Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Vocations retreats

Recently, I heard from many enthusiastic Boston College students that crucifixes and religious pictures have appeared in the classrooms over the semester break.  BC has had crucifixes in some of their classrooms, and they just completed the task of adding crucifixes to the remaining classrooms.  They were very happy to report on this development.


Though the story was first covered by a student newspaper, The Observer, the general public became aware of it this week when The Boston Globe and the Boston Herald also covered it.

Sadly, some faculty members objected, claiming that Boston College was not being tolerant of them. Actually, I think the intolerance is on the part of those who do not want us to exhibit these symbols of our faith. The Catholic community should be encouraged by Father Leahy’s leadership in this area, and I am so pleased that the students, who are the reason for the university, are so favorable to the presence of religious symbols.

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Over this past weekend, Blessed John XXIII and St. John’s Seminaries both held retreats for men considering a vocation to the priesthood.

Friday, I attended Blessed John XXIII seminary for their vocations retreat, where I held Mass and ate lunch with the 19 prospective seminarians who participated.

Blessed John RetreatIMG_9554_1

In the afternoon, I gave them a conference. There were many other activities planned for them including attending classes with the seminarians on Saturday morning. It was very hospitable of the faculty at Blessed John to house the retreatants in the seminary for the weekend.

From there, I went to The Connors Family Retreat and Conference Center in Dover to be with the other retreatants who are prospective seminarians for St. John’s.


The St. John’s retreat was not held in the seminary as it has been in past years because enrollment is so high, there was not enough room for them. Throughout the weekend the seminarians from St. John’s went to Dover to attend the different activities and to be helpful to the young men.


Though it would have been nice to have the men at the seminary, I have to say it was a great problem to have!


I spent the rest of the weekend, from Friday evening until Sunday, leading the retreat there. We had Holy Hours, Masses and talks together. The retreat concluded with a closing Mass and meal at St. John’s on Sunday.



It was very encouraging that there were over 40 men participating in the retreat. I was impressed by their caliber. Many are presently undergraduate students or recent graduates of  Boston College, Harvard, Boston University and other area colleges.

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On Monday I met with Lisa Alberghini of the Planning Office for Urban Affairs. POUA, one of the justice ministries of the archdiocese, is beginning work to help people facing foreclosures who may be at risk of losing their homes.

In these very difficult economic times this risk is becoming all too real for many people. With the help of intern Molly Ekerdt, POUA will soon be sending notices to parishes throughout the archdiocese providing information for parish bulletins on where people can call or go for help.  They are also exploring holding meetings in regions hard hit by foreclosures, at which people could get more detailed information and more personalized help.

In addition, the office is looking at the possibility of acquiring some foreclosed properties in order to renovate them for housing for people of modest means. That effort to acquire and renovate foreclosed properties would also help revitalize neighborhoods that have seen an increasing number of vacant, abandoned properties.

In our meeting, Lisa talked about how foreclosures are affecting many individuals and families throughout all types of communities and at all income levels, and that people should not feel hesitant about getting assistance. It is very important that people know that early intervention can save their home, and anyone having difficulty making mortgage payments should seek help.

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Monday night, Dr. Joseph Aoun, President of Northeastern University, invited us to a reception at the TD BankNorth Garden to celebrate their hockey team’s participation in the Championship game at the annual Beanpot hockey tournament, having defeated Boston College the week before.   It was the first time in quite a while that they had been a part of the finals, so they were celebrating both their renewed participation and success thus far.


The reception was held before the game, which I think was very prudent of them as they were up against a very formidable rival. As a matter of fact, they did lose to Boston University, but they played very well.  It was also good to see Bob Gittens, Neal Finnegan and many other very active members of our archdiocese who are associated with Northeastern who were present at the game to cheer them on.  We, of course congratulate, BU for their win.

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Tuesday, I met with Father Bill Kelly, Marianne Luthin, John Burkly and Peter Braudis at the cathedral so they could give me a report on the Holy Hours for Life, which were organized by the Deacons for Life.



There were several thousand people throughout who participated in the Holy Hours which were held on or just before January 22, the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision which is, of course, also the date of the March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Some who participated in the March went to the Holy Hours at their own parishes before departing and so it was a sort of send off for them before they left their fellow parishioners and went to Washington. However, in many places, the Holy Hour was celebrated on the March for Life day itself.  In that way, those who could not make the trip to Washington could join in the march through prayer.

The Deacons for Life came together around this issue with great enthusiasm.  For next year, we hope to encourage more parish-wide participation in the Holy Hours. The key to doing that will be to get the Holy Hour on the parish calendar ahead of time.

As we are poised to begin a postcard campaign around the so-called Freedom of Choice Act (known as FOCA), I am counting on the Deacons for Life to be very helpful in that project working with Marianne Luthin in our Pro-Life Office.

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Tuesday, we visited with Father Robert Barron, a priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is a professor of theology at the University of Mundelein Seminary as well as an author and a nationally acclaimed lecturer and retreat master. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago has assigned him to do work on the evangelization of the culture.



During our meeting he gave me a copy of his recently published book, entitled “The Priority of Christ” and told me about a new project he is working on. It is a series of 10 television programs that explain Catholicism and explore the practice of Catholicism throughout the world. He has a professional team of people working on this project who came to the meeting to show me some of the footage. It will be a wonderful program. Father Barron was going to appear on CatholicTV last night to preview the series there as well. He is truly a wonderful theologian and an engaging speaker. He and his team have been traveling all over the world as they gather footage for their series. I was particularly fond of the beautiful scenes in Rome and the Holy Land.

They presented me with a DVD containing the trailer of the series, which I would like to share with you:

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Tuesday evening, I went to Vespers and dinner with the seminarians at the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation. As always, we had a nice visit with them and sang many songs in Spanish and Portuguese.



At the end of the evening the seminarians gave me DVDs of two films: Ostrov, a Russian film about a soldier who, haunted by an experience in World War II, finds forgiveness after entering an Orthodox monastery; and Ushpizin, a film about an Orthodox Jewish family in Jerusalem experiencing a sort of “miracle” during the Jewish festival of Sukkot.


I have not seen either one yet, but I understand they are excellent films.  The seminarians even invited me back for a “movie night” with them!  I look forward to it.

Until next week: Blessings to you all!

Cardinal Seán