and then in the evening have them again in Spanish together with a procession through the housing projects in the neighborhood where we will pray the Stations of the Cross through the streets. Many people form the neighborhood participate.

And of course, the Triduum concludes with the Vigil and Easter Sunday. As in years past, I will celebrate the Easter Vigil at the cathedral.

I leave you with my photo of the week: a picture of the beautiful vestment given to me by the Congolese Catholic community in Lynn. I have included a close-up of the detail so that you can read the inscription. For those of you who dont speak French, on the top it reads, Jesus the good shepherd and below is written Jesus is my savior.


Until my next post….

Have a blessed Passion Sunday and Holy Week,

Cardinal Sen

March 2007