Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

A visit to the Cristo Rey Boston High School

Hello everyone and welcome back!

Last weekend, I participated in retreats with men considering the priesthood. We had two separate retreats — one at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary in Weston, which of course was for older men, and a retreat for college students and college graduates considering St. John’s Seminary.

Each year we have these retreats. We had a combined total of about 60 men for both.


About 50 young men were potential candidates for St. John’s


There were about 10 for Blessed John

We had a Mass at Blessed John and I gave them a talk.




Then I went to the Connors Family Retreat Center at Dover for the weekend to give a retreat for the other men.


They heard witness talks from our seminarians and panel discussions.

retreatPatrick With some of the young men from the discernment retreat in front of the Blessed Mother Altar. These men are part of the “Sons of St. Patrick” –a group of BC undergrads who meet weekly to discuss and support each other in living a Catholic life

We ended with a beautiful celebration at St. John’s Seminary, the Institution of Acolytes for 12 men studying at St. John’s.

The retreats were a great success. We’re very grateful to all of the people who were praying for the spiritual success of these retreats and for those who encouraged the men to participate because the promotion of vocations is the obligation of every Catholic.

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For part of this past week, I was in Dallas participating in the Dallas Bioethics Conference with my brother bishops. The gathering was an opportunity to discuss the important moral and ethical issues of our day from the natural law perspective.


This is part of an annual continuing formation program for bishops, and has been held since 1980. It is organized by the National Catholic Bioethics Center and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. They invite bishops from Canada, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Philippines.


There were about 140 bishops at this meeting. I was happy to there Bishop Maurus Muldoon, O.F.M., there. He is a Boston native, raised in the Parish of St. Ann in Neponset, who is now the bishop of the Diocese of Juticalpa in Honduras.


Bishop Muldoon

We had conferences on abortion, same-sex marriage and stem cell research among other issues.  After the conferences, they played interviews that had been done by professional journalists with individual staff members on these topics. The bishops were then invited to critique the responses made — a very useful exercise.

IMG00369-20110216-1034 Bishops Coleman, Hennessey and Dooher and Archbishop Hughes were also there

The nuncio, Archbishop Sambi, was there, as well as the President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski. The nuncio read a letter from Pope Benedict to the bishops who attended.

Pope Benedict is well aware of this effort, as he had addressed this group twice before he became pope, first in 1984 and again 1991.


We’re very grateful to the Knights of Columbus for underwriting the cost of this formation.

For us to be able to talk about these issues in the public forum, particularly if we want to encourage legislation in a pluralistic democracy like the United States, we cannot be appealing to Church documents and revelation. Instead, we can appeal to natural law and people’s reasoning. That’s why this approach was taken at the conference.

Obviously, there is no contradiction between the Ten Commandments and the natural law that is written into our human nature, but it allows us to carry on the conversation with a much wider circle of people. For us to have an impact in our society and to help shape the relevant public policy questions, the natural law approach is key.

During the conference, we were treated to a preview of the movie There Be Dragons, a movie about a journalist whose experience with St. Josemaria Escriva left a great impact in his life. It was directed by Ronald Joffe, who also directed The Mission, the movie on the Jesuit reductions in Paraguay. It was a great experience.


– – –

Thursday, I visited Cristo Rey Boston High School, upon my return from Dallas.

Cristo Rey Boston, as you may recall, was the former North Cambridge Catholic High School. This year, the school relocated from Cambridge to Dorchester, where it occupies the former St. William’s School building.

A former grammar school, they performed a beautiful renovation of the building, which adapted it to suit the needs of a high school.

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Jeff Thielman, the president of Cristo Rey Boston,
gave me a tour of the school

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The new building was dedicated a few months ago but I could not attend. So, this was my first opportunity to see firsthand the great job they have done renovating the building.

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The principal, Father Jose Medina, is a priest originally from Spain who is a member of the Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, a priest fraternity related to Communion and Liberation.

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With Father Jose Medina

With him at the school is another priest from the Fraternity, Father Stefano Polombo, who teaches History and Religion.

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Each class has a name, and Father Polombo is showing me the sign with his: “The Holy Grail Room,” very appropriate for a history and theology classroom!

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Cristo Rey Boston is part of a network of schools that all follow the Cristo Rey model, an approach to education that was begun by Father John Foley in Chicago in 1995. Now, there are 24 of these schools in the country.

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They educate young people from urban families. Besides receiving a quality academic formation, they work one day per week in a job, alongside adult employees in businesses such as banks, hospitals, insurance companies and lawyers’ offices. Their wages offset the cost of tuition.

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A group of students shared with me their experiences both about the school and about their jobs

Their salaries generate 70 percent of the budget for the school, and at the same time their work is preparing them for their own professional life. It is also a huge force in keeping them in school and motivated to study hard.

In fact, a group of students from Cristo Rey Boston work at our Pastoral Center, assisting in various departments.

It is surprising to see the poise and confidence with which these students interact with adults, which I think comes from their employment training.

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It was a great joy to spend the day with these students of one of our fine Catholic schools.

Until next week, Peace be with you!

Cardinal Seán