Hello and welcome!
Last Friday, I celebrated the Baccalaureate Mass at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where I received an honorary degree in Theology.
Steubenville, of course, is making a very unique contribution to the life of the Church. It has been a great source of vocations and training for Church leadership. Something like 70 to 80 percent of the students there are in studies related to theology or evangelization. Wherever you go in the country, you find young people teaching Catholic schools, or running RCIA, youth ministry, and campus ministry programs, who have been trained at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.
It was great to see the new friary there.
After the Mass, I paid a visit to the local bishop, Bishop Jeffrey Monforton.
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I returned to Boston very early Saturday morning to be present for the Pentecost Vigil at the Cathedral the Holy Cross with representatives from the different ecclesial communities and apostolic groups in the archdiocese.
The Pentecost Vigil is much like the Easter vigil, with an extended Liturgy of the Word, and the Gospel was proclaimed in about 10 different languages.
Also, like the Easter Vigil, the Pentecost Vigil is also a time to welcome new members into the Church. So, during the Mass, we also celebrated the baptism of little Agnes Claire, the daughter of Jesus Manuel and Leticia Rendon from St. Patrick’s Parish in Brockton.
This is a wonderful celebration, and I’m so happy we have done this for the last several years, following the example of Pope John Paul II who popularized this vigil, particularly to bring together the different charisms represented in different ecclesial communities.
It was truly a very worthy celebration of the ‘birthday of the Church.’
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On Pentecost Sunday, I celebrated Confirmations for almost 150 members of the Brazilian community of the archdiocese at the Cathedral.
We began with a procession through the Holy Door of Mercy.
We had a full Cathedral and, of course, the music is always very uplifting and inspiring. The Mass was concelebrated by many of the Brazilian priests working in ministry here, along with Father Michael Harrington from our Office for Cultural Diversity.
The Brazilian community is one of the largest ethnic groups represented in the archdiocese, so it’s wonderful to have them come to the Cathedral.
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Monday, I visited Immaculate Conception Church, part of the Stoughton Collaborative, to participate in the activities of our Pastoral Center Service Week. Each year, staff from the Pastoral Center volunteer to go to a different community to help beautify church facilities, particularly with such things as landscaping and cleaning.
While I was there, Father Joe Mazzone showed me around the church and introduced me to some of the parishioners.
One of the people I was very happy to see was Umbelina Costelho Fraga, whose uncle was my deacon at my Portuguese Parish in Washington D.C., Deacon João Costelho. She had been there 30 years ago when I preached that mission, and she is still a very active member of the parish.
I have many fond memories of Immaculate Conception, because the first time I visited the parish was 30 years ago, when I was a young bishop in the West Indies. They had invited me up to give a mission in Portuguese, and on the last day they had a huge procession, and even Governor Dukakis came to participate. Now, there is also a very active Brazilian community in the parish as well.
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That evening, we had one of our regular meetings of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. At the meeting, our Judicial Vicar, Father Mark O’Connell, gave a presentation on the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and we had a discussion on Disciples in Mission.
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Tuesday, I went to Boston University for the presentation of the Medeiros Scholarships. Each year BU presents these full, four-year scholarships to graduates of our Catholic high schools. This program was begun 30 years ago by President John Silber in honor of Cardinal Medeiros. The scholarships presented over the years have a combined value of $15 million.
Provost Jean Morrison and I presented the students with the scholarship and with us at the presentation was our Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Mears, and Father David Barnes, the Catholic chaplain at BU.
This year’s recipients are:
William Barnard, Xaverian Brothers High School
Ishrat Chowdhury, Bishop Fenwick High School
Aidan Coia, Xaverian Brothers High School
Erin Condon, Marian High School
Samantha Curley, Lowell Catholic High School
Anna Daher, St. Joseph Preparatory High School
Sarah Golden, Archbishop Williams High School
Brian Harrington, Catholic Memorial School
Carina lmbornone, Central Catholic High School
Emily Masse, Academy of Notre Dame
Nicholas McCool, Central Catholic High School
Meaghan Walsh, Fontbonne Academy
We congratulate them all!
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Thursday, we had a meeting of our Presbyteral Council. This is a very important way of having a great deal of consultation amongst our priests. The topics we discuss the Presbyteral Council are then brought to the local Vicariate meetings. So, it is a way of “taking the pulse” of the presbyterate, in preparation for making important policy decisions and pastoral planning.
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Also that day, I was visited by representatives from IMEC America.
This is a group, headquartered here in the archdiocese, that began by collecting used medical equipment in order to build hospitals in Third World countries. They have now expanded to building schools and agricultural projects as well, partnering with different religious orders throughout the world.
They do such wonderful work and I was happy to hear about their latest efforts!
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Finally, I want to remind everyone that I will be ordaining nine men to the priesthood tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross: Deacons Christopher Bae, Matthew Conley, Patrick Fiorillo, Thomas Gignac, Stephen LeBlanc, Dominic Ngo, Thomas Olson, Kevin Staley-Joyce and Thomas Sullivan.
We are blessed by the commitment of these nine men to walk in the footsteps of Christ in service to the Church. Each of these newly ordained brings their own unique and special gifts to the priesthood.
We pray that God grants them good health, joy in their daily ministry and the loving support of the Catholic family every day of their priesthood.
Until next week,
Celebrating the work of Catholic Charities
Hello and welcome!
Last Thursday was Cinco de Mayo, which in many places is an important day of festival because it marks the Mexican celebration of a victory in a battle against the French in the 1800’s.
But this year Cinco de Mayo was also the Feast of the Ascension, and I celebrated Mass for the Hispanic community at the Cathedral the Holy Cross.
In some places the feast has been transferred to the Sunday but, in our part of the world, we are still celebrating the Ascension on Thursday, the 40th day after Easter. One advantage of this arrangement is that it allows us to have a full nine-day novena between the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday. The tradition of the Catholic Church is that the Apostles gathered with Mary and the other disciples for nine days of intense prayer before the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which was the spiritual baptism of the Church and what we often refer to as “the birthday of the Church.” We do this because, having received the Spirit, the Apostles and disciples began the task of evangelization in earnest.
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I was invited to give the commencement address at Ave Maria University in Florida last Saturday. This is the largest graduating class they have ever had, I believe it was about 300, and the University continues to grow.
These are some pictures from the church, which is really the centerpiece of the campus.
Ave Maria University was the brainchild of Tom Monaghan, an orphan raised in a Catholic orphanage by sisters, who became a millionaire through his many business ventures, including Domino’s Pizza. He has used his considerable fortune to support evangelization in the Church: He created the Catholic college in Nicaragua, built the Cathedral in Managua following the earthquake there, and he has been involved in many acts of mercy and evangelization throughout our own country. Another of his very important works was the founding of Legatus, the organization for Catholic business leaders.
When I was in the Virgin Islands, he sent a plane-load of generators to us following the devastation of Hurricane Hugo. His was the first plane to land on St. Croix after the hurricane. We had to move the debris off the runway to allow the plane to land, and when the people saw the plane with the Domino’s logo on the side, the people began to shout, “The Bishop sent out for pizza!” and I shouted back, “Yes, and it’s going to be free because it took them more than half an hour to deliver it!”
With those generators, we were able to open the Catholic schools in tents almost immediately, whereas the public schools were closed for almost 2 years. This is just one example of the many very generous acts of Tom Monaghan that have made a difference in the lives of so many people.
The mother and brother of Msgr. Robert Oliver, who works with us at the Commission for the Protection of Minors in Rome, live in the town of Ave Maria, created around the university. So, while I was there, I paid them a visit.
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Sunday, I was back in Boston and I celebrated a special Mass for those who suffered in the recent earthquake in Ecuador. Of course, many members of the local Ecuadorian community joined us, including the Honorary Consul General of Ecuador in Boston, Beatriz Almeida de Stein.
The Consul General of Peru and many members of the Peruvian community of Boston were with us, as well.
Father David Costello, the head of the St. James Society, concelebrated with me and there were also representatives from Rostro de Cristo, the organization founded by Father Jim Ronan to work in Ecuador.
At the end of Mass the Consul General addressed the people to thank them for their prayers and all the help they provided for the victims of the earthquake.
I had authorized a special collection in our parishes for the victims of the earthquake. Though we do not have the final results in, I am sure the people of Boston were generous, as they always are, in remembering the suffering of those in need around the world.
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That evening, I went to Holy Family Parish in Rockland to celebrate a Mass with the Brazilian community there. They had just finished celebrating their 25th anniversary of Brazilian ministry in the parish. Father Lima is the Brazilian priest who works with them, and Father Hickey is their enthusiastic and energetic pastor.
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Tuesday, we had one of our St. Andrew Dinners at St. Augustine Parish in Andover. The St. Andrew Dinners are way of encouraging men to consider a priestly vocation, and in their own lives pray and promote vocations in their local communities.
We had about 50 young men who came to learn more about pursuing a priestly vocation. Father Eric Cadin led the program and there were three seminarians who addressed them. The seminarians who spoke were Deacon Matthew Conley, Deacon Dominic Ngo and seminarian Matthew Harrington. Deacon Matthew and Deacon Dominic will be ordained this month and Matthew is at the college seminary at Our Lady of Providence.
At the end, I gave them a brief reflection and engaged in a question and answer session with the young men.
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Wednesday was a busy day of events to be sure. We began by celebrating Mass at the Pastoral Center with the consecrated virgins of the archdiocese. The Mass is organized by our Delegate for Religious, Sister Marian Batho.
After the Mass was a luncheon with discussions and reports. For example, Joani McCann gave a wonderful report on the gathering in Rome for consecrated life. She brought back some very interesting statistics. For example, she mentioned that France is now the country with the most consecrated virgins, with about 600. I found it very interesting and a sign that, as countries become more secularized, this particular ministry is going to take on a greater importance.
At the end of Mass, we invited everyone present to join us outside for the crowning of the Virgin.
It was a beautiful day. The weather was just perfect for that sort of outdoor event and the people were very enthusiastic to be able to participate in this public act of devotion and faith that has such a long tradition the Catholic Church.
That afternoon, we had a reception at the Pastoral Center to thank all the staff for their help and participation in our Annual Catholic Appeal.
Then, that evening, we had one of our regular meetings for ongoing formation of priests ordained in the last five years. We began with a Holy Hour and Vespers followed by a discussion on Amoris Laetitia. As we always do, we concluded our gathering with dinner.
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That night, I joined Catholic Charities for their annual Spring Gala at the JFK library in Dorchester. This year, we honored Bill and Joyce Cummings.
During the dinner one of the clients of Catholic Charities, a young man named Emmanuel Sebit who is a refugee from South Sudan, spoke.
He told us how his family had to flee from South Sudan, and he eventually came to the United States, where Catholic Charities helped him to learn English and get his high school equivalency. He told us he is now in college and doing very well.
He gave a very beautiful speech, filled with gratitude for the United States and for the work of Catholic Charities. One rather touching moment was when he said how, during his first winter here, on New Year’s Eve he heard loud booming and hid under his bed to shelter from what he assumed were artillery blasts. The next time he heard that booming , he was outside and was looking around to see where people would hide, but he said he was confused to see no one was running. Then, he looked up, and had his first experience of fireworks!
He also spoke about the differences between his country and the United States. He spoke of the way that, in his country, people line up for hours for water or a little bit of food. He said here in the States the only kind of lines he’s seen are people lining up at the malls for new kind of iPhone or sneakers!
I was very pleased to learn that the evening raised over $1 million to support the extraordinary work of Catholic Charities. It was a wonderful evening and I was happy to be a part of it.
Until next week,
New transitional deacons
Hello and welcome!
Last Thursday, I attended the Jesuit Gala, held each year to support the USA Northeast Province of the Society of Jesus.
The evening included three very beautiful witness talks by Father Russell, Father O’Neill and Father Nolan.
This year, they presented their Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam Award to Deacon Chuck Clough and his wife, Gloria.
Chuck and Gloria Clough have been so active in the archdiocese and in their parish, particularly in youth ministry. It was a very well-deserved recognition and I was very happy to be part of the event.
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Also that night I attended the Catholic Charities Labouré Center Annual Spring Benefit at John Hancock Financial in the Seaport District.
During the evening, they honored Sister Maryadele Robinson, who is stepping down from the directorship but will continue to work at the Labouré Center, with the Jack Shaughnessy award, which was presented to her by one of Jack Shaughnessy’s sons.
I was happy to be part of this event supporting the Labouré Center, which provides the community with so many services, such as mentoring and tutoring, after school programs, counseling and family intervention, elder outreach, job training, and recovery connections programs.
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Friday, I met with MC Sullivan, Father Bryan Hehir and Dr. Ira Byock at the Cathedral.
With Dr. Byock and MC
Dr. Byock, a nationally known palliative and hospice care expert, was the keynote speaker at our first Palliative Care Colloquium that was going to be held the next morning at the Pastoral Center. However, since it coincided with the ordinations, I wasn’t going to be able to attend, so I wanted to meet with them before hand to discuss this very important initiative.
I consider the colloqium very important as part of our commitment to take end-of-life issues seriously and try to ensure that the necessary pain management and palliative care is available for people at the end of their life.
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As I mentioned, on Saturday, we had our second transitional diaconate ordination of the year. As I say, we had a “two- crop year.” These men have two classmates in Rome, as well, that I will be ordaining to the diaconate in October. So, actually, we will have three transitional diaconate ordinations for the archdiocese in one year.
In January, we ordained the transitional deacons who will become priests later this month. The men we ordained this week will be ordained to the priesthood next year. This is the first time that we are ordaining men in the third year of theology, so that they will have a full year of the diaconal ministry before their presbyteral ordination. We feel this will be a very good experience in preparation for priestly ordination.
I was also very pleased that there is such diversity in this class. In my homily, I related that to the very foundation of the diaconate in the Church, with the deacon’s role to build unity out of the diversity in the Church.
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That evening, I went to participate in the Easter Vigil celebration at the Greek Orthodox Metropolis in Brookline. The Greeks, of course, follow the Julian calendar and the provisions of the Nicene Conference — Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the first full moon following the equinox, following the Jewish Passover. Because of the differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the Eastern Churches celebrated Easter on May 1. So, I was able to be with them for their celebration and the Metropolitan said he has come to like being able to celebrate two Easters, because he comes to our Holy Week celebrations at the Cathedral the Holy Cross.
During the Vigil, His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios invited me to address the people, bringing the greetings of the Roman Catholic community.
The Metropolitan and I serve on the joint commission set up by the USCCB and the Orthodox bishops of the United States, and we will be meeting later this month at their retreat house in New Hampshire.
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I came back from the Vigil at the Orthodox Metropolis at about 1 o’clock in the morning, just in time to be present at the closing part of the Vigil in our own Cathedral with the Ethiopian and Eritrean community who celebrate according to the Ge’ez Rite.
They presented me with a gift of a hand cross that the Ge’ez use in the liturgy.
When the priest gives a blessing, he gives it with a small hand cross such as this.
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Sunday, we celebrated First Communions at the Cathedral, and it was the first time that we have had First Communions in English in decades.
Previously, they had only been in Spanish but as more English speaking Catholics are moving into the neighborhood, the parish is reaching out to them and trying to engage them in the life of Cathedral Parish. I am so pleased to see that this effort is bearing fruit.
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Tuesday, we held our annual Presbyteral Convocation, which featured a wonderful talk by Msgr. John MacInnis, who spoke on the ministry of the diocesan priest.
We also had a fine keynote address by Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland.
I was so pleased that so many of our priests were able to be with us, as well as our two classes of our newly-minted transitional deacons. It was a wonderful, uplifting celebration.
Also during our gathering we honored those priests that we had intended to honor at the Chrism Mass Luncheon, but because the microphones failed in the gymnasium of Cathedral High, we postponed it until our gathering this week.
We honored Father Mark O’Connell, Father Tom Nestor and Msgr. John McDonough — three very fine priests who each gave a short witness talk.
It was just a very fine day, and I think the priests enjoyed the opportunity to be together and to reflect on various aspects of our life and ministry.
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Wednesday, we gathered with the Major Superiors of Men’s Religious Communities at the Pastoral Center.
We spoke to them about a number of issues concerning religious in the archdiocese, and also had a dialogue and presentation on the Year of Mercy led by Father Jonathan Gaspar.
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At the same time as our meeting with the superiors, there was a meeting being conducted by Deacon Jim Greer on the subject of how to respond to situations of trauma, particularly suicide. There are certainly many different kinds of trauma, but certainly suicide is a growing problem – suicides are up by 25%.
There were over 100 participants there for the conference and I was very happy to be able to greet them and thank them for their willingness to learn more about this topic and prepare themselves to better serve in our parishes in such an important capacity.
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Also that day I met with Rev. Gary Cobb of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
During our meeting, he presented me with a book about the life of Billy Graham.
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Wednesday, we had our annual board meeting of the Missionary Society of St. James.
With director Father David Costello and former director Father George Emerson
We heard reports of some of the good work they are doing, including preparations for the Society’s 60th anniversary next year and that there will be five new priests serving the society.
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Wednesday night, I went for dinner at St. Joseph Parish in Lynn.
I was very happy to share a wonderful Spanish meal with the priests, which was prepared by Father Quique Martinez, and then we were joined by Father Steven Clemence who serves in Peabody.
Father Quique cooking the Paella
The Paella Valenciana was exquisite
With Father Israel and Quique
It was a chance to hear more about some of the things that are happening in Hispanic ministry in the Lynn area.
Until next week,
Remembering the Armenian Genocide
Last Friday, I had one of my periodic gatherings with seminarians by class.
This was just one more opportunity to get together seminarians in small groups to be able to pray with them and dialogue with them about their vocations and the Church. These gatherings are always great joy for me.
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On Saturday I went to Roxbury for the dedication and blessing of a Habitat for Humanity house that will provide a home for two local families.
The international organization Habitat for Humanity is well known for building or rehabilitating houses for people in need.
In this case, a Catholic layman has donated a substantial sum of money to rehab or build 50 houses around the country. The benefactor has requested these houses be dedicated to Pope Francis, who is in part the inspiration for his generous donations to sponsor these homes.
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that depends a great deal on volunteer labor. In addition to the funds provided by the benefactor, many people from the community, including the families themselves, contributed their labor to renovate this house.
“The Acoustics”, a choral group from Boston College performed at the dedication.
At the dedication service we were joined by representatives from Habitat for Humanity and, of course the families that will be moving into the new house. They were obviously thrilled and excited by the fact that they are going to have such a lovely home to raise their children in.
Certainly, the issue of affordable housing is very serious in the Boston area. In the archdiocese we have our Planning Office for Urban Affairs, which does a great deal to create new housing for low and moderate income people. So, I was pleased to be a part of this celebration of the work of Habitat for Humanity, and we are very happy to support the wonderful work they do, both in the United States and abroad.
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Then, Saturday afternoon, we held our first ever Armenian Genocide Commemoration Service at the Cathedral the Holy Cross. Recalling the events of the genocide are important as we call people to work for a world where there is greater tolerance and solidarity.
One of the groups that has promoted this whole theme of honoring the Armenian Martyrs is the Sant’Egidio community and the head of the community, Andrea Bartoli, met with me before Mass. Andrea is a professor of international diplomacy at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, where he often lectures on the Church’s peace initiatives. He himself was involved in Mozambique and other places where the Church has helped broker peace between different warring factions.
The community has also been very much involved in raising awareness of the persecution of Christians throughout the world and Pope John Paul II gave them the Church of San Bartolomeo, an old Franciscan church on the island in the Tiber River, that they have transformed into the shrine of the martyrs of the 20th and 21st century.
In my homily, I reflected on the fact that one of the tragic yet interesting things about the genocide is that, when the family of nations and people of the world did not react against the Armenian Genocide, it only paved the way for the Holocaust.
I also spoke about the “ecumenism of blood”, that Pope Francis has mentioned so often. I said how there are so many people, even in our own day, who are dying for their love for Christ — whether they be Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox — and that their witness and love should help us deepen our own faith and to feel closer to one another.
I’d like to share the full text of my homily with you here:
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it is for me an immense joy and privilege to welcome all of you to this Ecumenical Commemoration of the Holy Saints and Martyrs of the Armenian Genocide: Remembrance, Witness, and Resurrection.
We all have such fond memories of the visit of the Catolicos Karekin II to Boston. And today is a very special day to welcome so many of our Armenian brothers and sisters as well as members of other churches who have assembled here today in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity. I want to recognize in a special way the various bishops who have joined us for the celebration: Metropolitan Methodius of the Greek Orthodox church, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, of the diocese of the Armenian Church of America; Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, of the Eastern prelacy of the Armenian apostolic Church. We are also pleased to welcome the Rev. Avedis Boynerian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America.
We are very proud of our own Armenian Catholic community at Holy Cross Parish. I shall never forget the wonderful visit that I had to the Mekitarist Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice. We are of course delighted to have with us today Msgr. Andon Atamian, vicar general, of the Armenian Catholic Eparchy.
The Scriptures show how leprosy and blindness can be metaphors for spiritual ailments. The leper was cut off from community reflecting the spiritual death in isolation brought about by sin. Blindness indicated the darkness of unbelief and of how easily people can be deceived by appearances rather than seeing creation through God’s eyes.
As people live longer in our modern world, we have a greater experience of the ravages of Alzheimer’s. We see how losing one’s memory reach such havoc on people’s lives. For us Alzheimer’s, as spiritual amnesia, is a metaphor for those who forget about God. If we have forgotten our origins and our destiny, we become very disoriented. Our life is adrift. Spiritual Alzheimer’s causes us to become disconnected from God and from others.
In our memory and our sacred history we discover our true identity and can fulfill our mission in the world. We are consoled by the fact that even though at times we forget about God, he never forgets about us. In the prophet Isaiah we read: “even if a mother should forget her child, I will never forget you.” Our faces are engraved in the palms of God’s hands. When we stray from the father’s house, our God waits anxiously searching the horizons waiting for us to return so that he can run out and embrace us and kiss us and put a ring on our finger and sandals on our feet.
Our task is Christians is to pass on the treasure of the gospel to generations to come. We can do that only by striving to overcome our sinfulness and be worthy witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ. We must never forget how much our God loves us, especially in moments of darkness and of pain.
Our memory of his unfailing love allows us to say with St. Paul in his words to the Romans: “who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, and or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It is that faith, that memory, that conviction that allows us to recall the genocide of a century ago and to know that the love and power of God is stronger than death. Christ’s cross has conquered sin and death for us. By the same token it is important that we do not allow the events of the genocide to slip into oblivion. We must raise the alarm, we must keep the memory alive, so that the future will be safer.
When Adolf Hitler was poised to exterminate entire peoples, he found great consolation in the world’s indifference to the slaughter of a million and a half Armenian Christians. It emboldened his diabolical plans for the Holocaust. In fact, inscribed on one of the walls of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington is a statement by Adolf Hitler, who rationalized mass slaughter and expected people simply to avert their eyes and forget: “who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
We must ask ourselves if the world had responded differently to the Armenian genocide, could the Holocaust have been averted. Yes, remembering the Armenian genocide and the Holocaust of World War II are crucial if we are going to prevent more genocide in the future. No true civilization can afford to falsify the historical record or to corrupt the language. To do so is very perilous and will be a prelude to other forms of mass slaughter.
Unfortunately, as the philosopher George Santayana noted, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We can see today how the calamity that befell the Armenians 100 years ago seems to be repeating itself in the wholesale slaughter of Christians in the Middle East by Isis and other terrorist groups.
Pastor Martin Niemoeller was a prominent Lutheran minister who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in a concentration camp. Pastor Niemoeller is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Today we are all Armenians. As a newfound Armenian I fear I will never be as adept in your language as Lord Byron, but at least I can say: “Bari galust.” I welcome all of you as we gather to remind the world of the danger of its indifference. Too often we are like the priest and the Levite of the road to Jericho as we pass by our fellow human being left half dead by the side of the road. We must learn to see suffering humanity with eyes of compassion and the vision of faith.
Shortly after Pope Francis was elected our Pope, he made his first papal journey a trip to the island of Lampedusa where thousands of refugees have drowned in the sea. He prayed and cast a wreath of flowers into the watery grave and he warned the world of the globalization of indifference.
Our celebration here today is to echo that same warning and challenge people to remember the sins of the past and to strive to make sure that they do not happen again in the future. We must never allow the world to vilify people because of their race, their religion, their nationality, their language, their politics. The world needs the voice of a sentinel crying out a warning of the dangers that lurks when people nurture the darkness of hatred and prejudice in their hearts.
Tertullian once said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. We see how the first generations of Christians who valiantly face torture and death gave such a powerful witness that often even their persecutors embrace the faith. For those early Christians martyrdom was the great Christian ideal. It was a generous and courageous witness to the Church’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. From the time of the persecution of the early Christians in Rome who celebrated the Eucharist on the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs, we have preserved the custom of putting the relics of martyrs in our altars where the Eucharist is celebrated. All of us who profess the Christian faith have a special devotion to our martyrs who lay down their life to give witness to the church is faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis in an interview that he gave over year ago coined the term “ecumenism of blood.” The Holy Father commented on how in some countries they kill Christians for wearing a cross or having a Bible. They do not ask whether they are Catholics or Anglicans or Lutherans or Orthodox. They are killed because they are Christians. The Holy Father said: “we are united in blood, even though we have not yet managed to take the necessary steps towards unity between us and perhaps the time is not yet come. Unity is a gift we need to ask for.
We live in a time when ecumenism is driven by martyrdom. The persecution of Christians is most visibly associated with the Middle East, Christians in Africa, India, and other places have been targeted and killed. We have only to think of the 21 Egyptian Coptic migrants who were beheaded by Islamic state terrorists in Libya last February. They died proclaiming the name of Christ as they were martyred.
And just a couple weeks ago four Mother Teresa sisters whose only crime was that they were taking care of the elderly poor were brutally executed. Yes the ecumenism of blood continues. Hopefully the example of these witnesses of the faith they help us to grow closer to one another and more faithful to our vocation as disciples of Jesus Christ.
We are here in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The principal stained-glass windows are an important part of our iconography here. They speak to us about the Holy Cross. To your left you will see the dramatic scene where St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, in the year 325 A.D. discovers the three crosses near the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. They were able to tell which cross was the true cross of Jesus Christ because that cross cures and is life-giving. Jesus has made the cross the tree of life for us. He has conquered sin and death and opened a path to eternal life.
The great window on the other side depicts what took place on September 14, 628 A.D. when the Emperor Heraclitus having rescued the Holy Cross from the Persians, carries the cross into the holy city. At first he was mysteriously impeded from advancing through the gates of the city. The patriarch instructed him to dismount from his steed, and to remove his crown and his shoes and royal robes. Only then could the cross the threshold of Jerusalem with the Holy Cross.
As Jesus’ followers we must learn to carry the cross with humility and love. And we must learn to carry it together, only then will the Christian faith advance as Christ wishes. He prayed at the Last Supper that unity would be the identifying characteristic of his disciples, a unity so deep, so profound, that it would be a reflection of the unity between the Father and the Son in the Holy Trinity.
The million and a half Armenian Christians are not forgotten. Today their death is not only a warning against the evil of hatred and prejudice. Their death is a witness of the Church’s faith in eternal life. The grain of wheat that is buried in the ground produces much fruit. One of the fruits of the Armenian martyrdoms is the ecumenism of blood that unites us in one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
The Armenian martyrs’ sacrifice and the sacrifices of today’s martyrs are a cloud of witness, a cloud of martyrs whose love for Christ and courage in the profession of their faith is an invitation to all of us to advance through the gates of the holy city, carrying the glorious cross of Jesus Christ together, with humility and love.
Our martyred brothers and sisters have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The foolish think they are dead, but they live on in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. And today we cry out with faith, “Grant O Lord eternal rest unto thy departed servants and make their memory eternal”.
And I make mine the sentiments of Pope St. John Paul II, who prayed, “May Saint Gregory the Illuminator and the great host of Armenian martyrs and saints watch over you now and in the future! And may the Mother of Christ, Ark of the New Covenant, guide Armenia to the peace which lies beyond the great flood, the peace of God who has set His bow in the clouds as a sign of His everlasting love.”
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Over the course of the Jubilee Year, there are a number of groups that are coming to the Cathedral the Holy Cross on pilgrimage to pass through the Holy Door of Mercy.
On Sunday we had a Jubilee Year Pilgrimage and Mass for the Sick and Their Caregivers, at which we celebrated the anointing of the sick with scores of people.
Father Jonathan Gaspar was the architect of the service itself and we were aided by the Order of Malta and Deacon Jim Greer and the office of chaplaincy programs.
The Mass was a very fitting way to mark the Year of Mercy.
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That day, I also greeted a group of pilgrims from Our Lady of Grace Church in Chelsea who were visiting the Cathedral with Father Jim Barry.
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Monday I attended the wake of Father Raymond Helmick at the Campion Center in Weston.
Father Ray Helmick was a very talented and multifaceted individual. As many know, had been very much a presence in the peace negotiations in Ireland and in the Middle East. He was also a long-time professor at Boston College. In recent years he has been very closely associated with his brother’s parish, St. Theresa’s in West Roxbury, where he created a number of mosaics and built the tabernacle tower. His passing will leave a great void.
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Tuesday, we had the dedication of the new wellness center at Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.
Sister Barbara Rogers had invited us to dedicate the new wellness center and visit the school.
The choir greeted me in the Chapel
Newton Country Day is a wonderful Catholic school. In my own family, many of my relatives attended schools of the religious of the Sacred Heart, so I know personally of the extraordinary education that the sisters have provided for many generations of Catholics.
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That evening, I attended a gathering of the Campaign for Catholic schools hosted at the home of Herbert and Charlotte Wagner in Cambridge.
The purpose of the evening was to thank and honor benefactors of the campaign, who were responsible for the Lower Mills Campus of Pope St. John Paul II Academy.
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Wednesday, I celebrated the funeral Mass for Deacon John Manion, who died at 89. He was from Galway in Ireland. In fact, he had just been with us at the Cathedral for our celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Many people will remember him as the Deacon who would read the gospel in Irish.
He worked for three decades as chaplain in Walpole prison and was much beloved in his parish of St. George in Framingham. The pastor, Father John Rowan, gave a wonderful homily and we heard a very moving remembrance by Deacon John’s daughter.
We were joined by many permanent deacons for the Mass as well as Father Silva, who was formerly in charge of the diaconate program.
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Also that day, I had lunch with the members of the clergy personnel board. It was an opportunity to thank the outgoing members for their service and thank the new men for taking on the responsibility of the personnel board. It is such an important task and I know that it takes a lot of time and energy but the careful consideration of assignments is crucial for our priests and our parishes. We are very grateful for their collaboration in this process.
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On Wednesday afternoon, we had the board meeting of Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary, which culminated in the dedication of the new Learning Center, which includes Mary and Jack Shaughnessy and Rev. Charles J. Healey, S.J. Pavilions.
The redesign of the Chapel, the renovations to the front of the building and now the construction of this new Learning Center have completely transformed the seminary facilities.
The new facilities are just stunning and we were so pleased with the outcome.
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Then in the evening, I joined the Sisters of St. Joseph for their annual Living the Dream dinner. They had a very moving video of the ministries that have been carried out by the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the history of the archdiocese there have been almost 3,000 Sisters of St. Joseph who have served here. They educated literally tens of thousands of students here in the Archdiocese of Boston and are still sponsoring St. Joseph’s Prep, Fontbonne Academy and Regis College.
The evening was very well attended, which was a sign of the great affection and respect that the people of Boston have for the Sisters of St. Joseph. During the evening they honored one of the graduates of St. Joseph school in Dedham, Eileen Ahearn Connors, who received their Dear Neighbor award. It was just a lovely evening.
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Thursday morning, I celebrated Mass at Blessed Sacrament in Walpole to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their parish school, which was originally staffed by the Glen Riddle Franciscans from Philadelphia. The pastor, Father Chip Hines and the former pastor, Father Tim Kelleher, joined us for the Mass.
After the Mass, the students gave me a tour of the school. They have over 400 students enrolled there and Jim Spillman, the principal there, is doing a wonderful job.
We also joined by our Superintendent of Catholic Schools Kathy Mears and Maureen Heil of the Missionary Childhood Association.
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Finally, this week I want to mention that we are concluding Child Protection Month. The theme of child protection is one that is so important in our community and in the world. We are happy to promote this cause by asking people to become involved in supporting the educational and preventative programs in our parishes and in our institutions.
Until next week,
Celebrating college Confirmations
Hello and welcome!
Each year I like to celebrate the Confirmations for college students throughout the archdiocese at the Cathedral.
It’s always a very important event, and this year Msgr. Bill Fay, our new Coordinator of Campus Ministry, was present with us.
As I often say, campus ministry is one of the very important ministries of the archdiocese, because we have over 200,000 university students here in the Boston area. We are very blessed to have the Brotherhood of Hope, the FOCUS missionaries and many others, such as Father David Barnes and Father Mark Murphy, who are so devoted to this important ministry working on our local campuses.
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That afternoon, I joined the annual gala to benefit the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Somerville.
We began with Mass, which was concelebrated by a number of priests whose mothers are residents at Jeanne Jugan.
The Sisters are such an important presence in the archdiocese. Especially in this Year of Mercy we focus on their lives of mercy, as they serve the elderly and the sick.
We also are anxious to see what the final outcome of their legal challenge of the HHS mandate will be. I know I was among the many people who were very pleased to see that the Supreme Court did not rule against them, but instead asked the government and the representatives of the Sisters to look for an alternative to the health care mandate that would be morally and ethically acceptable to the Sisters. I know our entire Catholic community is looking forward to seeing what kind of possibilities can be reached.
Also on Saturday, the Boston College Irish Studies Program had hosted an all-day conference, “Faith in the Future: Religion in Ireland in the 21st Century”.
Though I was unable to attend the conference itself, in the evening I joined the dinner for the speakers. I was very happy to have a chance to see Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson. Also with us was Marie Collins, who is a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children, as well as a very distinguished group of Irish and Irish-American scholars who participated in the conference.
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On Sunday, I paid a visit to St. Monica Parish in South Boston to celebrate Mass for the Spanish-speaking community there.
They recently lost the priest who had been celebrating Mass with them: Father Ramón from Chile, who was here studying but has now completed his studies and returned home. I know the community has been growing and I wanted to visit them and assure them of my support.
We were joined by the pastor, Father Steve Madden, the vicar Father Gerry Souza, and Deacon Paul Kline.
It was very encouraging to see such a full church, with many young families with young children.
They had a beautiful music program with a lovely selection of hymns. It was Good Shepherd Sunday and, for example, the last hymn was about looking for the lost sheep. You could tell that they took great care in selecting the hymns according to the liturgy. It was just very well done.
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Then, Sunday afternoon, I met with Brian Duggan, who happens to be Helen Alvaré’s husband. He came to speak to me about an interesting initiative that could be a good response to the physician-assisted suicide movement.
He is promoting the concept of a hotline to help people who are facing end-of-life issues and need support. I was interested in learning more about his idea as this issue is becoming more and more relevant in today’s world. For example, a story in today’s New York Times — page 1, above the fold —says that suicides in the United States are up nearly 25% since 1999. With statistics like that, this is not the time to be passing legislation legalizing suicide. As the World Health Organization has said, physician-assisted suicide can create an impression in people’s minds that suicide is a valid solution to people’s problems.
This hotline could be a response to help people who are in crisis and facing end-of-life issues alone. We are already very focused on trying to provide palliative care, but this could be something that could work in tandem with those efforts.
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We were very saddened to learn the Father Raymond Helmick passed away yesterday.
We are very grateful that the Jesuits at Weston have accepted Msgr. Bill Helmick there for rehabilitation after his heart surgery. It also allowed him to be close to his brother in his brother’s last days.
On Monday I went to visit them and I was very touched to the see support of the Helmick family for both brothers. We express our condolences and thank God for Father Ray’s vocation and his many years of service to the Church, particularly here in Boston.
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Monday evening, I went to the Sheraton hotel in Framingham for the Massachusetts State Council of the Knights of Columbus’ annual Lantern Awards Banquet.
The Lantern Award is presented each year on Patriots’ Day to “honor those who reflected the religious and patriotic ideals of the Founding Fathers.”
This year, the Knights chose to honor all our military chaplains in the Archdiocese of the Military Services with the award. Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services sent his Vicar General, Msgr. John Foster, to receive the award on his behalf.
We were very pleased, obviously, because in Boston we are one of the dioceses that most supports the Military Archdiocese by sending men to serve as chaplains in the armed forces.
After receiving the award, Msgr. Foster gave a very nice talk on the importance of the work of chaplains.
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Wednesday, we had our semi-annual meeting of the Bishops of the Boston province here at the Pastoral Center.
Among the many agenda items of the day, our Judicial Vicar, Father Mark O’Connell, addressed us on the latest changes to the annulment process.
We are very happy that a number of our retired bishops were able to join us as well as Bishop Nick Samra of the Eparchy of Newton.
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And finally Thursday we had the annual board meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of Boston. The most familiar of these societies for most would be the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, but there is also the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
We are so proud of the long tradition we have in Boston of so strongly supporting the missions and we are very grateful to Father Rodney Copp, Maureen Heil and the whole staff who work so hard to make the Societies so effective in their mission.
Until next week,