Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Month: July 2023

Preparing for World Youth Day

Hello and welcome!

Last weekend, I was in Washington attending the National Black Catholic Congress, which takes place every five years.

The theme this year was “Write the Vision: A Prophetic Call to Thrive.” There were around 3,000 people, coming from all over the country.

The opening Mass was Friday at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Cardinal Wilton Gregory presided and preached. There were about 30 bishops, and the shrine was packed. It was a beautiful and very moving celebration.


The bulk of the conference took place at the Gaylord National convention center in National Harbor, Maryland, about half an hour from the shrine.

On Saturday, I went to the center to meet and have lunch with our Boston contingent there.


They say it’s one of the biggest convention centers in the country. I had never been there before, but they have a Ferris wheel!

While I was in Washington, the African National Eucharistic Congress was taking place at the Catholic University of America. Bishop Wolfgang Pisa, OFM Cap., the bishop of the Diocese of Lindi, Tanzania, celebrated the closing Mass for that conference.

I would have liked to participate but, as it turned out, too many things I was involved in were happening at the same time, so I was not able to make it.

Sunday, I came back to Boston, and I had dinner with Father Javier del Castillo, who is the vicar of Opus Dei in the United States. It was very interesting to have a chance to talk with him about what is happening in Opus Dei, and he also shared with me the story of his family. They left Mexico when they received a death threat and had to come and live in the United States.

It was quite a harrowing adventure, and it reminded me of the stories of so many of my parishioners in Washington when I was working with the immigrants who were fleeing the violence in Central America. It was enlightening and fascinating to hear the history of Father del Castillo’s family.

Then, I invited him to join us as I gave a blessing at the cathedral for about 600 youth from the Neocatechumenal Communities in the archdiocese who were preparing to go to Lisbon, Portugal, for World Youth Day.

I shared some statistics about World Youth Day and how it was started by John Paul II. I calculated that about 24 million young people have gone to World Youth Day. It is such a positive experience witnessing the life of the Church, and an opportunity for young people to be affirmed in their faith. I mentioned that I have been to World Youth Day in Denver, Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sidney, Madrid, Krakow, Rio de Janeiro, Panama City, and now Lisbon. And I always find it a very uplifting experience, although it can be challenging. It’s usually very hot. But it is a wonderful experience of the catholicity of the Church, and I always say that it’s like Pentecost, where pilgrims from every nation under heaven are gathered around Mary, the Mother of the Church, and Peter in the person of our Holy Father, and hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

I was very grateful to all those who organized this pilgrimage for our young people. I think another 300 from other parishes are joining us. I will have Mass with all the Boston pilgrims in Lisbon a week from Saturday.

Right after the blessing, there was a gathering downstairs, and Father Tony Medeiros gave me a couple of presents.

There was another birthday cake, and I told them there were enough candles that it could be sighted on the moon!

They presented me with a lovely picture of Carmen Hernandez, co-initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, and a copy of her biography, of which I wrote the introduction.

The communities of St. Rose of Lima in Chelsea gave me a beautiful wood carving of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

On Monday, Father Bryan Hehir and George Cronin of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference came with me to meet with the governor, the lieutenant governor, and some of their staff at the State House. We discussed how we can further cooperate with them in providing for refugees coming into the commonwealth.

One of the things we have done is open an emergency family shelter at a former hotel. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities had asked Catholic Charities to operate the shelter, which opened in June.

I visited the new shelter on Thursday. I met some of the families, many of whom have just arrived and don’t speak English.

They were having an ice cream social that day. Joe Prestejohn, owner of Cabot’s Ice Cream, donated the ice cream and helped serve it.

We now have three different facilities run by Catholic Charities for people who are arriving and looking for housing.

On Tuesday, I went to Nantucket for a Propagation of the Faith fundraiser. I stayed with Father John Murray, the pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in Nantucket.


I’m on the board of the National Propagation of the Faith, and the head of the national office is Msgr. Kieran Harrington. He organized a presentation for current and potential benefactors at the Westmoor Club on Nantucket.

There were probably about 50 people at the presentation, including Bishop da Cunha of Fall River. They showed a film, and I gave a talk about my experience of the missions.

Bishop Selvister Ponnumuthan from Kerala, India, talked about how the Pontifical Mission Societies have been so supportive of his diocese and the Church in his country.

The Pontifical Mission Societies reception was hosted by Jim Nicholson, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.

Wednesday, back in Boston, I had lunch with Father Ferruccio Brambillasca, the superior general of PIME, which stands for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Latin.

In the photo, Father Brambillasca is standing to my left. He was once a missionary in Japan. With him was Father Snyder, who was a missionary in Brazil and is now working with the Brazilians here in the archdiocese.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

July 2023