Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Celebrating Trinity Catholic Academy

Last Thursday, I was at Stonehill College for a dinner celebrating Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton. The annual dinner is known as the Shields Founders Award Legacy Gala. Over 300 people attended this year.

There were several honorees that night.

John Fish, of Suffolk Construction Company, received the Thomas F. and Mary J. Shields Founders Award for his commitment to Catholic education and generosity towards Trinity Catholic Academy. Unfortunately, he was not able to join us that night. Mark DiNapoli, the president of Suffolk Construction, received it on John’s behalf.


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From left: Mark DiNapoli, Father Frank Cloherty, Matt George and Tom Shields

Tom Shields and his family were there. They’re the ones who have initiated this award.

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Trinity Catholic Academy Legacy Medals were awarded to Sister Mary Lou McCarthy, Phil Kent, Father Edward McDonagh, Jodi Zine and Elvan Merian.

Sister McCarthy worked for years at St. Edward’s School and then, of course, Trinity Catholic, helping to manage tuition payments.

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Sister McCarthy proudly displays her medal

Phil Kent has been a longtime faculty member, having started at the former St. Casimir School over 30 years ago. He teaches junior high history.

Father Edward McDonagh will soon be retiring as pastor of St. Ann Parish in West Bridgewater. He has been a great supporter of Trinity Catholic Academy, especially with their marketing.

Jodi Zine and Elvan Merian are president and vice president, respectively, of the school’s PTO. Both were instrumental in creating the PTO there, and are generous supporters of the school.

Congratulations to all award recipients.

Jim Fagan, of Shields Health Care, was the emcee, and he was wonderful.

We were also treated to the singing of two girls from the school — one was a second grader and the other was a sixth grader. One sang a song in French.


Everyone is pleased how much the school has progressed since it was revitalized in 2007 as part of the Campaign for Catholic Schools’ 2010 Initiative. The school continues to grow in its enrollment and academic scores have improved. But the success goes beyond the academic. The children are also excelling in music and sports — this year the boys’ varsity basketball team won their league tournament, completing a perfect 18-0 season.

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– – –

Sunday morning, I went to Redemptoris Mater Seminary for the Admission to Candidacy for the Priesthood for one of the seminarians, Felipe de Jesus Gonzalez.

Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Brookline, march 27, 2011.  Phot by Gregory L. Tracy

Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Brookline, march 27, 2011.  Phot by Gregory L. Tracy

He’s had a very interesting iter. He is Mexican-American and speaks Spanish, which is a great advantage for ministry in Boston. Also, during his formation, he has spent several years doing missionary work with an itinerant team of catechists of the Neocatechumenal Way in India and Pakistan.




Felipe is named for Mexico’s first martyr and saint, St. Felipe de Jesus.

St. Felipe de Jesus was a Mexican Franciscan friar who lived in Japan and was martyred in Nagasaki in 1597 together with other Franciscans, Jesuits and lay companions. They were crucified and Felipe died after being stabbed by two spears.


Felipe also shares the name of a former Prime Minister of Spain. When I first met him, I kidded him that I had seen his name on the list of new seminarians and expected the former prime minister to show up!

Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Brookline, march 27, 2011.  Phot by Gregory L. Tracy

With Felipe and the Redemptoris Mater Rector, Father Tony Medeiros, the vice-rector, Father Emanuele deNigris and the spiritual director, Franciscan Father Rod Crispo.

Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Brookline, march 27, 2011.  Phot by Gregory L. Tracy

Some members of his Neocatechumenal Way community from St. Tarcisius in Framingham were there to witness the rite.

After lunch, we sang a number of songs in Spanish, Portuguese and English.

Redemptoris Mater House of Formation, Brookline, march 27, 2011.  Phot by Gregory L. Tracy

– – –

That evening I was at St. Paul Parish in Cambridge for a Mass with the Catholic community at Harvard University.


We celebrated the student Mass in the lower church.


Father George Salzmann and Father Bill Murphy, who are working at the chaplaincy, were there. It was an opportunity for me to thank Father Bill Murphy because his tenure there is winding down as he is preparing to go to his next assignment at the seminary. He is going to be replaced by Father Matt Westcott, who is coming from St. Mary Parish in Foxboro where he is parochial vicar.


Our college chaplaincy program is a very important part of our ministry in the archdiocese, with close to half a million university students. The Harvard chaplaincy is just one example of the great work that is being done throughout the archdiocese.


Father Michael Drea is the pastor at St. Paul’s where there are many, many different activities, opportunities for faith formation, retreats and so forth for the young people.

The students are very responsive to the ministry. In many ways, these young people who bring such high energy to their studies and professional life bring the same sort of enthusiasm to their participation in the life of the Church, which is a great blessing for us.


Afterwards we had a spaghetti dinner. There was a dialogue at the dinner because the students are always full of questions.

During the Mass I gave the following homily:

A Spanish film that is being touted for Goya awards “Tambien la Lluvia,” “Even the Rain,” is based on the protests and riots provoked by the attempt to privatize the water supply in Cochabamba, Bolivia. It was the intervention of a saintly Archbishop that the violence was finally stopped.

When I was a bishop in the West Indies, after hurricane Hugo, we were left without electricity, phones or water for six months. The greatest impact was the lack of water. There were riots caused by people’s panic in the face of the lack of water. Most of us survived on coconut milk until an aircraft carrier arrived and supplied the entire Island with water from its desalination plant.

When water is scarce it becomes very precious. There is a lot of desert in the Bible, and water is a most precious commodity. Hence water becomes a power symbol of a spiritual reality.

In the first lesson from Exodus, the Israelites in the desert begin to panic, they say: “Is the Lord among us or not?” They were beginning to regret that they had left the bondage of Egypt. Moses is told to strike the Rock and water will flow from it that will save God’s people.

Like so many episodes in the Old Testament: the paschal lamb, the manna, the journey through the Red Sea in the New Testament, are understood in a new light, the light of Christ. The manna is the Eucharist, the waters of the Red Sea betokens the waters of Baptism, the living waters that Christ promises.

As a seminarian, I once met Elizabeth Taylor in front of the Lambeth Palace. She was very beautiful; she had purple eyes. In those days, she was called “the Hollywood Bride” because she kept the bouquet and threw the husband away. She had seven husbands, eight if you count Richard Burton twice.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is sitting at Jacob’s well at noon and the Elizabeth Taylor of Samaria arrives to draw water. I suspect that she comes at noon rather than earlier to avoid running into the other women of the village who despise her. Likewise, the Apostles saw her as a Samaritan, a race that was looked down upon by the Jews. Jesus sees her as the lost sheep, the prodigal daughter and he reveals His secret to her even as He reveals her secrets.

At the time of Christ there was a great animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. They did not fraternize, and always tried to avoid each other.

In the Gospels there are a few allusions to Samaritans. Jesus gives us the beautiful Parable of the Good Samaritan whose love and goodness is undaunted by racial or religious differences. Indeed, the Samaritan hero represents Christ who is moved to compassion by the sight of our suffering. When Jesus cures the ten lepers, the only one who returns to give thanks is the foreigner, a Samaritan.

Last Sunday I commented on the phenomenon of the Messianic Secret. After Jesus is transfigured before Peter, James and John, he tells them: “Tell the vision to no one until I am raised from the dead.” It was probably because of the Jewish expectations that the Messiah would be a military leader or a political leader, that Jesus eschewed the title Messiah. He was the Suffering Servant Messiah, heralded by Isaiah, not the reincarnation of David or Solomon. Yet Jesus freely admits to the Samaritan woman that indeed, He is the Messiah.

All in all Jesus’ attitude towards the Samaritans is not at all typical of the Jewish people of that epoch. That is why the Gospel indicates that the disciples “were amazed that Jesus was talking with a woman, let alone a Samaritan.” Jesus cuts through all the human prejudices. It was Jesus who asks the woman for water in order to have an encounter with her that will change her life.

She is surprised that a Jew would speak to her or ask her for water, but even more surprised when Jesus says: “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you “give me a drink,” you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”

When she says: “Sir, give me this water that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water,” then Jesus drops the bomb: “Go call your husband and come back.” That was Jesus’ icebreaker. Her response was: “I have no husband.” Jesus agreed that she did not have a husband, actually she had five husbands.

All the while her faith is growing, first she calls Jesus Sir, then she asks if he is a Prophet and finally realizes that Jesus is the Messiah. And Jesus acknowledges that indeed He is; “I am the one who is speaking to you,” He says.

Then she goes and tells the villagers about Jesus and leads them out to meet the Christ. They invited Jesus to stay and the Lord spent two days with the Samaritans. That was a no – no. And the people told the woman of the well: “We no longer believe because of your word, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

When the Samaritan woman meets Jesus, it is at Jacob’s well, the very place so many centuries before where Jacob rolled back the stone from this well so that Rachel’s flocks might drink. Now it is Jesus who offers living water to the Samaritan women.

The Samaritan woman leaves her jug behind and runs to the village to say, “Come and see the man who told me everything I have done. Could He be the Christ, the Messiah?”

Christ has come into the world to reveal the Father’s love for us. He brings us the living water, the Gift of God. Those living waters touched us on the day of our Baptism and incorporated us into Christ’s family, the Church.

We need time and space to discover Jesus’ love for us. Jesus knows all the bad things that we have done and he loves us anyway. The Samaritan woman who recognized Jesus as the Messiah left her jug by the well and went to share the good news, to be an apostle. When we realize how much God loves us in spite of our misery we will want to leave our luggage behind and go and share the newly found treasure with our friends and neighbors.

Lent is meant to be a baptismal retreat. For the 150,000 new Catholics who will be baptized this Easter Saturday in the Cathedrals of the United States, Lent is indeed their baptismal preparation. For the rest of us who are already baptized, we are invited to use this time to deepen our baptismal commitment to prayer, discipline and works of mercy, so that when Easter arrives we will renew our baptismal promises and recommit ourselves to the mission that Christ has given us to transform the world by building a civilization of love where people are more important than money, a world where God’s majesty is revered and where our food is to do the will of the Father.

To meet Christ in the word of God, the Sacraments, the community of believers transforms us and helps us to know Christ and experience His love.

Our Lenten experience in the desert is to lead us to the well of living water where Christ, who knows everything we have done and everything we have failed to do, loves us more than we can imagine.

Let us become messengers of his mercy and love, inviting others to come to the well and discover the living waters Christ promises.

– – –

Monday night, I visited with the Redemptorists at Mission Church.


Two of the priests who are stationed there, Father Ray Collins and Father John Furey, were with me on the Virgin Islands. Both of them were pastors — one on St. Croix and one on St. Thomas — when I was bishop there. So, I have known them for many, many years.


The Redemptorists have moved their formation program from Washington, D.C. to Boston, and their seminarians are studying at St. John’s Seminary. There are four Vietnamese, two Haitians, one from Grenada and one from Dominica.


We took a picture with the community in the very beautiful chapel they have in their residence.




We are so happy to have the Redemptorist seminarians here. It enriches the diocese. We are very happy they are studying at St. John’s.

– – –

Metropolitan Methodios and his associate, Father Ted Barbas, joined me for dinner Tuesday night at the Cathedral. Metropolitan Methodios and I get together upon ocassion.

It was a lovely evening and I was pleased to give him a copy of the Holy Father’s new book, "Jesus of Nazareth Part II: Holy Week — From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection.” The book was released just a few weeks ago and is already a New York Times bestseller.

For the second year in a row, our Holy Weeks coincide on both the Julian calendar, which the Eastern Churches use, and the Gregorian calendar, which we use. In fact, one of the things we discussed during the evening was how wonderful it would be if those differences could be erased and mutual dates be agreed upon.

Metropolitan Methodios has consented to join us for our Chrism Mass, and he invited me to their Easter Vigil service at midnight.

– – –

On Wednesday, I celebrated the noon Mass at the Pastoral Center and blessed a new statue of St. Patrick, the patron of the archdiocese, donated by the parishioners of St. Mary of the Assumption in Brookline.

Dedication of stutue of St. Patrick donated by the parishioners of St. Mary, Brookline March 30, 2011. Photo by Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot

Dedication of stutue of St. Patrick donated by the parishioners of St. Mary, Brookline March 30, 2011. Photo by Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot

The statue stands just outside the main doors of the Pastoral Center.


Dedication of stutue of St. Patrick donated by the parishioners of St. Mary, Brookline March 30, 2011. Photo by Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot

We were happy so many parishioners at St. Mary’s were able to join us.

Dedication of stutue of St. Patrick donated by the parishioners of St. Mary, Brookline March 30, 2011. Photo by Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot

– – –

This week, we learned that new heads of the Ukrainian and Maronite Catholic Churches were elected.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who is only 40 years old, was elected to replace Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, who retired as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.


Archbishop Shevchuk is a moral theologian, and was the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of the Protection of the Mother of God in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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And, by coincidence, the Maronite Catholics elected Patriarch Bechara Rai to be their shepherd. He replaces Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, who resigned for age reasons. He is 90 years young.


Cardinal Sfeir blesses the new patriarch



I think so often people in the West only know the Church as the Latin Rite. I think it’s good to occasionally call to people’s attention the richness of our Church that has these different rites.

These men do not have any term limits, so I think those jobs are usually lifetime jobs or at least until they can no longer function. So, their replacement by new leadership is very significant.

We are blessed to have Ukrainian Catholic and Maronite communities here in the area. While they lie within our territory, they are not part of our archdiocese.

St. John the Baptist Church in Salem and Christ the King in Jamaica Plain are Ukrainian communities and St. Theresa in Brockton, Our Lady of the Cedars in Jamaica Plain and St. Anthony in Lawrence are Maronite communities.

We certainly express our congratulations to the Ukrainian Catholics and Maronites, and pledge our support to them at this time of transition in their churches.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán