From Cardinal Seán’s blog

Father J. Bryan Hehir who is the Secretary for Health and Social Services has co-written a letter with Vicar General Father Richard Erikson to all the Pastors and Principals of the Archdiocese of Boston regarding pastoral responses to the economic crisis.

The archdiocese has put together materials and suggestions to help pastoral leaders deal with the needs and the very real and serious problems that many of our brothers and sisters are experiencing as the economic crisis deepens.

Please spend time reading those materials available on our new web site ( and share them with others.

Petition drive

I want to encourage you all to participate in a petition initiative that is working to gather signatures to protect the conscience rights of doctors and health care professionals.

Last August, the Bush administration approved a regulation prohibiting discrimination against health professionals who did not want to participate in abortions or other morally objectionable procedures based on their religious beliefs.

With a new administration in place, the Department of Health and Human Services is now trying to rescind the regulation, and has opened a 30 day comment period that will finalize April 9.

So, a conscience program sign-on campaign has been initiated, inviting both patients -- that means all of us -- and also health care professionals to sign a petition that will be presented to President Obama and members of Congress asking them to keep the current regulation that protects the conscience rights of health professionals.

There are two different petitions available at, one for the general public and another with specific wording for health care professionals.

In Rome

I spent much of this past week (including St. Patrick’s Day) in Rome. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the plenary session of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy. But, as I always do, I tried to find as much time as I could to meet with different groups, particularly people from our archdiocese living or working in Rome.

Saturday evening (March 14) we had a Mass for a group of pilgrims that Sister Olga Yaqob, from the campus ministry at Boston University, organized.

Among the participants were Father Jonathan Gaspar’s sister, Amanda, and Beverly Brown, the wife of the president of Boston University.

They went on a very spiritually intense pilgrimage visiting many of the holy sites and we were with them for their last evening.

We had Mass and dinner together and afterwards each of the pilgrims gave a testimony of what the pilgrimage had meant to them.

Many of them spoke about the very moving experience of their days in Assisi.

At St. Peter’s Square, I ran into a group of students from Merrimack College who were in Italy visiting the Augustinian sites. Father Bill Waters, who is the new campus minister at Merrimack, was leading the group. He used to be pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Methuen and before that at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception in Lawrence.

It was an unexpected, but very pleasant encounter.

Congregation for the Clergy

Monday during the day, from 9:00 in the morning to 7:00 at night, we had meetings with the Congregation for the Clergy, one of the two Vatican congregations I serve on. (The other is the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life).

It was the first time I participated in this congregation which is made up of about 20 cardinals and several bishops.

The Prefect of the congregation is a Franciscan cardinal from Brazil, Cardinal Claudio Hummes. This was Cardinal Hummes’ first session for the Congregation for the Clergy.

We discussed a number of issues concerning the priesthood. It was particularly encouraging to see that the number of priests worldwide is increasing.