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Mass marks opening of bicentennial year

The choir of the Korean Catholic Community was one of several choirs representing the ethnic diversity of the archdiocese. Pilot photo/ Gregory L. Tracy

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SOUTH END -- Clergy and laity, young and old, native-born and immigrant all came together at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross Dec. 2 to celebrate the opening Mass of the yearlong bicentennial celebration of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley presided at the Mass which was concelebrated with over 100 priests from the archdiocese, and six bishops including visiting Ugandan Bishop Robert Muhiirwa. Representatives from each parish in the archdiocese were invited to attend.

Singing at the Mass were members of the Cathedral Brass Ensemble, the Cathedral Hispanic Choir, the Cathedral Festival Choir and various parish choirs representing the Brazilian, Haitian, Kenyan, Korean and Vietnamese communities, underscoring the multicultural nature of the archdiocese.

“As we begin our bicentennial, we too, look back with a sense of profound gratitude and look forward with hope,” Cardinal O’Malley said in his homily.

“Sometimes we rhapsodize about the past, glamorize history and remember only what is pleasant. As a Catholic community in New England, we should know that our beginnings as a local Church were fraught with hardship and hostility and with enormous sacrifices,” the cardinal said.

“Priests were not allowed into this colony. If a priest were to be found, he was to be banished. If he returned, he would be executed,” he continued.

When the archdiocese was inaugurated 200 years ago, “the entire Catholic population of the diocese would not have filled this church. There were about 1,000 Catholics and two priests,” he added.

“Those handful of Catholics of two centuries ago, have grown to over 5 million Catholics in New England today,” underscored Cardinal O’Malley, adding, “Today, for all of these blessings of 200 years, we say, ‘Thank you, Lord.’

Addressing the congregation, the cardinal then spoke about the Gospel reading in which Jesus warns the faithful to be prepared, using the image of Noah’s Ark as an example.

“[Jesus] says, just as some people were caught up in the routine of their daily lives, so today, we must be aware of allowing ourselves to be so distracted by the demands of each day, as to miss the moment that the Lord offers to us. To literally miss the boat, as those people did in Noah’s day,” explained Cardinal O’Malley.

“What we must never lose sight of, is that Jesus Christ is the captain of the ship. And he is summoning us, ‘All hands on deck.’”

“As we reflect on our history, we see that it has never really been easy to be Catholics, to be a disciple. Our religion is not to be an escape. An exercise in comforting the comfortable. It’s rather about discipleship,” the cardinal stressed.

“The Christian project is not a selfish search for salvation. It’s not ‘Jesus and me and the warm fuzzies.’ It’s about serving others, about spreading the Gospel. We might feel more comfortable in our own lifeboat, but Jesus wants us on Noah’s Ark and it is, ‘All hands on deck,’” he said.

The cardinal then asked the assembly to “recommit” themselves to the mission entrusted to the Church, “to witnessing to Christ’s Gospel, to passing on the faith, to building on a civilization of love.”

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