Guest post: Father Michael Drea
Hello and welcome!
This morning, I was pleased to take part in a press conference held by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, at which he expressed his willingness to allow either of two military bases in the Commonwealth to be used to temporarily house refugee children from Central America. This has been a request of the federal government and the governor Massachusetts wants to respond compassionately.
We are very pleased that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is responding to try to help these children who are entering the United States without their parents. Governor Patrick has contacted us and inquired if Catholic Charities and other Catholic organizations would be willing to help. Of course, we were more than happy to do whatever we can to lend our support to this project. I was pleased that representatives from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim groups were also present to express their support, as well.
I would like to share my remarks at the press conference with you here:
Governor Patrick has recognized the authentic human tragedy, and indeed humanitarian crisis, presented by the children now at the border coming from Central America. This past week, Pope Francis in addressing the question of immigration globally, recognized both the complexity of the question in its broad dimensions, but then focused on the overwhelming immediacy of the needs of these children. The Holy Father addressed directly the human and moral crisis on our border through these words:
“I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain. They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin.”
The Catholic Church at every level, globally, nationally and locally has long experience in assisting immigrants and refugees often fleeing from danger, suffering and deprivation, and we are willing to enter a collaborative relationship with the government to meet this urgent emergency.
We do not have Church facilities that are appropriate, but we do have social service agencies in the Archdiocese with skilled resources to provide programs of assistance and support within the framework of a larger federal and state program providing finances and collaboration. It is crucial for all of us I believe to begin any discussion with our eyes on these children. The Archdiocesan agencies are already stretched by demands here at home, but we still wish to offer our help in facing this humanitarian emergency. I ask my own faith community and the wider public to understand compassionately the extreme circumstances these children are facing. As a country and a Church we are capable of providing crucial assistance.
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After concluding my meetings with the Holy Father earlier this month, I have been taking a few days to visit with my family and friends. Since I am only now getting back, this week I have asked Father Michael Drea to tell you a little about the many activities going on at his parish, St. Paul’s in Cambridge.
- Cardinal Seán
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I am honored to have been asked to ‘guest blog’ this week for His Eminence, Cardinal Seán. This entry comes to you from the Parish of St. Paul, Harvard Square – Cambridge – home of St. Paul’s Choir School, the only Catholic Choir School for boys in the United States, and the Harvard Catholic Center, providing for the spiritual well-being of the Catholic community at Harvard University.
As the pastor of this unique parish in our archdiocese and senior chaplain to the Harvard Catholic Center, it is a great privilege to be able to serve the Church and the faithful who are drawn from the four corners of the world in a community that so intentionally engages the vital work of the New Evangelization. Joining me in this week’s post is John Robinson, our Music Director at St. Paul’s and the Choir School. I have asked John to share with you some of the highlights of our Choir School for boys in grades four through eight, while I will speak about the ministry to the students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents of Harvard University.
With Cardinal Sean and Choir School director John Robinson
Boston is the quintessential university town – home to some of the finest centers of higher education in America. Situated in this hub of academia, how important it is that we engage the talented, gifted and faith-filled young people who come to Boston and, for the purposes of this entry, to the shores of the Charles River, from the world over to undertake the academic pursuit at the highest level.
Since 1893 at Harvard, the Church has had a vital and active presence on the campus of what many term the ‘greatest university in world’. With approval from Harvard President Charles Eliot and with the support of Bishop John Keane, the rector of The Catholic University of America, the Harvard Catholic Center officially came into existence that year. At the time, The Pilot stated that the Harvard Catholic Center’s purpose was to “increase the friendship between the Catholic and Protestants which now exists in the University and to make the Catholic faith better known to those outside of it. Moreover, through this Catholic organization, eminent laymen and clergymen will come to Cambridge and lecture on import moral and religious questions.”
As I say so often, as Harvard engages these students in a variety of academic disciplines at the University, the Church must also form and shape these future leaders so as to be bright lights for Jesus Christ who go forth into the board rooms, courtrooms, surgical suites, labs, classrooms and the highest levels of government in the world as faith-filled Catholic leaders. Daily we strive to embrace the early motto of Harvard: Veritas Christo et ecclesiae – Truth for Christ and the Church!
As bright Catholic minds come to this University, the Harvard Catholic Center is fully responsible for providing for the spiritual well-being of the Catholic community on campus by offering an enriching faith experience sacramentally, spiritually, intellectually and through the lived witness of the Gospel in a social outreach context.
As chaplains, we never know whose lives we will touch through an encounter with Jesus. Just think for instance that at the Harvard Catholic Center the future-first Catholic American president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy ‘40, worshiped regularly at St. Paul’s and volunteered at the Center’s reception desk. Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ ‘40, the great American theologian was received into the Church as an undergraduate at St. Paul’s. This year, Aurora Griffin ’14 of California, a Catholic Rhodes Scholar heads to Oxford in the fall having served as the president at the Harvard Catholic Student Association. Countless other Catholic alumni have gone on to distinguish themselves in the world around us and the Catholic Center has helped to prepare them to live their faith in the world.
The work that my brother priests, Fr. George Salzmann, OSFS, graduate chaplain, and Fr. Mark Murphy, undergraduate chaplain, and I engage with our students helps them to live their faith with purpose and conviction in the midst of a world that does not always value faith. Evangelization and outreach is enhanced by the work of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) who are now in their third year under the guidance of the Catholic chaplains at Harvard. Together our energetic and enthusiastic team serves as a ‘Beacon for Jesus Christ’ at Harvard drawing not only Catholic students, but also those who are exploring entry into the Catholic faith through our RCIA program. How edifying it is to journey with these young people as they seek to grow in a relationship with Jesus that will impact, shape and forever change them as bright lights for the Lord in the world.
Young people are searching for the Truth, but unfortunately, the world offers conflicting and unfulfilling answers. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy the heart of these young people. This past Spring, we saw an evil message attempting to draw people away from Christ through the ‘black mass’ that threatened the Harvard Catholic community and the campus as a whole.
The Truth of Christ triumphed as over 2,000 young people along with Harvard President Drew Faust joined with us in prayer before our Eucharistic Lord to seek strength and guidance during a holy hour at St. Paul’s. Many readers of this blog will recall that event and I wish to thank you for your prayers that helped our community through that dark moment. That event confirmed so clearly that the presence of the Church at Harvard as well as on other campuses is so greatly needed for our young people. Please pray for us in our ministry!
And now, John Robinson will speak about another bright light for the New Evangelization at St. Paul’s – St. Paul’s Choir School.
- Father Drea
Directing the Choir at St. Paul’s is an incredible and varied job. First and foremost the Choir (the only Catholic Choir of men and boys in the United States) is here to raise hearts and minds to God each day at Mass. We sing great music from the history of the Church, which connects us to the prayers of Catholics throughout the ages. God’s great gift of music is a blessing we are thankful for on a daily basis. This great music is at the very heart of the boys’ development, and we are ever more grateful for the chance to sing it in its rightful liturgical context.
In addition to that ‘core’ responsibility we engage in a number of wonderful and exciting musical adventures every year. This last academic year saw us sing alongside the Vienna Boy Choir, the Harvard Glee Club, and the Choir of Guildford Cathedral amongst many others. But the real highlight of the year came in the form of a long-anticipated musical pilgrimage to Rome, in celebration of the Choir School’s 50th anniversary year. It’s very hard to name a high point in a visit which included singing in the presence of the Holy Father, for Mass at the Chair of St. Peter at the very heart of Christendom, as well as singing Mass in the Basilica at Assisi, at Santa Maria Maggiore and at Sant’Andrea della Valle from the glorious 17th century Choir Loft. We sang wonderful Latin Polyphony appropriate to the All Saints season (when we were there) and it was deeply moving to feel the synergy between incredible Architecture, Music, and Liturgy all combining in reverent praise. Many of the boys named this Roman experience as the most memorable of their entire Choir School years. We were so lucky to have a Pastor who knows Rome so well, and who was able to make such a daunting visit run so smoothly and calmly!
The Choir School was founded in 1963 by Dr. Theodore Marier in order to teach boys how best to serve the Church through music and to acquire an excellent Catholic formation and education. It was modeled on the great historic Cathedral and Collegiate Choir Schools in Europe, most of which now survive in England. In celebrating our 50th anniversary year which ran until June 2014, we were really able to ‘take stock’ of the achievements of this small but unique school. So many alumni returned during the year, especially from the early years, and spoke of all they owed to the Choir School. We are most honored to have nurtured a number of vocations to the religious life including even a Bishop in the form of our own Bishop Peter Uglietto ‘65.
Many alumni returned to some of our larger events and spoke of their joy at the Choir School continuing its core musical mission in singing works by great Catholic composers such as Palestrina, Bruckner and William Byrd. In addition to the tour to Rome, our 50th anniversary year also included a celebratory Vespers service with the Harvard Glee Club, an organ recital which featured alumni who have gone on to be organists and Directors of Music, and the highlight of a Mass celebrated by our own Cardinal Sean to round out the 50th anniversary year, at which we had the pleasure of singing his favorite setting: Mozart’s Coronation Mass.
Parents of boys in grade 3 and 4 are encouraged to consider St. Paul’s Choir School – the only Catholic choir school for boys in the U.S. When we work with boys to see if this could be a good fit, all we are looking for is potential. We know that many boys will not have had the chance to sing or be trained to the kind of standards we aspire to, so we are just looking for willingness to learn, and the ability to hold a tune.
When prospective pupils visit the School, we give them a short written test, designed to see how they are progressing academically, and a very friendly and informal singing session. Commitment to the Choir is essential, and so we always talk with parents at length about what this would mean for them, and about some of the challenges of attending such a unique School. In every case, however, the memories and experiences created by the School outweigh the level of commitment required, and Choir School parents are amongst the happiest of any School community.
We were fortunate indeed to get to know Monica and Kevin Fitzgibbons of Aim Higher Media during the past year. Having been aware of the Choir School for many years since Monica was at Boston University, this dynamic Catholic recording company contacted the Choir School after hearing the boys live at an event in Holy Cross Cathedral. After hearing the remarkable story of their careers in the (very high-end) recording industry, this all began to get very exciting.
This couple has done something remarkable for Church music in making best-selling recordings out of Catholic music sung by nuns. It seems very clear they are blessed with great vision, and guidance. Over the months, Fr. Drea and I got to know this wonderful Catholic recording team better and better, and we were overjoyed to be able to get to the point of actually making a recording with them.
The best kind of distribution and promotion will be used, which will all go to help raise awareness of the wonderful tradition of Church music, as well as to raise the profile of St. Paul’s Choir School, and to help advance our mission of singing beautiful Church Music in service to the liturgy, and increasingly to draw people to the Church as well. We could not be happier to be involved with this great project. As the Choir develops, having a fine recording or two is always a great catalyst to higher-profile tours, concerts and recruitment. Our first recording (a Christmas release) will be available on Amazon from October 7th this coming year, so please do support the Choir School by purchasing this perfect Christmas gift.
Please do join us during term time at the 11.00 a.m. Solemn Mass at St. Paul’s, Harvard Square. Please also share this post with parents of boys in grades 3 or 4 who seek a unique Catholic education.
- John Robinson