Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: June 14, 2013

Attending the Bishops Spring Assembly

Hello and welcome!

I want to begin by letting you know that I have a friendly wager with the Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Francis George. Stanley_IMG_1905

If the Bruins win the Stanley Cup, they will be sending me Chicago pizza. If, by some strange chance, the Blackhawks win, I will be sending Cardinal George clam chowder.

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For much of this week I have been in San Diego, California to attend the spring assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops.

Each year, the Bishops Conference gathers in a plenary session on two occasions. In November, we meet in Baltimore for what is very much a business meeting. We also gather in the spring, which sometimes involves business, but many times is more of a retreat workshop.

This year, it is just such a retreat workshop with the themes of “The Bishop and preaching in a way that evangelizes”, “The new evangelization and participation in the Eucharist” and “Practical outreach to young people in the new evangelization.” The preacher for the retreat part of our meeting has been Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.

We celebrated Mass Tuesday at the Mission Basilica of San Diego de Alcala, the first mission founded by Blessed Junipero Serra.


The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert Brom who is the Bishop of San Diego.Photo-SD-8

The California missions are the perfect backdrop for this gathering with a focus on the new evangelization because the first evangelization in this part of the country was carried out by Blessed Junipero Serra and the Franciscan Friars, who evangelized in building up these faith communities along the length and breadth of California. Of course, this history of evangelization is still reflected in the names of many of the major cities of California, which grew from those original Franciscan missions.Photo-SD-4


On the floor, you see where some of the early pastors of the mission are buried, including Father Louis Jaime, the first martyr of California.Photo-SD-3

This painting is of San Diego de Alcala. Photo-SD-2

This is a statue also of San Diego de Alcala. Above the statue is an image of Our Lady of the Angels, who is the patroness of the country of Costa Rica.Photo-SD-1

After celebrating the Mass at the mission, which is very near the downtown, the bishops went to various restaurants for dinner. I went to dinner with the Boston auxiliaries and we also invited Bishop Richard Lennon to join us.

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During the week, I “crashed” a meeting of those involved with campus ministry including the Brotherhood of Hope and FOCUS. Photo-SD-7

The Capuchin at the far end is Father John Lager. Kneeling on the floor, in the center, is Curtis Martin the founder of FOCUS. To my left is the new superior of the Brothers of Hope, Brother Kenneth Apuzzo. Brother Kenneth just took over from Brother Rahl Bunsa as superior on Pentecost.

The community of the Brotherhood of Hope has done such extraordinary work in campus ministry at the University of Florida, Rutgers University, Northeastern University, Boston University and Suffolk University.

We are so blessed to have them in the Archdiocese of Boston, where there are almost a quarter million university students. The presence of a community like theirs, which is so focused on the pastoral needs of this very important segment of our Catholic population, is a great blessing for us.

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Wednesday night, they screened the film Messenger of the Truth for the bishops. It is a film about the life of Blessed Father Jerzy Popiełuszko. It is a documentary, rather than a dramatization of his life, and so it includes many newsreels of him as well as interviews with those who knew him.


I found it very inspiring story of a young priest who gave his life in the service of his people and his country. I hope you all have an opportunity to  to see it.


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Last week we began implementing the first phase of our pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission. Every step of Disciples in Mission, from its planning, to its drafting to its implementation has been thanks to the hard work and dedication of so many. DisciplesInMissionLogo

One of those who has been working so hard at this important effort is our Director of Pastoral Planning, Father Paul Soper. I’ve asked him to share some of his experiences during this time with you here and, of course, you can always follow the latest developments in our Pastoral Planning process on the Disciples in Mission Blog.

I leave you with Father Soper:


It is a joy and an honor for me to have been invited to be the guest blogger on Cardinal Seán’s Blog this week.

My name is Father Paul Soper, and I direct Pastoral Planning for the Archdiocese of Boston, which means that I oversee the implementation of Disciples in Mission – A Pastoral Plan for the Archdiocese of Boston. The Plan itself, plus lots more information on its implementation, can be found at

Disciples in Mission is all about evangelization. I can’t write anything these days – even a birthday card – without that statement at the top.

On Thursday, June 6, the priests of the Archdiocese met in a Convocation in Randolph.

Archdiocese of Boston priest convocation held at the Lantana in Randolph June 6, 2013. The day’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

At that Convocation, I moderated a panel discussion with three priests: Monsignor William Fay, who is the Pastor of Saint Monica and Saint Lucy in Methuen;Archdiocese of Boston priest convocation held at the Lantana in Randolph June 6, 2013. The day’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Father Paul Ritt, who is the Pastor of Saint Maria Goretti and Our Lady of the Assumption in Lynnfield; Archdiocese of Boston priest convocation held at the Lantana in Randolph June 6, 2013. The day’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

and Father Frank Sullivan, who is Parochial Vicar at Saint James and Sainte Anne and Saint John the Baptist and Immaculate Conception in Salem.Archdiocese of Boston priest convocation held at the Lantana in Randolph June 6, 2013. The day’s keynote speaker was Archbishop Salvatore Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

Father Sullivan described the situation in poker in which the player pushes forward all of his chips on the table, and says, “All in.” This is the experience of the priests of these Phase One Collaboratives, and, in many ways, this is the experience of the Archdiocese of Boston with regards to Disciples in Mission. “All in.” Every conversation I’ve had with the priests involved in implementing this in the Collaborative Parishes shows that they are, indeed, “all in.”

One of the key components of the implementation of Phase One is support. We believe that, having assigned the right teams of priests to the parishes of the Collaboratives, now we need to support them with everything we’ve got. In these early days, in order to explore what is actually needed, and to see that it is being correctly delivered, I’m spending much of my time meeting with Phase One Pastors to talk with them about what they need.

On Monday of this week – a beautiful, sunny warm day (in a week that has been mostly cold rain), I went down to Middleboro and Lakeville and Rochester, to see my classmate and good friend Father John Sheridan. Sheridan_John

Father Sheridan, and the Parochial Vicar, Father Mark Derrane, are settling well in to what many have come affectionately to call “The Cranberry Collaborative.” It is a huge Collaborative geographically – much larger than the entire Central Region of the Archdiocese. Sister Pat Boyle (the Associate Director of Pastoral Planning) went to Mass there last Sunday, at Sacred Heart in Middleboro, and Father Sheridan spoke with joy and with hope about evangelization. This is how we will know that Disciples in Mission has worked – every parish will be an intentional and effective center of the New Evangelization. The Churches will begin to fill, and the seminaries will be overflowing.

Monday evening, I had supper at Saint Jerome’s in Weymouth, where Father Joe Rossi is the Pastor of both Saint Jerome’s and Immaculate Conception. Father Huy Nguyen is the Parochial Vicar, and hosted us for dinner. Bishop Dooher was also there. (I didn’t bring a camera, so this is a picture of Father Huy back when he was in Dorchester, with Cardinal Seán and Father Jack Ahern.


Father Rossi has established that Youth Ministry is going to be a strong focus of the Weymouth Collaborative. When Father Huy was in Dorchester, Youth and Young Adult ministry through Basketball was a great strength of his, and there are two gyms in his new Collaborative, so I think good things will happen.

On Tuesday, Father John Sassani, the Pastor of Sacred Heart in Newton and Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, came to Braintree and had lunch with Sister Pat and with me. Father Sassani is a man of deep prayer, and the people of both Newton parishes have great strengths in Spiritual Development.

On Wednesday morning, I met with Father Brian Clary, the Pastor of Saint Mary in Brookline, which is the one “stand-alone” parish in Phase One. Stand-alone parishes will have a particular challenge to implement the Pastoral Plan, as they will not have the benefits of collaborative partners working together. In order to help things to start well at Saint Mary, Father Brian will host an open parish meeting on July 25 (Sister Pat and I and Michael Lavigne and Janet Benestad will attend) to discuss “Best Practices in Parish Based Evangelization.”

On Wednesday evening, I went up to Methuen, to have dinner with Monsignor Fay, who is Pastor of Saint Lucy and Saint Monica in Methuen. In a couple of hours across the dinner table from Monsignor Fay, one could get ten blog’s worth of material. I want to share one thing. He said, about last weekend’s gospel (the raising of the widow’s son) (I’m paraphrasing a bit), “Jesus could have done what we would all tend to do when encountering a widow whose son just died – comfort her for her loss. He doesn’t. He says to her, ‘You, stop crying,’ and to the dead man, ‘You, get up.’” We need to stop thinking that our only valid reaction to the current state of things in the Church is mourning. Jesus never presides over funerals – he presides over resurrections. If Jesus is alive and here, and he most certainly is, why do we settle for death?

Then, Thursday, yesterday, was a whirlwind. I met Chris Pineo, the reporter from The Pilot, in Braintree at 7:00AM, and we headed to Billerica, for morning Mass at Saint Theresa’s. Father Marty Dzengeleski , Parochial Vicar of Saint Theresa and Saint Andrew and Saint Mary, was the celebrant.



After the Mass, at which Father Marty said beautiful things about Collaboration and the New Evangelization, we had tea and cookies with him and Father Shawn Allen, the Pastor (the other team member is Father Gerald Souza, who was just ordained a few weeks ago).


Then, we got in the car and headed to Lynnfield, to have lunch with Father Paul Ritt. He and Father Tony Luongo are assigned to the parishes of Lynnfield (Saint Maria Goretti and Our Lady of the Assumption). We had a nice lunch at the 99 Restaurant, and talked about how to try to make parish based Evangelization a reality. Father Ritt is one of my favorite people, and getting to talk with him for an hour about a topic we both love was a great joy.


Next our travels brought us to Lynn, first to Saint Mary and then to Sacred Heart, where we had a great hour with Father Brian Flynn. Father Flynn (and his Parochial Vicar, Father Tamiru Atraga), take care of two schools – Sacred Heart, which is a classic parish grade school, and Saint Mary, which is an independent Catholic High School, but which is closely associated with Saint Mary Parish, and on whose board Father Flynn sits. Both schools require lots of pastoral attention. We met Father Flynn at Sacred Heart, because he had just been there for the Kindergarten Graduation.


But the day was only half over. From Lynn, we headed to Salem. We had dinner at Saint James with Father Dan Riley, the Pastor of Saint James and Saint John and Sainte Anne and Immaculate Conception; Father Frank Sullivan, the Parochial Vicar of those same parishes; Father Louis Bourgeois and Father Larry Rondeau, Senior Priests in Residence who help out in substantial ways in those parishes. Father Paul McManus is a part time Parochial Vicar in the Collaborative (serving the Hispanic Community), and Father Eric Bennett will begin work at those parishes when he finishes his studies in Rome next month. Dinner was excellent – filled with talk about holy things, memories and hopes, visions and joys. It is a very, very good thing when priests live together in community. One of the great strengths of Disciples in Mission is that it allows that to happen again in a substantial way.

Then, Father Dan and I went over to Saint John the Baptist, the Polish parish, where we met Eric Landers (the Parish Service Consultant for Salem) and six people from the parish to talk about the life of the parish, and ways forward in Pastoral Planning in a multi-lingual community with a strong ethnic identity. This is one of the key features of the Pastoral Plan. It will look different in each place. Local planning is key, and while this is true everywhere, it is particularly true in the ethnic communities.

Chris and I got back to Braintree around 11:00PM, a bit worn, but satisfied at a good day.

June 2013