Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Divine Mercy Sunday

Hello and welcome!

I was very happy to celebrate the Mass 4 Life on the first day of the Weekend 4 Life last Thursday at Sacred Heart Church in Quincy.

The Weekend 4 Life is an annual two-day event organized by Mother Olga and the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth and the Men of Divine Mercy prayer group in Quincy.  We were joined by many local parishioners, including Quincy Mayor Tom Koch, and several priests.

During the evening, we were edified to hear the powerful story of Angletta Georges.  She is a young woman from Haiti who found herself in a crisis pregnancy because of a rape.  She came to the U.S. and, when she arrived, was very much helped by Friends of the Unborn and the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth.

The following day, they held their Youth 4 Life event at the Quincy Marriott, where they had Mass, adoration, and confessions.  They also heard talks by Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America and Arryn Vogan, a young mother of four who chose a less aggressive treatment for her cancer to protect her unborn child.

Saturday was, of course, the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013.  So, that morning, I went to the Boston Public Library for a small ceremony hosted by U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins to recognize law enforcement, public officials and first responders for their roles in responding to the bombings and the hunt for the perpetrators.

I was invited to begin the gathering with a prayer and some opening remarks.

We were joined by a number of current public officials, including Mayor Wu, City Council President Ed Flynn and Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox, and many former officials who were involved in the response to the bombings, such as former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, FBI Boston Special Agent in Charge Rick DesLauriers, and Governor Deval Patrick.


Then they presented American flags to people for their service to the community through that very trying time.


From there, I went to Emmanuel College to celebrate an Inauguration Day Mass for their new president, Dr. Mary Boyd.

The Mass was held in the college’s beautiful chapel.

There, Dr. Boyd and her family gathered with many students, faculty, and a very large contingent of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, including their Superior General Sister Mary Johnson and President Emerita Sister Janet Eisner.

They had a wonderful choir of students who sang for the Mass, which was concelebrated by campus chaplain Father Federico Cinocca and Father Oscar Pratt.  At the end of the Mass, Father Oscar imparted a special blessing on the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

We are so grateful for the presence of our Catholic colleges in the archdiocese, and for over a century,  Emmanuel has played an important role in Catholic higher education in our area.  It was the first Catholic women’s college in New England and has made such an impact in the lives of the many generations of students who have received their academic and spiritual formation there.

Saturday, I celebrated confirmations at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for about 40 college students from the different campus ministry programs throughout the archdiocese.

It’s always a great joy to be able to celebrate these college confirmations every year, and holding them during Easter week makes it even more special.

That night, I went to Annunciation Cathedral in Boston to join Metropolitan Methodios and the Greek Orthodox community for their celebration of the Easter Vigil.   This year, Orthodox Easter fell one week after ours.  Some years it coincides, but most years, it has a slightly different date.

They invite me each year to greet the congregation at the vigil.  Metropolitan Methodios reciprocates for our Holy Week by coming and addressing our priests at the Chrism Mass.  This year, he was in Constantinople and was, therefore, unable to be with us, but I was happy to be able to be part of their celebrations.

At midnight, they invited me to read the Gospel and greet the faithful gathered in their very beautiful cathedral.

In my comments, I noted that both Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew have stated that they are hoping to establish a common celebration of Easter for Catholics and Orthodox.

I said that is a beautiful gesture, and I applaud the sign of unity that would create.  But on the other hand, I said, it would mean that I wouldn’t be able to have two Easters anymore.  I wouldn’t be able to be at their Easter Vigil because I’d be at ours!

When I returned to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at about 1:30 in the morning, I wished a happy Easter to the members of the Ge’ez Rite community of the Cathedral Parish, who were celebrating their own vigil.  Like the Orthodox, they follow the Julian calendar, so their Easter date is the same.

The Ge’ez Rite parishioners come from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and it is perhaps best described as the Catholic version of the Coptic Rite.  Their liturgy is very long and ancient.

The next day was Divine Mercy Sunday, and so I went to celebrate Mass at the St. John Paul II Shrine of Divine Mercy in Salem.

It was a wonderful way to celebrate Mercy Sunday, which was one of the pastoral initiatives of Pope St. John Paul II to lift up the Sunday after Easter as a time of very special grace and mercy in the Church and underscore the spirituality of St. Faustina.  It’s amazing how quickly this devotion has grown and how popular it has become throughout the world.  I think this is an indication of people’s hunger for mercy and forgiveness.

It was a beautiful celebration, and afterward, they had a nice meal.

They also had many other activities throughout the rest of the day, such as a procession, Stations of the Cross, the screening of a film on Divine Mercy, and hours of confessions.

The pastor there, Father Robert Będziński, is doing just an extraordinary job at the shrine, which is particularly important given that Salem has become a center of fascination with witchcraft and the occult.  So, having a shrine where there is prayer, Eucharistic adoration, and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the midst of the community is very significant.

Later that day, I departed for Rome to attend the annual gathering of The Papal Foundation.

The gathering has included a number of activities, including a Mass at my titular church, Santa Maria della Vittoria, which is very near the Regis Hotel, where many members of the foundation are staying.  This year was the largest group that they’ve ever had come to Rome for this meeting.

On Wednesday night, we had a reception for the foundation’s St. John Paul II Scholarship Fund Saeman Scholars.  John and Carol Saeman are Stewards of St. Peter from Colorado who have provided scholarships for priests, seminarians, religious and lay leaders from mission countries to come to study in Rome.  Over the years, the fund has provided scholarships to over 1,500 people.  This is a great contribution to the Church in many parts of the world where they are trying to form their leadership to be able to better serve in their ministries.

While I was in Rome, I visited the General House of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary with Father Andrew Small.  They invited us to talk about the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

There, I met a priest who stuck out to me because he was named after St. Lawrence of Brindisi and had a beard and a Toa on his shirt.  I was so impressed!

He said yes, he was born in the Capuchin parish in Africa, and he and his family were very close to the Capuchins.  I said, “How did you escape!”

He said his family moved to an OMI parish, and he ended up joining the order.  I guess that’s how these things happen, but he clearly remembered his roots!

Also, one day at St. Peter’s Basilica, I met a young family from Worcester with two little boys.  One of them was making his First Communion, so they wanted to show him the Pieta.  So I brought them into the basilica so the little boy could see the statue and take a picture with it.  He seemed very pleased with himself!

Also today, I had a meeting with Cardinal Tagle, who heads the Dicastery for Evangelization, particularly for the mission countries.

One of our new responsibilities in the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is to work with the other departments of the Roman Curia to help advance a culture of safeguarding.  So, we have drawn up a memorandum between our commission and the Dicastery for Evangelization, putting us at the service of the bishops’ conferences that are part of the responsibility of the dicastery.  About half of the dioceses in the Church are considered mission dioceses and come under the Dicastery for Evangelization, which was formerly the Propagation of the Faith.

At the meeting, we signed the agreement outlining our responsibilities to each other.  I discussed this agreement and its contents with the Vatican News Service, and I encourage you to read that story here.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán