Bishops John A. Dooher and Robert F. Hennessey lie prostrate during their Dec. 12 episcopal ordination. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
SOUTH END -- The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe engraved on their episcopal rings should inspire Bishops John A. Dooher and Robert F. Hennessey to be courageous in their ministry, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley told the new bishops at their ordination Dec. 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The crowd at the ordination more than filled the 1,800-seat Cathedral of the Holy Cross. The ceremony was attended by over 30 bishops and more than 300 priests and leaders from other religious faiths, including executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches Rev. Diane Kessler and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston.
The ordination began with a procession and the Mass readings. The rite of episcopal ordination followed. The bishops-elect were presented for ordination and the apostolic letters of appointment were read.
Then, in his homily Cardinal O’Malley explained the significance of the bishops’ rings, which are a sign of their betrothal to the Church, and their insignia.
The particular image of Our Lady of Guadeloupe was brought to Japan by Mexican missionaries in the early 16th century. It was placed on medallions called “fumies” and entire villages of people were asked to tread on them. Those who refused were tortured to death. The witness of those martyrs should encourage Catholics to live a life of fidelity even in the most hostile circumstances, the cardinal said.
“We should remember that many of our brothers and sisters in the faith long ago in Japan died rather than tread on this image,” he said. “In a world where many people are quick to put aside their faith for personal convenience, political expediency or to be comfortably assimilated into the dominant secular culture, let us remember those martyrs who died courageously with Jesus’ name on their lips.”
Japanese Catholics survived underground for 200 years, living their faith in secret. Many times, they waited for a priest to return so that they could receive the Eucharist.
Those Catholic communities were the fruits of Mexican missionaries who spread the faith after the apparition of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.
In her apparition, Mary appeared to a poor, illiterate native Mexican named Juan Diego. In the vision she wore a black belt that was not meant “to indicate some level of proficiency in the martial arts,” joked the cardinal.
Instead, it was part of Aztec maternity dress, he said.
Mary asked Diego to be her messenger and to tell the bishop that she wanted him to build her a church. As a sign she sent roses in December, Cardinal O’Malley said.
“God’s love is like roses in December, full of surprises,” he said. “We often feel that we are inadequate messengers, but we are the ones God has called to do this, to show the roses in December to a world grown cynical and cold.”
Cardinal O’Malley also addressed the crowd in Spanish, and some other parts of the ceremony were also in Spanish.
After the homily, the rite of ordination continued with the examination of the candidates. Next, the bishops-elect lay prostrate in front of the altar as the litany of saints was sung. That was followed by the laying on of hands when Cardinal O’Malley consecrated the new bishops. Auxiliary Bishops Emilio S. Allue, Walter J. Edyvean, and Francis X. Irwin as well as retiring Bishop John P. Boles were among the co-consecrators.
Then the cardinal anointed the new bishop’s heads with chrism oil, presented them with the book of Gospels and invested them with their rings, miters and crosiers, the pastoral staffs of their office. Bishops Dooher and Hennessey were then greeted by all those bishops gathered during the kiss of peace.
The liturgy of the Eucharist followed after which the new bishops processed throughout the cathedral, imparting their blessing on the faithful, before addressing the crowd.
Bishop Dooher, who served as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Dedham for 10 years, said he is grateful to God for his episcopal ordination and thanked Pope Benedict XVI for appointing him to serve God’s people as a bishop. His appointment to bishop of the south region is not about him, he said.
“It’s about you and the importance of parishes,” he told the crowd.
“We all share the invitation of Jesus to follow Him,” he added. “We share what we believe and what we hope by loving one another.”
Bishop Dooher was born in Dorchester and ordained in the archdiocese in 1969. He served as parochial vicar at both St. Francis Xavier Parish in South Weymouth and St. Augustine Parish in South Boston. He also served as the senate president for the archdiocesan priests for two years and was director of spiritual development for the archdiocese for seven years. In addition, he was administrator for Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, St. Vincent de Paul Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Chapel in South Boston from 1991 to 1996.
Both bishops are currently members of both the Presbyteral Council and the College of Consulters.
Bishop Hennessey, who will serve as the central region bishop, spoke after Bishop Dooher’s comments.
In his remarks he addressed the priests of the central region directly, saying, “I ask for your patience because it will take me awhile to learn how to be a bishop.”
Noting that, at the same time, he understands the difficulties of serving as a pastor and hopes to ease their burden as much as possible.
Bishop Hennessey concluded his remarks in Spanish. Most Holy Redeemer Parish, where he was pastor for 12 years, has a large Spanish-speaking population.
Bishop Hennessey was ordained a priest in 1978 and served as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Hanson, St. Peter Parish in Plymouth and St. Joseph Parish in Needham. He received a graduate degree from Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame in Indiana and served in the Society of St. James, a program founded by Cardinal Richard J. Cushing for priests to serve the Church in Latin America. He was also appointed to the Clergy Personnel Board in 2003.
Following the ordination, family members and well-wishers gathered for a reception at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.
Catholics from both of the bishop’s former parishes said they are happy about the ordination but sad to see their pastors leave.
“We hate to see him go,” said John Tighe, a parishioner at St. Mary’s for 40 years.
His wife, Grace, added, “It’s a well-deserved honor for him, and he’ll be as great a bishop as he was a pastor.”
Another parishioner, Diane Sheedy, said her first reaction to the news of the appointment was sadness.
“I cried all that day, and then I had to be joyous for him and the Church,” she said. “He is such a humble, really Christ-like man.”
Parishioners from Most Holy Redeemer expressed similar sentiments about Bishop Hennessey.
“We’re very happy for what has happened, especially for Bishop Hennessey, and we’re saddened because we’re losing him,” said Edin Velazquez.
Jose Martinez agreed, adding that Bishop Hennessey is the most beautiful person he has ever met.
Martinez, who is from Mexico, was one of several parishioners who carried a picture of Our Lady of Guadeloupe during the ordination’s opening procession. He said it was a pleasure to do something for a priest who has done so much for his parish.
“Everybody’s welcome in that parish, and the priest does whatever he can to help,” he said.
A large group of members of the Life Teen program in Dedham attended the ordination, wearing shirts they designed for the occasion. “Bishop John” was written on the back.
Sean Cosgrove, who has been involved in Life Teen for five years, said Bishop Dooher is a patient man who has always supported the program that leads teens closer to Christ.
“He deserves it,” he said of the appointment. “I was in awe. I was so happy for him.”