Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Day: March 31, 2023

Praying for Ukraine

Hello and welcome,

Like all of you, I’m sure, I have been closely following reports of the Holy Father’s health this week.

As we learned today, the Holy Father is doing much better and hopes to celebrate the services of Holy Week.  That’s certainly wonderful news, but I hope the Holy Father isn’t going to overdo it and remembers to take good care of himself.

Let us all continue to pray for the Holy Father and his complete recovery!

Last Friday, I went to St. Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury to celebrate the funeral Mass of Father Peter Nolan.

Father Peter spent many years of his priesthood in West Roxbury.  He was a Holy Ghost Father and a missionary in Nigeria during a period that included the Biafran War.  Then, after leaving the missions, he came to the States and eventually to Boston, where he was made vicar at Theresa’s.  Of course, he went on to be pastor in Hyde Park for many years but returned to St. Theresa’s in his retirement.

Father John Connelly was our gracious host for the Mass, and Msgr. Bill Helmick preached.  (Father Peter, Msgr. Helmick and I all have the great privilege of being born on the feast of St. Peter and Paul.  So, we’ve celebrated many birthdays together.)

Father Peter was in his 90s, and it was amazing to see the church filled for the funeral of someone of that age.  Usually, when you make it to your 90s, you’ve outlived most of your friends and associates!  His sister and brother from Ireland were there, and it was beautiful that they were able to see how much the people in Boston appreciated and loved Father Peter.

Saturday, the Feast of the Annunciation, I joined Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia for a prayer service for peace and solidarity with the people of Ukraine at Christ the King Ukrainian Catholic Church in Jamaica Plain. It was wonderful to see so many people come out to show their support.  The church was packed; it was standing-room-only.

We were also, of course, joined by a number of clergy, including our own Bishop Mark O’Connell; Father Yaroslav Nalysnyk, the pastor of Christ the King; Father James Morris of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Salem and Father Roman Tarnawsky of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jamaica Plain.

We were also happy to be joined by the Chancellor of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston, Father Ted Barbas and the Dean of their cathedral, Father Thomas Chininis, who came to represent Metropolitan Methodios.

It was a very moving ceremony of prayers and litanies.

They had a beautiful choir, but I think our seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary also did a great job.  Their voices filled the church; it really was stunning.

During his remarks, Archbishop Gudziak thanked the people of Boston for their generosity and support for the people of Ukraine.

I, too, am very grateful for the generosity of the people of the archdiocese.  In our collection for the people of Ukraine, we collected over $1 million. This shows that our people are very attuned to the suffering of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world and are ready to make sacrifices to help them.

Also that day, I was visited at the cathedral by Sister Briege McKenna, who is well known for her retreat ministry, and Father Pablo Escrivá de Romaní, a missionary to the indigenous people of Costa Rica who works with her.

They were in town to give retreats at St. Mary’s in Brookline and in the Merrimack Region.  So, they came by to see me at the cathedral.

Sunday, I celebrated a Mass for the Catholic community at Northeastern University.  I hadn’t been there in a while because of the pandemic, and it was very good to be back.   It was nice to see Father Paul Helfrich, Brother Andrew, and many other members of the Brotherhood of Hope.

The Mass was held at The Fenway Center, which is the former St. Anne’s Church.

We were also very honored to be joined by President Aoun and his wife, Zeina.

Afterward, there was a reception across the street in the Catholic Center.  There, I had an opportunity to chat with the students and those involved in campus ministry.

Monday, I participated in a virtual board meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the U.S.

Father Kieran Harrington, the new national director who was just with us last week at the Pastoral Center, is in the process of reorganizing the Pontifical Mission Societies to try to get more involvement from the dioceses.  Of course, Boston has always been a very important supporter of the Pontifical Mission Societies, so they asked me to be a part of these efforts.

That evening, I had a dinner with our seminarians who are in their second year of Pre-Theology studies.  They all shared with me their experiences in the parishes.  (Also, a couple of them had been part of the ill-fated basketball tournament, so I got to hear about that, as well.)

It was a wonderful evening, as always, and I enjoyed the time with the seminarians.  We’re very blessed to have such great young men studying for the priesthood in the archdiocese.

Tuesday, I celebrated the Mass at Catholic Memorial High School.  The provincial, Brother Peter Zawot,  and Province Leadership were visiting the school, and they were holding their Edmund Rice Christian Brothers School Leadership Conference.

It was a beautiful celebration with the whole school.  The students were all very attentive, and I was quite impressed by the choir, which sang some Latin motets.

Dr. Peter Folan and school leadership are providing young men with an excellent academic program paired with faith formation and personal development.  The archdiocese is blessed by Catholic Memorial’s development of leaders for the Church and our communities.

Our Catholic schools are a great contribution to the life of the community, and they have a long and beautiful tradition of that at Catholic Memorial.

That afternoon, I had a meeting with Bishop Pierre-André Dumas of the diocese of Anse-à-Veau et Miragoâne in Haïti.  Some of our priests have gone on mission trips to his diocese, and he was here to talk with me about the situation in his country and what we may be able to do to help.

It was very interesting to hear his account of what is happening there right now in light of the present political crisis and the dominance of gangs.  The situation is very dire.  The national government there is very weakened; it is practically a country without a government.  He is hoping that there will be some sort of intervention by the United Nations, Canada or the United States.

That evening, we had one of our St. Andrews dinners for young men considering a vocation to the priesthood.  We had a very large turnout this time, particularly from a number of the high schools.

These gatherings are an opportunity for the young men to see the seminary and experience a little bit of the life of the seminary through the testimony of the seminarians.  Afterward, we had a prayer service where I was able to address them.

Then we had a time of questions and answers.  We had many interesting questions, including one young man who asked if they allow pets in the seminary.  I told him that I didn’t know about that, but in the seminary that I went to, we had lots of pets.  We had 1,000 chickens, 100 cows, 50 pigs and eight beehives!

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

March 2023