Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: March 3, 2023

Welcoming our new Catholics at the Rite of Election

Hello and welcome!

While I was in New York last week, I attended an event at the Union League Club with Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Octavio Cisneros to promote the canonization of Servant of God Felix Varela.

Father Felix Varela is a very interesting personage.  Born in 1788 in what was then New Spain, he was an incredible scholar and intellectual who was one of the founding fathers of the democracy in Cuba.  He was ordained to the priesthood at 23 and immediately joined the seminary faculty, where he went on to be a professor in philosophy, physics and chemistry.  Through his teaching, he influenced a whole generation of young Cubans intellectuals and has even been described as the “Benjamin Franklin of Cuba.”

He was eventually elected to the Spanish Cortes (their parliament) and, there, advocated for the independence of Cuba and the abolition of slavery.  The King of Spain did not take very kindly to those ideas, and Father Varela was sentenced to death.  But he managed to flee and ended up in New York.  In New York, his intellect and talents were readily recognized, and he became the Vicar General for 25 years.  But he also served as a parish priest and ministered to the immigrant populations, particularly the Irish.

His is a very interesting life, which brings together so many different facets of Cuba — the communist government honors him as one of the founders of the Cuban state, and the Catholics see him as a saint.   However, he is not well known beyond the Cuban community, and so this event was an effort to get more people involved in working for his cause of canonization.

Last Saturday, many local members of the Communion and Liberation movement joined us for the 4:30 Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, which was offered in memory of Father Luigi Giussani.  We are blessed to have many different CL groups in the archdiocese, including the Memores Domini and the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo.

Of course, they are musically inclined.  So, they sang at the Mass and afterward at the dinner we had together at Cathedral High.

It was wonderful to see so many families present for the Mass and dinner.

Sunday, being the first Sunday of Lent, we held our annual Rite of Election for catechumens preparing to be baptized at Easter.

This is a very important moment to gather our new Catholics in the cathedral.  Being with their bishop and hundreds of their peers, I think, brings home to them that they are joining something larger than just a parish community — they are becoming part of the Universal Church.

The Rite of Election is always a very good way to begin the Lenten season, which is a baptismal retreat for all of us.  It reminds us that we accompany these catechumens and candidates for full communion as they continue their preparations.  And we will share their joy at Easter as we all renew our baptismal vows at the time when they are being received into the Church.

Following the Rite of Election, I went to Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Quincy for the wake of Daniel Dzengeleski, the brother of Father Marty Dzengeleski.

I was very pleased to be able to participate in the wake service.  Losing a sibling is always difficult, and I know Father Marty was very close to his brother.  Daniel was a man of faith, so we entrust his soul to God’s loving providence.

Monday, I had another of my dinners with a class of our seminarians.  This time, I met with the men in their first year of theological studies.  Of course, they all filled me in on the basketball tournament and other things that are going on in the seminary.

It’s always good to be able to spend some time with the seminarians, answer their questions, and get to know them better.

Tuesday, I was visited by the Capuchin Father General Roberto Genuin.  He was visiting with the friars of the New York province and came to Boston to meet with the friars in Jamaica Plain and the Cape Verdean Capuchins who are here. So, he stopped by to see me, and we gave him a tour of the cathedral.

With Father Roberto (to the right) and Father Gian Nicola Paladino, who accompanied him


This must have been the week for Superiors General because, on Thursday morning, I was visited by the Superior General of the Daughters of St. Paul, Sister Anna Caiazza.  Like Father Roberto, she is also conducting a visitation.  The Daughters have about 2,000 sisters all over the world, and she’s in the process of visiting all the houses of the United States. Because of Covid, it’s been a while since she’s been able to travel to visit them.

It was wonderful to see her and an opportunity to thank her for the presence of her sisters here in the archdiocese.  They are one of our largest religious communities, and we are particularly grateful for their wonderful communication ministry and for sharing Sister Germana Santos with us, as she serves as our Delegate for Religious.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

Cardinal Seán


March 2023