Holy Name Society holds annual conference

WAKEFIELD — Members of the Holy Name Society from the Archdiocese of Boston held their annual conference, a time to regroup and be renewed, which featured guest speakers, workshops, celebration of the Eucharist and a visit from the archbishop.

Over 100 people attended the all-day conference of the Holy Name Society, a confraternity of the Dominican order, which fosters devotion to the Holy Name of God and Jesus Christ.

Anthony Cerullo, a parishioner at St. Florence Parish and former vice president of the Holy Name Society in the archdiocese, helped to organize the event.

“The conventions help to keep the Holy Name Society in the public eye,” Cerullo said.

The conferences also aim to attract new members to an organization whose membership in the Archdiocese of Boston has decreased over the years. While membership has gone down, “there are still very strong pockets in the archdiocese so it’s good to let people know about it,” he said.

The Holy Name Society helps Catholics to actively exercise their faith in addition to attending Mass on Sundays, Cerullo continued. “If you were born a Catholic or if you want to be a Catholic you need to do something constructive for your parish because so many people are Catholic in name only — teach CCD, be a youth minister, sit on the parish council,” he suggested.

Joseph Lapointe, past president of the Holy Name Society in the archdiocese and currently the national third vice president of the Holy Name Society, agreed that although their numbers are not what they once were, the society remains an active and essential component of the archdiocese.

He praised Catholic publisher and author James Drummey’s keynote address on the misrepresentations and fallacies found in the literary success “The DaVinci Code,” by Dan Brown.

“Jim Drummey gave an excellent talk,” said Lapointe. “He discredited the novel and the claims Dan Brown made in the novel.”

Drummey’s keynote address titled “Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the Da Vinci Code,” also impressed Karen Rotondi, a parishioner at St. Florence who attended. “His talk was very good and he presented a thousand points that are false in the novel,” she said.

“The book is very anti-Catholic and people, including Catholics, are picking it up and reading it because the claims are listed as facts,” Rotondi continued. “People begin to think that their Catholic education and upbringing was wrong because they believe the book has knowledge and truth to it when in many ways it doesn’t.”

The conference also featured several workshops including an update on the activities of the Holy Name Society in the Fall River diocese;  Wide Horizons for Children Inc., which matches children with adoptive families and a talk on pro-life issues by Linda Thayer, a biology teacher at Boston Latin Academy.

Thayer has traveled around the archdiocese giving pro-life talks for the past 23 years. In her presentations, she tells audiences how she became active in the pro-life movement.

Years ago, Thayer had watched a movie on conception and “even though I wasn’t a good Catholic at the time, I knew I had just seen a miracle,” she said. “When Roe vs. Wade passed, it flew against everything I knew as a Catholic. It was then that I decided to explain human development to people and what the Church says about it.”

Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley joined the group for lunch after expressing his gratitude for their presence in the Archdiocese of Boston.

“Thank you for your part in this very important ministry,” he said. “I was raised in a parish with a chapter of the Holy Name Society, and I am very partial to the work you do and am pleased that you are so active in the archdiocese in promoting works of mercy.”

“God’s name needs to be hallowed, and at Jesus’ name every knee should bend,” the archbishop continued.

While all appreciated Archbishop O’Malley’s attendance at the conference, some of their enthusiasm was overshadowed by the hurt caused by his decision to close St. Florence Parish. Currently, the parish is scheduled to close in late November.

“I think he’s doing a big injustice,” said Theresa Akerberg, a eucharistic minister at the parish. “ He needs to take a real good look at what he’s doing and why he’s closing one church and not another. I beg him to please take another look.”

Several members of the Holy Name Society at St. Florence Parish also sit on the parish’s pastoral council. Jim Fitzgerald, past president of the Holy Name Society at the parish, lauded the good work of the organization in prompting members to serve as lectors, eucharistic ministers and attending funerals at the parish. “It’s a group of good wholesome men,” he said.

Fitzgerald, along with several others, spent a few minutes talking to the archbishop about the status of their parish. He said that Archbishop O’Malley suggested they schedule a meeting with moderator of the curia, Bishop Richard G. Lennon, to discuss their concerns.

“We were happy to get some answers today,” said Fitzgerald. “We don’t want to detract from the convention, but it’s not easy. We’re still in shock.”

Parishioners at St. Florence would not rule out staging a sit-in similar to the ones that other parishes slated for closure have held.

“It depends on the response we get,” said Arthur Guardia, also a member of the Holy Name Society. “That’s why people are angry because no one responds…It’s about respect. We have some serious questions.”