Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

The bicentennial of the Propagation of the Faith

Hello and welcome!

Last Friday, I was still making my way back to Boston from Paraguay, so I was unable to celebrate our St. Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

But I’m happy to say that the festivities at the cathedral went on without me.  Bishop Reed celebrated the Mass, and I was also happy to hear they had a good representation from the whole community, including many of our first responders from the Boston Police and Fire Departments.

And, of course, they had the blessing of the shamrocks!

I was sent this photo in a St. Patrick’s Day greeting:

That’s what we call Irish kitsch!

On Sunday, I celebrated a Mass in Bethany Chapel at the Pastoral Center to mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, the first of the Pontifical Mission Societies.  We are so grateful to Maureen Heil for all her hard work in preparing this wonderful celebration.


For the celebration, we were joined by a number of priests, including our archdiocesan priest director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Father Gerry Osterman; Msgr. Kieran Harrington, the U.S. national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies; and Father Patrick Byrne from Ireland, former international Secretary General for The Missionary Childhood Association.

It was a wonderful celebration, and at the conclusion of the Mass, we honored Aubrey Anderson, a fifth-grader from St. Christine Parish in Marshfield.

After hearing about the work of The Missionary Childhood Association in one of her religious education classes, she went home inspired to raise money for the missions.  Through chores, odd jobs, and asking neighbors for contributions, she managed to raise over $250 – quite an impressive feat for a young lady of her age!

After the Mass, we went upstairs for a luncheon where we heard remarks by Msgr. Harrington, Father Byrne and myself.

We also presented two additional awards.  One was to Father Matt Williams and the parishioners of St. J’s Collaborative of St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist Parishes in Quincy.

Of course, we are very grateful to Father Matt and all he does to promote the missions in his parishes.  We depend so much on the goodwill of our pastors to get the word out about the importance of the missions.

We also presented Mary Bolles with the Msgr. Andrew Connell Memorial award.  She worked for many years with Msgr. Connell at the Pontifical Mission Societies and was herself a lay missionary among the Native Americans in New Mexico.  She is truly a missionary disciple!

After she received the award, Maureen invited her to talk about her experiences.  Her remarks were lovely and very moving.

In my remarks, I spoke about my parish growing up, where my pastor had been the assistant national director of the Propagation of the Faith, and how Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to come to visit the parish for a week every year.  I said it was such an exciting experience to be able to serve Archbishop Sheen’s Mass as a young lad.

We also had many missionaries from our parish, including the parish curate, who went for 25 years to El Salvador.  Also from our parish was Sister Jean Donovan, one of the churchwomen who was murdered in El Salvador around the time of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

I also talked about the important role that the Society of the Propagation of the Faith played in the history of our own archdiocese.  When we celebrated the archdiocese’s bicentennial in 2008, the Archdiocesan Archives showed me the records of the funds we had received from the Propagation of the Faith in France at a time when we were only a handful of Catholics.  I said that was a very good investment on behalf of the Society because we have grown to become one of the largest donor dioceses in the country, if not the world!

Then, in the 20th century, one of our Boston directors of the Propagation of the Faith was Bishop James Walsh, who went on to found the Maryknoll Missionaries.  And Sister Mary Joseph Rogers, the foundress of the Maryknoll Sisters, was also here in Boston.  And, of course, Cardinal Cushing was also the Archdiocesan Director of the Propagation of the Faith and started the St. James Society, which has sent over 300 priests to work in Latin America.

We have a great missionary tradition to uphold in Boston, so I was very happy to take part in the celebration of the Society’s bicentennial year.

On Monday, I traveled to Washington for a board meeting of the Catholic University of America.

I also attended a meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism.

Danielle Brown, who heads that office and has visited Boston and spoken at St. John’s Seminary.  She is just an extraordinary individual who has a great capacity to communicate the Church’s teaching in this area, which is so important for us given the problems we face in our country.

While I was in Washington, I also gave the annual James H. Provost Memorial Lecture at Catholic University’s School of Canon Law.  This year was particularly special because they are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the School of Canon Law.

In my address, I spoke about the challenges of immigration in our Church and in our country.

I was a little concerned that no one would show up to hear a lecture at 4:00 PM on a Wednesday afternoon.  But I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived and realized several hundred people had shown up!

Fortunately, they recorded the lecture, so if you weren’t among those people, you can watch it here:

Finally, I want to invite all of you to join me and Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, for a prayer service that will be celebrated at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain tomorrow, Saturday, March 25 at 1 PM.

This will be an important opportunity for us to pray for peace in that country and express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people who have suffered so much since the invasion of their country just over a year ago.  Everyone is invited, and I hope all of you can be there.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán