Reflections of a newly ordained priest: Father Brian O’Hanlon

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Hello and welcome!

Around this time each year, I like to give some our newly ordained priests a chance to introduce themselves to you through my blog. Earlier in the month we heard from Father Joe Almeida and this week I have asked Father Brian O’Hanlon to share his reflections with you.

Cardinal Seán

Brian O'Hanlon

I remember thinking about becoming a priest since around my first Holy Communion. I grew up in Manassas, Virginia, about 30 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. Our parish there was All Saints, the only Catholic church in the city and surrounding towns.

I am the oldest of five siblings; I have three sisters and a brother. My father grew up in New York and my mother was from Salt Lake City, Utah; they met at a parish CYO group in Northern Virginia after having both moved to the area. I remember being eager to go to Mass and CCD classes and learn about the Faith. My mother’s brother is a priest with Maryknoll, and I always looked forward to seeing him when he visited from Korea, where he was stationed. While I may have had a simplistic view of priesthood at the time, there was something about it that drew me, and I had a sense from a young age that I should be involved in the Church and follow her teachings.

clip_image002Reading at my First Holy Communion

As I got older, I remained faithful to the Church and participating at Mass. I was a youth lector and eventually an altar boy; I admit that I was not particularly eager to be up there to serve, but my parents pushed me to try it and I eventually got used to serving and being in the sanctuary. I was very excited to be Confirmed when I was fourteen years old. I remember the day vividly, as an auxiliary bishop from the Military Archdiocese was supposed to come; he got stuck in traffic and had difficulty finding the church in the pre-GPS days, and the Mass started an hour late! But I was happy to receive the final Sacrament of Initiation.

clip_image004After my Confirmation with the bishop, my uncle Father Phil Mares, M.M., and my uncle Steve Mares who was my sponsor.

Through my high school years, I stopped thinking as much about becoming a priest, though it was always in the back of my mind. After Confirmation in middle school, our parish offered short six-week classes about different aspects of the faith; it was a sort of mystagogy to give us a foundation after Confirmation. I enjoyed the different classes and getting to learn more about the teachings of the Church. After a year, though, they hired a new youth minister, and started a LifeTeen program. He asked me to be on the Core team, which I enjoyed doing the next three years. A particularly exciting time was going to World Youth Day in Toronto, where we got to see Pope St. John Paul II very close, and had the opportunity to meet Catholics from all over the world. It was very encouraging and made me think a little more seriously about priesthood again, though I did not really consider entering seminary after high school.

As a kid, I was also very interested in computers and electronics, and had been thinking that that was what I wanted to pursue professionally. I enjoyed outdoor activities such as camping and hiking as well, and I combined these interests by becoming involved in wilderness search and rescue with the Civil Air Patrol, specializing in direction-finding for missing airplanes. I also got my amateur (ham) radio license shortly after 9/11 for doing emergency communications and electronics projects, and was happy to be able to help with public service events. I continued these interests as I was applying to college, and ended up deciding to go to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to study Math and Computer Science.

clip_image006In college, I continued my interest in computers and ham radio.

In college, I continued going to Mass, and I occasionally attended Newman Club events, but my focus was primarily on my studies and extracurricular activities. I joined the Ham Radio Club, which regularly helped with communications at events on campus and throughout the city. I also joined the Computer Club and the Spring Carnival Committee, which helped run the annual carnival on campus every year.

I had an experience, though, that changed my outlook on faith and the Church. The campus ministry was handled by the Oratorian Fathers whose oratory was a few blocks from campus; they also did ministry for the University of Pittsburgh and other local colleges. They have a Sunday Mass on campus in a lecture hall; this setting made it seem somewhat informal. One Sunday, I attended the Mass, and the priest said that even though it is not a church, we needed to take Mass seriously and show the proper respect toward the Blessed Sacrament, including kneeling and genuflecting in the Presence of Our Lord. It was a moment of grace for me; I realized that I would have to take my faith seriously, and that my life had to reflect what I believed to be true. This led me to want to study more about the Church and her history and theology, and grow in holiness.

The Newman Club had an intellectual focus which appealed to the college students, and I decided to go to a book discussion that they were having. The book was Dom Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat. The book made me realize the importance of a spiritual life and the necessity of prayer and the sacraments, and made me rethink my focusses in study and how I spent my time. I started reading more about spirituality, liturgy, and Church history, and I started going to daily Mass. I discovered some of the missionary work of the Church, and became interested in the story of Father Walter Ciszek, SJ, who had gone undercover to Russia to minister to Catholics there. I started thinking about becoming a priest again, and signed up to take Russian in college thinking that I might want to join the Jesuits and go there. I talked to the local vocation director for the Jesuits, but he encouraged me to finish up school and work before applying.

My senior year in college, I started looking for jobs. Most of my interviews were with companies in the D.C. area, out in Silicon Valley, and then one in the Boston area. The Boston job interested me most, so I took it and moved up here after graduation. I first went to Newton, where I got involved in Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Parish. I was working in Bedford, and enjoyed my job, which involved computer security and cryptography research. It was very interesting, and I enjoyed the cutting edge work and the combination of mathematics and computer science that it involved. It was a good workplace, and I was very happy with the work. I also enjoyed exploring New England, and all that the Boston area had to offer.

clip_image008A view from the Franconia Notch trail in New Hampshire. I love hiking and being out in nature!

Even though I enjoyed my work and life here, the thought of priesthood kept coming back to me. Because of my college experiences, the thought of spirituality and being a missionary kept coming back to me, and I was looking at a few religious orders, especially the Jesuits, who had interested me especially because of Father Walter Ciszek. I visited a few places, and got to talking to a spiritual director. I realized that my focus was really on parish life and being a priest for the people in a particular place, and my spiritual director asked whether I had actually considered diocesan priesthood. I prayed about it, and realized that that was really where my call was. In a religious order, the focus is on the charism of the order and following its rule, and the priests support this. In diocesan priesthood, the focus is on the people of the parish where you are assigned and serving them, and this is where my prayer always led me.

I had to decide then whether to apply back in Virginia where I had grown up, or here in Boston where I was living now. I had not lived in Virginia in nine years, and did not know many priests or people there well, and I had gotten to know people up here, so I contacted the vocations office of the Archdiocese of Boston in December of 2012. I was surprised how quickly I was applying and preparing for admission to seminary; by the grace of God, I was going to be entering in August of 2013!

There was one experience that seemed to confirm everything for me. Because of my emergency communications training, I regularly volunteered at the Boston Marathon. The communications guy would be paired with a medical guy and get people aid when they needed it. At the 2013 Marathon, I was assigned for the second time to be at the finish line, helping people once they completed the race. When the bombs went off, we started running toward the area to assist in the confusion. I remember reaching into my pocket and grabbing the crucifix on my rosary; at that moment, I had a sense, almost an interior voice, that I could be of so much more help if I were a priest. My interview at St. John’s Seminary was exactly a week later, and that is when I learned that I had been accepted for formation.

Seminary life is a blessing, but it is also an adjustment. I had been out of school for a few years, but here I was going back to taking classes, and philosophy was quite different from the more technical subjects I had studied before. I expected that since I was entering as a 27-year-old, that I would be fairly old compared to the other guys, but I was actually in the middle of my class. I enjoyed the structure, though, of seminary. The life of prayer, Mass, classes, study, work, and Adoration was a wonderful way to prepare for priesthood. Still, much of the important formation work came from outside of the structure — hanging out with other guys in the seminary, informal talks with the priests, and going out with friends.

Seminary life is focused on Christ, and there are four areas of focus for our formation. Intellectual formation allows us to learn about Christ and His Church, human formation helps us to be like Christ Himself in service to the people, spiritual formation allows us to know Christ personally and respond to Him in our own lives, and pastoral formation teaches to bring Christ to others. I especially enjoyed my summer assignments; my first summer was at the three parishes in Billerica. There were three wonderful priests there, and it was a good way to see how collaboratives work in the Archdiocese of Boston and what day-to-day ministry is like. Two summers later, I was in Dorchester at St. Mark’s and St. Ambrose. I was very happy to be able to work with the Spanish-speaking community there, as well as get to interact with the very faith-filled Vietnamese parishioners! My last summer as a deacon, I had the blessing to be in Roxbury at St. Patrick’s, and work with the Spanish-speakers and Caboverdianos. It was wonderful to know more about these communities.

I also spent two summers travelling. My second summer, I went out to a spirituality program in Omaha, Nebraska, where most Boston seminarians go at some point. It was wonderful to get to explore the Midwest and I took advantage of some of the parks out there and did some camping! I was also blessed to spend a summer in Mexico City to work on Spanish. I was surprised by how much I loved my time there, and I probably would have loved to live there before seminary. I had a great time getting to know the people and learning about their language and culture.

clip_image010A fellow seminarian and I went to the Badlands in South Dakota when we were in Omaha one summer; there are some beautiful things to see out there!

clip_image012Three of us Boston Seminarians at the very old Cathedral in Cuernavaca, Mexico. We spent the summer there learning Spanish.

Preparing for Ordination was exciting this past year. As a deacon, I was getting used to preaching, and had the opportunity to perform Baptisms, which was a great joy. My first baptisms were at my assignment at St. Peter’s in Dorchester, they were in Portuguese for the Caboverdiano community. It was a challenge, but a great consolation to be able to bring children into the faith. It is funny that through all of seminary I had been looking forward to priesthood, but with the date approaching, it always seemed like a little more time would be good — time to send out invitations, to plan my first Mass, to study for exams and write papers, to do all those things that we needed to do before the big day. And yet, I knew that God would take care of everything, and Our Lady was arranging things to work out.

The day of my ordination was very surreal. It takes a while for the reality of what happened to set in, but there was certainly grace, and I was stricken by everything. It seemed to go by very quickly, and yet I can remember each part very distinctly and vividly. We vested and spent time in prayer, and then we processed in, and everything went as we had practiced. (I was happy that I was in the middle of the alphabet, so I could follow the guys in front of me!) I mostly went where I was supposed to go, and when I didn’t, I tried to make it look natural… But thanks be to God, I was a priest of Jesus Christ!

clip_image014My Ordination

The night before our ordination, we had dinner with Cardinal Seán, at which we received our assignments. I have to admit that we spent a lot of time in the months before trying to figure out where we might go, and had a good idea of what the options were, though of course, we were not sure who would go where. I was excited to be assigned to Sacred Heart and St. Mary’s in Lynn, which I knew were diverse parishes in a busy city. It was especially poignant for me, as I would be starting on June 1, the first Saturday in honor of Our Lady, of the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart! It was very exciting to know where I would be serving as a priest.

sh_125_epShortly after I arrived, Sacred Heart celebrated their 125th anniversary, and Bishop Mark O’Connell came and celebrated Mass with all of us.

Transitioning to being in a parish in a new place is not necessarily easy, but it is also a very joy-filled and exciting time. I have been here now for a month and a half, and I still need a GPS to find my way to some places, but not everywhere anymore! Father Brian Flynn, our pastor, has been very good with introducing me to the churches and to the people, and getting me settled in and used to the routine. I had a funeral my first week, so it was a good way to get started in the parishes. They are very well-run, and the people are wonderful. I tell them that it speaks very highly of their pastor and of the people of the parish if they think that it is a good place for a newly-ordained priest.

clip_image016We had the parish barbecue at St. Mary’s the week after I started, and everyone took a picture after

Both churches are quite beautiful. St. Mary’s is built in the 1940’s art-deco style, which I love; it is really a joy to pray and say Mass there. Sacred Heart is older and has exquisite woodwork and stained-glass windows; the people will always point out to me if something that I mention in a homily or in Scripture is depicted there. The parishes are very diverse, and the people of different backgrounds get along, talk, and attend Mass together. It has been especially nice to see the Haitians and Congolese worship with us and to get to know them a little. Lynn is very blessed to have people from all these different backgrounds. One of the greatest joys of my priesthood has been seeing the deep faith of the people, especially poor immigrants who know how much they depend on God, and they have a deep love for Him and His Church. It keeps me humble and serves to remind me of my own duty to grow in holiness and to stay close to Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady and the angels and saints in heaven!

clip_image018Saying Mass at St. Mary’s in Lynn

Being a priest in an indescribable blessing, and I encourage any young man who thinks that he might be called to spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God for the grace to trust in Him. There were so many times before and during seminary that I was not sure how things were going to work out, but thanks to God’s grace and the intercession of Our Lady, I made it through to serve her Son as His priest. Being able to be with the people of God and walk toward Christ with them is a great joy, and to live and preach the truth is a grace that we cannot fully comprehend. To be a priest is first and foremost to be one who offers sacrifice, and the sacrifice of Christ is His offering of Himself on the Cross; all of His priests are called to offer themselves with Him, especially in the Mass, which makes present this sacrifice. It is not easy, but through the grace of Jesus Christ, it is possible, and an incredible joy.

Thanks to Cardinal Seán for asking me to write this, and for all the editors and photographers who helped me put it together!

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The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

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Hello and welcome!

Regular readers will remember that, as I concluded my last post, I was in Rome for a meeting of the Council of Cardinals, and it was the eve of the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patronal feast of the city.

Before I move on to the events of this week, I want to share with you some of the things that took place in Rome around that feast. It is very a very grand celebration, which also happens to coincide with my birthday. (So, I always tell people the fireworks in Rome are in honor of my birthday — but nobody believes me!)

For the feast, there is a wonderful tradition in Rome of decorating the streets in front of St. Peter’s Basilica with images made of flowers and colored sawdust.IMG_0702IMG_0704IMG_0705IMG_0706IMG_0707IMG_0708IMG_0712

I also want to share with you this photo of the statue of St. Peter, which has been venerated for many centuries, but on the Feast of St. Peter is dressed in papal vestments. I always find it very impressive.IMG_0691

Another wonderful tradition for the feast of St. Peter is that the new archbishops that have been named during the course of the year gather in Rome to receive the pallium from the Holy Father. POPE-PALLIUM

The pallium is a white band with black crosses worn around the shoulders and is the symbol of an archbishop. It represents the lamb that the Good Shepherd carries on his shoulders, and the black part of the bottom is the hoof of the lamb. Pallium-GTracy-IMG_0099

Here you see my pallium on the left

It is created from the wool of lambs raised by Trappist monks and is placed near the tomb of St. Peter before it is presented to the archbishop by the Holy Father. POPE-PALLIUM

There were about 30 archbishops from around the world who received the pallium this year. A couple of them were Capuchin confrères whom I knew and there were two from the United States — Archbishop Byrnes from Guam and Archbishop Wilton Gregory from Washington, D.C. POPE-PALLIUM

So, the American Embassy to the Holy See had a lovely reception for the Americans in Rome in honor of the new archbishops.

It was held at the Ambassador’s residence, known as the Villa Richardson.IMG_0690IMG_0688

unnamed1With Ambassador Calista Gingrich and her husband, Newt

With us for the Pallium Mass was Orthodox Archbishop Job of Telmessos, who was heading the delegation representing Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Archbishop Job is the Patriarchate’s representative to the World Council of Churches at Geneva and is a good friend of Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.IMG_0694

It has been the tradition, for many years now, that the Ecumenical Patriarch sends representatives for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul and the Holy Father does the same for the Feast of St. Andrew, the patronal feast of Constantinople, in November.

Mirroring this tradition, here in Boston we also exchange delegations between the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston and the archdiocese on the feasts of St. Peter and St. Andrew. So, that same day in Boston, we were very happy to welcome Father Demetrios Tonias, the dean of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral for the Mass at the Pastoral Center celebrated by Bishop Arthur Kennedy.StPeter-Orthodox-04StPeter-Orthodox-05StPeter-Orthodox-09StPeter-Orthodox-19

As I mentioned, the feast coincides with my birthday. So, that afternoon, I had lunch with the Capuchin community in Rome, where there were four of us who were celebrating either birthdays or name days.IMG_0696

I also had a meeting with the Holy Father at which I presented him my letter of resignation, which is the custom for residential bishops when they reach the age of 75. The Holy Father did not accept it but instead asked me to stay on for a few more years in Boston. As long as my health is good, I am very happy to serve in any way that I can.

Then, that evening, I had dinner with the Boston priests who are in Rome.IMG_0700

I returned from Rome a few days before Independence Day, and I spent some time away around the holiday.

Then, last Sunday, I went to St. Benedict’s in Somerville, to celebrate a Mass as part of the parish’s weeklong celebration of their patronal feast. IMG_0729

They also had another cake for me in honor of my birthday. (I think that was the end of the novena of cakes I seem to have been celebrating!)IMG_0730IMG_0731

It was good to be back at St. Benedict’s again and see that Father Alejandro Lopez-Cardinale is doing such a great job as administrator.

Then on Tuesday, I was visited by Archbishop Anthony Obinna of the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria, who was accompanied by three of his priests who are here in Boston. IMG_0735-2

He was in town to celebrate Mass for the Nigerian community at St. Katharine Drexel Parish and wanted to greet me. So, I was very happy to be able to receive him.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

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Reflections of a newly ordained priest: Father Joseph Almeida

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Hello and welcome!

I hope you all had an enjoyable and safe Independence Day holiday!

As I always like to do this time of year, I have asked a couple of our newly ordained priests to share their stories with you. I think it is an important opportunity for all of us to get to know them a little better and, hopefully, be inspired by their vocation stories.

This week, we will be hearing from Father Joseph Almeida and, later in the month, Father Brian O’Hanlon will share his reflection with you.

– Cardinal Seán


Hello Friends,

My name is Father Joe. In 1983, I was born into a Catholic family, the fifth of eight children and we lived in Somers, Connecticut until I was 6 years old when we moved to the little town of Heath in the countryside of Western Massachusetts.


Our faith was a very important part of our home. Every Sunday, we would put on our best clothes and head out to church as a family. After Mass, we would return home and have Sunday brunch together. Then, in the afternoon and evening, we would often play board or card games, which I have always enjoyed. Needless to say, we looked forward to Sunday throughout the week.

During and after brunch, we would talk around the table. Often in our talks, a papal announcement or some other Church related news would come up, and we would read and discuss it along with any other news one of us wanted to share. Even when I was young, I was always welcomed in the discussions, although I mostly listened. As early as this, the Lord was giving me a longing for his truth and to have a relationship with him.

Many of these talks were on topics brought forth by Pope John Paul II, and it was from then on that I could see in him a great example of Christ. In John Paul II, by his asking and encouraging for vocations, I saw the importance of the priesthood and, in a sense, the search for my own vocation was fed by his example. In these years of my early life I began a deep relationship with Christ and started serving as an altar boy at Mass.


While I had a beautiful childhood, my relationship with my mom was very difficult. She would call me her “Slow Joe” and I took it badly. Also, I had many problems growing up; we had bad well water, and I would drink it and get very sick. My mom would have to take me often to the hospital, where they did numerous tests to try to see what was wrong. During this time, I often felt like I was a burden for my family.

When I was 10 years old, my mother, oldest brother Adam, and youngest siblings Mark and Christie were driving home when a tractor-trailer truck collided with another car, which in turn hit my mother’s vehicle. Both my mother and brother Adam, who were seated in the front, were in critical condition, while my younger siblings had only minor cuts and bruises. The doctors saved the life of my brother Adam with some major operations, but my mother had a blood clot after an operation that went to her heart leaving the doctors powerless to save her, and she died.

Having to face the reality of death was very difficult. I thank God that he gave me a large loving Catholic family and, in the light of this tragedy, we all drew closer together and relied heavily on the providence of God.

My father left his work and became a “domestic engineer,” raising us kids with great faith. His willingness to take care of us and his continual trust in God and the Church will always be a powerful example for me of a Christian man. He gave himself completely for us in order that we could have full lives.


After high school, I began to feel that something important was missing in my life. I was going to college and, humanly speaking, had everything — friends, family, education, work, a car, money, etc. — but I felt a calling to something more. I started bouncing around from devotion to devotion, looking for something more, and I began to really question if I was called to the priesthood.


In these young adult years, I found that I was most happy when I did some form of service for another person — whether by tutoring someone in their studies, helping someone move, or performing work for someone not able to do it themselves. In serving someone else, there was a joy for me that transcended the difficulties of the task and transformed my experience of it.

At times, I would go to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge for a sort of Sunday retreat. There I would pray, go to confession, Mass, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Often I was with my family or, later, I would bring my nephews and nieces. Returning home afterwards, I would celebrate by taking them out for a beautiful dinner and be filled with joy for the mercy and love of God.

One of the times I went, I confessed with Bishop Emeritus Thomas Elliot of the Virgin Islands. I told him I was questioning if I had a vocation to the priesthood and he canceled all his appointments for that afternoon and told me his life story, then I told him mine. At a certain point, I mentioned that my brother John had begun the Neocatechumenal Way in New Jersey and that I was thinking of becoming part of it, as well. My brother had shared with me his experience of the Neocatechumenal Way, of meeting in a small community; living the Catholic faith in the Liturgy of the Word midweek, the celebration of the Eucharist on Saturday night, and in gathering one Sunday a month for prayer and fellowship with the community.

When I said this, Bishop Thomas stopped me and told me that he is not part of the Neocatechumenate but that he had been to some of their events and was impressed with their spirit. He told me that the Neocatechumenal Way would help me in my discernment. Encouraged by that, I moved out to Boston in 2005 to become part of a Neocatechumenal community.image015

Through the Neocatechumenal Way, I began to see the events that I experienced in my life, especially the death of my mom, in a different way. I started to see more and more how God had been present with me through all the sufferings and difficulties. I saw how he had used these to form a relationship with me and to call me to enter into his plan for my life. Within this context, I was invited to an international meeting of men considering the priesthood, and I was sent to the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary of Boston. image017

In the seminary, I found a great sense of fraternity with the other seminarians and was touched by the spirit of mission within the house. We would help each other and be constantly involved in the evangelization in Boston. My time in the seminary established in me the rhythm of prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours and formed the discipline to pray in times of peace, joy, and fecundity, as well as in times of difficulty and dryness. It was a beautiful time full of graces, in which I experienced the faithfulness and mercy of God deeply.



image023Now as a priest, I have found great Joy in doing priestly things and serving the people of God. My first assignment is to serve as parochial vicar in the Sacred Hearts Collaborative in Bradford and Groveland. Having been a month in ministry here, I already have seen God working powerfully in the lives of the people and am in awe of how He can use me to carry out His work. image025

image027Being outside of the city and more in the countryside, Sacred Hearts Parish reminds me of where I grew up in Western Mass., which is a blessing for me and helps me to feel right at home. Little by little, I am coming to know the people of Sacred Hearts Parish and visiting the sick and ministering to those in need has given me the opportunity to share a little of the love and comfort I have received from the Lord in my life.

I am just beginning, but already I am finding joy in my ministry here. Please pray for me that God may continue to bless me and give me the grace to live faithfully the call I have received to follow Him.

Yours in Christ,

Father Joseph

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The Feast of Corpus Christi

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Hello and welcome!

Last Saturday, I attended the 60th anniversary of the priestly ordination of Father Patrick, a Capuchin at the friary in Jamaica Plain.IMG_0663

It was a wonderful occasion to gather with his family, friends and our friars to celebrate his jubilee. I reminded him that this year Father Raniero Cantalamessa is also celebrating 60 years as a priest — so he is in good company!

That afternoon, we had a Mass at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Brookline for the institution of new lectors and acolytes. These are sacramentals that our seminarians receive in preparation for priesthood.

These important moments for the Church impress upon the young man the need for his spiritual preparation and discernment in his vocation. The lector is instituted to proclaim readings from Scripture, and the ministry of acolyte allows a man to have the prerogatives of what we used to call the subdiaconate. He can now be an ordinary minister of Communion, distributing Communion at Mass and taking Communion to the sick.IMG_3060IMG_3072

The new lectors were Francis Trewin and Diego Alejandro Peña and the new acolytes were Jose Ignacio Montero, Diego Valdez, Gabriel Hanley, Giovanni Argote, Paolo Strudthoff and Mateus Martin.IMG_3108


It was a very joyful celebration and, of course, afterwards there was a lovely meal.

During the evening, the seminarians entertained us with a number of Mexican songs that they prepared for the visit of Eduardo Verástegui at the Redemptoris Mater Gala last week. IMG_3212IMG_3218

I again teased them that at the Gala Dinner they are usually the stars, but this year they were eclipsed by Eduardo’s brilliant testimony. But, I told them, I was happy to be the beneficiary of all their practice and preparation for performing at the Gala Dinner!

The following day, I celebrated the Mass of Corpus Christi at St. Mary Parish in Waltham, where Father Michael Nolan is the pastor.

It was an extraordinarily diverse and vibrant bilingual celebration. I think only in Boston would you have had Ugandan, Hispanic and American parishioners all celebrating together.IMG_0668IMG_0669IMG_0671

In my homily, I spoke about the importance of remembering God’s love for us, which is manifested in his providential care, but particularly in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, he makes a complete gift of himself to us so that we will have the strength to be his people and to make a gift of ourselves to God and others.

The Mass was followed by a wonderful procession through the streets Waltham with benediction outside. It was truly a great way of celebrating Corpus Christi, which is always one of my favorite feasts.StMarys-1StMarys-4

Immediately after the procession, I departed for Rome, where this week I have been attending a meeting of the Council of Cardinals advising the Holy Father. Much of our work this time was dedicated to considering recommendations we have received for Praedicate Evangelium, the document on the reform of the Roman Curia.IMG_0677

We have received numerous recommendations from different bishops’ conferences, Catholic universities, theologians and members of the various dicasteries here in Rome. So, it is quite a task to go through all the recommendations, but I think it will certainly improve and enrich the document, which will be very important for the curia going forward.

The Holy Father celebrated a Mass Thursday to mark the golden wedding anniversary of Guzmán Carriquiry and his wife, Lídice Gómez. IMG_0679Guzmán is a layman from Uruguay who has worked in the curia for almost 50 years and under five popes. He wrote speeches for John Paul II, helped prepare many of the Holy Father’s trips to Latin America, and he was with us at the Encuentro in Texas last year. As the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, he is the highest ranking layman in the curia. Cardinal Ouellette, who is in charge of the Congregation for Bishops, which is over the Commission for Latin America, was also with us for the Mass. IMG_0024.JPG

He and his wife have been very much involved in the life of the Church throughout their marriage. So, in a marvelous gesture, the Holy Father offered to celebrate this Mass at St. Peter’s for them. Many of their friends from Latin America and the curia gathered with them for this beautiful celebration where, with the Holy Father, they renewed their vows and exchanged rings at the Altar of the Chair.IMG_0025.JPG

The Mass was very moving and ended with the singing of the lovely song for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Desde el cielo una hermosa mañana — and the whole congregation sang it out loud and clear.

I was very moved by the fact that the day was also the Holy Father’s anniversary of episcopal ordination, but no mention of that was made. Of course, the Holy Father would never want to eclipse the couple that he was honoring at the celebration.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

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Welcoming Eduardo Verastegui to Boston

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Hello and welcome!

Last Saturday, I had the joy of ordaining a new Capuchin priest, Brother Akolla, at St. Catherine of Sweden Church in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Cameroonian community, so we were joined by a large number of his Cameroonian relatives and friends for the celebration.dsc_0016_48082781551_odsc_0056_48082883192_odsc_0070_48082883047_odsc_0092_48082787521_odsc_0204_48082823793_odsc_0249_48082886707_odsc_0264_48082822653_o

I belong to the Pittsburgh Province, and it is always a joy when I can spend the day with our friars, especially around something as joyful as a profession or ordination.

By Sunday, which was, of course, Father’s Day, I was back in Boston and we had a Mass for the Hispanic community in the cathedral, during which we had a special blessing for all the fathers and grandfathers present.

Then, in the afternoon, I attended the 10th annual Gala Dinner to benefit the Redemptoris Mater Archdiocesan Missionary Seminary of Boston.RMSGala19b-GTracy-02RMSGala19b-GTracy-04RMSGala19b-GTracy-05

We were so pleased to be joined by our keynote speaker, Eduardo Verástegui. I have been inviting him for a long time to come to Boston, and it was wonderful that he was able to make it on this occasion. RMSGala19b-GTracy-01

He gave just an extraordinary testimony about his own conversion and his commitment to working for evangelization and the Gospel of Life in Hollywood, where so many values that are in conflict with our faith are so prevalent. There, in the midst of an extremely secular and often interreligious atmosphere, he maintains a sense of mission and the presence of God in his life, which makes him ready to risk his economic well-being and his career to be faithful to his vocation as a Catholic.RMSGala19b-GTracy-07

He also talked about making the movie Bella. He said that, after it was released, they received over a thousand letters from women who saw the movie and had been considering abortion, but after seeing the film, were convinced that that was not the path they wanted to take.RMSGala19b-GTracy-10With Eduardo and rector Father Tony Medeiros

Eduardo galvanized such a reaction from the crowd, it was just stunning. As I told the seminarians afterwards, usually the songs they sing at the end of the evening are sort of the highlight, but they were completely eclipsed by the speaker this year. The undisputed highlight of the evening was the very moving testimony of the faith of this young soap opera star-turned-apostle.

I invite you to watch his full address. (He begins in Spanish, but very quickly turns to English.)

Monday, I was visited by Bishop Raymond Wickramasinghe of the Diocese of Galle, Sri Lanka, who came to the cathedral accompanied by Father Marc Bishop. He was staying with Father Bishop because he was preaching for the Mission Appeal in his parish.IMG_1353-2

He brought me the gift of this statue of a spear fisherman.IMG_0661

We had a very nice visit. During our discussion, he spoke about the terrible bombings that took place on Easter in his country, and he described the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that exists there. However, it was encouraging to hear that, after the terrible bombings, the Buddhist community reached out to them offering help, which was very consoling for Bishop Raymond and his people because they had never had that close relationship with the other religious communities.

Then, I went to the Boston College Club in Boston to attend the annual lunch for senior priests of the Archdiocese of Boston sponsored by the Order of Malta. Once again this year we were entertained by Dick Flavin, who was just extraordinary, reciting all of his poetry and stories about the Fenway and the Red Sox. He really is quite the raconteur. I know all the priests there had a wonderful time. Of course, the view of the Boston skyline from the Boston College Club is just stunning, and makes it a wonderful venue for this gathering.

We are so grateful to the Order of Malta, particularly Jack Joyce and Jim O’Connor, as well as the Boston College Club, for their efforts in supporting this special event.

Tuesday, I met at the cathedral with Mother Olga, Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, John Flatley and Jason Jones to discuss the Night 4 Life. IMG_0644-2

The Night 4 Life itself was held on Wednesday. A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

I offered a reflection and benediction, but the evening featured keynote addresses by Jason Jones and Cathy “Ki” Morrissey.

Ki Morrissey shared her story of how she became pregnant in college and was encouraged to have an abortion. She chose instead to give birth and place her son for adoption. A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

After being separated, Ki suffered from depression and turned to God to help her through the pain. When her son was 19, he reached out to her. They reunited and were able to have a relationship. Ki said she hopes to change society’s image of birthmothers as cold and uncaring, because the choice to place a child for adoption is really one of love.A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

Jason Jones shared his very compelling story of how, when he was in high school, his girlfriend became pregnant. They had planned to raise the child but, tragically, the girl’s father took her by force to have an abortion. A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

Jason was so distraught by this that he decided that he would spend the rest of his life fighting against abortion. As a young man, he was very much an atheist and only came into the Church much later. Now, he collaborates with Eduardo Verástegui in making films, and it was providential that they both happened to be in Boston in the same week.A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

It was also providential that the Night 4 Life was held during the same week that hearings were held on the ROE Act at the State House. (You can read more about the hearing and the testimony offered by representatives of Massachusetts Catholic conference in our archdiocesan newspaper, The Pilot.)A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

During the event we also heard from Mayor Koch. It was very edifying to see a political figure who would speak with such conviction about the dignity for human life. Also, Rev. Gene Rivers was there representing the black community.A Night 4 Life held in Quincy, June 19, 2019.
Pilot photo/ Jacqueline Tetrault

Also on Tuesday, I attended the wake for Phil Crotty at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, who was a member of the Order the Holy Sepulchre, an instructor of Latin at St. John’s Seminary and a longtime supporter of the seminary.Crotty

I was happy to be there for a short wake service with his friends and relatives.

Wednesday morning, I went up to Kennebunkport, Maine to join the seminarians from the Archdiocese of Boston at their annual summer retreat at the Franciscan Guest House. IMG_0646

This annual event is a wonderful opportunity for the Boston seminarians from all the different seminaries to come together for a time of prayer, recreation and fellowship. This year, for their recreation, they made a boat trip to Portland to visit the cathedral there.IMG_0652

During my visit, I celebrated Mass with them, and then we had a conference afterwards.

Wednesday afternoon, I went to South Boston to visit with members of American-Cassinese Congregation of Benedictines, which includes several monasteries in the United States and Latin America. They were holding their General Chapter at St. Anselm’s College, and Father Casey had invited them to come to Boston.

We had Vespers together at St. Augustine Chapel, which is the oldest extant Catholic church in Boston.IMG_0654

Afterwards, they hosted a lovely barbecue for us at St. Bridget’s.IMG_0656

Thursday, we had one of our regular meetings of the Presbyteral Council. Among the items on our agenda was a presentation by Patrick Krisak and Michael Lavigne on different young adult groups in the archdiocese and how priests could encourage an adult ministry in the parishes.

It was very encouraging to hear all that is being done to help reach our young adult Catholics.

Until next week,

Cardinal Seán

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