Hello and welcome!
As I concluded last week, we were still in the midst of the USCCB’s annual Spring Plenary Assembly in Orlando.
As I mentioned last week, our new format of having group discussions is something that I think all of us feel very positive about. When our assembly was basically just the plenary session in front of the TV cameras, there was an entirely different dynamic. Now, there is an opportunity for more bishops to express themselves and for us to get to know each other and exchange ideas.
Among the items we approved was a request of Bishop Francis Malone of Shreveport, Louisiana, to advance the cause of beatification and canonization for five French missionary priests known as the Shreveport Martyrs. They came to Louisiana and gave their lives ministering to the sick during a yellow fever epidemic in 1873.
For many of us, it was the first time hearing their story. Certainly, it was very moving in light of our own experience of the coronavirus pandemic and the generosity of our priests who put their lives in harm’s way to bring the sacraments to the people. That was one of the highlights of the bishops’ conference for me.
We also discussed the basic plan for the ongoing formation of priests. There was a very interesting discussion among the bishops on the Catholic University of America study on priests in the United States and their relationship with their bishops.
One of the very important documents that we voted on was the National Pastoral Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, and there was a lot of discussion of the Encuentro National, which was such a positive experience. Of course, we are very aware of the latest polls that show that the second generation of Hispanic immigrants are often drifting into the unchurched category. So that makes this national plan a very important priority for the bishops.
Bishop Barron also presented a request from his committee that we begin a process of issuing an updated pastoral statement on persons with disabilities in the life of the Church. In an intervention on that item, I wanted to make it very clear how important that topic is, particularly in light of the push for physician-assisted suicide in our country. Our best allies in the defense of life when it is most vulnerable are the disability groups.
I also raised the point that 20 years ago, there was much less experience of the challenges that families with autistic children face. How to minister to these young people and their families is something that we need to look at more carefully in our pastoral work. As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I was recently at the Madonna Queen Shrine in East Boston, I was pleased to see that the Don Orione Fathers there have organized a special program for families with autistic children. That program has been very successful, but this is certainly something that, as the Church nationwide, we need to study more and develop concrete ideas of how to better serve these families.
There was also discussion of updating the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, which is a very important responsibility. There were also votes taken on the new liturgical texts.
On Sunday, I went to Sacred Heart Parish in East Boston for a Mass to celebrate their 150th anniversary.
Concelebrating with us was, of course, the administrator Father Paolo Cumin and members of the priestly fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo, who are now entrusted with the ministry there. We were also happy to be joined by priests who had served at the parish, including the previous pastor, Father Wayne Belschner.
They have a wonderful choir, and the children’s choir from East Boston Central Catholic School sang for us.
It was a beautiful celebration and a reminder that 150 years ago was a time of great growth in the Catholic community as more and more immigrants were arriving on these shores.
That evening, I went to St. Joseph Parish in Lynn for the installation of their new pastor, Father Pablo Gomis.
It was a beautiful celebration, and the church was standing-room-only.
I was so taken by all of the renovations that have been done at the church. In fact, the scaffolding was still up from their recently completed steeple repair, and that was just one of the major projects that the parish has undertaken.
Addressing these types of structural issues is so important because we know how many communities have been dragged under by the unsupportable weight of deferred maintenance. We can see that the St. Joseph’s community, under the leadership of their pastor, has really stepped up to the plate to not only beautify the church but make it safe and enduring for future generations.
Earlier this week, all our seminarians studying for Boston gathered for their annual retreat. It’s a chance for the men from the different seminaries to be together and get to know one another.
Monday, they spent some time in Hull and then came to the cathedral in the evening to join me for Vespers. I gave them a short talk, and then we had a dialogue on different aspects of vocations and the priesthood. It was a very engaging discussion.
We are so blessed to have these extraordinary young men in our seminaries. I always find it an uplifting and life-giving experience to be able to interact with them.
The Filipino bishops have asked me to give them a retreat, which I will be doing through a combination of video recordings and Zoom meetings. So, I’ve spent a good part of this week preparing some of the talks here at the cathedral.
I took a break from that to visit with Abba Tesfaye W. Fesuh, Apostolic Visitor for Ethiopians of the Alexandrine Ge’ez rite in the U.S. and Canada.
The Holy Father appointed him to that role in 2020. Prior to that, he had served the Ethiopian community in Washington D.C. and as the chancellor of the Ethiopian Catholic Archeparchy of Addis Abeba. Father Tesfaye was here visiting the new priest who has taken charge of the ministry to the Ethiopian and Eritrean Ge’ez Rite community here at the cathedral. It was wonderful to see him.
Finally, I was very pleased to receive photos from Father Matt Conley, who is on a mission trip with some of his parishioners on the island of St. Croix.
While they were there, Father Matt was able to visit Father Victor Vitug and Father Andrea Filippucci, two of our Boston priests who are on loan to the Virgin Islands. (I am very proud of the fact that my two priests are doing such extraordinary work that Bishop Jerome has named Father Andrea the vicar general of the Diocese of St. Thomas!)
They are at St. Joseph’s, the parish I lived at when I was in St. Croix. Next door to the church is St. Joseph High School, which was destroyed during Hurricane Hugo, but we rebuilt it before I left. It was wonderful to see Father Conley and his parishioners there helping paint the school and doing other kinds of service projects.
Until next week,