Hello and welcome!
Saturday morning, I celebrated the ordination of Deacon Sermed Ashkouri for the Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas the Apostle U.S.A. The Chaldean Catholic Church is one of the Eastern Rites based in Iraq, though he was given permission to be ordained in the Latin Rite.
We were so happy to be joined for the ordination by many members of the Iraqi community, and I began my homily by quoting extensively from the Holy Father’s address at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad. As it turns out, Deacon Sermed was baptized in that very cathedral.The Chaldean Catholic Diocese of St. Thomas has its headquarters in Detroit, which had a large Iraqi population even before the war. Of course, that number has increased in recent years, and a number of Iraqis have come to the Boston area, and we have tried to provide them with pastoral care.
We are very pleased that Deacon Sermed has been ordained to serve in the Boston area because we don’t have a full-time Chaldean priest here. Bishop Kalabat sends priests on a regular basis, but now there will be a deacon to minister to the local Chaldean community.
Saturday evening, I went to St. Lawrence Church in Brookline for the vigil Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday, during which we had the institution of new lectors and acolytes for our Redemptoris Mater seminary. They had one new acolyte, Javier Padilla, and two lectors, Aaron Sanz and Gustavo Neitzke.
I was impressed by how well Father Jonathan has decorated the church with all the flowers.
These ministries, which used to be known as minor orders, are important sacramentals that underscore the importance of the formation and preparation for ordination. It’s always a great joy to institute men to these ministries because it’s an indication that they are seriously embracing the process of preparing themselves for priestly ordination.
I was also very impressed by the paschal candle that a member of the community made for the seminary with the icon of the Blessed Trinity.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, I went to celebrate Mass at the St. John Paul II Shrine of Divine Mercy in Salem.
The pastor, Father Robert Będziński, is doing a wonderful job there. He is a member of the Society of Christ, which is a Polish religious community, and their provincial joined us from Chicago, which he reminded us is the second largest Polish city in the world after Warsaw.
The Mass was very well attended. In addition to the people you can see in the upper church, there were also many downstairs watching on closed-circuit television. The Mass was also live-streamed so that people could participate from home.
Of course, Divine Mercy Sunday was instituted by Pope John Paul II at the Canonization of Sister Faustina Kowalska in the Jubilee Year 2000. It’s amazing how this wonderful devotion has spread so quickly in the Church throughout the world. When you think about how popular this feast is and the great success of the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, it truly underscores how our people feel the need for God’s mercy. We are so blessed to have this shrine in our archdiocese, which is an important place for people to seek God’s mercy and deepen their faith.
Monday, I participated in a gathering of the P3 Boston young professionals group at the cathedral organized by Father Eric Cadin and Father Michael Zimmerman.
Tuesday, I asked UMass Boston Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco to meet with me and Jim Driscoll, the director of our Massachusetts Catholic Conference, to discuss how we might promote legislation that would help Dreamers qualify for in-state tuition. There are about 800,000 Dreamers, those brought to this country without documentation as young children, throughout the United States.
Chancellor Suárez-Orozco is also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. He shared with me some details of their recent meeting, which they dedicated to the issue of child and youth refugees. About half of the 26 million displaced people in the world right now are children, and many of them find themselves on a journey that can last eight or ten years before they reach their final destination. Of course, it’s a devastating situation for these children and their families, and the Holy See is very focused on what can be done to help them.
The European Union Ambassador to the Holy See regularly brings together the ambassadors from the other EU nations who have missions to the Holy See for a talk by an invited guest. So, on Wednesday, I was asked to speak to them about what the Church is doing in the area of safeguarding as well as immigration.
It is certainly amazing when you think about the network of influence that the Holy See has through these ambassadors representing countries from all over the world — only the United States has more diplomatic missions than the Vatican.
Although the European Union is very secular, many of those involved in its founding were very Catholic. In fact, the man who designed the EU flag was inspired by the Marian figure of the Woman of the Apocalypse with the crown of 12 stars described in the Book of Revelation. Consequently, the EU flag has a circle of 12 stars on a field of blue, the color of Mary. So, while I don’t think they’re currently anxious to emphasize their Christian roots, the EU certainly has them, and the flag is one vestige of that.
As I mentioned last week, the bishops’ conference of Brazil has been holding its General Assembly over these last several days.
It was originally supposed to be held at Aparecida, where I was to lead a retreat for them. But, because of the pandemic, everything has been moved online. So, on Thursday morning, I held a virtual retreat for the Brazilian bishops.
The gathering ended with a video message from the Holy Father.
Fortunately, I was able to visit him on Saturday at his home. It was a great consolation to see how he was really surrounded by people who loved him. And, of course, we all remember his wonderful wife of 61 years, Margarete, who predeceased him in 2017.
John was a wonderful Catholic gentleman who, for so many years, was a daily communicant at St. Gerard Majella Church. He was well known for his philanthropy and great contributions to the community. He was a former trustee of Boston College, Boston College High School and the Weston School of Theology, and he also served on the finance council of the archdiocese.
Certainly, faith and family were central in John’s life. We are very saddened by his death but grateful for the beautiful life that he lived and the witness that he gave of his Catholic faith. He was a man who was always there to help people in need and a great supporter of all Catholic causes in the archdiocese and beyond.
Thursday evening was the Catholic Schools Foundation’s annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Gala, which provides support for this important program that allows so many children in the Archdiocese of Boston to obtain a life-changing Catholic education.
The gala was once again held in a virtual format this year, and we are so grateful to WCVB Channel 5 for their help producing it, as well as for the wonderful Chronicle program that followed, highlighting the work of our Catholic schools during the pandemic.
Of course, we are also grateful for the extraordinary work of Peter Lynch, Mike Reardon, gala chair Ron O’Hanley, as well as all of the benefactors who support this fine organization so generously and faithfully.
Until next week,